Stories & Features

New system could cut Hen Long Market's refrigeration costs by 40 per cent

Image of people with tropical fruit at Hen Long Market's warehouse
Rick Custeau of Fraser Valley Refrigeration Ltd. (left) and Minh Ngo of Hen Long Market show off a box of fruit that – thanks to an upgraded ability to control temperatures at Hen Long's warehouse in Langley – should ripen just on time for distribution to local markets.

New Plant Design program supports efficient new food warehouse  

When the Ngo family made the decision to build a state-of-the-art food storage warehouse in Central Surrey, one requirement was at the top of their list: individual refrigeration systems for the freezer, cooler and two ripening rooms. With more than 30 years of experience in cold food storage and distribution, the Ngo family knew what it didn't want – compressors tied into a single system.

"At our old warehouse in Langley, all we had was a single high-temperature alarm," explains Minh Ngo, who oversees business development at Hen Long Market and who's one of eight Ngo children who today work for the family business. "The ability to safeguard our food products from temperature increases and dips was very limited at that location. We had to be dead-on with our temperature control – which isn't easy to do 24/7. Being off by even four degrees can actually change how quickly a mango ripens, for example. And if the mangos aren't ripe on time, they can't go out to the customer."

"Worse still," he adds, "if something failed, even for an hour or two, our entire inventory was at risk."

Another item for the wish list? Ngo wanted to find a way to lower utility costs at the new Central Surrey warehouse. During the proposal stage, before construction of the new warehouse started, he challenged refrigeration vendors vying for the work to consider the system's annual energy usage: "Our new freezer was going to be much bigger than what we had in Langley – easily three times the size," he says. "So it was important for us to be smart about our energy usage ahead of time and not repeat history."

Meeting with BC Hydro Alliance Of Energy Professionals expert proved pivotal

Wisely, Ngo talked to a lot of different contractors and refrigeration companies during the warehouse's initial design phase. "It was a total eye-opener," he says, because the "proposals and cost estimates were all so different."

Fraser Valley Refrigeration's proposal initially caught his eye because he felt the technologies proposed were the most advanced. The energy savings proposed were also the most substantial and the proposal factored in a BC Hydro rebate. "The rebate really caught me by surprise and only made the business case for doing the work that much stronger," he says.

A walk-through of the Central Surrey site confirmed that the initial designs of Fraser Valley Refrigeration Ltd.'s Rick Custeau – floating head pressure control, and glycol under-floor heating – could be instituted in the new warehouse with the potential to reduce Hen Long Market's refrigeration costs by 40% annually.

At 2 a.m. we know the mangoes are ripening well

"For us, it just made sense: draw less, use less, save money," says Minh. "And, importantly, each refrigeration system would operate independently."

What is floating head pressure control?

Floating head pressure control allows your refrigeration system to operate at a lower discharge pressure most of the year – in some cases 95% of the year – resulting in less work required by the compressor. Maintaining high system pressure at times when it isn't really needed means your compressor is running when it doesn't have to, costing you money.

"It's a much better use of the system," says Custeau. "It's an advanced technology, but more and more clients are asking us about it due to its energy efficiency, lower operating costs and the equipment's longer life cycle. Plus, it can all be monitored using direct digital controls from the palm of your hand."

"This may be our favourite feature," says Ngo, referring to fact that his brother, who oversees warehouse operations, can now monitor and adjust freezer, cooler and ripening rooms temperatures from his smartphone. "Without direct digital controls, we would never have been able to watch or control temperatures so carefully in the new warehouse. We can even see freezer and ripening room temperatures at night and on the weekend. The best part may simply be the peace of mind the controls provide – at 2 a.m. we know the mangoes are ripening well."

Like Hen Long Market, if you're building a new plant and considering energy efficient design, you may be eligible for incentives through the New Plant Design program. Talk to your Key Account Manager or contact the Business Helpdesk (604 522 4713, or 1 866 522 4713) for more information.