4 6 PRACTI CAL GUI DE November 1999

Efficient Display Case Refrigeration
By Ramin Faramarzi, P.E.
Associate Member ASHRAE
PRACTICAL GUIDE
r e f r i g e r a t i o n
T
his article discusses the cooling load compo-
nents of an open refrigerated display case.
Refrigeration system energy use is important
because it accounts for approximately half the
electricity use of a typical large supermarket. Re-
frigerated display cases account for most of this
usage.
This article presents a series of simplified cooling load
estimation equations that provide basic guidelines for
determining the individual loads. It further describes the
results of a recent test conducted by Southern California
Edison’s Refrigeration Technology and Test Center to
quantify the main cooling load components of a typical
open, multi-deck, meat display case. Using those test re-
sults, this article can provide:
• A sense of the magnitude of the cooling load com-
ponents and their relative ranking. The test results indi-
cate that infiltration constitutes the largest cooling load
component in an open vertical display case.
• The basis for more accuracy in simulating supermar-
ket energy systems.
• Better forecast of refrigeration effects on human com-
fort (intrinsic value).
• Better understanding of the main loads on display
cases leading to more intelligent end user display case
purchasing decisions.
• Additional insight to help display case manufactur-
ers design more efficient cases.
Display Case Heat Gain
Refrigerated display cases are used to merchandise
perishable food and provide desirable storage tempera-
tures. The refrigeration system controls product storage
temperatures by removing all the heat gain components
of the display case.
The heat transfer in a display case involves interac-
tions between the product and the internal environment
of the case as well as heat from the surroundings that
enters the case. The constituents of heat from the sur-
rounding environment include transmission (or conduc-
tion), infiltration, and radiation.
The product exchanges heat with the environment
inside the display case through convection and radia-
tion. Convection is typically the main mode of heat transfer
that cools the product. It takes place when the refriger-
ated air comes in contact with the product. The tem-
perature difference between the surface of the product
and the surfaces inside the fixture governs the rate of
heat transfer into and from the product through radia-
tion.
Equation 1 expresses Newton’s Law of Cooling that
can be used to determine the convection heat transfer at
the surface of the product.
Q
c
= A
p
× h
conv
× (T
sp
– T
case
) (1)
where,
Q
c
= Convection load, Btu/h
A
p
= Surface area of the product, ft
2
h
conv
= Overall coefficient of convective heat
transfer, Btu/h·ft
2
·°F
T
sp
= Surface temperature of product, °F
T
case
= Air temperature inside the case passing over
the product surface, °F
Conduction, radiation, and infiltration loads from the
surroundings into the case as well as heat exchanges
between the product and the inside components of the
case depend on the temperatures of the ambient air and
the air within the case. Open vertical display cases rely
on their air curtains to keep warm ambient air from pen-
etrating into the cold environment inside the case. Air
curtains play a significant role in the thermal interaction
of the display case with the surrounding air.
The total refrigeration load is normally calculated over
a 24-hour period (i.e., Btu/24 hours). The required
The following article was published in ASHRAE Journal, November 1999. © Copyright 1999 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-
Conditioning Engineers, Inc. It is presented for educational purposes only. This article may not be copied and/or distributed electronically or in paper
form without permission of ASHRAE.
Ramin Faramarzi, P.E., is the project manager at South-
ern California Edison’s Refrigeration Technology and Test
Center in Irwindale, Calif.
Practical Guide
November 1999 PR ACTI CAL GUI DE 4 7
cooling capacity of the refrigeration system in Btu/h can
be determined by dividing the total cooling load of
display cases and walk-in coolers over a 24-hour period
by the compressor run time. Compressor run time is a
function of the defrost period and cooling load fluc-
tuations. Defrost is necessary for any evaporator that
operates below the freezing point of water. The need
for defrost makes refrigeration systems different from
air-conditioning systems. It is not realistic to design a
refrigeration system that operates continuously. There-
