Improve process cooling and refrigeration

Cooling and refrigeration are major energy costs for businesses that rely on industrial process cooling or cold storage.

SMEs can reduce the impact of cooling by taking good care of equipment, improving control systems and eventually replacing older models.


  1. Get started
  2. Measure and monitor
  3. Do regular maintenance
  4. Improve operations
  5. Retrofit with simple upgrades
  6. Invest in new equipment
  7. Apply for the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund
  8. Get finance and support

Get started

Cooling and refrigeration are important to a wide range of businesses.

These include:

  • manufacturers that require cooling
  • food and drink producers
  • cold storage businesses
  • retail stores with refrigerated cabinets
  • restaurants and hospitality

Cooling is usually a major cost. You can start saving by improving your existing equipment and operations.

Carbon Trust estimates that up to 20% of cooling costs can be saved through low or no cost measures.

These include:

  • improved maintenance
  • better controls
  • a retrofit with simple upgrades

Invest in energy efficient upgrades when equipment is out of date or needs to be replaced.

Measure and monitor

Start by measuring the energy use of cooling equipment separately from other building systems.

Appliances that use electricity can be ‘submetered’ to find out how much energy they use specifically.

This helps with:

  • getting a baseline to measure against in the future
  • working out what share of energy use is for cooling
  • identifying downturns in system performance

Submeters can be connected to online monitoring systems that provide real time data and visualisations of usage.

Use the Green Economy website to find businesses that can install submeters and monitoring systems.

Do regular maintenance

Take good care of your existing equipment if refrigeration is important to your business.

A basic walkaround with trained staff members can help identify issues. You can also hire technicians to test equipment.

Carbon Trust estimates that regular maintenance can save up to 25% of what you currently spend on cooling.

In industrial settings this includes:

  • checking pipework for poor insulation, leaks and faulty control valves
  • inspecting pumps for for worn parts and dirty filters
  • checking for wear and damage to parts on cooling towers

For traditional refrigerators this includes:

  • repairing or replacing door seals, wall panels and PVC strip curtains
  • keeping condensers and evaporators are clean and frost-free
  • checking that all condenser and evaporator fans are working well
  • checking compressors for refrigerant leakage

Regular maintenance will help ensure these tasks are performed at regular intervals.

Assign this programme to a job role or team in your organisation. This will provide a clear line of responsibility.

Improve operations and controls

How you operate cooling processes and refrigeration has a major effect on energy use.

Carbon Trust estimates that improving cooling can create 50% of potential energy savings.

Operating changes for refrigerators include:

  • relocating fridges away from heat sources and draughts
  • keeping doors open only when needed
  • avoiding overcooling by setting temperatures as high as possible
  • locating thermostats higher on walls to prevent
  • making sure fridges are no more than 75% full
  • keeping products away from air grills to maximise circulation
  • not allowing delivered products to warm up before transferring to fridges

Improving controls can also reduce cooling demand. Turning up thermostats by 1C can reduce energy use by up to 2%.

You can also considering installing:

  • sensors that switch off fans when fridge doors are open
  • automatic or rapid close doors on walk-in fridges
  • a compressor variable speed drive if your cooling load varies widely
  • a ‘defrost on demand’ system for evaporators

Retrofit with simple upgrades

Simple retrofits can make refrigeration more efficient.

How much you can save depends on measures you’re already taking and your equipment’s efficiency.

Many measures will pay back quickly with the current high price of electricity.

Upgrades and energy savings potential for cabinet-style fridges and freezers include:

  • transparent doors – 20% to 50%
  • night blinds – 5% to 35%
  • strip curtains – 5% to 30%
  • ‘aerofoils’ on display shelves – 10% to 20%
  • switching to LED lights – 5% to 10%

Invest in new equipment

Invest in newer, more energy efficient models when cooling equipment is out of date or too costly to repair.

Refrigeration systems can also be fitted with heat recovery systems. These reuse wasted energy for other useful purposes.

You might be eligible for tax relief under the Annual Investment Allowance. The limit of the allowance is £1M up until 31 March 2023.

Compare the energy usage of your current model to a new one to estimate the payback period on new equipment.

Energy ratings for older equipment can be gathered from sub-metering sources or nameplates on the equipment itself.

New equipment will have its efficiency ratings listed.

Use the government’s Energy Technology List to check refrigeration ratings.

Purchasing from this list ensures that the product is among the most efficient available in its class.

Apply for the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF)

Businesses with high energy use from industrial cooling processes can apply for the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF). The scheme is designed to run until 2028 and is available across the UK.

Phase 3 of the IETF is open for new applications, supporting industry to cut their energy bills and carbon emissions through investing in energy efficiency and low carbon technologies. For queries about the IETF, contact

Scotland has a similar IETF scheme. If your site is based in Scotland, you can apply for the Scottish Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (SIETF), or contact them at

Funds are available for:

  • feasibility or engineering studies
  • improving energy efficiency for an industrial process
  • reducing emissions caused by an industrial process

How much funding you might get depends on the type of funding and size of your business.

Get finance and support

Check Carbon Trust’s guides on industrial process cooling and traditional refrigeration for more detailed advice.

You can hire a consultant to help with changes to your industrial processes if your business has financial resources .

Check our retrofit funding page to find out what funding is available from banks, government schemes and local councils.

Check our case studies page for examples of other SMEs that have successfully cut their costs and carbon emissions.

Take part in the UK Net Zero Business Census
Take part in the UK Net Zero Business Census