The History and Development of Night Covers
What is the purpose of Econofrost night covers?
A night cover is an industry recognized pull-down curtain specifically constructed for fresh food refrigerated display cases. The purpose of Econofrost night covers is to support fresh food retails in their effort to conserve energy, reduce food waste, improve refrigeration efficiency, lower operating costs and extend shelf life.
How were Econofrost night covers developed?
Econofrost night covers were originally built on the combined research and expertise of former Krupp and Linde engineers. Night covers were first widely used in Europe before they made their transition to North America. With sky-rocketing energy costs and pressure to become more sustainable, night covers are becoming the necessity for fresh food retailers world-wide.
Who are the typical customers of Econofrost night covers?
The typical customers of the Econofrost brand of night covers include major retail chains, independent store owners, food service operators and institutions like schools and hospitals. In addition, refrigeration service contractors and food equipment vendors purchase Econofrost night covers for their grocery store customers. Read real retailer testimonials
The Types and Importance of Proper Night Cover Fabric
Q: What is unique about Econofrost’s night cover fabric?
A: What sets Econofrost apart from other night covers is it’s woven aluminum perforated fabric which is bonded with PVC to give it strength. It is also coated with a fire-retardant transparent film which exceeds 94HB (horizontal burn) restrictions.
Q: What are the benefits of using this type of fabric?
A: Woven aluminum fabric has the highest reflectivity (ability to deflect radiation and heat) and lowest emissivity values (the fabric does not absorb or conduct heat). As a result warm store air and light is prevented from intermingling with the cold air spillage that circulates inside refrigerated cases. Both the internal case and product temperatures stay colder longer which translates into greater energy and product savings!
Q: What is the purpose of the perforations? What about the non-perforated produce blinds?
A: Humidity levels in grocery stores are often very high compared to the inside of a refrigeration display case, which can cause condensation build-up. The perforated fabric standard to Econofrost night covers, allows condensation to evaporate regardless of whether the night cover is up or down.
For produce cases which may or may not have misting systems, we have designed a night cover series without perforations. The Econofrost 9000 series NP (non-perforated) enables open display wet rack produce cases to be closed at night and allows for maximum energy savings in the produce department. The produce department has one of the highest rates of shrinkage so installing night covers makes the most sense. However, specific humidity levels are important in these cases and the BTU requirements are different than other open refrigerated display cases. The NP covers are just meant for produce cases with or without misting systems and where water content may vary.
Q: How easy is it to clean the fabric and what should I use?
A: The Econofrost brand of night covers are really easy to keep clean and require little to no servicing. If you need to clean the fabric, a light solution of liquid soap is all that is required. Abrasive detergent or commercial cleaners are not advised.
Calculating the Benefits and Payback of Econofrost Night Covers
Q: How long will Econofrost night covers last?
A: With proper use and operation of the night covers, the Econofrost brand of night covers can last up to 10 years! The quality construction and durable nature of the product coupled with the modular design ensures your Econofrost night cover provides trouble-free service for many years.
Q: What is the typical payback period for retailers who purchase Econofrost night covers?
A: There are a variety of factors that affect the payback time, such as: the number of hours the store is closed, the local cost of energy, the equipment’s efficiency and the store environment. Typically retailers realize a payback period of anywhere from three to eighteen months when the store is closed a minimum of 60 hours a week. Shorter pay back periods are usually achieved when a store benefits from a significant reduction in the shrinkage and discard in addition to their combined energy savings.
Q: What are the secondary benefits of using Econofrost night covers?
A: There are many benefits to using Econofrost night covers. In addition to energy savings and reduced food spoilage, Econofrost night covers also help keep products colder, shopping aisles warmer and provide additional protection in the event of a power outage. Econofrost night covers also help reduce service and maintenance costs associated with commercial refrigeration systems, they reduce labor costs associated with trimming and maintaining of displays but most importantly they allow shoppers unrestricted access to products which supports a store’s overall objectives.
Q: Was Econofrost tested by an independent third party?
A: Yes, independent studies along with private tests in supermarket chains validate the many benefits of installing Econofrost night covers. Econofrost has been tested by TUV (Technischer Uberwachungs-Verein Rheinland E.V.), which is equivalent to the UL in the United States and the CSA in Canada. These tests confirmed that Econofrost provides daily savings.
