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Wrapping up a Conversation on Refrigerants … for Now

The topic of refrigerants is one of the most dynamic, evolving subjects in the refrigeration and air condition industries today. Worldwide, the desire to limit the global warming potential (GWP) of refrigerants is a growing concern. And, in some regions, such as the European Union, the pressure to phase out F-gases is resulting in the wider adoption of new and alternative refrigerant types in many common applications. While we witnessed the transition from CFCs to HCFCs and HFCs in the 1980s and 1990s, increasing growth of developing nations such as China and India is prompting regulators and refrigerant equipment manufacturers to explore the next generation of refrigerants. Already, there has been significant progress in this effort.

At our recent Making Sense webinar, A Conversation on Refrigerants, presented live from the AHR show floor, I was fortunate enough to invite some of the industry’s thought leaders on this subject to discuss the current refrigerant trends and take a look at what’s on the horizon. Our distinguished guests weighed in on the plethora of refrigerants that are being developed as current, low-GWP alternatives and future, lower GWP transitional options come into view.

Brett Van Horn, market manager, HVAC, Fluorochemicals, Arkema, Inc., stressed the importance of balancing GWP potential with safety, availability and cost (not just the refrigerant, but the system itself) when selecting refrigerants. Brett cautioned against adopting a less energy efficient, low GWP refrigerant option, lest one negate those environmental gains by increasing their overall carbon footprint.
Mark W. Spatz, global refrigerant technology leader, Honeywell’s Fluorine Products, added that each application should be carefully evaluated individually in order to decide what makes the best sense for each particular situation. Mark asserted that energy efficiency and safety, while important, must also be considered alongside the bottom line cost to own or operate the equipment (i.e., first cost, repair, and replacement costs of the refrigerant itself).

Barbara Minor, senior technical fellow, DuPont Fluoroproducts, talked about cascaded systems that are being deployed in E.U. supermarkets that utilize 134a for medium temperatures, and CO2 for its optimal performance in low temperatures. Barbara explained how the most commonly used refrigerant in supermarkets, R404A, is coming under increasing pressure to be eliminated and that many alternatives to R404A are readily available.

At Emerson Climate, we’ve seen a lot of interest in CO2, ammonia and propane refrigerants, and we’re developing products with these emerging refrigerants in mind. Because many of the new refrigerants proposed as replacements for today’s common refrigerants are mildly flammable, it may take quite some time for codes/standards to be established and thus drive market adoption. But, as our conversation on refrigerants revealed, the trend toward lower GWP gases will continue to shape our industry in the decades to come. You can trust that Emerson will be on the forefront of these developments.

If you missed A Conversation on Refrigerants or any of Making Sense webinar series, you can download the “on demand” version at your convenience by visiting our website at:

Rajan Rajendran, Ph.D
Vice President, Engineering Services and Sustainability
Emerson Climate Technologies

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