© AB Group

Cold feet at freezer cabi­nets? Never again!

Thanks to a retrofit in 138 super­mar­kets and depart­ment stores at British retailer Marks & Spencer, shop­ping for frozen foods has never been so pleasant.

Super­market display cabi­nets for frozen foods have to operate at 1 degree. That keeps the food fresh, germfree and tasty, but also makes shop­pers shiver. It’s cold in the aisles of the frozen foods depart­ment. That’s unpleasant for customers and bad for busi­ness. So Marks & Spencer, one of the largest retailers in Great Britain, uses heaters in the frozen foods depart­ments in its super­mar­kets and depart­ment stores. Every freezer cabinet has a heater that blows warm air onto the customers’ feet, keeping them warm while they shop. Each heater has a heating coil through which warm water is pumped. Two fans blow across the coil, heating air that is then trans­ported to the floor of the super­market.

First heating upgrade in the frozen food depart­ment


Each heater on a freezer cabinet has two fans, which blow warm air onto the floor of the super­market. (Photo | AB Group)

The systems had previ­ously used AC fans. To improve its energy use, Marks & Spencer commis­sioned ebm-papst with a retrofit for the fans in January 2016. The order called for new EC fans to be installed in 138 super­mar­kets and depart­ments stores throughout Great Britain. The two compa­nies had already worked together in the preceding year on the replace­ment of fans installed on condensers for refrig­er­a­tion systems. “But this was our first-ever upgrade for heaters in the frozen foods depart­ment,” says Tony Wright, Divi­sion Director for the upgrade market at ebm-papst. That meant some tests with service provider AB Group would need to be performed before the retrofit at Marks & Spencer’s test center in Birm­ingham, where the company tests every­thing related to refrig­er­a­tion.

After four weeks of measure­ments, it was clear that Marks & Spencer could reduce energy consump­tion by 29 percent with the retrofit. Manage­ment gave the go-ahead. The tech­ni­cians had to reach high to do the job. “We could only get to the heaters on top of the freezer cabi­nets from plat­forms,” says Wright. “So we could only work at night when the stores were closed.” AB Group still managed to upgrade 1,300 heaters for the frozen foods depart­ments to the state of the art in only ten weeks. In all, they installed 2,500 new EC fans, network and control cables, mounting brackets, and 1,300 RMEC-d controllers from ebm-papst.

Shop­ping expe­ri­ence more pleasant than ever thanks to EC fans

AB Group upgraded 1,300 heaters on freezer cabi­nets to the state of the art. They replaced AC-fans through EC-fans in 138 super­marktes and depart­ments stores. (Photo | AB Group)

The results were much better than expected. Since the retrofit, Marks & Spencer is saving 58 percent on elec­tricity. Since the fans only have to run at 80 percent of their rated output, the company can save twice as much as orig­i­nally fore­cast. On top of that, the new fans are also quieter.

“We’ve opti­mized the air flow,” explains Wright. “Now drafts that are too hot or too strong around the feet are a thing of the past.” The shop­ping expe­ri­ence is more pleasant than ever now, some­thing Marks & Spencer bene­fits from as well. “If the customers feel comfort­able in the frozen foods depart­ment, they’ll spend more time there,” says Wright. “Instead of just rushing through and grab­bing what they need, they look around, get new ideas, and maybe take this or that other product with them.” Now pizza, yogurt or frozen peas can also find their way into the shop­ping cart thanks to warm feet.

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