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Midwest HVAC News

Air Curtains and Other Green Tech Makes Chicago Supermarket Chain One of Nation's Greenest.
Pete's Fresh Market's progressive energy strategy includes air curtains, outdoor air dehumidification, CO2 refrigeration and energy recovery.

CHICAGO--Pete's Fresh Market is one of the greenest supermarket retailers in the U.S., but there's one difference between the Chicago-based nine-store operation's green mission and other chains. Pete's records energy data and uses only equipment with a proven energy efficiency track record at previous stores.

Consequently, each new store becomes more energy efficient than its predecessor. For example, the new 62,000-square-foot, suburban Chicago Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. store uses air curtains, dedicated outdoor air dehumidification, high-efficiency rooftop HVAC units, CO2 refrigeration systems, a green roof and energy recovery equipment that were successfully tested in previous stores.

For Eugene Grzynkowicz, senior project development executive of Pete's Fresh Market, going green is environmental, but it is also a long term solution to reducing supermarket operational costs. "With all the federal money available and utility incentives, we're trying to take advantage of today's green technology, as long as it works," said Grzynkowicz.

Air curtains, for example, appear on all nine of Pete's stores. Air curtains are best known as chemical-free sanitation alternatives to eliminating flying insect infiltration through foodservice back entrance pedestrian and shipping doors, especially in California which has a state health code mandating them.

Like many supermarkets, Pete's has back entrance air curtains, but takes the technology one step further. The Oakbrook Terrace store has Mark II Series air curtains manufactured by Berner International, New Castle, Pa., above the front entrance's automatic double sliding doors on an entry and exit vestibules.

Grzynkowicz says the air curtains target flying insect infiltration, but are equally important in conserving energy and keeping employees and customers comfortable at check-out during the winter months. The air curtains keep indoor and outdoor environments separate by "sealing" the doorways with a strong airstream, especially since all vestibules become energy losing wind tunnels when both doors open simultaneously. Furthermore, nearby employees and customers get supplemental heating with an onboard, thermostatically-controlled 20-kW electric heating coil.

Installed by mechanical contractor, B and N Sheet Metal Co., Chicago, the three-speed air curtains include an onboard programmable control package. When the door opens, a low-voltage magnetic read switch simultaneously activates the air curtain's highest programmed speed and electric heater, the latter only if needed for surrounding indoor air comfort. After closing, the control package automatically switches the motor to a low speed and the thermostat delays the shutoff of the air curtain and electric heater shutoff until the surrounding area's set-point temperature is satisfied.

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“For aesthetics, Berner's custom metal shop also extended the front entrance's six-foot-wide air curtains with a three-foot-long false panel on each end to span past the door opening and reach each end of the 12-foot-wide aluminum and glass entrance frame, according to Scott Williamson, vice president, R. Williamson & Associates, LLC, a Skokie, Ill.-based manufacturer's representative that specializes in exhaust fans, air handlers and air curtains. The air curtains are ceiling-hung with thin diameter aircraft cables that virtually disappear visually from a distance. "Pete's is a very high-end space and the air curtains are custom-designed and installed to maintain that appearance," Williamson said.

Besides air curtains, Pete's is saving energy with dedicated outdoor air dehumidifiers by Munters, Selma, Texas, to reduce the air conditioning loads, equipment sizes and number of rooftop units on each store.

Pete's also recovers heat from its 22-foot-high ceilings with 1,600-cfm space heaters by Modine Manufacturing, Racine, Wis., that supplement 55,000-Btu modulating condensing boilers by Buderus--div. of Bosch Group, Londonderry, N.H., to warm-up the frozen food and dairy aisles for customer and employee air comfort. The space heaters and boilers were installed by United Mechanical, Bensenville, Ill.

Pete's other green measures include Air Pear fan systems by Airius LLC, Longmont, Colo.; refrigeration rack and HVAC refrigerant management with UltraSite Control System by Emerson Climate Technologies, St. Louis, Mo.; cold cathode lighting; shade trees for asphalt coverage; hot water reclaim; sensor light controls; and recycled building materials.

Now with several stores with energy-saving equipment track records, Pete's plans to combine many of those technologies in its 10th store, which is scheduled for late 2013 completion. It's destined for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification and will be one of the most energy efficient supermarkets in the country.


SIDEBAR: Specify Air Curtains for Velocity, Volume and Uniformity

Velocity, volume and uniformity work together to create the ideal air curtain performance, therefore relying on only one or two of three could skew performance results.

Velocity: To properly design an air curtain installation, the airstream must hit the floor with enough velocity to create a split. The split, which creates stability, strength and direction for the air entrained on each side of the airstream, should occur right at the doorway’s threshold. An installation with a weak airstream, one that barely splits for example, is only viable for applications involving temperature differential without wind, such as internal doorways. They’re capable of stopping infiltration or cross contamination of environments due to airflow caused by the temperature differential, but they become ineffective once wind is introduced. Few external doorways are not affected by wind loads.

Volume: Volume, on the other hand, is the building block that allows a properly designed and pressurized discharge plenum to generate a high velocity laminar jet stream. The taller the opening, the more volume that is required to generate a thicker, higher velocity airstream to resist wind loads of four to five mph. Obviously an air curtain for a fast food restaurant’s drive-through window doesn’t need as strong a volume as a 16-foot high door in a shipping area. Once an air curtain activates and creates a split, it creates a “skin” over the building’s volume of indoor air and uses this internal pressure to resist wind. The split then rolls the entrained conditioned and unconditioned air back to their respective areas.

Uniformity: Another important factor to consider in air curtain performance and selection is uniformity, which only impacts the airstream effectiveness when it drops below 75-percent. An air curtain that focuses too much energy on generating a high uniformity loses velocity, therefore reducing its effective wind resistance.

About Berner: Berner International Corporation is North America's original air curtain manufacturer since 1956 and remains a leader in the air door/air curtain equipment manufacturing industry. Berner is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), The Green Building Alliance (GBA), the Air Movement & Control Association (AMCA), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and also a certified Women’s Business Enterprise National Council member (WBENC). For more information on Berner and its products, please call (724)-658-3551 x403 or visit




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