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[New E360 Webinar] Regulatory Update: Stay Informed of the Latest Refrigerant Rulemaking

Jennifer Butsch | Regulatory Affairs Director

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

As we near the mid-point of 2022, it’s clear that the global phasedown of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants is gaining momentum and impacting U.S. commercial refrigeration and HVAC markets. In our next E360 Webinar, Dr. Rajan Rajendran, Emerson’s global vice president of environmental sustainability, and I will overview the latest updates to refrigerant regulations and safety standards. This webinar will take place on Tuesday, June 21 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT.

Throughout the HVACR industry, stakeholders are evaluating their next-generation refrigeration strategies and making plans to transition to lower-global warming potential (GWP) alternatives. Regardless of where your company is on this journey, keeping up with the latest regulatory developments is critical to making informed decisions. Considering that most HVACR equipment is expected to last from 10 to 20 years, it’s imperative to explore equipment strategies that not only stand the test of time, but also align with your operational and sustainability goals. Understanding how regulations are driving the evolution of refrigeration technologies is key to making these important decisions.

If you’ve been following the progression of refrigerant regulations for the past several years, it may have seemed like the HFC phasedown and subsequent transition to lower-GWP refrigerants were faraway concerns that didn’t apply to U.S. stakeholders — except maybe for those operating in California or other Climate Alliance states. Today, that’s simply not the case.

Federal mandates are taking shape that will soon impact all U.S. stakeholders. Equipment standards that govern the safe use of A2L and A3 refrigerants are quickly evolving. Making environmental stewardship pledges at the corporate level has become a much higher priority. Complying with refrigerant regulations, selecting eco-friendly alternatives and meeting corporate sustainability objectives are quickly becoming shared concerns for most U.S. stakeholders.

E360 Webinar presents path forward

To help you find a path forward on your low-GWP refrigerant journey, Rajan and I are hosting a new E360 Webinar that will explain the latest regulatory updates and provide recommendations for next steps. Attendees will learn:

  • Ongoing progress of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act and its impacts on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rulemaking
  • Status of California Air Resources Board (CARB) refrigerant mandates that went into effect in 2022
  • Update on the safety standards and codes impacting flammable A3 and A2L refrigerants
  • Tips for preparing for the next generation of alternative refrigerants

Register now for this informative and free webinar.

Regulatory Round-up: AIM Act, CARB, A3 and A2L Charge Limit Increases

Jennifer Butsch | Regulatory Affairs Director

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

If you’re like many stakeholders in the commercial refrigeration industry, you know how important it is to keep track of the dynamic regulatory climate. From making refrigerant decisions and selecting next-generation equipment to plan for compliance and meeting sustainability goals, many companies are basing some of their most important decisions on these developments. I recently provided an article to HVACR Business that reviewed several key regulatory updates taking place this year. If you’re hoping to bring the sometimes-confusing regulatory picture into clearer focus, hopefully this will help. You can also view our formatted article here.

AIM Act establishes federal HFC legislation

Signed into law in late 2020, the American Innovation & Manufacturing Act (AIM Act) gave the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants in three primary ways:

  1. Phasing down HFC refrigerant supplies by reducing their production and consumption over a 15-year period. Supply-side restrictions began on Jan. 1, 2022, requiring a 10% reduction in HFC production and consumption through 2023. An additional 30% reduction will take effect between 2024 and 2028 with 70% and 80% reductions needed by 2029 and 2034, respectively. These phasedowns are expected to drive up HFC prices significantly as supplies decrease.
  2. Establishing sector-based approvals and HFC restrictions to support the industry-wide transition to lower-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant technologies. Use restrictions will enable specific sectors to transition more quickly while providing additional flexibility for those who may need more time. The EPA can approve new lower-GWP alternatives per sector-based rulemakings, which are expected to begin in 2022.
  3. Regulating HFC management by establishing and enforcing standards in servicing and repair best practices, such as: lowering leak rate thresholds and requiring proper recovery of “used” HFCs for purification and resale (aka reclaim). Previously, the EPA had created Section 608 to govern these best practices; we expect their revised HFC management rulemaking could be built off the Section 608 framework.

CARB rulemaking takes effect

After several years of collaboration with state and HVACR industry stakeholders, the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) proposed rulemaking became final in late 2021 and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. The final rule establishes HFC phasedown requirements for new and existing facilities, including a company-wide provision for food retailers operating with a fleet of existing stores within California.

