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How to Transition Into the Future With HFO Blend Refrigerants

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, Food Retail Marketing & Growth Strategy, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I was recently interviewed for an article in the ACHR News, “HFO Sightings: Refrigerant Retrofits Becoming More Common in Supermarkets,” which discusses steps that can smooth a supermarket owner’s transition to sustainable and compliant HFO blend refrigerants.

How to Transition Into the Future With HFO Blend Refrigerants

What refrigerant changes are coming, and which should you choose?

The R-22 refrigerant is in its final days, and will be officially phased out at the end of next year. There’s also a good chance that hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants will also be phased down in the U.S. in the years ahead, as their use continues to be limited in different countries and regions around the globe. Many supermarket owners see the writing on the wall and are starting to transition to lower-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants — particularly if they are uncertain about counting on the availability of HFCs or concerned about a potential rise in the cost of these refrigerants. Others simply seek to transition to more eco-friendly refrigerants that align with corporate sustainability objectives.

That is why many store owners are choosing to retrofit their existing equipment to use hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) blends, which compare well with HFCs in terms of performance but offer advantages in the forms of energy efficiency, environmental-friendliness and future availability.

However, HFO blends are not drop-in refrigerants. Equipment usually has to be modified before it can be used. Not all equipment is equally easy to retrofit, and not all HFO blends are the same. The ACHR News article lays out clear guidelines to help you navigate among HFO blend options and retrofit processes.

No two retrofits and no two refrigerants are alike

As I point out in the article, HFOs have very different characteristics than HFC or hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants. Some HFOs are classified as A1 (non-flammable) while others fall into the A2L (mildly flammable) category; many have temperature glide characteristics to consider. In addition, many HFO blends have been developed to replace specific HFC refrigerants — for example, R-448A and R-449A are designed to replace R-404A — and there are small capacity and efficiency differences that may vary based on the specific refrigeration application. That said, with the right RFO blend and the right modifications, many systems will continue to operate reliably for years after the retrofits. The age and condition of the equipment should determine if they are good candidates for a refrigerant retrofit.

Making the change

If you are interested in transitioning to an HFO blend, it’s essential to find out if your equipment is compatible with a given blend. There are specific HFO blends designed to replace the most common HFCs, depending on the type of equipment and the refrigeration application. However, not all HFCs can be replaced with an HFO, and in some instances, equipment may require major modifications.

For that reason, you need to consider the specific characteristics of each refrigeration application, the replacement HFO blend, and their impact on system performance to make sure you continue operating within your equipment’s design specifications. For example, a new blend could cause a higher discharge temperature, which could require investing in supplemental compressor cooling. That’s why you should consult with the equipment manufacturer and your refrigerant vendor about compatibility before making any transition.

Manufacturers such as Emerson conduct stringent R&D and testing of RFO blends in their compressors and other components before they are deemed “ready to use” in a retrofit. Because you may be changing the refrigerant for which the units were initially designed, you should also ask about the status of your warranties and the potential impacts before commencing a retrofit.

When you’re ready, the ACHR News article provides a more detailed guide to the retrofit process for you and your refrigeration contractor, from evaluating the system type, design and application for a compatible HFO blend, to charging a unit with its new refrigerant and fine-tuning the equipment.

Retrofitting the future

As regulations surrounding refrigerants continue to evolve, most retailers recognize that moving to HFO blends is one of their best long-term solutions for a large installed base of refrigeration equipment. With a range of safe and environmentally sustainable HFO blends available as replacement refrigerants for HFC-based systems, converting your systems to low-GWP HFO blends is the quickest and cheapest way to achieve a large overall reduction in your future carbon footprint.

E360 Webinar Discusses the EPA’s Final Refrigerant Ruling

What’s Next, and How Will It Affect Your Business?

Dr. Rajan Rajendran, V.P. of System Innovation Center and Sustainability at Emerson Climate Technologies, Inc. recently presented an E360 Webinar that addressed the details of the EPA’s final refrigerant delisting ruling. With more than 500 industry participants in attendance, the 14th Webinar in Emerson’s E360 Webinar series explored the final rule’s short- and long-term impacts on the commercial refrigeration industry. As a nationally recognized expert in refrigerants, Rajan began by demonstrating the global trend toward lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants — particularly noting the European Union’s target of phasing down to sub-150 GWP refrigerants in commercial refrigeration applications by 2022.E360 Webinar EPAs Final Refrigerant Ruling Read more

CO2 as a Refrigerant — Criteria for Choosing Refrigerants

This is post number 2 of a series.

How R744 meets different conditions and criteria

Table 1: How R744 meets different conditions and criteria

Multiple factors need to be carefully considered when selecting any refrigerant, including its cooling capacity, safety, environmental impact, ease of use, cost, and availability of components and expertise. Table 1 summarizes these and other key criteria, and shows how well R744 meets them.

In general, the table shows that R744 offers a more superior cooling capacity than conventional refrigerants while meeting the demand for a natural refrigerant with low global warming impact, but presents challenges in both its application and handling.

In the next post, we’ll look at the properties of R744 as a naturally occurring substance.

Andre Patenaude
Director – CO2 Business Development, Emerson Climate Technologies

Visit our website for additional information on CO2 Solutions from Emerson. 
Excerpt from original document; Commercial CO2 Refrigeration Systems, Guide for Subcritical and Transcritical CO2 Applications.


To read all posts in our series on CO2 as a Refrigerant, click on the links below:

  1. Series Introduction
  2. Criteria for Choosing Refrigerants
  3. Properties of R744
  4. Introduction to Trancritical Operation
  5. Five Potential Hazards of R744
  6. Comparison of R744 with Other Refrigerants
  7. R744 Advantages / Disadvantages
  8. Introduction to R744 Systems
  9. Introduction to Retail Transcritical Systems
  10. Retail Booster Systems
  11. Introduction to Retail Cascade Systems
  12. Introduction to Secondary Systems
  13. Selecting the Best System

 

Low-GWP Refrigerant Alternatives Being Evaluated

AHRI has posted nine final test reports for its Low Global Warming Potential Alternative Refrigerants Evaluation Program (Low-GWP AREP). The reports contain drop-in test results of low-GWP refrigerants in several different types of systems:

  • Chillers
  • Commercial ice machines
  • Residential heat pumps
  • Bottle coolers
  • Trailer refrigeration

This Low-GWP AREP was started over two years ago.  The alternative refrigerants are not ranked, however.  The goal of the program was simply to identify potential refrigerant replacements for high GWP refrigerants (such as R404A, R134a, and R410A) and present performance of these replacements in a consistent and standard manner.

All of the details of the AHRI Low-GWP AREP can be found at: http://www.ahrinet.org/ahri+low_gwp+alternative+refrigerants+evaluation+program.aspx

Emerson Climate Technologies makes sense of refrigerant options in a new presentation:  http://www.emersonclimate.com/en-us/Products/Compressors/Scroll_Compressors/copeland_scroll_refrigeration/Documents/AHR_NewRefrigerantsV2.pdf

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

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