Energy Efficiency and Performance Evaluation of Self-Contained, Medium Temperature, Reach-In Refrigerated Display Cases

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This project was part of an effort by Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) to evaluate the energy and peak demand saving potential of emerging technologies in the Chicago area. This document focuses on the assessment of energy-efficient, medium-temperature, self-contained refrigerated display cases utilizing environmentally friendly refrigerants. The results of this evaluation will be considered by CLEAResult to develop a new energy efficiency rebate measure for ComEd's incentive programs. This rebate measure will become an addition to the Technical Reference Manual (TRM) [1]. In 2016, the United Nations passed the Kigali Montreal Protocol Amendment which placed restrictions on certain types of refrigerants [2]. In compliance with this amendment, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed a ban on the manufacture of refrigeration systems using hydrofluorocarbons including R134a starting in January 2020. Although the ban has halted manufacture, the EPA continues to allow the use of these refrigerants. Therefore, it is critical to provide incentives for replacing these refrigerants with other environmentally friendly and energy-efficient alternatives. The energy-efficient refrigerator cases evaluated here (referred to as EE Case A and B) contain environmentally-friendly refrigerants in compliance with the EPA hydrofluorocarbon ban. These consist of natural refrigerant propane (R290), and HFC drop-in hydrofluoroolefin R513a, respectively. These cases also contain other energy-efficient components including efficient lighting, more robust evaporator and condenser fans and different-sized heat exchangers. EE Case A is also built with materials that better insulate the case, which improves energy efficiency. To ascertain the energy efficiency contribution of these design components, the consumption of the evaporator and condenser fan motors, compressor, and lighting/controller were evaluated individually. The medium-temperature, self-contained reach-in refrigerated display case was selected due to its widespread use in convenience stores and small supermarkets. Self-contained refrigeration has also seen increased use in restaurants due to curbside pickup during the COVID-19 pandemic. For this study, the refrigerated display cases' performance was evaluated in a controlled environmental chamber at representative indoor dry-bulb and humidity conditions found in supermarkets within ComEd's service territory climate zone. The test method used in this project was foundationally inspired by the ANSI/ASHRAE 72-2018 method of testing [3]. However, modifications to the ANSI/ASHRAE test methodology were implemented to better represent customer operation of the units. In addition to the indoor supermarket conditions, the cases were also evaluated at the "upper target," or environmental conditions used in ANSI/ASHRAE 72-2018. The case total power and case components were metered to obtain their daily power (kW) and energy consumption(kWh). The cases were filled with thermal filler mass to replicate thermal mass of product loading. Additionally, product simulators were used to provide product temperature information. Door actuators were mounted to each of the cases' three doors to replicate regular door openings and effects of shopper traffic.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages92
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5500-80634


  • alternative refrigerants
  • environmental chamber
  • hydrocarbon refrigerant
  • hydrofluorocarbon
  • hydrofluoroolefin
  • reach-in refrigeration
  • refrigerants
  • refrigeration
  • self-contained
  • self-contained refrigeration


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