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Chiller Conversions Take a Dip

June 26, 2000
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Table 1. Estimated CFC chiller conversions, replacements, and totals. (Source: ARI)
ARLINGTON, VA – The pace of replacement and conversion of CFC-using chillers slowed in 1999, leaving approximately 48,484 units still in use for comfort cooling in buildings, according to a survey of chiller manufacturers by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI).

Of the estimated 80,000 CFC chillers in the field in the early 1990s, about 61% still relied on CFC refrigerant at the start of 2000. New, non-CFC-using chillers, which can be at least 40% more energy efficient than the CFC chillers installed 20 years ago, accounted for 3,085 replacements. Non-CFC refrigerants were used in the conversion of 491 units, for a total during 1999 of 3,576 chillers that no longer use CFCs.

Building owners have taken more than 31,516 CFC chillers out of service, but conversions and replacements last year were slower than in 1998, when the total was 4,231 units.

Due to the higher-than-expected number of CFC chillers out there, ARI suggests that chiller owners monitor carefully their CFC supply and service records, tighten leaking units, develop a refrigerant management plan, and calculate the lower operating costs and payback of a new chiller.

Slower Than Expected

At this rate it will take more than 10 years to eliminate CFC chillers, which cool circulating water as part of the air conditioning system in a range of facilities, including offices, hospitals, malls, airports, factories, sports complexes, government buildings, and institutions such as colleges.

Chiller manufacturers had expected a much faster rate of retirement of CFC chillers. As the units age, they become more likely candidates for replacement, ensuring steady demand for manufacturers over the next 10 years.

Due to the ban on CFC production, CFC chiller owners must rely on stockpiled virgin CFC-11 and -12, and used refrigerant reclaimed to ARI Standard 700 taken from retired CFC chillers.

Non-CFC chillers use alternative refrigerants HFC-134a, HCFC-123, HCFC-22, and HFC-410A, which have been accepted for use by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Replacements on the Way

According to the latest survey, there will be 517 conversions and 3,271 replacements of CFC chillers in 2000 for a total of 35,304 (44% of the 80,000 total) by Jan. 1, 2001. Table 1 estimates conversions, replacements, and totals for the years 2000, 2001, and 2002, covering centrifugal, screw, reciprocating, and absorption chillers.

There are substantive benefits to building owners from the phaseout of CFC chillers. Due to the higher efficiency of the new, non-CFC chillers, owners will reduce energy usage by 7 billion kWh per year, saving $480 million annually when 44% of the CFC chillers are replaced and converted by the end of this year.

The new units will avoid production of 4 million tons of carbon dioxide and save enough energy to provide for the annual electrical needs of approximately 740,000 households.

— Greg Mazurkiewicz

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