Monday, 22 December 2014

No Stranger To The Cold Room

As I look back on this year I realize just how much time I spend talking about cold rooms and refrigeration systems. I talk about them in the office, on the phone, in emails, on Skype and even when I'm travelling. To be honest I cannot think of many days this year when the subject of cold storage has not featured in my life!

This was brought home to me when I looked at photographs I've taken over the last 12 months. My cold room travels have taken me from good old Dunstable to Europe (Belgium, Italy, Spain, Bavaria), the Caribbean (Curacao), the Far East (Hong Kong) and even to New Zealand.

In Belgium the subject was cold room panels, doors and shelving. In Italy I met with olive oil producers keen to talk about temperature controlled storage for their olive oil. In Spain and Bavaria it was refrigeration systems discussions involving our good friends at Intarcon. In the Caribbean it was because of my involvement in 2 projects: construction of a test chamber for a pharmaceutical company and the supply of modular panels and other equipment for a new modular housing development on the island of Curacao. So the list goes on.

Today I'm going to share with you a few of the photos from those travels. Once you've seen them I hope you will agree that there's nothing at all dull or unexciting about being a cold room storage expert :)

Controlled environment project in the Caribbean

Downtown Hong Kong

Cute sleepy seal in New Zealand

Old olive tree in Italy

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Walk In Cold Room - How To Get A Great Deal

Over the years I have seen all types of walk in cold room and by that I mean in type and size.

For example, there is the small walk in chiller which is used by many caterers, bakers and butchers. Florists also use this type of cold room to keep their flowers fresh. Control of temperature for storage is paramount for them - no flowers, no business! The same applies to laboratory cold storage needs. If a laboratory doesn't store its samples etc correctly, it cannot perform its job accurately.

Then there is the small walk in freezer popular with many fast food chains (pizza and burger outlets) as well as restaurants and, again, butchers and bakers.

I have personally been involved in the supply and installation of countless walk in cold rooms and not just in the UK but many countries. Usually the installation work is only required for large cold room and bespoke design projects .... and that suits me just fine.

The truth is that installations take up a lot of time, often not just before and during the installation but also afterwards. Also, many cold room operators have on-site staff sufficiently capable of carrying out the installation themselves, especially if it's a modular assembly cold room. Providing all appropriate health and safety rules are observed, it should be a fairly straight forward process to assemble and install a modular cold room.

This is why so many end-users and contractors opt for modular assembly when it comes to walk in chillers and freezers. It makes sense all round. For any end-users or contractors looking for a good, quality walk in cold room package here is the good news ..... I just bookmarked a special offer (see link) of a quality, modular assembly cold room that comes with refrigeration and shelving and instructions for self-assembly. How long the offer will last who knows but it certainly looks a great option.

Just imagine, you need a new cold room (whether chiller or freezer doesn't matter) and you find one with size and specification options that suit you AND that includes monoblock refrigeration and some shelving. It's easy to assemble and comes from a reputable UK supplier. Job done :)

Friday, 31 October 2014

The Quiet Cold Room

If there's one thing about cold rooms that can bother people it's the noise of the associated refrigeration plant. Yes, cold room noise nuisance is a fact of modern life - strange but true. I saw a page on the City Of York's website the other day under the noise pollution section which looked at noise nuisance from air conditioning and refrigeration plant!

Imagine this .... where you live there are some local shops and on any typical small retail development that is in or near a residential area, you could find any or all of the following:
  • a small supermarket
  • a couple of fast food outlets
  • a small distribution centre (eg. refrigerated food)
Temperature controlled storage will be a feature of some if not all the facilities in the above list and that means you can expect to find one or more small to medium sized cold rooms being used.

The refrigeration plant used on many of this type and size of cold room, especially the refrigeration condensing units, can be quite noisy so for any residents nearby these cold rooms can be a constant source of noise and irritation. If you look at the page in the link above you will see that a big change has taken place in this particular market and low noise refrigeration condensing units such as the Sigilus from Intarcon (with bespoke options too) now provide a great solution for cold room storage in residential areas.