Southern California Edison’s state of the art refrigeration lab technology and test center conducted an experiment to measure the power use and performance of a refrigerated display case with and without Econofrost night covers. Their report verified that using Econofrost night shields had a positive effect on energy savings and lowered product temperatures, a key element in prolonging the shelf life of perishable foods.
Q: What is the R value of Econofrost night covers?
A: There really is no answer. Due to the thinness of the material it is virtually impossible to test R values of the fabric using standard test practices (R value testing is typically done on thick materials like insulating BATT). Other companies may attempt to apply an R-Value to their night covers but current test methods do not support this.
Questions on Installation and Custom Night Cover Products
Q: Do I have to purchase Econofrost night covers as a retrofit option or is there a factory model?
A: For most cases already at the store level, a retrofit cassette is the preferred option. For a new case being ordered direct from the original case manufacturer, you can specify to have Econofrost installed. There are a select group of OEM’s who currently install Econofrost night covers in their cases for their grocery store clients.
Q: I’ve seen other night cover installs with many open gaps between each night cover unit, how is Econofrost any different?
A: Econofrost night covers also have small gap or openings that are visible when two or more units are installed side-by-side. In general, they represent an insignificant loss of energy as cold air tends to move downward and the openings allow the unit to breathe however if a retailer has no option but to install 4-foot units then the number of stop gaps increases and it can counteract the purpose of having night covers.
That is why we manufacturer longer length units and recommend retailers install the biggest length they could use. In addition, using 8-foot cassettes helps retailers cover more space with less number of units which also means less units to operate and service over time.
Q: What are your standard sizes and fabric lengths?
A: At present we stock standard linear lengths of 4-foot, 6-foot and 8-foot cassette units in our retrofit models. Our electric motor driven blinds also offer a 12-foot unit. Please note, we accept custom orders and we can manufacture a variety of sizes.
The fabric length of our standard models measures 80 inches which easily covers a cooler case opening of 78″. For our electric units, standard fabric vertical length is 15-foot and 12-foot linear length.
Q: What if I need a longer fabric length or a smaller unit?
A: If you need longer fabric length we can most likely accommodate your request with a custom order. We can provide custom motor blinds with a maximum vertical fabric height of 20 feet and a maximum linear length of 20 feet. The smallest sized cassette unit we can provide is 27.75″ linear length.
Q: How do I determine whether I should use 4-foot, 6-foot or 8-foot units?
A: If you have a consecutive run of cases, the goal would be to incorporate as many 8-foot units as possible. Using 8-foot units in a store environment has three major benefits: First, it is less costly; one 8-foot unit is less expensive than 2 X 4-foot units. Second, it provides better energy savings; less gaps between the fabric of each night cover means improved performance. Third, less labor; when you use 8-foot units you use half the number of night covers to enclose a lineup of cases and therefore you save on time required to pull-down and retract the night covers each night and morning.
Q: What is the purpose or application for an electric motor driven blind?
A: Most supermarkets request our standard manual retrofit units due to their lower cost and simple installation. However, we do offer automatic electric motor driven units which are ideal for long consecutive runs, meat prep rooms and service areas and cold storage rooms. Motor blinds make sense for applications where operating a night cover at the flick of a switch or having it connected to a stores’ energy management system is more effective.
Q: Where is the motor located?
A: The specially designed electric motor fits right inside the tube of the night cover unit. You simply install the electric cover in a vertical wall or ceiling mount.
Q: How many units can be operated with one motor?
A: In most installations, several units can be interconnected to run off of one motor unit. One motor unit can engage three slave/auxiliary units to complete a maximum length of 48 feet.
Q: Can electrical units be converted into manual night covers? Can a manually operated blind be converted into an electrical night cover?
A: The electrical and manual units have different components and tubing. Their components cannot be interchanged or adapted to alter the design.
Q: Do I have to order the motor separately?
A: Electric units do not include motors and must be purchased as a separate line item through us. The term “electrical unit” means one that can be connected to a motor. When ordering electric blinds, you would need to specify the quantity of electrical units, the number of motors and the number of auxiliary or slave units needed to complete your project.
Comparing Econofrost to Other Night Cover Products
Q: How does Econofrost differ from other night cover products?
A: Econofrost is specifically constructed for food retail environments and as such we do not use any harmful sprays or coatings to prevent mold or mildew. With our engineered solution, mold, mildew and condensation are not an issue. Furthermore, we provide retailers with a variety of sizes and styles so they can confidently select the night cover most appropriate for their store.
