Why You Should Choose a “Smart” Multi-Path HVAC System Designed by Supermarket Specialists

With their diverse space conditioning requirements, supermarkets present one of the most complex applications for humidity control. Today’s supermarkets have multiple zones with varied environments, including a possible mix of open cooking areas and restaurants, along with produce, frozen food and general merchandise sections. When you add architectural features like skylights, balconies and vestibules to the mix, controlling the humidity in such conditions proves extremely challenging. A “smart” HVAC solution is required – one that employs a deep understanding of supermarket environments.

Multi-Path technology is specifically designed to address the diverse space conditioning requirements of supermarkets, especially the ever-essential humidity control, to create an optimal shopping environment with unmatched energy savings.

One Size Does Not Fit All

In the past, the supermarket industry had only one option: using generic commercial HVAC equipment and trying to wedge it into meeting their unique needs. Supermarket requirements are simply more complex than what standard HVAC or generic dehumidification systems are built to handle.

Designed by supermarket specialists, Multi-Path units uniquely employ a modulating bypass and return air damper that controls the flow of return air passing over the coil. Very simply, this allows the unit to run in single path mode (the equivalent to a standard rooftop unit) when only cooling is needed, or dual-path mode when dehumidification is required with low sensible loads. Multi-Path units can also automatically run anywhere between these two positions, as required, to meet the specific loads in a space.

It is essential to have such control over the airflow in a supermarket. The system dynamic of HVAC and refrigeration and the environment of the store has a very significant impact on refrigeraged case operation, the load on the case, defrost cycles, anti-frost settings, and more. To successfully manage these diverse needs, a Multi-Path solution is required, because it employs a deep understanding of supermarkets and how the equipment within them must work together.

The Trickle-Down Effect of Poor Humidity Control

Humidity control is critical in a supermarket for energy efficiency but also for retail product integrity and safety. There are customer comfort and safety issues as well. A humid environment is uncomfortable for shopping and may reduce the time customers spend in your store.

Once humidity takes over, it readily migrates to the refrigerated display cases and can cause safety issues, including wet, slippery floors, responsible for many customer and staff injuries. Approximately 25,000 slips, trips and falls occur daily in the US alone, according to the National Safety Council, which brings up costly liability issues.1 There is also the energy factor to consider, refrigerated cases require 3 to 7 times more energy to remove humidity than if removed by an efficient HVAC dehumidification system.

“Humidity is one of the biggest operational and environmental challenges faced by supermarkets today,” says CES president, Bryan Elliott. “It has a direct impact on customer comfort, product freshness and appearance, as well as the store’s refrigeration and HVAC energy costs, which account for 60 to 70% of total energy usage.”

Dramatically Reduce Your Energy Consumption with Multi-Path

Supermarkets in the US have an average energy cost of $4 per square foot per year, in both electricity and natural gas. For a 50,000 square foot store, that equates to more than $200,000 annually in energy costs and is responsible for more than 1,900 tons of CO2 emissions – or the emissions of approximately 360 vehicles per year.2 Finding ways to save on energy not only saves the environment, it also improves your financial performance and distinguishes your business as an environmental champion. There is no downside.

Multi-Path technology delivers energy efficiencies due to the very nature of its design. Since the main source of supermarket humidity is from the outside air, rather than mixing dry return air with humid outside air and attempting to overcool the entire mixed airstream, Multi-Path isolates the outside airstream, removing humidity at the source. Its air damper/sequencing system significantly reduces energy costs by adjusting all air stream “paths” independently and dynamically as interior space load requirements fluctuate. The result is a “smart” HVAC system that adjusts the ratio of airstream conditioning based on real-time load requirements to create an optimal shopping environment at the lowest possible energy cost.

