Skip to content

[E360 Webinar Wrap-up] Refrigerant Rulemaking Recap: Regulatory Uptick Expected for 2021

RajanRajendran2 Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

 

The commercial refrigeration and air conditioning sectors are currently experiencing an active period of refrigerant rulemaking. As we move through the first quarter of 2021, our industry is evaluating a variety of regulatory activities and climate initiatives — at both the state and federal levels — that govern the transition to lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants and the safe use of flammable alternatives. I recently co-hosted an E360 webinar with Jennifer Butsch, Emerson’s regulatory affairs director, to discuss current developments and explore their potential impacts on our industry. We were joined by Helen Walter-Terrinoni, vice president of regulatory affairs for the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).

As global regulatory efforts to phase down the use of HFC refrigerants continue in earnest, the transition to alternatives with lower GWP is gaining momentum in the U.S. At the state level, California is preparing for its next phase of rulemaking, while more U.S. Climate Alliance states leverage the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Rules 20 and 21 as the bases for their own environmental initiatives. In addition, a new presidential administration and the passing of new federal legislation represent significant shifts in U.S. regulatory dynamics — resuming our global participation in combating climate change and giving the EPA authority to govern HFCs.

But the progression of refrigerant rulemaking along both state and federal lines continues to create complexity for an industry that seeks guidance in understanding and applying an ever-evolving, complex mix of regulations.

California Air Resources Board (CARB) Seeks to Finalize Proposals

In 2019, California was the first state to adopt EPA SNAP Rules 20 and 21 in their entirety. Since then, CARB has developed additional proposals to meet its stated 2030 emissions-reduction targets. For commercial refrigeration, these proposed refrigerant regulations target the installation of new refrigeration systems greater than 50lbs:

  • 150 GWP limit for systems installed in new facilities
  • In existing facilities, food retailers must choose from one of the following company-wide reduction targets:
    • Reduce their weighted average GWP below 1,400
    • Achieve a 55% or greater reduction in their greenhouse gas potential (GHGp) below 2019 baseline levels by 2030
  • Other GWP limits for systems in existing facilities include a 750 limit for ice rinks and a 1500 – 2000 limit for industrial refrigeration

In air conditioning applications, the CARB proposal targets a 750 GWP limit across multiple end uses in the coming years:

  • 2023: room AC and dehumidifiers
  • 2024: AC chillers (consistent with SNAP Rule 21)
  • 2025: residential and commercial AC
  • 2026: variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems

CARB has also introduced its Refrigerant Recycle, Recovery and Reuse (R4) program, which proposes new air conditioning equipment in 2023 and 2024 to use reclaimed R-410A refrigerant in an amount equal to 10% of equipment operating charge in California. In addition, CARB has stated that it will expand its R4 program by introducing new rulemaking this year.

U.S. Climate Alliance States Adopt Legislation

Among the 25 member states that have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, nine have finalized legislation for adopting SNAP Rules 20 and 21 into law. Like the original EPA rules, the timings of enforcement dates are end-use specific and designed to be phased in over several years. But because the start dates of these rules differ among the nine member states, our industry faces an increasingly complex patchwork of compliance schedules.

As Walter-Terrinoni pointed out in the webinar, the prospect of new federal legislation may give these and other states the option to pursue a consistent, nationwide approach to the refrigeration phase-down. States could place their focus on the local level, where they can further the advancement of building codes and safety standards.

Federal HFC Phase-down Takes AIM

Regulatory activity is also picking up at the federal level, starting with the EPA’s proposed SNAP Rule 23, which reaffirms its commitment to approve low-GWP refrigerants. The proposal lists several mildly flammable (A2L) refrigerants, including R-452B, R-454A, R-454B, R-454C, R-457 and R-32 as acceptable, subject to use conditions in new residential and light commercial air conditioners and heat pumps. For retail food refrigeration — medium-temperature, stand-alone units — SNAP Rule 23 lists A1 refrigerants R-448A, R-449A and R-449B as acceptable, subject to narrowed use limits. Emerson and other industry stakeholders have asked for further clarification on these restrictions, as these A1s have already been listed as acceptable without limitations in many other commercial refrigeration applications.