  • New facilities — Installation of new refrigeration systems containing more than 50 pounds of refrigerant are required to use refrigerants with less than 150 GWP.
  • Existing facilities — Refrigeration equipment containing more than 50lbs of refrigerant in existing facilities are subject to company-wide, fleet GWP reduction targets by 2030 compared to their 2019 baselines — with two potential paths to compliance: 1) Weighted-average GWP (WAGWP) reduction <1,400 GWP by 2030, where WAGWP is the sum of the total refrigerant charge of every system greater than 50 pounds in every store in California; 2) Greenhouse gas emissions potential (GHGp) reduction by 55%, where GHGp is the sum of the total refrigerant charge of every system greater than 50 pounds in every store in California multiplied by the GWP values of the refrigerant types in use.

Regarding new stationary air conditioning (AC) equipment, refrigerants with a GWP greater than or equal to 750 will be prohibited, starting in 2025.

Evolving safety standards for flammable (A3) and mildly flammable A2L refrigerants

Governing bodies that regulate the safe use of refrigerants in the U.S. have long been evaluating the prospect of increasing charge limits in the flammable A3 (propane, aka R-290) and mildly flammable A2L refrigerants. In 2021, the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approved the second edition of its UL 60335-2-89 standard, which included higher charge limits that would expand the potential uses of R-290 and A2Ls in commercial refrigeration.

R-290 charge limit increases — R-290 has a long-held maximum charge limit of 150g and has primarily been used in smaller, self-contained units. The updated UL standard raises the charge limits on these commercial stand-alone displays based on whether they have an open or closed design:

  • 500g maximum charge limit in open appliances (without doors)
  • 300g maximum charge limit in closed appliances (with doors or drawers)

From an application design perspective, higher charge limits will help to increase system capacities while capitalizing on R-290’s high efficiency and low-GWP rating (GWP = 3).

A2L charge limit increases — Per the recently updated UL 60335-2-89 safety standard, new A2L charge limit guidelines have been established for self-contained and remote refrigeration systems. For self-contained equipment, charge limits are determined by equipment design (e.g., open or closed with doors or drawers). Degrees of flammability will vary among different A2L refrigerants, so it’s important to calculate charge limits based on the specific A2L characteristics.

For example, R-454C has a lower flammability limit (LFL) of 0.291 kg/m3, thus:

  • A closed-door case can be charged with up to 2.33 kg (5.1 lbs.) of R-454C.
  • An open case with R-454C can be charged with up to 3.78 kg (8.3 lbs.) of R-454C.
  • In remote or field-erected systems, UL 60335-2-89 supports R-454C charge sizes up to 75.7 kg (166 lbs.) per circuit.

The updated standard requires remote A2L systems to be designed with requisite safety strategies and mitigation measures to keep gas concentrations below flammable thresholds:

  • Leak detection at various points of the refrigeration circuit (e.g., compressor, condensing unit and case)
  • Action plans that immediately mitigate flammability risks

The UL 60335-2-89 second edition update is only the first step in a larger series of regulatory approvals needed to enable higher charges of R-290 and the use of A2Ls in U.S. commercial refrigeration. Additional regulatory and/or policy changes will also need to be approved:

  • EPA Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) approval of specific A2L refrigerants and increased R-290 charge limits
  • ASHRAE 15 safety standard update for refrigeration systems
  • Model code updates in the upcoming code revision cycle, such as: Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC), International Mechanical Code (IMC) and International Fire Code (IFC)
  • State and local building code updates

In the meantime, installing an A2L-based refrigeration system would typically require the approval of local authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ), such as fire marshals and/or building inspectors.

To stay informed of the latest regulatory updates that could impact your operational decision-making, please visit our regulations hub.

 

 

 

Low-profile Compressors Deliver High Performance and Merchandizing Capacity

Julie Havenar | Director of Integrated Marketing, Cold Chain
Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

Self-contained refrigerated display cases have become essential fixtures in many food retail operations. Whether they’re used as spot merchandisers in larger stores, or as part of a distribution strategy in smaller-format outlets, these stand-alone systems offer merchandising flexibility while helping retailers achieve their sustainability goals. But checking all the boxes on an ever-expanding list of end-user preferences is no small feat for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). In a recent article that appeared in HVAC Insider, I explored how low-profile compressors are helping self-contained OEMs to address equipment design challenges. You can also view our formatted article here.

