The use of hydrocarbons (HC-600a and HC-290), a trend that had barely begun in 2012, is now firmly established as an option for buyers of new small commercial equipment in Australia.
According to the latest Cold Hard Facts 3 Report, around 2% of the total bank in this segment of the market is hydrocarbons and this is expected to grow rapidly.
Smaller self-contained retail equipment is the leader in this trend with sales of new HC charged equipment in this category increasing more than 30 times (up 3,000%) since 2012, to nearly 20,000 units out of almost 140,000 total sales of self-contained units (including beverage vending machines, post mix drink vending machines, ice makers and water coolers) in 2016.
This is compared to just a little over 600 HC charged units in 2012, the report said.
Equipment being sold using hydrocarbon refrigerants with a charge less than or equal to 150 grams includes upright and horizontal freezer cabinets, refrigerated display cabinets, wine coolers and ice cream merchandisers.
“Given the relative energy efficiency of devices charged with HCs and CO2 as compared to the older equipment charged with HFC-404A and, now more commonly with HFC-134a, the trend of increasing sales of small self-contained commercial refrigeration using natural refrigerants is expected to continue,” the report said.
“A range of small self-contained refrigeration display cabinets (RDCs) charged with CO2 were introduced to the market in recent years. Possibly as many as 1,000 sales were made of RDCs charged with CO2 in 2016.
“However, it is unlikely that CO2 charged equipment in this category will grow significantly as the HC technology is proving to be highly energy efficient and competitively priced.”
At present there is a refrigerant charge threshold imposed by safety standards in Australia (AS/NZS ISO 5149: 2016) of 150 grams for class A3 refrigerants such as hydrocarbons.
Increasing this charge size in general, or by specific application, would have a significant impact on the future penetration of hydrocarbons in small to medium commercial refrigeration applications.
Air Conditioning systems
One area of the market where hydrocarbons haven't been as successful is the residential air conditioning market.
Efforts to introduce hydrocarbon (HC) charged air conditioning systems have faded with the technology developing only limited manufacturing support, and still facing potential regulatory and workplace limitations as a result of flammability.
This is the market assessment published in Cold Hard Facts 3, which states that HC charged air conditioners have not achieved any significant market share in Australia in the last two years.
Chinese manufacturers of HC charged equipment have not increased marketing efforts or been publicising recent case studies of installations or established new distribution lines, the report said.
The ongoing message is that systems are under development and available in some overseas markets (e.g. India and in small volumes in China) and are expected to emerge as technically and commercially feasible soon.
However, at present, there are only a few air conditioner models containing HC in Australia.
As a result, the report concluded that HCs in the residential air conditioning category, are unlikely to achieve a significant market share in the foreseeable future.