As part of major pandemic relief legislation, the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act was passed and signed into law in late 2020. This legislation gives the EPA the authority to phase down HFC production and consumption limits in a manner consistent with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol within nine months. It also authorizes the EPA to regulate HFCs through sector based rulemaking and establish standards for HFC management — servicing, repair, recover, recycle and reclaim — similar to CARB’s R4 program. This is welcome news for our industry, as it paves the way for a federally guided, low-GWP refrigerant transition, which would minimize the complexities of differing state-led regulations.

Under the new Biden administration, the U.S. has rejoined the Paris Agreement and is taking steps to ratify the Kigali Amendment. These are among many early indications of this administration’s commitment to combat climate change at home and abroad.

A2L, A3 Standards and Codes Progress

With the industry moving toward the use of flammable A2L and A3 refrigerants to achieve lower-GWP goals, the technical committees and governing bodies who provide guidelines on how to safely use these refrigerants and related equipment are currently updating their safety standards. Among the updates that many are closely watching are the proposed changes to the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) 60335-2-89 standard, which would increase the charge limits in self-contained and remote refrigeration applications. While the industry expects this proposal potentially to be finalized by the end of the year, it’s important to remember that once established, these standards will take several years to make their way into the building codes and local standards needed to permit the widespread use of flammable refrigerants.

To learn more details about each of these important regulatory developments, please view our on-demand webinar.

Launch of Enhanced Copeland™ Online Product Information (OPI) Tool and Copeland™ Mobile App

Ken Monnier | Chief Technology Officer,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

Emerson is pleased to announce the addition of new functionalities and user interface improvements to its Copeland online product information (OPI) tool and Copeland Mobile app. The Copeland OPI tool has long served as a valuable resource for researching Copeland compressors and condensing units and cross-referencing them with other original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and competitive products, as well as replacement Copeland brand products. The Copeland Mobile app, which provides on-the-go access to the OPI database for Copeland product specifications, places more than 30 years of product information at users’ fingertips. With these new upgrades,  users will enjoy significant usability improvements, additional connections to a variety of resources within the Emerson website, and a more seamless experience across Emerson’s tools and resources.

The primary objective of the OPI tool upgrade was to provide a much-improved user interface (UI), regardless of how — or with which device — users choose to access it. The first thing visitors will notice is that the OPI tool now has a user interface that resembles the overall look and feel of the Emerson website. This provides a consistent experience for users who frequently utilize both the Emerson website and the OPI tool. In addition, the user interface of the Copeland Mobile app has also been redesigned to provide a consistent user experience across these valuable resources.

Like the Emerson website, the improved OPI tool also features a responsive design that adapts for optimal viewing and interaction on a mobile device — making it as easy to use on a smartphone as on a traditional web browser. As a result, users will find a navigational structure that supports ease of use and quick access to the OPI tool’s most critical features, such as: product search; cross-referencing; information resources (publications, links and bulletins); where to buy; and software downloads.

This significant upgrade to the OPI tool enables further connectivity with other utilities and contractor resources within the Emerson website, including:

  • Access to the knowledge center, a one-stop shop for technical HVACR questions and answers
  • Use of custom HVACR calculators to help analyze system performance and suggest energy efficiency improvements
  • Expanded access to product information libraries

In addition to connecting contractors to the extensive OPI tool database, the feature-rich Copeland Mobile app helps contractors to perform these key functions in the field:

  • View product specifications and resources including application engineering manuals, catalogs, and guides
  • Cross-reference Copeland products
  • Quickly troubleshoot and diagnose Copeland compressors
  • Check the availability of local product replacements
  • Locate a Copeland technical specialist
  • Track open projects with jobsite commissioning

Both of these enhanced tools also include a live chat feature, which provides an additional source for answering questions. Now users can either contact Emerson’s customer and technical support line for assistance or connect with an agent via live chat for immediate technical support — 24 hours a day, five days a week.

To view the new Copeland OPI tool and take advantage of this upgrade, please visit Emerson.com/CopelandOPI. Download the Copeland Mobile app in Apple’s App Store and the Google Play App Store.

