Alfa Laval has released a whitepaper which seeks to demystify the confusing process of choosing the right low-GWP refrigerant for a specific application.
The whitepaper entitled Navigating a changing refrigerant market: A guide for selecting and accommodating refrigerants for diverse heating and cooling applications points out that there is no one-size-fits-all alternative when it comes to selecting a refrigerant.
However, there has been intense innovation in new technologies to safely and efficiently adapt both synthetic and natural low-GWP refrigerants to today’s heating and cooling applications.
“Every year brings new developments of compressors, heat exchangers, controls and various system designs. This whitepaper will provide a useful overview of existing legislative requirements and current market trends before offering a breakdown of different low-GWP refrigerants available today. Lastly, this text will look at new technologies for using alternative refrigerants in various air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration applications,” the whitepaper said.
While R32 can help dramatically reduce energy consumption in air conditioning applications, the whitepaper said it also presents a lot of challenges.
“Like many alternative refrigerants, it is mildly flammable so safety is important but businesses looking for an environmental argument to differentiate their production from the competition may want to consider alternatives with a lower GWP,” Alfa Laval said.
“Like R32, the flammability of some HFOs can be a risk if not properly accounted for. A secondary concern is that HFOs can decompose under high temperatures, resulting in the formation of hydrogen fluoride and, subsequently, dangerous acids.
“Business seeking to minimize the global warming potential of their heating and cooling applications have largely turned to natural refrigerants.”
According to the whitepaper natural refrigerants refer to: Hydrocarbons like R290 (propane), R600a (isobutane), R1270 (propene); R717 (ammonia); R744 (carbon dioxide/CO2 ) as well as air and water.
“The good news is that there is constant progress within both technological development and regulation, making natural refrigerants a viable choice for a growing number of applications,” the whitepaper said.
“Refrigeration plants using hydrocarbons have been in operation all over the world for many years. This not only because it is a natural refrigerant, but also due its ideal refrigerant characteristics and widespread availability at low cost.
“Ammonia is one of the most efficient refrigerants available, with wide usage possibilities within a wide range of temperatures and capacities. Apart being a natural substance, the use of ammonia opens for possibilities to reduce energy consumption and secure long-term cost efficiency and sustainability. The downside of ammonia is that it is a toxic refrigerant and can also be flammable at certain concentrations.
“Although CO2 is not the most efficient natural refrigerant, it is gaining popularity due to the fact that it is neither flammable nor toxic. In the last 10-15 years, system components, pipe work, tools and equipment have been developed to safely handle the pressure challenges associated with CO2.”