Commercial Refrigeration: Perspectives on Change

June 21, 2010
Change is everywhere to be seen in the commercial refrigeration industry. Representatives from some industry leaders offer advice on dealing with change and challenges.

Stay Cool During R-125 Shortage
There’s a global shortage of all types of refrigerants that’s affecting most refrigerant manufacturers. In the case of HFCs, it’s being caused, in part, by a lack of raw material feedstock. This is particularly true in the case of R-125, a key component in most new blends such as R-410A, R-407C, R-404A, and R-507A. This is happening at a time when R-22 supplies have been phased down by regulatory mandate, and the industry is ramping up its use of replacements, such as R-410A in residential air conditioning, and R-404A in low-temperature refrigeration.

OEMs have little choice now as to what to use, since switching to something different is very costly and time consuming. However, the service industry does have some alternatives. The first one is to fully utilize reclaim services that would allow contractors to recover, clean and reuse valuable R-22 already in the market. This, in conjunction with a good plan to fix leaks and tighten up systems, among other things, should make existing supplies last a lot longer. A second alternative is to begin using products such as R-427A to replace R-22 in existing equipment. This will not only keep equipment running at a high level, but will free up R-22 that can be used in other systems after it is reclaimed. Please check Arkema’s website for more information on how and where to take advantage of our reclaim program.
The bad news is that there is currently a refrigerant shortage. The good news is that manufacturers are working hard to manage and resolve the problem so we can begin building up inventories to satisfy the market’s need. The industry is also busy in the development of other alternatives, such as low global warming potential (low GWP) refrigerants for different applications, and relying on different raw materials, that will go a long way to prevent such problems from reoccurring. — Gus Rolotti, director of technical sales and services, Arkema Inc.

What Cost Change? Over the last two years, with new construction at a stand still and equipment owners hesitant to even repair their systems at times let alone replace them, it’s been a long and lean period for everyone associated with this business. But what’s complicated matters even further has been the untimely phase-out of R-22 designed equipment, and a subsequent increase in new equipment and service costs. Most people inside and outside the HVACR industry are unaware of how the “new” HFC regulations being developed by EPA could increase costs even further. When gasoline prices became too high of a line item, scores of people changed their habits and ultimately reduced their consumption. So now the big question is, will the cost of heat transfer have the same effect on consumers? — Gordon McKinney, vice president, ICOR

Charting a Course
The route to a new energy future is marked by obstacles, risk, and obsurity, but it’s not without hope for progress. So the next question for industry is, What can be done? For the private sector perhaps: acknowledge that investment, product development and sales strategy for energy efficiency technology all move forward amid deeply rototed uncertainty.
Business action on energy policy wil have the best chance of success if it recognizes the sources of uncertainty and the structure of the ambiguities ahead. Each event will have consequences for itself and most other pieces of the complex puzzle. Decisions on where and how to take action should be reviewed 360 degrees on an ongoing basis.
The timeframe for business decisions needs to reflect the dynamcs of the policy arena. A few years ago, those with technology in the ready were frustrated by the pace of change. A year ago, it seemed only the main points of a new approach needed to be sorted out. Today, it’s more evident that it’s time for a second look at what it will take for industry to deliver on the energy requirements the 21st century. We may have the means, but tenacity may be required to create the path. —John Galyen, president, Danfoss Refrigeration & Air Conditioning

Some Alternatives for R-22
The key area of focus for contractors now is the R-22 phaseout and the significant reduction in R-22 supply from 2010 to 2014. Contractors need to take action now, and prepare for this phaseout by getting experience with R-22 alternatives. DuPont commercialized a new R-22 replacement in Spring 2009 which is called DuPont™ISCEON® MO99™. MO99™ provides the closest match to R-22 with similar pressure enthalpy characteristics and mineral oil compatibility. Feedback from contractors indicated that dealing with POE oil in a retrofit (and the multiple flushes involved) added time and cost. MO99™ provides a Quick Switch and versatile alternative for R-22, and can be used across evaporator temperatures, in low, medium and high temperature applications.
It’s widely known that HFO-1234yf has been selected to replace R-134a in automobiles, in response to the EU MAC directive. DuPont recently made an announcement to manufacture HFO-1234yf to help the auto OEMs meet the MAC Directive. Low global warming potential refrigerants are also being developed and tested for use in stationary refrigeration applications. We anticipate next generation refrigerants in stationary applications to be widely available closer to a 2020 timeframe.
The bottom line is that the current HFC’s are going to be viable options for many years to come. Visit for updates on the development of stationary next gen applications and regulatory updates.
— Joyce Wallace, North America Marketing Manager, DuPont Refrigerants.