Explore the Advantages of Lowering Refrigerant Charges

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

The need to reduce refrigerant charges in commercial refrigeration systems is often the focus of environmental regulations and sustainability initiatives shared by many supermarket retailers and operators. The reason is simple: lowering refrigerant charges reduces the potential for leaks and their associated environmental impacts. But there are also more pragmatic operational motivations for lowering refrigerant charges — from improving refrigeration system energy efficiency, performance and reliability to avoiding equipment replacement costs. In part two of a recent RSES Journal article series, I examine some of the leading strategies for reducing the refrigerant charges in existing refrigeration systems.

Implement variable fan speed control

Most centralized direct expansion (DX) systems are designed for peak summer heat and use mechanical head pressure control valves to maintain fixed pressure in the condenser equivalent to 105 °F condensing. In cooler seasonal conditions, this approach creates a considerably oversized condenser, where a substantial portion of the condenser volume is being used to store liquid in order to build pressure up to 105 °F minimum condensing.

A potential fix to remedying this situation is to remove the mechanical head pressure control valve and install a variable-frequency drive (VFD) to control the condenser fan’s speed. Instead of operating with a minimum fixed head pressure, this strategy provides variable head pressure throughout the year. This allows the system to operate with less refrigerant by removing the need to have a “winter charge” to flood the condenser in low ambient conditions.

Note: For operators in northern climates with sustained periods of sub-zero temperatures (-20° F to -30° F), utilizing a flooded head pressure approach may be necessary to keep systems running during those periods.

If you discover that a condenser needs to be replaced, an additional charge reduction can be achieved from implementing a split-condenser design. The approach effectively helps to maintain system pressure by cutting the condenser surface area in half as ambient temperatures drop, creating a net reduction in condenser surface area, which further lowers the system charge. In summer months, when the condenser utilizes every inch of its surface area, excess liquid refrigerant can be stored in a large receiver tank designed to hold both the summer and winter charges. Consider also using a low-condensing approach in combination with an efficient liquid subcooling strategy to achieve additional charge reductions while maximizing system performance, energy efficiency and reliability.

Adopt a looped piping strategy

In conventional centralized DX systems, individual liquid refrigerant and return suction lines are fed from the refrigeration rack to each case in a supermarket — which requires a large refrigerant charge to support the full load of all cases. An alternative to this approach would be to adopt a looped piping strategy by running fewer large lines to designated sections of the store, from which smaller lines branch off to individual cases. For example, instead of running 30 long lines to individual cases, four to five line loops would support key store sections — with much smaller lines branched off these loops to feed the individual cases. In doing so, store operators can reduce piping, lower leak rates, and achieve a significant reduction in refrigerant charge.

Disconnect and re-distribute remote refrigeration loads

Another common centralized DX refrigeration challenge is to provide adequate refrigeration for cases that are located farthest from the machine room. Unless the system is operating perfectly, the liquid refrigerant traveling through those long liquid lines can develop flash gas bubbles by the time it reaches these distant cases. This results in a variety of issues, which can ultimately increase the amount of refrigerant needed and impact case temperatures.

One potential solution is to disconnect these remote cases from their suction group and install segments of distributed equipment to handle them individually. This reduces the refrigerant charge in the centralized DX system and allows it to operate more efficiently. The Copeland™ digital outdoor refrigeration unit, X-Line Series is ideal for servicing these remote cases or supporting new refrigeration requirements, such as walk-in coolers for click-and-collect fulfillment. In addition, the Copeland indoor modular solution provides flexible options for spot merchandizing cases, which could also be disconnected from a DX system.

Transition to distributed architectures

The prospect of large-scale leak events is always a possibility in large DX centralized systems, which can often be charged with up to 4,000 pounds of refrigerant. If even half of that charge were to be emitted in a catastrophic leak, operators would face potential environmental penalties and excessive refrigerant replacement costs. But this centralized approach is no longer the only option for large-supermarket refrigeration. In their place is an emerging variety of distributed architectures designed to lower refrigerant charges, deliver improved energy efficiencies, and operate using lower-GWP refrigerants.

