One perceived barrier to natural refrigerant-based systems is a lack of training among contractors and technicians. With a large new training center soon to open, Climate Pros is working to change that.

In December, the 11-year-old contractor plans to open a 10,000-sq-ft training center, dubbed Climate Pros Inc. University (CPIU), at its 50,000 sq-ft Chicago headquarters to train its technicians on installing and servicing CO2-based refrigeration systems – transcritical, cascade and secondary.

“We’re building a mock grocery store,” said Todd Ernest, Climate Pros’ founder and CEO. “I’ve basically just carved out about 10,000 sq ft in the back of the warehouse. We’re going to have a full DX parallel rack system and a transcritical CO2 system, along with a glycol skid.”

As of late October, Climate Pros had completed the “rack house” and erected the walls, and was planning to soon add equipment, which will come from vendors like Zero Zone and Carnot Refrigeration. Equipment vendors, including Hillphoenix, Danfoss, Emerson and Parker Sporlan, which have trained the contractor’s technicians in the past, will continue to do so at CPIU, along with Climate Pros’ own specialists. “CPIU is just going to formalize all that so we can say, ‘Now we have a facility, this is where we go to train,’” said Ernest.

With its new training center, Climate Pros joins contractors like Source Refrigeration and Bronx, N.Y.-based AAA Refrigeration in educating technicians on natural refrigerants. Source also has a mock grocery store training center at its Anaheim, Calif., headquarters while AAA holds an annual Refrigeration Symposium in addition to in-house and field training.

“We spend a ton of time, energy and money on just keeping our guys trained and up to par, or better, than most that are out there.”

Todd Ernest, founder and CEO, Climate Pros

While Climate Pros previously lacked a formal training space, Ernest said its employees have been ahead of the curve when it comes to working with CO2 technology.

“We’ve always been focused on trying to stay ahead of whatever the technology is doing,” he said. “We spend a ton of time, energy and money on just keeping our guys trained and up to par, or better, than most that are out there.”

First transcritical installations

Climate Pros, which targets the supermarket sector, services over a dozen CO2 systems in the Chicago area – in stores such as Mariano’s (a Roundy’s banner) for transcritical and Target and Walmart for mostly secondary.

“Transcritical is running great,” said Ernest. “You don’t see the high maintenance you used to see.”

Climate Pros recently installed its first transcritical system at a Mariano’s in Bloomingdale, Ill., and previously handled installation of a cascade CO2 system at a Target store in Lake Bluff, Ill.

Next month, the company is also slated to begin installation of its first transcritical CO2 system, from Carnot Refrigeration, in a cold storage area at a MaMa LaRosa Foods Italian-style dough plant in Taylor, Mich.

Over the years Climate Pros has expanded its operation to Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Hawaii and most recently California, with plans to enter the Northeast next. In California, Ernest sees CO2 becoming an increasingly popular choice of refrigerant for stores.

“We just got into the California market this year,” Ernest said, “and we’re already seeing CO2 come out here as well, so we’re figuring out how we’re going to stay ahead and get our teams out here up to par so that they get the training they need.”

Author Elise Herron

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