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Darwen-based refrigeration maintenance specialist Gel-clear has picked up a top industry accolade for a well-designed piece of equipment for the retail sector.

The family firm won Maintenance Product of the Year at the 2020 Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (ACR) News Awards for its bio-beta Pipe Chair. The simple piece of kit, developed with the assistance of the University of Central Lancashire’s Innovation Clinic, can play a big part in stopping blockages in refrigeration cabinets.

Blocked condensate drains are a common hazard that is estimated to account for up to 40 per cent of refrigeration maintenance callouts from supermarkets. The pipework running away from refrigerated cabinets can easily get blocked when particles of food waste cause build-up of ‘biofilm’ – a jelly-like substance that blocks the pipes, which in turn often causes water to spill onto the shop floor.

The bio-beta Pipe Chair is an adjustable, retrofit pipe support that holds the drainage pipes at a set angle. This ensures that gravity keeps the wastewater flowing at enough velocity that it doesn’t get blocked. The product can be fitted to any size or shape of cabinet, without disrupting the store’s trading, creating an immediate benefit. Its simple adjustable design means that a contractor can quickly and easily create slope on flat pipework.

On a six-month trial in a supermarket, use of the pipe chair resulted in complete elimination of maintenance callouts for drainage blockages and associated water leaks. Gel-clear has made a specialism of drainage in refrigerated cabinets and its range of Gel-clear tablets have seen it win several awards.

Managing director Paurick Gaughan said: “I am pleased that this award gives due recognition to the importance of improving refrigeration drainage. It may not be a glamorous area, but it is a costly area for retailers.”

Support from the University’s Innovation Clinic has already helped Paurick to introduce a new system of products to the market which the award-winning product is part of, built around his industrial tablet which improves the efficiency of supermarket refrigeration systems. This led to a reduction in maintenance costs and lower carbon emissions.

In addition to the product continuing to be a success for Gel-clear, the process has given Paurick the confidence and skills to help grow his business.

He said: “The team at the Innovation Clinic had the knowledge and credentials to understand the whole process of getting the product to market. Also, their independence made me confident that the support they were giving was the best advice for my company, while the whole process has given me more confidence in my own abilities to grow the business in the future.”

The Innovation Clinic is also now in the process of aligning a funded MSc qualification, looking at sustainability and efficiency models of comparative heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) systems on campus.

The UCLan Innovation Clinic supports Lancashire businesses to innovate and grow through the development of new to firm and new to market products. To discover more about the wide range of business support programmes available Lancashire businesses, call the Boost relationship management team on: 0800 488 0057.

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