Over the past decade, shifting retail market trends and environmental regulations have helped to drive the emergence of self-contained display cases. Not only are these multi-purpose fixtures used in a variety of everyday scenarios, but they have also enabled food retailers to comply with refrigerant regulations and support their broader corporate sustainability initiatives.

Meeting all these end-user requirements presents a unique set of design challenges for OEMs, including a mix of sustainability and practical considerations:

  • Utilize lower-global warming potential (GWP) A1 and A3 refrigerants
  • Achieve high-energy efficiencies and/or ENERGY STAR® certification
  • Maximize the available merchandising space

Balancing design considerations

The low charge refrigerant requirements of self-contained systems make them ideal candidates for R-290 —which has a GWP of 3 — as well also lower-GWP A1 refrigerants such as R-448A and R-449A. To Improve energy efficiencies or achieve ENERGY STAR certification, OEMs have deployed a variety of design strategies, including the use of large-capacity condenser coils. But these coils can take up precious merchandising space in the case itself and can leave less room for other key system components, including the compressor.

As a potential workaround, OEMs have adopted other design strategies such as placing the compressor and/or condensing unit on top of the case itself. Unfortunately, this strategy can create additional design drawbacks:

  • Increasing the overall size of the case
  • Limiting its aesthetic appeal
  • Creating higher noise levels throughout a store

Recent advancements in low-profile compression technology offer a potential solution. By reducing the size of compressors used in these self-contained applications, Emerson is helping OEMs to achieve their customers’ regulatory compliance and sustainability goals — without sacrificing performance, merchandising space or the design aesthetic of their display cases.

Keeping a lower profile

Today, Copeland™ leads the industry in the development of low-profile, fractional and smaller horsepower (HP) scroll and hermetic compressors — in fixed and variable speed options. Our low-profile Copeland hermetic compressor models are ideal for many smaller, medium- and low-temperature, reach-in units and display cases.

Fixed speed hermetic models are available in fractional ranges from ⅛ to 1¼ HP. Variable-speed models enable modulation from ⅛ to ⅞ HP and include an integrated variable frequency drive (VFD) with a smart controller to deliver additional energy-efficiency gains. Refrigerant options include R-448/449A and R-290.

Low-profile, horizontal Copeland scroll compressors deliver industry-leading reliability, efficiency and low noise levels. They are available in fixed and variable-speed models:

  • Fixed speed in ranges from 1 to 3 HP
  • Variable-speed models can modulate from ½ to 4 HP

Our variable speed horizontal scroll compressors are also paired with our advanced Copeland VFDs, EVM/EVH series, which provides a variety of additional performance enhancements:

  • Increased equipment reliability through proactive motor failure prevention
  • Decreased susceptibility to power issues
  • Reduced start/stop events
  • Full system integration with Lumity™ E3 supervisory control platforms

Low-profile Copeland scroll compressors are approved for use with A1 and R-290 refrigerants today and will be qualified for use with A2L refrigerants in the future.

Copeland variable speed compressors utilize brushless permanent magnet (BPM) motors, rather than traditional induction motors, to deliver the energy efficiencies needed to achieve ENERGY STAR certification. Variable-capacity modulation also provides advanced temperature precision a multitude of other reliability and performance benefits.

High performance in small packages

By delivering high performance in small sizes and fractional horsepower ranges, the Copeland low-profile compression portfolio helps OEMs to overcome design limitations and achieve their customers’ energy efficiency, sustainability and merchandising goals.

For those seeking a full condensing unit solution, Emerson works closely with OEM customers in the design and development of condensing units that utilize our low-profile Copeland compression technology. Whether you need fractional HP hermetic or larger-capacity, horizontal scroll compressors — in fixed and variable speed options — Copeland’s low-profile compression solutions and condensing units enable you to meet a wide range of design specifications.

 

 

Zero Zone Partners with Emerson for Warm Climate CO2 Solution

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

As environmental regulations and sustainability initiatives drive the shift toward refrigerants with lower global warming potential (GWP), food retailers are looking more closely at CO2 (refrigerant name R-744). But transitioning to a refrigeration strategy that utilizes CO2 transcritical booster systems will require technologies that maintain CO2 system efficiencies in warmer climates. In a recent article that appeared in R744, I explored how Emerson partnered with Zero Zone to develop a solution that overcomes these challenges. To view the full article, click here.

From an environmental perspective, CO2 is a natural refrigerant with zero ozone depletion potential (ODP) and a GWP of 1 — making it a leading alternative to higher-GWP hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants. Although these characteristics are appealing to grocery chain operators, their primary refrigeration system requirement is to providereliable cooling that supports food safety and freshness.

Overcoming high ambient temperature concerns

As a leading manufacturer of refrigerated display cases and refrigeration systems for food retail and commercial operations, Zero Zone set out to create CO2 transcritical booster systems that meet retailers’ sustainability and reliability goals. To help them develop a solution for a retailer’s outlet in Joplin, Mo., Zero Zone tapped Emerson — its long-time product development partner — for its deep experience in CO2 compression technologies and system components.

A key enabling feature is the use of an adiabatic gas cooler that is designed to operate in high ambient temperatures and keep the CO2 refrigerant below its critical point for as long as possible. The adiabatic gas cooler rejects the heat load from all the refrigerated cases within the CO2 transcritical booster system.

During warmer periods, air entering the finned heat exchangers is pre-cooled to a temperature approaching the wet-bulb temperature via wetted adiabatic cooling pads. This pre-cooling process dramatically improves refrigeration efficiency without having to spray water mist onto the finned heat exchanger surface.

Leveraging Emerson compression, controls and components

Another unique aspect of CO2 transcritical booster systems is their use of only R-744 for both medium- (MT) and low-temperature (LT) loads. Zero Zone’s CO2 rack refrigeration system features three Copeland™ CO2 transcritical semi-hermetic compressors, two Copeland ZO scroll compressors and one digital scroll compressor that provides 20–100% capacity control over system suction pressure. In addition, the lead CO2 transcritical compressor operates with the assistance of a variable-frequency drive (VFD) to enable variable-capacity modulation. Copeland’s CO2 compressors are designed to manage CO2’s high-pressure requirements and benefit from its thermodynamic properties.

To oversee the operation of the CO2 transcritical booster system — which includes managing 12 electronic case controls and optimizing the facility’s overall energy management profile — Zero Zone installed Emerson’s E2 supervisory control. The E2 facility control is part of Emerson’s portfolio of facility management and refrigeration control devices, including Emerson’s new Lumity™ E3 supervisory control with an integrated touch-screen display — which are designed to improve CO2 transcritical booster performance in multiple ways:

  • Controls the variable speed of the fans on the adiabatic gas cooler in response to operating conditions
  • Manages MT and LT compressors by controlling suction pressure variations to enable tight case temperature control and lower energy consumption
  • Controls the temperature difference on the gas cooler and provides visibility into the operation of the high-pressure controller, enabling the monitoring of gas cooler and flash tank pressures, as well as the operation of high-pressure and bypass valves
  • Provides complete oil management control of all CO2 refrigeration compressors
  • Communicates with and captures information from individual case-control units
  • Provides complete control of building HVAC and refrigeration systems, and supports the retailer’s energy and maintenance reduction strategies
  • Enables access from anywhere (mobile, tablet or PC) via a web-based user interface (UI)

The system also utilizes Emerson’s CO2 high-pressure controller, which provides a variety of system management functions, including:

  • High-pressure and flash gas bypass valves directly based on the gas cooler outlet temperature, as well as the pressure of the receiver
  • Subcritical and transcritical modes of operation based on temperature input
  • High-pressure valve to control constant sub-cooling during subcritical operation and ensure optimum efficiency during transcritical operation
  • Communication with the E2, which allows users to manage and monitor all aspects of the high-pressure controller

All the Emerson controls are designed to integrate seamlessly with each other and with the system’s electronic expansion valves (EEVs), enabling real-time visibility to various aspects of refrigeration system status.

Preparing for wider CO2 adoption

Today, the retailer’s Joplin store is operating efficiently and effectively on the CO2 transcritical booster system provided by the Zero Zone and Emerson partnership. This installation is a proof-of-concept for how manufacturers are overcoming end-user concerns over CO2’s operating pressures, maintenance levels and energy efficiency. Emerson CO2 technologies helped to ease those concerns for Zero Zone and their retail customers.

As we expect to see a significant increase in CO2 system adoption in the U.S. over the next few years, Emerson is committed to supporting our original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and end-user partners to drive further CO2 system innovations.

 

Refrigerant Strategies for Achieving Regulatory Compliance

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

Choosing a refrigerant is one of the most important decisions facing food retailers today. With regulatory mandates set to take effect soon, questions about refrigerants and equipment strategies continue to dominate industry conversations. In a recent article that appeared in Contracting Business, I offered tips for achieving regulatory compliance using a variety of lower-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants. You can also view our formatted article here.

