Why Natural Refrigerants are the best solution

You have probably heard about Global Warming and Greenhouse Effect, but do you know their causes? Analyzing some facts, the data is alarming:

• World population has reached 7 billion people in 2013 and there has been an increase in energy consumption, especially in emerging countries. In 2050 it will be more than 9 billion people living in the planet.
• As a result of this, there has been rapid increase in CO2 concentration levels, so the average planet temperature is rising, causing a greenhouse effect, as the CO2 is trapping in the heat and not releasing it. Consequently, ocean levels are rising, because of the shrinking polar ice caps.
• We also have seen an increase in the frequency of extreme atmosphere events around the globe.

Global warming is related to both Indirect and Direct emissions of greenhouse gases.

The indirect emissions of greenhouse gases result from the generation of purchased electricity, heat, or steam. Direct emissions are those from all sources owned or controlled by the organization. And when we talk about refrigerant gases, we are talking about important sources of direct emissions as they have a high GWP (Global Warming Potential).
Global Warming Potential (GWP) is a measure used for all greenhouse gases. It compares how much heat in the atmosphere is trapped by these gases to the heat-absorbing ability of the same mass of carbon dioxide (CO2). By using the GWP as a unit of measure, it allows governments to implement regulations for the reduction of emissions of several gases.

The US is one of the largest contributors for indirect emissions of CO2 in the world, since most of its power comes from coal. So, in average, for each KWh of energy generated, 1,12 lb of CO2 is released in the atmosphere. As a comparison, in Brazil, this number is much lower because their energy production is heavily reliant in hydroelectric power.



To combat this, global governments have been working out an agreement to try to figure out methods to reduce some of these greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. Therefore, there are many energy efficiency regulations appearing throughout the globe, particularly related to commercial applications. The DOE (Department of Energy), recently released its very aggressive energy standards for 2017, in fact, it is one of the most aggressive standards in the entire world.

(H2) So, how difficult can this standard be in some applications? (H2)

• For example, in an Upright Glass Door Freezer, the new standard can require up to 57% less energy consumption than the current standard (2010). Keep in mind that this value varies according to the frontal area of the equipment, so it can vary depending on how large or small the equipment is.

• For some horizontal solid door ice cream freezers, the standard requires up to 53% less energy consumption.

• Bottle coolers, by as much as 48%.

• And finally, professional kitchen freezers and refrigerators will have to reduce energy consumption by as much as 50%, compared to current standards.

Click here to see the 2017 DOE Regulation for CCS NAR

The takeaway is that this is a huge challenge for all manufacturers to meet and just changing the compressor to a more efficient compressor is not going to be enough to meet this new standard. We are going to have to look at using different refrigerants. Refrigerants that are more efficient than the current ones. We also need to take a look in improving the fan motors in the equipment, and have better installation in the cabinet, to keep heat from entering it.


The impact of direct emissions of refrigerants

Currently one of the most popular refrigerants used is R404A. Every 1 pound of R404A released into the atmosphere has a Global Warming Potential of 3920 pounds of CO2. Compare that to R290, or Propane, which only has a GWP of 3.3 pounds of CO2. Aside from not having any ozone depletion, you can see that these refrigerants will be much better for the environment.

Refrigerant GWP
R600a 20
R290 3
R134a 1430
R404A 3920
R407A 2110
R407F 1820
R422A 1888
R452A 2140
R407C 1770
R450A 600
R448A 1273
R449A 1397
R407C 1770

As a result, we are seeing more and more regulations related to F-Gases around the globe. The European Union has already passed a legislation that bans all HFCs by 2020. And the EPA recently released a proposal to ban HFCs by the beginning of 2016. This is a proposal at this point and not yet finalized. Japan and China are also going to be proposing similar actions as well.

Click here to read the latest EPA draft on this proposal

The fact is that 1.5 million commercial appliances were produced in the US in 2014. All these appliances need to be regulated to meet these new regulations coming in 2016 and 2017. An alternative needs to be used and natural refrigerants appear to be the best choice.

Why are natural refrigerants the best alternative?

There are several reasons:

• It’s a proven technology, as there are 2.7 million HFC-free light-commercial refrigeration appliances already in service in the world.

• These refrigerants are safe, as current charge limitations are 5.3 ounces of propane in any commercial equipment, which is equivalent to 2 or 3 cigarette lighters. The reason this charge limit was chosen is based upon the upper flammability limit and lower flammability limit of the refrigerant, meaning that in a certain volume of space if the concentration of propane is too low, it can not ignite; and if the concentration of propane is too high, it can also not ignite.

If there was a leakage on the system, this would be the risk of R-290 and R-600a:

If entire charge was released
Space larger than 3,8 m³ / 136 ft³ gas will not ignite
Space smaller than: 0,8 m³ / 30 ft³ gas will not ignite


If entire charge was released
Space larger than 1,5 m³ / 53 ft³ gas will not ignite
Space smaller than: 0,3 m³ / 10 ft³ gas will not ignite

Considering 150g of charge for R290 and 57g for R600a.

• Lower operating temperatures of R290 when compared to R404A, meaning you have less heat to remove and a more efficient system.

• Lower oil temperature, which preserves the life of the compressor’s bearings.

• Less carbonization of valves, meaning the valves will last longer.

• Less risk of breakage on the valves

• Lower motor winding temperature, which results in a longer compressor life, and a longer system life.

• Finally, these are low cost refrigerants. It comes out of the ground and it’s very easy to process.

If you attended our first webinar, you would have seen all the case studies we presented that Natural Refrigerant can provide up to 43% of energy saving. If you didn’t attend it and would like to know about what happened in some real cases, register HERE.