Distributed architectures that utilize Copeland scroll compression technology can deliver significant system efficiencies, particularly when using a low-pressure refrigerant like R-513A. For example, Emerson’s distributed scroll booster architecture is designed to overcome common low-temperature system challenges and leverage R-513A’s low pressure and high efficiency to provide:

  • Lower discharge temperatures and compression ratios: 1.9:1 at -10 °F saturated suction temperature (SST) and 20 °F saturated discharge temperature (SDT)
  • Reduced compressor strain and related maintenance issues
  • Increased overall system efficiency and lifespan
  • Reduced stress on pipes and fittings, which lowers the potential for leaks

All the strategies discussed herein will not only help to lower your refrigerant charge but also deliver a variety of system efficiency and reliability benefits.

Strategies for Maximizing Refrigeration System Efficiencies

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

For many supermarket operators, reducing energy spend in their refrigeration systems is a key sustainability objective. But as most refrigeration systems drift from their original commissioned states, they inevitably lose efficiencies over time. In a recent RSES Journal article, I explored some of the root causes of this all-too-common problem and presented proven strategies for maximizing refrigeration system efficiencies.

There is often a domino effect that contributes to declining refrigeration efficiencies: setpoints are changed, mechanical subcooling strategies become ineffective, condensing pressures increase, and overall system energy consumption rises. At the same time, maintaining consistent case temperatures can become a constant struggle — often causing the reliability of these systems to suffer.

But this inefficient, unreliable state neither has to be your status quo, nor does it necessarily mean that it is time to replace your existing refrigeration system. In fact, there are a variety of tools and techniques for taking back control of your supermarket refrigeration system.

Shore up your liquid subcooling strategy

Refrigerant (liquid) subcooling results in denser liquid — which packs more BTUs per pound and maximizes system capacity and performance — and is a strategy utilized within many supermarket refrigeration systems. But because this approach is based on design parameters that account for the hottest anticipated day of the year, it can present challenges in other weather conditions. In some regions, this can represent more than 95 percent of the time

As ambient temperatures drop, the condenser operates more efficiently, thus decreasing the subcooling load requirements. The net effect is that the plate heat exchanger — which acts as an evaporator to cool the refrigerant — is oversized for most of the year. And as the system tries to adapt to changing weather conditions, the liquid quality output can become more erratic and cause flash gas in liquid lines, which can starve the evaporator.

To manage this load variability, system designers often use electronic evaporator pressure regulators (EPRs), which must be properly set to maintain ideal liquid-out temperatures. If not, these conditions can combine to create a perpetual state of fluctuation as the system “hunts” for the liquid quality for which it was designed, resulting in a myriad of system issues with the potential to negatively impact energy efficiency and reliability.

Install electronic expansion valves

Replacing a system’s mechanical expansion valves with electronic expansion valves (EEVs) is the key to helping operators overcome these subcooling challenges and restoring system efficiencies. EEVs are typically located at the inlet of the subcooler to control and modulate the refrigerant flow of the heat exchanger much more effectively, regardless of whether it is the hottest or coldest day of the year. As temperatures and liquid quality fluctuate, EEVs allow a system to run at maximum capacity and deliver the performance advantages for which it was originally designed:

  • Higher BTUs per pound of circulating refrigerant
  • Reduced liquid line size and charge reduction
  • Improved efficiency for energy savings

Note: for optimum control of a subcooling heat exchanger equipped with an EEV, consider using a variable-capacity compressor like the Copeland™ scroll digital compressor or adding a variable-frequency drive (VFD) to a Copeland Discus™ compressor to provide a balanced load approach.

Raise system suction pressures

The higher the system suction pressures are, the lower the associated compressor power consumption will be — particularly in lower-temperature refrigeration systems. For every 1 PSI increase in suction pressure, a compressor’s energy efficiency ratio (EER) is improved by approximately 2%.

Electronic evaporator pressure regulators (EPRs) are commonly used in centralized racks to maintain evaporator temperatures within various suction groups and optimize the suction pressure to its highest possible point based on case demand. To save additional energy, technicians may “float the suction pressure” by allowing it to rise slightly when the lowest temperature case is satisfied. This can only be achieved if the EPRs are properly set.

