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issue: April 2008 APPLIANCE Magazine

Refrigeration Systems
The Next Big Switch


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An APPLIANCE Staff Feature

Refrigeration suppliers and OEMs seem well prepared for the 2010 phaseout of R-22 in new equipment—but can they convince commercial users to make the move to more environmentally friendly systems?

Each brazed-plate heat exchanger in a new Danfoss line consists of a series of thin, corrugated metal plates that are brazed together to improve heat-transfer efficiency. The plates are compressed in a rigid frame to create an arrangement of parallel flow channels. One high-viscosity fluid travels through the odd-numbered channels, and the other high-viscosity fluid flows through the even.

“Our brazed-plate heat exchangers are space saving, offer a highly flexible design for manufacturing, and require less use of refrigerants,” said Peter J. D’Ambrosio, strategic global marketing manager, heat transfer. “As an added benefit to the customization options, the brazed-plate heat exchangers, because of their high heat-transfer performance, contribute to an increase in overall cooling capacity. This not only reduces energy consumption, but it provides the best value over the longest period of time as well.”

The company offers 15 models. Model B3-048 is designed with a special patent of different corrugation depths on the same plate. With a capacity of 30–80 kW, this model allows a larger water flow rate, lower pressure rate drop, and lower refrigerant charge.

www.danfoss.com

As of January 1, 2010, HCFC-22 production for use in new equipment must cease. HCFC-22 is widely used as a refrigerant in commercial equipment. Supermarkets, in particular, can find themselves facing close scrutiny from environmental groups that want the stores to rip out their sprawling refrigeration systems with their compressor centers and lengthy, leak-prone refrigerant lines.

A number of supermarkets have already made the change. They got rid of the R-22, even reconfigured entire stores to use new refrigeration systems with friendlier refrigerants, leak less of them, and use less energy.

But these proactive retailers are just a small percentage of the 34,000 commercial food establishments in the United States that will need to make the change, sooner or later. The final phase-out of R-22 production for use in existing equipment doesn’t happen until 2020.

Speaking at the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration (AHR) Expo in New York City in January, DuPont refrigerants global business manager Diane Iuliano Picho said, “In about 100 weeks we expect that the HVAC&R industry will experience an increasingly tight supply of R-22, as well as available labor to support the transition to alternatives.”

DuPont (www.dupont.com) is recommending equipment owners and contractors implement immediate reclamation and recovery practices, and begin the transition to alternatives sooner rather than later. The company offers Isceon non-ozone-depleting HFC retrofit refrigerant blends, and Suva HFC refrigerants.

Undoubtedly some retailers will try to avoid the new investment as long as their current equipment is functional, but when the commercial refrigeration systems users decide to make the change, the industry will be prepared to assist them.

This isn’t their first refrigerant phaseout.

Commercial Cooperation

Commercial refrigeration users are more cognizant of the costs of the refrigerants themselves (consumers rarely factor the price of a system recharge into their refrigerator or air-conditioner buying decision). Commercial users, and in particular large installations like supermarkets, can pay substantial costs just to maintain their systems. These users can also realize substantial dollar savings with incremental increases in energy efficiency.

On the other hand, such users have far more capital invested in refrigeration equipment, and can find it difficult to justify changes.

At the end of 2007, the industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created the new GreenChill organization to promote more-advanced supermarket refrigeration systems. Members include refrigerant/chemical suppliers such as DuPont, Arkema, Honeywell, Dow, and INEOS Fluor Holdings, along with OEM members like Hill Phoenix, Kysor/Warren, and Hussmann. Several supermarket chains also helped found GreenChill.

The Copeland

SystemPro condensing unit is manufactured with sealed, tested EK filter driers and tricolor hermetic moisture warning indicators, to significantly reduce on-site installation materials, tube prepping, and brazing in commercial refrigeration applications. While some other units require four on-site braze joints, this condensing unit requires only one, helping to prevent potential contaminants that can result from on-site brazing. The system is engineered for applications with limited space that utilize fractional-horsepower-sized condensing units, making it ideal for retail refrigeration applications like reach-in cases, food prep tables, and under-counter units. The unit was a winner of a 2008 AHR Expo Innovation Award in the refrigeration category. Emerson Climate Technologies, a business of Emerson.

www.emersonclimate.com

The old supermarket refrigeration equipment model, still in place in most stores, has one large compressor bank feeding long cooling lines that snake through the store to coolers and cases. It’s a model that will likely be replaced, eventually, by more-efficient configurations that use less refrigerant and are less prone to leaking.

GreenChill promotes configurations such as the Distributed System, which puts compressors in close proximity to the cases. Another option is a Secondary Loop System, which keeps a long piping system but replaces the refrigerant in the tubing with a heat transfer fluid that is environmentally safer than the refrigerant. A reduced refrigerant charge is used in a much smaller closed-loop system to cool the heat transfer fluid.

More Chemical Investment

The industrywide cost of transitioning to new refrigerants (and insulation-blowing agents) is massive. Arkema Fluorochemicals has made a substantial investment in new fluorochemical production—about a quarter-billion dollars for next-generation refrigerant development, manufacturing, and product stewardship in the last decade.

It’s a balancing act for Arkema and other suppliers. “We’ve invested heavily to ensure that our industry has sufficient capacity to serve our customers with the latest fluorochemical technology while we continue to work on the development of new fluids with a negligible impact on the ozone layer and a low global warming potential (GWP),” says Emanuel (Manny) Katz, regional group president, North America, for Arkema Fluorochemicals business.

Arkema (www.arkema.com) has four facilities—France, Spain, China, and Calvert in the United States—producing its Forane products for use as refrigerants, foam blowing, and other applications. Arkema used technological experience gained at its Zaramillo, Spain, HFC-32 plant to develop the start-up plant in Calvert City, KY, turning Calvert City into the world’s largest HFC-32 production site. The plant went on-line in June 2007, making commercial-grade HFC-32 and
using it to blend next-generation refrigerant R-410A.

Making use of these new refrigerants is easier on OEMs. Compressor makers such as Panasonic Industrial Co. (www.panasonic.com) have readied units that can use R-22 or R-410A. Panasonic is the world’s largest manufacturer of rotary compressors for home air-conditioning, and its goal with the R2 compressor was to create 13-SEER units with enhanced reliability, efficiency, and low noise. The compressors use rolling-piston technology, and the piston has a special steel composition to prevent wear and extend life. A special vane coating applied using physical vapor deposition (PVD) also enhances durability. Longer-life applications are facilitated with a larger accumulator. Lubrication comes from a high-volume oil pump and a higher-capacity oil reservoir. “With recent product improvements, the result is a compressor with a low applied cost and performance very similar to a scroll compressor,” said Sam Piccarreta, director.

CO2 Cools Coca-Cola

ACC created a curved shape for the shell of its new S-series compressors and reduced noise levels and vibration. The unit is designed to fit appliance customers’ existing dimensions. The shape of the shell does not change the compressor dimensions and the electrical connection system is the same. Only a small change is made in the tube connection space position for the tube and valve adapter. Fifty models of the S compressors range from 18.00 to 34.42 cm3. The unit works with R-134a, R-404A, and R-22 refrigerants.

www.the-acc-group.com

Others in the industry are commercializing systems with refrigerants from outside the realm of fluoro compounds. Metals technology corporation Luvata (London) developed a refrigeration cooling technology using carbon dioxide (CO2) as a refrigerant, and the company said it could enable more-efficient operation than traditional refrigerants. The technology, developed by the Luvata (www.luvata.com) coils and coolers division, will be used by The Coca-Cola Co. in vending machines at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“It has a higher heat-transfer coefficient than traditional refrigerants, which can lead to increased efficiency in the heat-transfer equipment it is used in,” said Giovanni Simeoni, head of sales and marketing, product development, and R&D for the ECO-Heatcraft division, which developed the system. “The higher volumetric efficiency of CO2 refrigerant (known as R-744) also means that the cross-sectional area of pipes used in heat-transfer equipment can be reduced. As a result, equipment has the potential to be smaller, lighter, more efficient, and better for the environment.”

CO2 has long been viewed as one of the potential solutions to the problem of environmentally harmful refrigerants. CO2 is non-flammable, nontoxic, and inexpensive. Even public perception of CO2 has been touted as an advantage—CO2 is often viewed as a “natural” alternative.

Practical CO2 refrigeration systems for real-world applications have emerged slowly, mostly in commercial applications, but the technology is gaining speed. In fact, Coca-Cola is relying exclusively on CO2 at the Beijing games. “At the 2008 Olympic Games, all of our coolers and vending machines will feature CO2,” said Antoine Azar, Coca-Cola’s CO2 project global technical manager.

Suppliers mentioned in this article:
Danfoss
Emerson Climate Technologies
Arkema Inc.
Luvata Franklin
ACC Compressors
 

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