The biggest difference between Econofrost and other night cover products is our woven aluminum fabric which is the most ideal material for a night cover product. What also differentiates us from other companies and products is our expertise and industry network. We have been in business for over 30 years and we stand behind our product, if something is not right, you can be sure we will make it right. We are not a fly-by-night company who piggybacks on the success of others!
Q: I’ve seen retailers use vinyl strips, can’t I just use these instead?
A: Vinyl strips were the first descendant of the night cover and they are still used today but their design and purpose differs from the night cover. They are intended for use 24 hours a day and on cold storage entrances that require access 24/7. They help to keep cold air in but do very little to protect light sensitive merchandise from ultraviolet radiation.
Q: What about covers made from polyester films?
A: Covers made with thin polyester film generate much lower energy savings than reflective aluminum fabric. These cheap low quality covers lose their formed tension in a short time and begin to fray and crease in no time. The retailers who try cheap night covers quickly discard them due to their poor performance and appearance.
Q: What is the difference between night covers and glass doors?
A: The use of glass doors is most practical in low traffic areas or off-peak hours. It is a proven fact that sales of non-essential frozen foods are very much affected when glass doors are installed. Furthermore, the cost of installing glass doors is extremely prohibitive for many retailers. That is why night covers are the more practical and cost effective solution.
Q: How is Econofrost similar to other night cover products?
A: The biggest similarity among the Econofrost brand of night covers and other products is their objective; to help fresh food retailers save energy, product and money. Some products are just better at. A number of companies have tried to introduce products to compete with Econofrost. Most did not succeed due to poor quality or lack of attention to the needs of retailers. Refrigeration engineers designed Econofrost with the highest quality specifications in mind and we continually evolve our product line to meet the changing needs of independent store owners and chain stores alike.
Q: Why should I buy or recommend Econofrost night covers?
A: The number one reason why you should purchase Econofrost night covers is because of its lower true cost of ownership. This is the most significant factor that sets us apart from other products on the market. Econofrost and its channel partners have the capability to offer a full turn-key service solution to coordinate and manage your night cover installation project. We are the only night cover provider to have installed retrofit roll outs for major chains with 100+ stores. Our product is constructed with top quality materials and is not manufactured in China so a cheap inferior product is not what you will be purchasing. Instead you will be purchasing a product that is the culmination of 30 years experience and engineering. So when you are looking to purchase night covers, we urge you to call us first!
Questions on Specific Applications for Econofrost Night Covers
Q: My produce cases have misting systems, can I still use night covers?
A: Yes. Produce departments are one of the first areas we recommend installing night covers. The product savings in reduced shrink will often outweigh the energy savings in this one department! Regardless of misting systems, produce display cases should be covered to control energy waste and to protect produce from wilting or prematurely drying out overnight. We have engineered a night cover specifically for produce cases, the 9000 series NP version (non-perforated). The NP series is designed to deliver maximum energy and product savings for produce cases with or without misting systems.
Q: We have open tub style freezer cases also known as coffin or wide island cases, can we use night covers on these?
A: Yes. Cold air tends to drop to the bottom of island coffin freezers and warm air curtains that form at the top of the case will often adversely affect food packaging. Using Econofrost night covers on these freezer tubs will not only improve the efficiency of these units, it will also protect the food and the packaging from becoming moist and soft. Econofrost provides a viable solution for closing these wide island cases at night.
Q: After installing night covers on my meat cases, will I have to adjust my thermostat controls?
A: A self-serve meat case will typically have a discharge air temperature of about 22° to 24° F in order to ensure the product holds constant at or near 32° F. Since the discharge air temperature is so low, it is important to closely monitor the case once a night cover is installed. If the case is controlled by a thermostat or electronic evaporator pressure regulator valve (EEPR Valve), the case temperature (discharge air temperature) will automatically adjust when the covers are pulled down and there is typically no further monitoring or adjustments needed.
Covering the display case with Econofrost creates a thermal barrier between the product inside the case and the ambient store air. It ensures the product temperature comes down to discharge air temperature. If the display case is controlled with a mechanical EPR Valve, then it may not self-adjust and as such, there is a possibility freezing will occur.
To ensure this does not happen, a night-time temperature setback is suggested. A night-time temperature setback is done by the refrigeration service technician – and the amount of adjustment depends on each refrigeration system. We suggest trying 1° F to start. For example, if the case discharges at 22° F, the technician may adjust the mechanical EPR Valve to 23° F and monitor it from there.