Whether a facility is producing side salads, entrees or baked goods, reliable refrigeration and freezing systems are crucial for maximizing product integrity. Not only do these systems need to run precisely in order to keep the food as fresh as possible, they also have to do so while not consuming too much energy and, in turn, money.

Controlling humidity

When it comes to bakeries, managing humidity levels is critical, says Brent Dyess, president of Refrigeration Design Technologies, based in Waxahachie, Texas. After baking, cakes especially need the proper humidity level in order to make it onto retailers’ shelves in prime condition.

“Wedding cakes, bundt cakes, birthday cakes — they all should be stored properly in order to maintain ideal conditions in the short periods they're stored,” he says.

Different aspects of a cake can react differently to humidity, making the proper environment even more important. Too much humidity in the actual cake can cause it to spoil quicker, while too little humidity will leave you with a crumbly, dried out cake. And then there is fondant, which is highly sensitive to humidity.

“Cakes need to be stored in a cool, dry environment,” Dyess says. “RDT's Environmental Controller can control humidity levels as needed, regardless of what's being stored or what the desired humidity levels might be. This controller allows for precise humidity control and also allows for remote monitoring and control, alarm notification via text or e-mail, performance graphs, and energy savings through more efficient system control.”

Staying efficient

Cooling or freezing baked goods and other foods requires a lot of energy. And a lot of energy means a lot of money.

Zero Zone — a North Prairie, Wisconsin-based manufacturer of refrigeration systems for production facilities and retailers — suggests collecting data about the energy your refrigeration equipment is using by referring to component specification sheets. That info can be used to verify that the equipment is operating at the specified temperatures. If not, the controls could be set too cold, or an iced coil or low refrigerant charge could be causing a performance issue.

Zero Zone says its ColdLoop CO2 systems use less HFC refrigerants that traditional direct expansion systems. The systems can reduce leak potential by as much as 20% compared to traditional refrigeration systems, the company says.

RDT, meanwhile, offers the Scroll Digital compressor in the Eco-Cool system, which the company says offers precise control of individual compressors, allowing an application that would typically require eight to 10 compressors to instead use only two.

“Instead of numerous compressors cycling on and off, RDT uses a single digital modulating compressor that can be multiplexed to numerous walk-in compartments,” Dyess says. “The digital compressor operates at 100% during high demand requirements and can modulate down to 10% capacity at low demand requirements. As the capacity modulates, the energy output decreases proportionally. A third-party UL test confirms that our Eco-Cool saves 48% in energy cost at 90° F ambient conditions.”

Preventing downtime with freezers

Bakers are running their freezers harder and longer to maximize throughput and keep up with growth. It’s not unusual for continuous production runs to last 10 to 12 days — and in some cases longer — between routine cleaning and regular checkups due to enhanced sanitary design and advances in technology.

In recent years, one game changer that allows for a longer, ongoing operation involves new, more energy-efficient technology for sequential defrosting coils in spiral freezers.

“We’re doing defrosting in a very unique way with technology that is engineered to mechanically isolate individual coils,” Peter White, president of Farmingdale, New York-based IJ White Systems, told Baking & Snack, a sister publication of Supermarket Perimeter.

“We use coil isolation technology to segregate individual coils that are in defrost,” he says. “Older, traditional designs required extensive horizontal decking requiring multiple access doors and ladders. This additional internal structure proves to be problematic especially for cleaning and maintenance. Our system is completely open, and we’re isolating our coils sequentially. As one coil needs to be defrosted, it will shut down, and we go through a defrost cycle.”

Meanwhile in coolers, where temperatures are not as brutally cold as in freezers, bakers and snack producers need to keep a close eye on the condition of the belt, says Craig Bartsch, general manager, belts, IPCO North America, Totowa, New Jersey.

“The belt surface on both the product and backside is actually a map or a report about how well the belt is performing,” he says. “If there’s wear on the bottom of the belt, something is scraping on it. Maybe the unit is out of alignment or the belt tracker is not working accurately.”

Anthony Salsone, sales engineer for Roosevelt, New York-based G&F Systems, says that a good preventive maintenance checklist includes inspecting all components for wear, ensuring the spiral belt is free from obstructions, verifying all safety sensors are operable and looking at all bearings and rollers for proper alignment and lubrication.

Before ramping up an operation for the day, Erik Fihlman, program manager, bakery and prepared foods for Linde LLC, headquartered in the U.S. in Bridgewater, New Jersey, recommended taking a few extra minutes to double check that everything is running properly.

“If you start with conditions that optimize the freezer from the start, you’ll have a much better day at production,” he says. “If you start at suboptimal conditions and begin running product, you’re playing catch-up all day long.”