fore, refrigeration compressor capacity should be de-
termined as a function of total daily cooling loads and
compressor run time.
Display Case Cooling Load Components
The cooling load of a typical display case has both sen-
sible and latent components. They can be determined by:
Q
case
= [Q
C
+ Q
R
+ Q
is
+ Q
L
+ Q
F
+ Q
D
+ Q
ASH
+ Q
pulldown
]
sensible
+[Q
il
+ Q
pr
]
latent
(2)
where,
Q
case
= Display case cooling capacity, Btu/h
Q
C
= Transmission heat gain, Btu/h
Q
R
= Radiation heat gain, Btu/h
Q
is
= Infiltration sensible heat gain, Btu/h
Q
L
= Heat gain from lights, Btu/h
Q
F
= Heat gain from fan motor, Btu/h
Q
D
= Heat gain from defrost heater, Btu/h
Q
ASH
= Heat gain from anti-sweat heater, Btu/h
Q
pulldown
= Product pull-down load, Btu/h
Q
il
= Infiltration latent heat gain, Btu/h
Q
pr
= Product latent heat of respiration, Btu/h
For medium temperature display cases used to mer-
chandise meat, deli, dairy, produce, poultry, and fish,
the main cooling load components are infiltration, lights,
fan motors, radiation, and conduction. Figure 1 depicts
the comparative load contribution for an 8 ft (2.4 m)
open vertical meat case tested at ambient room condi-
tions of 75°F(24°C) dry-bulb (DB) and 55% relative hu-
midity (RH). As shown, infiltration is the largest constitu-
ent of the case cooling load.
Conduction
The conduction load refers to the transmission of
heat through the display case envelope. The tempera-
ture difference between the air in the room and the
air inside the case is the driving force for this heat
transfer. Transmission load makes up the smallest por-
tion of the display case total load. The first task in
determining the transmission load is to determine the
overall heat transfer coefficient of the case walls. This
involves the outside and inside air film convective
coefficients, the thermal conductivity of the outer and
inner surfaces of the case, and the thermal conductiv-
ity of the insulation between the inner and outer walls.
The inside film conductance of the case is a function
of forced convection, whereas the exterior film con-
ductance depends on natural convection heat trans-
fer. Equation 3 describes how this overall heat transfer
coefficient can be determined.
U = 1/[(1/h
i
) + (L
1
/k
1
) + (L
2
/k
2
)
+ (L
3
/k
3
) + (1/h
o
)] (3)
where,
U = Overall heat transfer coefficient of the case
walls, Btu/h·ft
2
·°F
h
i
= Convective coefficient for inside case air film
against case inner wall, Btu/h·ft
2
·°F
L
1
= Thickness of outer shell of the case, in.
k
1
= Thermal conductivity of outer shell of case,
Btu·in./h·ft
2
·
o
F
L
2
= Thickness of insulation within the case walls,
in.
k
2
= Thermal conductivity of insulation within the
case walls, Btu-in./h·ft
2
·°F
L
3
= Thickness of inner shell of the case, in.
k
3
= Thermal conductivity of inner shell of case,
Btu·in./h·ft
2
·°F
h
o
= Convective coefficient for outside/room air
film against case outer shell, Btu/h·ft
2
·°F
Once the display case overall heat transfer coefficient
is determined, the transmission load can be quantified
using Equation 4.
Q
c
= U × A × (T
room
– T
case
) (4)
where,
Q
c
= Transmission, or conduction, load of the
case, Btu/h
A = Total surface area of case walls that are
conducting heat, ft
2
T
room
= Dry-bulb temperature of the air in the room,
°F
T
case
= Dry-bulb temperature of the air inside the
display case, °F
Figure 1: Contribution of individual components to the re-
frigeration load of the display case.
Refrigeration
4 8 PR ACTI CAL GUI DE November 1999
Pull-Down Load
The pull-down load has two com-
ponents: product shelving and post
defrost.
Product shelving load. Pull-down
load due to product shelving comes
from delivering products into the case
at a temperature higher than the des-
ignated storage temperature. It is the
amount of cooling required to lower
the product temperature to a desired
target point (Equation 5).
Q
ps
= m × C
p
× (T
s
– T
f
)/dT (5)
where,
Q
ps
= Pull-down load due to
product shelving, Btu/h
m = Product mass, lb
C
p
= Product specific heat
capacity, Btu/lb·°F
T
s
= Temperature at the time
of shelving, °F
T
f
= Final temperature, °F
dT = Time required to lower
product temperature, h
Post-defrost pull-down load.
During the defrost cycle, the tempera-
ture of the product inside the case
rises. Once the defrost is complete,
the refrigeration system must have
enough capacity to remove the accu-
mulated defrost heat and lower the
product temperature to a desirable
setpoint in short time. The time re-
quired to remove post-defrost pull-
down load depends on:
• Defrost types and heat intensity.