Low-condensing operation

Another way to offset the inefficiencies of a system designed for the hottest day of the year is to implement low-condensing operation (aka “floating the head pressure”). Instead of artificially keeping head pressures near 105 °F with the use of head pressure control valves, EEVs installed at cases allow systems to float head pressures down as the temperatures drop — typically maintaining temperatures at 10–20 °F above the ambient temperature.

On average, systems can achieve 15–20% EER improvements on compressor performance for every 10 °F decrease in head pressure. EEVs are designed to modulate with fluctuations in capacity and liquid quality to digest flash gas and control superheat. Using this technique, supermarket operators can reliably float system pressures to 70 °F or lower and achieve:

  • 15–20% EER improvements on compressor performance
  • Increased compressor capacity for faster pull-down rates
  • Lower pressure, which reduces system stress
  • Higher system reliability, which lowers total cost of ownership (TCO)

Give your system an efficiency boost

Emerson provides the tools, technologies and expertise to help operators implement efficient liquid subcooling and low-condensing pressure strategies. Our EX series EEVs feature a patented ceramic gate port design that can manage a wide range of liquid quality and condensing pressures — and deliver precise refrigerant control via variable-capacity modulation from 10–100%.

The companion EXD-SH1 or SH2 superheat controller regulates evaporator superheat to optimize system performance, regardless of ambient conditions. Its integrated display allows operators to check a variety of system conditions, such as superheat, percentage of valve opening, pressure and temperature values.

[New E360 Webinar] Will Provide Regulatory Update on Refrigerant Rulemaking and Climate Initiatives

Jennifer Butsch | Regulatory Affairs Director

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

The environmental regulations landscape continues to be a source of great uncertainty for the commercial refrigeration and AC industries. Sorting through the latest developments in an ever-evolving mix of global policy, federal and state rulemaking — for both refrigerant and energy efficiency regulations — is a complicated task. In our next E360 webinar, my colleague Dr. Rajan Rajendran, Emerson’s vice president of systems innovation center and sustainability, and I will explore recent regulatory activities and help you to understand their potential impacts on your business. The webinar will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. EST/11 a.m. PST.

From all indications, 2021 is shaping up to be a transitional year among the federal and state regulations governing commercial refrigeration and AC applications in the U.S. At the federal level, the recent enactment of the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act) gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants and establish sector-based limits. In addition, the introduction of the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Rule 23 proposal in 2020 was an indication of the agency’s desire to approve certain mildly flammable (A2L) refrigerants as acceptable for use — subject to use conditions — in new residential and light commercial air conditioners and heat pumps.

For several years, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has stepped up its efforts to phase down the use of HFC refrigerants. This started with the adoption of EPA SNAP Rules 20 and 21 and now continues with a proposal that calls for increased HFC and refrigerant global warming potential (GWP) reductions, which could take effect as soon as January 1, 2022. As a result, retailers in California may soon face the prospect of making significant changes to their refrigeration systems — in at least some of their stores — to achieve compliance.

While retailers outside of the state of California currently may not face an imminent regulatory mandate, member states of the U.S. Climate Alliance are moving forward with their own HFC phase-down initiatives, which include the adoption of EPA SNAP Rules 20 and 21. And with a new administration taking office, we are also likely to see a new tone and urgency with respect to broader climate initiatives, as well as the potential for greater participation in global environmental policies.

All these moving pieces set the stage for a potentially active period of regulatory developments in 2021 and beyond. The primary goals of our upcoming E360 webinar are to explore these developments in more detail, place them into their proper context, and offer insights to help you understand the impacts on your business.

Attendees will learn:

  • Status of CARB regulations/proposals and their potential impacts
  • Review of U.S. Climate Alliance state activities and adoption of EPA SNAP Rules 20 and 21
  • Overview of AIM Act and its potential impacts
  • Update on the codes and standards for flammable refrigerants, such as UL 60335-2-89 and ASHRAE 15
  • Impacts that a new administration may have on climate initiatives

Register now for this informative and free webinar.

%d bloggers like this: