The Global Forum for Advanced Climate Technologies (globalFACT) promotes education, awareness, and policies that support the important role of new-generation, low- and reduced-global warming potential (GWP) advanced climate technologies in protecting the environment, while meeting the rapidly increasing demand for safe alternatives.

As part of this mission, the group recently released a white paper written by former AHRI senior vice president and industry expert, Dr. Karim Amrane, entitled, “Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Commercial Refrigeration Equipment.” The paper focuses on how the environmental concerns raised by high-GWP refrigerants has led to regulatory action around the world centered around the use of HFCs in air conditioning and refrigeration equipment.

While the GWP of the refrigerant is a significant contributor to the overall emissions of commercial refrigeration products, the paper notes that it is not the only factor that requires attention. Energy efficiency, maintenance, and retrofits are also significant factors that can minimize the carbon footprint of the equipment.

On energy efficiency, Dr. Amrane notes that the largest contribution of greenhouse gas emissions of a commercial refrigeration system comes from its energy consumption. Therefore, the impact on the environment could be significantly reduced by improving the energy efficiency of the system.

He states that several studies have looked at the performance of low-GWP alternatives in commercial refrigeration equipment, and they have shown that many low-GWP alternatives perform as well or better than the refrigerants they are replacing. However, these studies also revealed that the performance of some alternative refrigerants could be dependent on the application and the geographic location (i.e., climate zones) where the refrigeration system is installed.

Proper maintenance is also critical to ensure the reliable and optimal operation of a refrigeration system, said Dr. Amrane. Some of the maintenance activities include inspecting and correcting deficiencies with:

  • Evaporator and condenser coils;
  • Refrigerant charge;
  • All components and pipes for refrigerant leaks;
  • Compressors;
  • Motors;
  • Door gaskets and seals; and
  • Defrost system operation.

Poor maintenance can have a significant impact on the energy consumption of the refrigeration system and can significantly impact the environment if not properly addressed, given that the increase in energy consumption is related to the indirect emissions of the refrigeration system. In addition, poor maintenance translates into higher operating costs, less reliable systems, and longer plant downtime to bring the equipment back to its original state of operation in the case of breakdowns.

To reduce the carbon footprint of their commercial refrigeration installations, some end users are retrofitting their exiting refrigeration equipment with a lower GWP refrigerant. This presents several advantages, noted Dr. Amrane, including:

  • Reduced energy consumption and indirect emissions;
  • Reduced direct emissions;
  • Reduced cost (when compared to installing a brand new system); and
  • Reduced plant downtime needed to complete the conversion.

Several low-GWP refrigerants have been developed over the past few years for supermarket retrofit applications, including low-GWP HFCs and HFO/HFC blends. Other low-GWP refrigerants such as CO2, ammonia, or hydrocarbons are not suitable for retrofit into existing equipment because of high pressure, material compatibility, toxicity, or flammability issues.

Dr. Amrane concludes that energy efficiency improvements and maintenance, along with low-GWP refrigerant retrofits, provide a unique opportunity to quickly and cost effectively decrease direct and indirect emissions of commercial refrigeration equipment.

To read the entire white paper, visit here

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