• Defrost termination controls.
• Specific heat of the product.
• The desired target storage tem-
perature.
During the defrost cycle, the com-
pressor serving the display case does
not operate (Figure 2). Therefore, the
refrigeration system needs enough
post-defrost cooling capacity to main-
tain desirable product temperature.
Figure 3 illustrates the effect of
defrost on the product temperature
and cooling load of an open vertical
meat case over four defrost cycles.
The product temperature rises dur-
ing defrost cycles resulting in a higher
cooling load following each defrost.
In addition, the auxiliary defrost heat
Figure 2: Compressor power over 24 hours, including defrost period (actual test
data).
Figure 3: Cooling load, compressor kW and product temperature over 24 hours,
including defrost period (actual test data).
added to the evaporator must be re-
moved once compressors operate at
the end of the cycle.
Q
pd
= m × C
p
× (T
pd
– T
i
)/ dT (6)
where,
Q
pd
= Pull-down load due to
defrost, Btu/h
m = Product mass, lb
C
p
= Product specific heat
capacity, Btu/lb·°F
T
pd
= Post-defrost temperature, °F
T
i
= Final desired temperature,
°F
dT = Time interval to lower
product temperature, h
Defrost Load
As the evaporator of a display case
operates at temperatures below the
freezing point of water, ice or frost
Figure 4: Effects of coil frost accumulation on cfm, UA, air pressure drop and air
temperature leaving coil.
Practical Guide
November 1999 PR ACTI CAL GUI DE 4 9
forms on the surface of the evaporator coil. Moisture in
the air that circulates over the evaporator is the main
source of frost formation. As water molecules contact the
cold surface of the coil at temperatures below their dew
point, they condense and lose their latent heat of vapor-
ization. If the surface temperature is below freezing, the
water further gives up its heat of fusion and converts to
ice. A buildup of ice on the heat transfer surface de-
creases the evaporator heat transfer coefficient (U-value)
and also increases the resistance to airflow across the
coil. The reduction in airflow is more detrimental than
the decrease in U-value. Hence, refrigeration applica-
tions where frost can accumulate should have some type
of defrost mechanism.
Figure 4 depicts the effects of coil frost accumulation
on the case air circulation rate (cfm), effective heat trans-
fer coefficient (UA), air pressure drop across the coil,
and coil leaving air temperature.
Defrost mechanisms typically cycle according to pre-
determined time intervals. Some controls maintain the
defrost cycle for a set time period. Others initiate on a
time cycle and terminate when the evaporator surface
reaches a preset temperature. Depending on the refrig-
eration application, defrost mechanisms may vary from
simple off-cycle and reverse airflow, which rely on the
temperature difference between the store and the case,
to electric and hot gas defrost, which introduce supple-
mentary heat.
Medium Temperature Defrost. If the temperature of
the air returning to the evaporator is above high 20s to
30s (°F) an off-cycle defrost usually will be used. Off-
cycle defrost can be accomplished by allowing the fan to
continue to run while the compressor is shut down, ei-
ther for a preset time interval or until the coil tempera-
ture rises a few degrees above 32°F (0°C).
Reverse air defrost is also used for applications where
the evaporator temperature is not too low. Under this
defrost mechanism, display case fan(s) induce air from
the store into the case. It is similar to off cycle except
warm store air is forced into the case. Both defrost mecha-
nisms rely on the heat content of store air to melt the ice
without auxiliary heat.
Low Temperature Defrost. Low temperature appli-
cations need a source of auxiliary heat to melt the ice/
frost on the coil. Electric defrost applies heat externally
to the evaporator. The heating elements are typically situ-
ated near the evaporator. When defrost is initiated, the
fans shut off after a slight delay. Like off-cycle defrost,
the refrigeration is off for the entire defrost cycle.
Hot gas defrost uses a portion of the heat content of
discharge gas from an operating compressor to defrost
the evaporator(s). Basically, in this method the evapora-
tor becomes a condenser. Either a timer or a tempera-
ture sensor typically terminates the defrost cycle.
Both electric and hot gas defrost typically deliver more
heat than needed just to melt the ice. A large portion of
the extra heat warms the coil metal and dissipates inside
the case. This extra heat adds to the refrigeration load.
