HFCSAt the time of the IKK Expo in Hannover, Germany, word had just come that the European Union appeared willing to continue to embrace the use of HFC refrigerants in a wide range of commercial applications.
This was a victory for the HVACR industry over there, which maintained that its ability to contain such refrigerants in leak-tight systems serviced by certified technicians negates any global warming issues raised by the so-called â€˜greens.' (â€˜Greens' are environmentalists who often have much stronger political power in Europe than their counterparts have in North America.)
HALOGEN-FREEDespite all that, much attention continues to be paid to using halogen-free refrigerants in more applications. Propane is common in Europe in domestic refrigerators and, of course, ammonia has had a long and proven track record worldwide in industrial applications.
The halogen-free refrigerant getting the greatest attention in commercial systems is CO2. A common approach is using it in cascade refrigeration plants.
In one recent development, a supermarket in London has two semi-hermetic CO2 compressors and a dual-temperature refrigeration plant harnessing a R-404A cascade cooler. It has a high-temperature secondary CO2 circuit and a low-temperature direct-expansion CO2 circuit. In Wettingen, Switzerland, there is now a supermarket running on direct-expansion CO2 with both medium and low temperatures sides. One innovation is the development of the medium temperature CO2 transcritical circuit.
ROCKY ROADThe road to give CO2 more use in commercial and domestic applications is not necessarily a smooth one. CO2 is still a work in progress on the commercial side. For every advocate of the refrigerant (as noted earlier), there are those urging caution and more research before it could ever become THE refrigerant of the future.
Meanwhile, on the domestic side, hydrocarbons (HCs) such as propane are caught up in a bit of a legal mumble-jumble. I recently got a three-page document from an industry group out of Luxembourg concerning this. I won't try to detail it all. Suffice to say, there are those in Europe who want HCs to be considered the same as CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs when it comes to recovery and recycling from domestic refrigerators; and there are those who want HCs to be considered a different animal. The former so far are winning, which appears to be a good thing for the HVACR industry - at least as far as I can tell.
And that last point leads to this final thought: If ever you think that dealing with the rules and regulations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada are a challenge, be aware your counterparts in Europe are involved in a far more murky labyrinth.
Peter Powell, Refrigeration Editor: 847-622-7260, 847-622-7266 (fax), firstname.lastname@example.org
Publication date: 01/09/2006