Refrigerant Changes Will Happen; No Need to Rush It!

Nov. 13, 2012
While many would consider a fast change to CO2 to be ideal, market realities have to be considered.

The march of time brings change. All throughout history, events have eventually played out to bring about meaningful change, some of which was not so welcome, some very much so.

With the changing face of the refrigeration industry, and with what we see as now possible with new systems and refrigerants, many would like to see the entire industry change overnight. All R22 or other HFC refrigerants would be gone, and carbon dioxide and ammonia systems would be charging systems everywhere.

The latest antagonism for change is a new report from the Environmental Investigation Agency, a UK-based group with a DC office, that says it's "protecting the environment with intelligence."

The report calls for "fast action to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)," to "virtually eliminate one of the the six Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gases" and prevent a large amount of estimated emissions by 2050. Part of the reason for the rush, it says, is that "the United States has seen the warmest 12-month period on record this year," and the fact that new technologies are indeed making reduced emissions possible.

But rather than me deny global warming and the questionable wisdom of using one year of data as a guideline for anything climatic, (and a report by Britain's Met Office that says whatever global warming we had of any consequence stopped 16 years ago), I'll just appeal to common sense and an understanding of the realities of the market.

The training required to learn this new technology
takes time, and time is money.

Yes, it would be great for many if every supermarket today began to replace its HFC-based systems with CO2 or ammonia. Some contractors and supermarket teams are doing it successfully, like Source Refrigeration and Supervalu (see this story). That's commendable. The report is also a fine update on some outstanding new refrigerant technologies, largely from Hill PHOENIX, and major US retailers, such as WalMart, Sprouts, Supervalu, and Pick and Pay.

But let's keep the interests and capabilities of the commercial refrigeration contractor in mind to, shall we? Not all contracting firms are capable of adapting overnight to new technologies and new science. The best of them certainly want and expect to get involved, because they see where industry is going. But let's try to slow down and work through this slowly. The training required to learn this new technology takes time, and time is money.

The EPA is pulling all kinds of strings to make the industry dance, but only so much can be accomplished overnight.The deadlines for HFC reduction are out there, and change will happen, in due time.