The extra heat can be as much as 85% of the total defrost
heat input, which means only 15% of the defrost heat is
useful ice melting heat.
The following equations provide a simple approach
to quantify the defrost load.
Electric defrost:
Q
E-Defrost
= (W × k
1
) – Q
im
(7)
where,
W = Electric defrost heat input, watts
k
1
= Conversion factor from watts to Btu/h
Q
im
= Heat required to melt the ice as a function of
frost mass, heat of fusion of ice and time,
Btu/h
Hot gas defrost:
Q
HG-Defrost
= Q
refrig
– Q
im
(8)
where,
Q
refrig
= Hot gas defrost heat input as a function of
refrigerant mass flow and refrigerant enthalp-
ies entering and leaving the coil, Btu/h
Anti-Sweat Heater Load
Anti-sweat heaters are used on most low temperature
open display cases as well as reach-in type cases with
glass doors. These electric resistance heaters are located
around the case handrails and door frame/mullions to
prevent condensation on metal surfaces. They also re-
duce fogging of the glass door that can hurt product
merchandising. Anti-sweat heaters typically operate con-
tinuously (8,760 hours per year). Their power usage and
resulting cooling load often can be reduced by applying
smart controls than can reduce heater operation depend-
ing on indoor humidity. Equation 9 gives the cooling
load contribution of anti-sweat heaters.
Q
ASH
= W × k
1
× k
2
(9)
where,
W = Connected electric load, watts
k
1
= Fraction (%) of heat dissipation into the case
k
2
= Conversion factor from watts to Btu/h
Radiation Load
The heat gain of the display case through radiation is
a function of the conditions inside the case, including
wall temperature, wall emissivity, wall area, view factor
with respect to the surrounding (store) walls/objects,
floor, ceiling, and their corresponding emissivities and
areas. For simplicity, each surface can be represented by
a set of equivalent emissivity areas and temperatures.
The case load due to radiation heat transfer can be
Refrigeration
5 0 PR ACTI CAL GUI DE November 1999
determined by modeling the system as two gray surfaces,
one surface being the total surface area of the room (walls,
floor, ceiling), the other being an imaginary plane that
covers the opening of the display case. All the radiation
leaving the room surface arrives at the imaginary plane.
The imaginary plane at the case opening, in turn, ex-
changes all its radiation with the interior surfaces of the
display case.
Figure 5 shows a simplified diagram that identifies the
surfaces exchanging heat through radiation. The inside
of the display case (back, top, bottom, and sides) was
designated Surface 1. The room surfaces (floor, ceiling,
and walls) were designated Surface 2, and the imaginary
plane covering the case opening was designated Sur-
face 3. Using the reciprocity relation (as a function of
area [A] and view factor [F]), it can be shown that A
1
F
1–3
= A
3
F
3–1
. In this case, F
3–1
is 1, because the plane over the
opening of the case can “see” the entire inside surface of
the case. Also, F
1–3
= F
1–2
because the inside surfaces of
the case must “look through” the opening of the case to
see the room surfaces. Therefore, F
1–2
= F
1–3
= A
3
F
3–1
/A
1
= A
3
/A
1
.
Once this view factor is determined, Equation 10 can
be used to calculate the radiation load on the case.
Q
rad
= σ(T
w
4
– T
c
4
)/[(1 – ε
w
) ε
w
A
w
+ 1/A
w
F
c–w
+ (1 – ε
c
)/ε
c
A
c
] (10)
where,
Q
rad
= Radiation heat transfer between room walls
and display case, Btu/h
σ = Stefan-Boltzmann Constant, 0.1714 × 10
–8
Btu/h·ft
2
·R
4
T
w
= Surface temperature of the room walls, °R
T
c
= Surface temperature of the display case inner
walls, °R
ε
w
= Emissivity of the room walls
A
w
= Total area of room surfaces, ft
2
F
c-w
= View factor from case to surfaces of the room
ε
c
= Emissivity of the inside walls of the case
A
c
= Total area of the inside walls of the case, ft
2
Internal Loads
The display case internal load includes the heat from
the case lights and the evaporator fan motors. The lamps,
ballasts, and fan motors are typically located within the
thermodynamic boundary of the case. Hence, in most
cases, their total heat dissipation should be considered
part of the case load.
Fan motor heat gain is a direct function of flow work
and combined motor/fan efficiencies. Flow work is also
a function of air velocity, discharge opening dimensions,
and total pressure loss across the coil. For load calcula-
tions, however, simply the nameplate horsepower and
the rated wattage of lamps and ballasts could be used in
Equations 11 and 12.
Q
fans
= W
fans
× k (11)
Q
lights
= W
lights
× k