After years of regulatory uncertainty, supermarket owners and operators have developed varying degrees of refrigerant transition fatigue. But with the passing of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act in late 2020, regulatory compliance is again becoming a top priority. The AIM Act brings hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) regulations back into focus at a national level and proposes a significant phasedown of HFC refrigerants over the next five years.

Because compliance will no longer be a concern only for those located within California and U.S. Climate Alliance states, many operators are evaluating their retrofit and replacement options for the first time. But it’s important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. In addition to regulatory compliance, operators must consider other key decision criteria, including operational safety, reliable system performance, the total cost of ownership (TCO) and their own corporate sustainability objectives.

At one end of the continuum, some are pursuing a one-time investment that can get them to the end game of compliance. Others may prefer to take a more incremental approach, i.e., focusing on a strategy that meets near-term compliance targets but is also capable of adapting to future standards. No matter how far along your company is on its sustainability journey — or how much progress (or lack thereof) you’ve made on your refrigerant transition — there are a wide variety of options from which to choose.

Retrofit to R-448A/R-449A in existing centralized direct expansion (DX) systems

For operators hoping to preserve their existing investments, replacing R-404A with R-448A will allow them to achieve sustainability improvements with minimal retrofit requirements. R-448A’s slightly higher discharge temperatures require additional compressor cooling, such as: head cooling fans and/or demand cooling modules or the installation of a vapor-injected scroll compressor. While this strategy may be viable for lowering carbon emissions, it may not satisfy future low-GWP regulatory requirements.

Move the condensing unit outdoors

Outdoor condensing units (OCUs) that utilize R-448A are designed to deliver lower-GWP refrigeration by servicing a limited number of medium- (MT) or low-temperature (LT) fixtures. Ideal for small, urban store formats or large supermarkets deploying new refrigeration capabilities outside of their existing DX systems, OCUs offer installation flexibility and reliability in a variety of scenarios. As A2L refrigerants become available for use in the future, this distributed OCU approach will enable even lower-GWP refrigeration.

Distribute scroll racks throughout the supermarket

Scroll racks provide a scaled-down, distributed version of a conventional rack system that can be strategically installed in proximity to different refrigerated sections. This allows retailers to significantly reduce their overall refrigerant charge — today with R-448A and potentially A2Ls in the future — while benefiting from increased system reliability and energy efficiency. In Europe, A2L versions of these systems have already been successfully trialed and deployed.

Deploy micro-distributed (self-contained) units

Ideal for retrofits, remodels and spot merchandising, flexible stand-alone (aka self-contained) units are factory-charged with R-290 and a 150g charge limit. With the recent Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approval of potentially larger R-290 and A2L charges, this micro-distributed approach will support even greater system capacity in the future. They also utilize lower-GWP HFCs. Manufacturers are designing larger self-contained cases that can integrate a single compressor, refrigeration circuit and electronic controls within the unit itself. This approach can then be scaled from one to multiple units with all cases connected to a shared water loop to remove heat from the store.

Simplify with a distributed scroll booster

Another emerging distributed approach utilizes the low-pressure, lower-GWP R-513A for LT and MT circuits in a scroll booster architecture. This system is designed to eliminate the high discharge temperatures and compression ratios typically found in LT systems. Today, distributed scroll booster systems deliver improved energy efficiencies and high reliability within a familiar A1 operating envelope. This architecture also provides future-state regulatory assurance by offering compatibility with very low-GWP A2Ls.

Boost compliance with CO2 (centralized)

CO2 transcritical booster systems offer an environmentally friendly alternative to HFC-based centralized DX systems. Utilizing R-744 for LT and MT loads, this proven architecture allows operators to achieve compliance with regulations for the foreseeable future. However, the refrigerant’s high-pressure and unique performance characteristics increase system complexities and require the assistance of CO2-trained technicians. This system strategy is already widely adopted globally and is becoming more popular among U.S. retailers suffering from refrigerant transition fatigue.

At Emerson, we are developing refrigeration technologies to help industry stakeholders meet their current and future regulatory mandates. Not only can we help you successfully deploy any of the strategies discussed in this blog, but we’re also ready to help you make the transition to a low-GWP refrigeration strategy that aligns with your operational and sustainability objectives.

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