Building owners in the United States last year replaced or converted 2,594 comfort cooling chillers that use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), leaving an estimated 38,000 of the units that still rely on CFC refrigerants, which were banned from production in the United States due to concerns about depletion of the Earth’s protective ozone layer.
A survey of chiller manufacturers released annually by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institiute (ARI) shows the impact of the weak U.S. economy in 2002 as the pace slowed from earlier years. ARI says there were 379 conversions and 2,215 chillers replaced with non-CFC equipment using alternative refrigerants.
There were approximately 80,000 large tonnage liquid chillers using CFCs in the early 1990s when phaseout of the units began in preparation for an end to production of CFCs on December 31,1995. Offices, malls, hospitals, airports, factories, sports complexes, government buildings and institutions use chilled water that is circulated through a building to control temperature and humidity.
New, non-CFC chillers are vastly more efficient, reducing electricity and maintenance costs. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "A new, energy-efficient chiller can easily pay for itself in electricity savings, improved reliability and lower maintenance costs in five years."
The EPA booklet entitled "Building Owners Save Money, Save the Earth", which is available at www.ari.org/consumer/articles, notes that "Building owners around the world have saved millions of dollars in electricity bills by upgrading air conditioning chiller installations and through concurrent investments to reduce building cooling load. Today’s chillers use about one-third or less electricity compared to those produced just two decades ago."
Stockpiled virgin CFC refrigerants and CFCs reclaimed from chillers no longer in service are the only sources of supply of CFCs available to building owners.
According to the survey, manufacturers expect in 2003 approximately 2,549 replacements and 334 chiller conversions bringing the year-end total to 44,072, which is 55 percent of the 80,000 large tonnage liquid chillers that used CFCs, usually CFC-11 or CFC-12.
Large Tonnage CFC Chillers Converted/Replaced by Year Conversions Replacements Total % of 80,000 Prior to 1/1/03 8,697 32,492 41,189 51% 1/03-1/1/04 334 2,549 44,072 55% 1/04-1/1/05 294 2,947 47,313 59% 1/05-1/1/06 264 3,056 50,633 63%
Non-CFC chillers use altenatives accepted for use by the EPA. They include units with hydrochlorofluorocarbons, HCFC-123 and HCFC-22, and hydrfluorocarbons, HFC-134a, HFC-410A and HFC-407c. EPA rules require recovery of CFCs and alternative refrigerants, which can then be reclaimed to meet purity limits set in ARI Standard 700.
Employment declines and economic weakness in the U.S. and abroad affected new building construction and CFC chiller replacements. ARI reported that factory shipments of large tonnage liquid chillers for use in the U.S and abroad dropped to 5,793 in 2002 from the 7,171 units shipped in 2001.
With so many CFC units still in service, the industry faces a substantial task over coming years of completing the CFC phaseout. According to the EPA brochure, "Building owners with obsolete CFC equipment compete for dwindling supplies of reclaimed refrigerant and parts—paying higher prices and risking refrigerant shortages. Savings from electricity costs alone pay back the investment at higher rates of return—even at low energy prices."
The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute is the trade association representing manufacturers of more than 90 percent of North American produced central air-conditioning and commercial refrigeration equipment.
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