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How Will Newly Approved Refrigerants and DOE Timing Play a Role?

While the SNAP delisting rule may have been the lead story for our industry summer, the EPA has also recently finalized additional SNAP rulings that approve new refrigerant substitutes in commercial refrigeration. The first two rulings cleared the way for several approved alternatives having a GWP ranging from 3 to 675 and include: R-170 (ethane); R-600A (isobutane); R-290 (propane); R-441A (hydrocarbon blend); and R-450A (HFC/HFO blend). The first three in this list are considered “natural” refrigerants with very low GWP/ODP, but are also class A3 (flammable).

A third ruling, which was recently approved this summer, introduced additional class A1 (non-flammable) refrigerants to the mix: R-448A, R-449A and R-513A. R-448A and R-449A are blends of HFC/HFO, and are considered a suitable replacement in several applications which traditionally used R-404A and R-507A. At Emerson Climate Technologies, we’ve successfully performed research, development and testing to prepare our Copeland Scroll™ and Copeland Discus™ compressors for use with R-448A and R-449A. These units are now ready for market.

R-513A and R-450A are HFC/HFO blends designed to potentially replace HFC-134a, which the EPA has scheduled for delisting in medium-temperature, stand-alone applications in 2019–2020.

It’s important to note that none of these new refrigerant alternatives are “drop-in” substitutes for retrofitting. Equipment must be specifically designed, evaluated and tested for use with these new refrigerants. We recommend that you check with the equipment and component manufacturers before any retrofit to ensure that all proper guidelines are being followed.

How the DOE and EPA Rulings Interact

One of the biggest challenges our industry faces is the close timing between the EPA’s SNAP rulings and the DOE’s energy reduction mandates on stand-alone commercial refrigeration systems. Not only must we concern ourselves with which refrigerants to use, we also have to comply with the DOE’s efficiency requirements.

03_EPA_Final_Rule _DelistingFor example, a medium-temperature, stand-alone case using R-404A will be subject to compliance with the DOE’s energy reduction rule by March 27, 2017. The same case will also have to transition to an EPA SNAP-approved refrigerant by Jan. 1, 2019.

To approach this challenge, we must consider several important questions. First, how will we meet the DOE’s energy efficiency requirements using this new class of approved refrigerants? To qualify as a suitable alternative in new self-contained systems, refrigerants will need to comply with energy efficiency requirements and be capable of production on a mass level.

More importantly, how can we combine our product evaluation and qualification efforts to satisfy both sets of requirements in one step? The last thing we want is to develop solutions and systems that meet DOE compliance today, and then repeat that exercise in 2 to 3 years for the EPA. This scenario would result in unnecessary costs and duplication of efforts.

Finally, are there enough resources at the component suppliers, equipment manufacturers and test laboratories to handle the increased workload of the qualification process? We first need the refrigerants to be made available and components to become widely produced. Only then can equipment manufacturers begin to test, approve and place new equipment into production. Satisfying all these requirements and answering these questions will be no small task.

This blog is a summary of the article Delist, Delay, Decipher from our most recent edition of E360 Outlook. Click here to read it in its entirety and learn more about the impacts of the EPA’s final ruling on refrigerants.

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