EDITOR’S NOTE: The following statement comes from the refrigeration equipment manufacturer Tecumseh and was issued on Oct. 15, 2014. It comments on its position at the time on a number of refrigerant-related issues. It was issued the day before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided a final ruling on one of those refrigerant aspects — the phaseout of new and imported HCFC-22.
Tecumseh has always been an industry ambassador with respect to protecting the environment. As such, we’re an active participant in understanding ongoing legislation and the impact on our compressors and corresponding systems. The following information provides summary information along with Tecumseh’s position based on current findings.
Tecumseh Position on Refrigerants
F-Gas regulations finalized in April 2014 require the phaseout of high global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants, starting first with HFC-404A and secondly, HFC-134a. Production of these refrigerants will be limited before their complete scheduled ban in 2030.
The European Union Ecodesign Directive provides rulesfor reducing the energy consumption and environmental impact of energy related products (ERPs) and will have a strong impact on system components and their applications.
Consequently, manufacturers are faced with two challenges:
1.) Future refrigerant alternatives.
2.) Energy efficient product designs.
Both of these challenges will have a significant impact on industry standards and safety agency approvals, as well as qualification of the complete system.
R-404A, the industry standard for self-contained commercial refrigeration equipment with capacities greater than 1 hp, is threatened by the F-Gas regulation. The phaseout of -404A will not only affect new equipment designs but also existing installations where equipment may need to be retrofitted, adapted, and/or replaced.
North America Region
The recent notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) issued by the U.S. EPA Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) also calls for the accelerated phaseout of refrigerants -404A and -134a for new and retrofit refrigerated food equipment. This includes self-contained refrigerated food equipment, as well as remote condensing units.
While the above mentioned rule has not been finalized, there is a good chance that the U.S. will closely follow European F-Gas regulations.
Low GWP Refrigerant Evaluation
Tecumseh has been actively involved in AHRI’sAlternative Refrigerants Evaluation Program (AREP), an industry-wide cooperative research program to test and evaluate low GWP refrigerants.
Tecumseh and other AHRI member companies have spent considerable resources in testing alternative refrigerants. Results of the first phase of testing were shared in January 2014 at AHRI’s Low GWP conference. We are now conducting the second phase of testing with the focus being solely on alternatives for -404A.
In addition to benchmarking for capacity and efficiency, the effect that the various alternative refrigerants have on compressor reliability is of extreme importance to Tecumseh. A number of HFO low temperature alternatives to -404A are showing promise with respect to capacity and efficiency. However, some of the blends have been ruled out due to the higher discharge temperatures and negative impact on compressor reliability and life.
For self-contained commercial refrigeration equipment with capacities less than ½ hp, most of which are utilizing R-134a today, HC refrigerant R-290 (propane) is the preferred choice. Based on our testing and experience, -290 delivers between a 10 to 45 percent improvement in efficiency when compared to -134a. However, because -290 is classified as an “A3” (highly flammable) refrigerant, charge limitations and safety requirements must be taken into consideration. Typical applications for -290 include beverage coolers, reach-ins, vending equipment, and commercial refrigerators and freezers.
HFO refrigerant R-1234yf is also a viable alternative for -134a. However, the trade-off comes in the form of reduced capacity (approximately -5 percent) and lower efficiencies (approximately -10 percent) in comparison to -134a. With lower condensing temperatures, -1234yf does exhibit better performance than -134a.
For medium and high temperature capacities ranging in capacity from ½ hp and up to 10 hp, HFC refrigerants -407A (GWP 2107) and -407F (GWP 1825) are interim solutions for -404A. Their moderately high GWP levels and reduction in capacity (-12 to -14 percent vs. -404A, depending on the amount of superheat) rule them out as long term solutions. Tecumseh does NOT recommend the use of -407A and/or -407F for low temperature applications primarily because of their negative impact on compressor reliability.
As mentioned earlier, Tecumseh is continuing to test various HFO blends as an alternative for refrigerant -404A. We are optimistic that one or more of these blends will be within acceptable limits with respect to capacity, efficiency, and compressor reliability. Tecumseh will keep the industry informed of our findings and recommendations.
Tecumseh’s new generation AE² and AJ² compressors are optimized for use with R-290. Some AE² models and the new AJ² range are optimized for use with refrigerant R-1234yf. The entire range of Tecumseh fractional hp compressors is compatible R-134a.