× k
1
(12)
where,
Q
fans
= Case load due to fan motors, Btu/h
Q
lights
= Case load due to lighting, Btu/h
W
fans
= Wattage consumed by the fan motors, W
W
lights
= Wattage consumed by the light fixtures in
the case, W
k = Conversion factor, 3.413 Btu/h/W
k
1
= Percentage of heat coming to the case as a
function of ballast and lamp location
Infiltration Load
The infiltration load of the display case refers to the
entrainment of warm, moist air from the room, across
the case air curtain, into the refrigerated space. The
total performance of the air curtain and the amount of
heat transferred across it depends on several factors,
including:
• Air curtain velocity and temperature profile.
• Number of jets.
• Air jet width and thickness.
• Dimensional characteristics of the discharge air hon-
eycomb.
• Store and display case temperatures and humidity
ratios.
• Rate of air curtain agitation due to shopper walking
by.
• Effects of turbulence and eddy viscosity in the initial
region of the jet.
An air curtain consists of a stream of air discharged
from series of small nozzles within a honeycombed con-
Figure 5: Surfaces participating in radiation heat transfer.
Practical Guide
November 1999 PR ACTI CAL GUI DE 5 1
figuration at top of the display case. For vertical fixtures,
the air discharges downward toward a return grille lo-
cated approximately 2 ft (0.6 m) above the floor on the
front panel of the case. The air is drawn into a circulat-
ing fan and cooling coil (or evaporator) assembly, where
it gives up sensible and latent heat. The chilled air then
returns to the discharge grille. The discharged air passes
between the still air in the store and still air within the
case. The still air on both sides of the air curtain mixes
with the discharged air.
Figures 6 and 7 depict the air curtain velocity stream
lines and temperature profiles of an 8 ft (2.4 m) open
vertical meat case. These velocity stream lines represent
the actual flow using a sophisticated visualization tech-
nique. The cross sectional temperature distributions were
developed using infra-red photography. As shown, the
entrainment of warm room air into the case takes place
at several locations along the plane of the air curtain.
Based on the law of conservation of mass, an equal (and
substantial) amount of cold air from the case spills into
the room near the return air grille of the case (Figure 6).
The temperature gradient between the cold and warm
sides of the air curtain along with the velocity profile within
the mixing (or entrained) zones causes heat from the warm
(store) side to transfer to the cold (case) side of the air
curtain inside the display case. Figure 8 shows this mixing
on a psychometric chart using data from an actual test
under 75°F (24°C) DB and 55% RH indoor conditions.
This figure shows the properties of the air inside the case
and the entrained or infiltration air. The mixed airstream
is the condition entering the display case cooling coil.
The infiltration load has two components—sensible
and latent. The sensible portion refers to the direct
temperature-driven heat added to the display case. The
latent portion refers to the heat content of the mois-
ture added to the case by the room air drawn into the
case through the air curtain. As air passes through the
evaporator, it loses its sensible heat and is dehumidi-
fied. The sensible portion of the infiltration load is
given by Equation 13.
Q
senseinf
= ρ