Special condenser to keep cold room noise down

I have personally seen huge changes take place in the UK cold rooms and refrigeration industry over the years and one of the most notable is the increasing number of small retail and food outlets that have been built close to people's homes. Many local residents are very happy about this as they can enjoy having a small supermarket or pizza take-away within walking distance of their home and that can make life easier. However, once the shopping has been put away or the pizza has been eaten, if they can't relax to watch a little tv or read a book because of noisy nearby refrigeration, well that's a counter-balance they are not likely to be happy with and rightly so.

If you can relate to this type of situation just find out which of your local retailers is using cold room storage and tell them they need to install low-noise refrigeration condensers!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Furs & Champers Need Good Storage

I'm not sure if it's the 'in thing' so much these days but fur coats and champagne used to go together like bread and butter - well, in the movies at least! Some of the movie 'greats' such as Audrey Hepburn epitomised what many women aspired to, playing glamourous characters who wore fabulous furs and drank champagne.

Here is Hepburn playing a princess in 'Roman Holiday' with Cary Grant ...and drinking champers!

Here she is (in real life) wearing a stylish fur hat ...

Back in the 60's however, anyone with a valuable fur or some good champagne didn't readily know how to organise proper storage. There were a few stories about the rich and famous who didn't store their fur collection properly only to find it rotting and unwearable at a later date. Times have changed of course and there are fewer people investing in fur collections today. However, for those that do they need to realise that climate controlled storage is the key. I have been involved in the supply of climate controlled storage for artefacts at the British Museum which included valuable, old stuffed polar bears and gorillas. It was the fur on the animals that needed the greatest protection. The principle of their storage applies to fur coats and hats in exactly the same way.

With champagne, well they didn't always realise it hadn't been stored properly - they were too eager to drink it! I'm not sure it's any different with people today! In fact, there's a myth about storing champagne. Many wine 'experts' have long maintained that you should never store champagne for long in the fridge believing that the air in a fridge is too dry and that vibrations from the motor and the fridge's internal light also had a detrimental effect.

However, thanks to a research team at Barcelona University, they have conclusively proven that champagne benefits from being kept long term in a refrigerator. Apparently, they discovered that it prevented the development of a compound (5-HMF) that turns wine bad. In tests over 2 years they were able to show that refrigerating sparkling wine almost completely prevents it from browning. Click here to read more on this.

So there you have it ... if you want to keep good champers at its best, keep it in the fridge!

If you are lucky enough to have a wine cellar then you will need to install a suitable system to maintain proper temperature and humidity. If you don't have one, you should! Check out the specialized refrigeration systems from top European manufacturer Intarcon. It could be the wisest additional investment you ever make :)

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Flowers Love Controlled Temperature Not Just Cold Storage

Florist cold room
The world loves cut flowers, or so it seems. As a consultant in the cold room industry for many years, I have been involved in the supply of cold rooms for many florists and flower shops so I know the storage requirements of cut flowers and have seen first-hand just how big a business this is.

is an example of a great mini cold room that, whilst popular with labs, fast food outlets and bakers, is used a lot by florists for on-site storage. It's compact, easy to assemble, comes in a range of options and very easty to use. It is a 'blooming' winner :)

There's one particularly interesting aspect to the flower industry - that of shipping cut flowers. Amsterdam, which is undeniably the world's biggest flower shipping hub, sees more than £2 billion (GBP) worth of flowers shipped through it's international airport at Schipol every year.

Cut flowers in a bouquet
Other airports are trying hard to compete because of the growth in the cut flowers industry. However, they are not finding it easy. The trouble is that there are no refrigerated aircraft. Flowers have to be flown in cargo planes or the cargo hold of passenger aircraft and whilst these are of course cold places, the temperature is not controlled, and therein lies the problem. Apparently, the best temperature range for flowers once they are cut is 32-38 deg F.

So if controlling that temperature is not possible during flight transportation what can the shippers and the airports do between them to minimize possible damage to the cut flowers before they arrive at their eventual destination for resale?