A 2015 NREL Report on supermarket energy efficiency noted, “In general, the Adaptive Multi-Path System demonstrated substantial savings as measured by site energy use (31%–35% savings), source energy use (30%–34%), and energy cost (30%–36%) across all climates. This conclusion is not surprising because the Adaptive Multi-Path System integrates the best technologies of several of the other HVAC systems.”3

The Benefits of Custom Designed Over Packaged Solutions

When standard commercial HVAC units are used in a supermarket environment, they operate with an inefficient, brute force methodology. When you look at supermarket chains, an out-of-the-box, standard solution really can’t work, because there are multiple internal environments, formats, footprints and geographies to consider.

Just like a medium sized t-shirt doesn’t fit everyone in your family, you need a solution that fits each individual store perfectly. Whether you’re considering a retrofit solution, a new construction, or an urban design to outfit the new trend in smaller format/urban format stores, it all comes down to custom engineering design. Consider the following scenarios:


Supermarkets face many issues when considering a retrofit. In order to minimize costs, they need to replace their units with ones of lighter or the same weight and that use the same existing electrical breakers, conduits and wire sizes, as well as the existing duct work. Multi-Path units are approximately half the size and much lighter than the old units they replace. There is no need to restructure the building to accommodate the weight of the units and costly cranes need not be involved. They are almost always installed using your existing duct work and your original electrical specifications. Multi-Path is, therefore, a drop-in retrofit solution that is cost effective and hassle free.

New Construction

For new construction, Multi-Path units can be custom designed from the bottom up, working with your mechanical engineering firm to devise a solution that perfectly suits your needs, store by store.


Urban supermarkets often have limited space and non-traditional footprints. Multi-Path units can be customized to suit spaces that may not have a rooftop, for example, and create a compact solution that will fit in parking areas or other available spaces.

More supermarket chains are choosing Multi-Path not only because they are customizable but also because they are compact, lightweight and easy to install in all types of footprints. Adaptable to any region and all load conditions, Multi-Path units thrive in humid, changeable climates like the Southwestern United States, where other systems fail. Since Multi-Path units can operate in any climate and adapt to any condition, they are ideal for creating a national standard.

Make Lower Total Cost of Ownership a Priority

In today’s ultra-competitive environment, supermarkets are always looking for ways to get the most for their money. Compared to other dehumidification technologies, Multi-Path offers many benefits that go beyond space conditioning and energy savings.

“More and more supermarkets are looking at the big picture these days,” says Elliott. “They want to see more than just a return on their up-front investment. They’re looking at TCO – the total cost of ownership, including factors like maintenance requirements, parts costs, the expected lifespan of a system, as well as technology that can improve shopper comfort.”

State-of-the-art Multi-Path systems are built to last longer than any other dehumidification HVAC system available – 20 to 40 years, compared to the standard 15 years. Multi-Path is designed to use off-the-shelf parts with no belts or pulleys that can stretch or break down over time, so maintenance requirements and downtimes are reduced. Even up-front downtime is minimized with fast, simple installation and a full-factory start-up so that everything is “plug and play” when the unit arrives on-site. From energy savings to lifetime cost of ownership, Multi-Path is a powerful, efficient, reliable system that truly optimizes your store’s space conditioning.

Why Choose the CES Multi-Path Solution?

CES knows supermarkets better than anyone else because that’s all we do. Multi-Path is the culmination of our team’s collective experience designing the best supermarket HVAC solutions with the highest energy savings for our customers. CES Multi-Path comes with a performance guarantee on humidity, free lifetime tech support, best-in-industry warranties and exceptional customer service. With our complimentary store design and energy use analysis, we show you costs, savings and results before you buy.



  1. National Safety Council, http://www.nsc.org/pages/home.aspx
  2. Energy Star: Supermarkets: An Overview of EnergyUse and Energy Efficiency Opportunities. https://www.energystar.gov/sites/default/files/buildings/tools/SPP%20Sales%20Flyer%20for%20Supermarkets%20and%20Grocery%20Stores.pdf
  3. 2015 NREL Report: Energy-Efficient Supermarket Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning in Humid Climates in the United States. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy15osti/63796.pdf