U.S. pizza chain Domino’s has installed a Panasonic CO2 (R744) condensing unit at a restaurant in London, a worldwide first for the company, according to Xavier Debray, Managing Director of U.K-based Versan Refrigerate Technology, which carried out the installation.

The installation was made in a new restaurant, run by franchisee Neo-Blu Ltd, and completed in June 2020. It was inspired by a wish to reduce environmental impact and comply with the latest f-gas regulations.

To encourage Domino’s to choose R744 over a synthetic refrigerant, Versan agreed to split the additional cost of the installation, Debray said. The gamble paid off and Domino’s is “happy with the installation,” despite initial skepticism, he added. Versan is therefore planning more R744 installations for the company, though only in areas where the company’s own engineers are available for servicing, to avoid any potential issues with lack of qualified personnel.

Also, under the current economic climate, and current f-gas legislations, Domino’s has decided to go with R744 for new restaurants if Versan is able to match the installation cost of HFC systems. In situations where that isn’t the case, the company is going with R452a.

The condensing unit installed in the London restaurant is a single 3.5kW (1TR) Panasonic OCU200 unit installed on the roof of the building. It serves the restaurant’s 1°C (33.8°F) cold room, and is set to start water mist at 38°C (100.4°F). The system is “performing well,” with less temperature fluctuations, after needing some initial adjustments according to Debray.  

“We did have to adjust to Domino’s needs and requirements, which included a strong cooling power to reach the 1°C temperature, but at the same time avoiding a freezing air blast, which dries the food,” Debray explained. Versan monitored the new installation over the summer to improve performance and software settings.

The efforts have resulted in energy savings for the restaurant as well, and the variable speed compressors have reduced the need for defrost cycles to only one a day, he said.

Versan currently has more than 10 R744 installations for this type of cold room application, and is also planning more installations for other fast-food restaurants and food manufacturers. The company’s installations include a sushi manufacturer, also located in London.

“We did have to adjust to Domino’s needs and requirements, which included a strong cooling power to reach the 1°C temperature, but at the same time avoiding a freezing air blast, which dries the food”

Xavier Debray, Versan

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