From what I understand, these are the steps they like to implement:
  1. The flowers are cut and packed as quickly as possible
  2. They are immediately loaded into a refrigerated truck for transportation to the airport
  3. At the airport they are offloaded into a refrigerated warehouse
  4. The flowers then go through a pre-cooling process - ie. if there is warm air inside any of the packed boxes it is vacuumed out to allow faster cooling.
  5. The airports try to schedule as many cut flower flights as possible to leave between the hours of 10am and 6am. It is estimated that about 98% of all cut flowers transported by plane every year are on this timetable.
This is a lot of work and requires great co-ordination between a vast network of people - and all because there are no refrigerated planes.

Now there's an idea ....  the invention of the flying cold room!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Allen Strange - A Journey In From The Cold

The Journey of Allen Strange was an American tv series from 1997 to 2000 that developed a cult following. It told the story of a young alien stranded on planet Earth. Highly intelligent and with extraordinary powers, the alien's 'journey' was the story of how he met a young girl, her brother and their father and was eventually adopted by them. They gave him the name of 'Allen Strange'. Included in his powers was the ability to read the contents of a book just by placing his hand on its cover.

Personally I have never seen The Journey of Allen Strange but with a name like mine it was inevitable I would hear about it! The page I have linked to on Wikipedia put me in the picture and is a good reference source for anyone else who wants to know more about this iconic tv series.

So how would I describe The Journey of Allen Strange when applied to myself and my career?

Well, my profession as a consultant, designer and installer of refrigeration systems and polyurethane panel products has afforded me a fascinating life and career to date. It has taken me to many parts of the world and introduced me to a multitude of industries that use cold rooms, refrigeration systems and insulated panels, both commercial and industrial. I suppose the strapline of my Google+ profile just about sums it up .... 'A Lifetime In The Freezer' :)

Not everything is 'cold' in my world, however. Industrial insulated panels can be used in all kinds of construction, not just for cold storage - such as modular homes and warehouse construction.

Industrial panels used as warehouse cladding
I have also been involved in the design of many clean rooms and environmental test chambers. One of my passions in life is cars so I have really enjoyed particular parts of my 'Journey' which have involved the automotive industry. I was involved in the construction of a special automotive test chamber for Cosworth Engineering for Formula 1 engine testing and also did testing-related chamber design for McLaren and Toyota's Formula 1 Racing. Bentley Motors and the Ford Motor Co. have also been clients for temperature controlled testing rooms. It often surprises people when they get to know this kind of detail - they never imagined insulated panels could be so interesting!

I suppose my 'Journey' so far has had a very broad spectrum if I sit down and think about it. There are many sectors that I get involved in and find interesting, each in their own unique way. These include the food industry, clinical research and the public services sector (NHS, Armed Forces, Police, Museums).

I can't imagine the alien Allen Strange being able to relate to that :)

Friday, 10 January 2014

When A Cold Room Means Something Else!

It's the middle of winter, the room or office you are sitting in may be on the cold side (unless you are in Australia!) and all you want to think about is getting warm. I know the feeling ... here is a photo taken on a recent business trip to see a supplier and my 'room' in the car was freezing!

When it comes to my field of work, however, if the 'room' is not cold enough then I'm not doing my job right. How come? Let me explain. Cold rooms are hugely important pieces of modern technology; without them the large scale food processing, preservation, transportation and storage facilities that supply the bulk of our everyday dietary requirements would not be able to operate. Imagine going to Aldi and not being able to find any refrigerated food to take back home and stock up the fridge and freezer. From cheese to meat and much more, commercial cold rooms make it possible for those supermarket shelves to be filled.

The proper installation and efficient operation of cold rooms is therefore paramount for the food processing industry and I have been privileged to play a part in that for many years. I have been involved in the design, supply and installation of cold rooms for companies like Unilever and Kraft so know first-hand the requirements that have to be fulfilled in order to supply the right equipment.

Of course it's not just food that needs modular cold room storage. There are many other things such as pharmaceuticals, automotive and plastics. Then there is the exhibition sector including museums. It's a big list and one I hope to share an insight into with you via this blog.

For now though, if you want to learn more about the background to chilled food (and hence the need for cold rooms) you can read this page.

If that doesn't appeal and you want instead to steer away from the cold, just turn the heating up OR if that's not easy to do (maybe you're a student and we all know heating doesn't come cheap!) then this Wikihow page might be of interest.