× V

× C
p
× k

× (T
room
– T
case
) (13)
where,
Q
senseinf
= Sensible portion of the infiltration load,
Btu/h
ρ = Density of air, lb/ft
3
V = Volume flow rate of air entrained into the
case, ft
3
/min
C
p
= Specific heat of air, Btu/lb
k = Conversion factor, 60 min./h
The main source of latent load for a display case is the
moisture content of the ambient air that is entrained into
the case across the air curtain. In some cases, product res-
piration generates additional moisture within the display
case. Equation 14 calculates the latent load of the fixture.
Figure 6: (Left) Air curtain’s velocity streamlines of an actual
display case captured using DPIV technique. (Right) Air
curtain’s velocity streamlines using calibrated CFD modeling.
Figure 7: Air curtain temperature profile of an actual display
case captured using infra-red photography.
Figure 8: Infiltration process for 8 ft (2.4 m) open multi-deck
meat case at 75°F db/55% RH room condition.
Refrigeration
5 2 PR ACTI CAL GUI DE November 1999
Q
latent
= Q
il
+ Q
pr
(14)
where,
Q
latent
= Latent load, Btu/h
Q
il
= Latent load due to infiltration, Btu/h
Q
pr
= Latent load due to product respiration,
Btu/h
The contribution of the infiltration portion of the case
latent load can be determined by:
Q
il
= [ρ

× V

× C
p
× k

× (W
room
– W
case
)]

× h
fg
(15)
where,
ρ = Density of air, lb/ft
3
V = Volume flow rate of air into the case, ft
3
/min.
C
p
=

Specific heat of air, Btu/lb
k = Conversion factor, 60 min./h
W
room
= Room humidity ratio, lb/lb
air
W
case
= Case humidity ratio, lb/lb
air
h
fg
= Latent heat of vaporization of water, Btu/lb
Fresh fruits and vegetables lose moisture by respira-
tion. This moisture then transports through the skin of
the commodity, evaporates, and ends up in the surround-
ings by convective mass transfer. Respiration is a chemi-
cal process by which fruits and vegetables convert sugars
and oxygen into carbon dioxide, water and heat. The
generated heat increases the water vapor dissipation
across the skin of commodity into the refrigerated dis-
play case. This cooling load can be estimated by the fol-
lowing equation:
Q
pr
= m
v
× A
s
× n

× h
fg
(16)
where,
Q
pr
= Respiration heat, Btu/h
m
v
= Mass transfer rate of water vapor leaving
the product’s skin, lb/h·ft
2
A
s
= Surface area of the product, ft
2
n = Number of products
h
fg
= Latent heat of vaporization of water, Btu/lb
Total Cooling Load
The total sensible load of the case can be calculated
with Equation 17.
Q
sense
= Q
cond
+ Q
rad
+ Q
fans
+ Q
lights
+ Q
inf-sens
+ Q
def
+ Q
ASH
+ Q
pulldown
(17)
where,
Q
sense
= Total sensible load on the display case, Btu/h
The latent load of the case can be calculated with Equa-
tion 18, which is the same as Equation 14.
Q
latent
= Q
il
+ Q
pr
(18)
The total cooling of the case can then be expressed
by:
Q
total
= Q
sense
+ Q
latent
(19)
Conclusions
Laboratory tests showed that infiltration constitutes the
largest cooling load component of an 8 ft (2.4 m) open
vertical display case (Figure 9). Radiation and internal
loads are the next largest constituents.
Infiltration, however, might not play the same crucial
role for other display case configurations. For instance,
radiation is likely the most influential constituent of the
cooling load for coffin-type fixtures. Determining the
infiltration load is the most challenging aspect of a dis-
play case cooling load analysis. The lack of thermo-fluid
performance knowledge of air curtains has contributed
significantly to this challenge. Primarily, the absence of a
robust and simplified method to determine the amount
of air entrained into the display is the missing piece of
the puzzle. Additional scientific testing of various air
curtain and display case designs should be carried out to
establish a well-engineered and realistic foundation for
developing reliable methods for estimating infiltrated air
quantities.
References
1. Al-Mutawa, N.K., S.A. Sherif and G.D. Mathur. 1998. “Determi-
nation of coil defrosting loads: Part III-testing procedures and data
reduction.” ASHRAE Transactions 104(1).
2. Stoecker, W.F. 1957. “How frost formation on coils affects refrig-
eration systems.” Refrigerating Engineer February.
3. Becker, B.R., B.A. Fricke. 1996. “Transpiration and respiration of
fruits and vegetables.” Refrigeration Science and Technology Proceed-
ings October.
Figure 9: Cooling components of 8 ft (2.4 m) open vertical meat
case (actual test results).