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04/25/2022

Tried and True Refrigerant Solutions

Safe, simple and sustainable systems for supermarkets and small grocers
Jordan Smith
Executive Director, globalFACT
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Tried and True  Refrigerant  Solutions
Advanced climate technologies regularly offer advantageous flammability and toxicity characteristics at an affordable installation cost.

Today’s supermarkets and small grocers face many decisions when it comes to managing their refrigeration equipment. Should they retain their existing equipment year after year until a problem arises? Or should they retrofit their equipment to extend its useful life by several years? Maybe the best solution is to overhaul entirely by replacing aging equipment with a new system that can deliver decades of service. 

Each of these options entail tradeoffs, which can vary from store to store. When grocers consider the thin margins that they face today, they must weigh those tradeoffs carefully. It’s important for decision-makers to carefully evaluate safety, simplicity and sustainability: 

  • Is the refrigeration equipment safe for technicians servicing it? 
  • Is it safe for customers? 
  • Is the equipment simple? Can it be installed and serviced easily 
  • with minimal headaches, and for a manageable cost? 
  • Does the equipment help the store be more sustainable? 
  • Is the system energy efficient?

Fortunately, there are equipment options that meet these questions with a resounding “yes” across the board. Systems powered by lower global-warming potential (GWP) hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) and HFC/HFO blends, also known as advanced climate technologies (ACTs), often meet all of these objectives. ACTs regularly offer advantageous flammability and toxicity characteristics at an affordable installation cost.

As a baseline case, consider an established grocer currently using R-404A (HFC) but contemplating a future refrigerant choice. Some stores might be able to retrofit a system using common components such as thermostatic expansion valves, while other stores might require an entirely new system with the latest electronics such as electronic expansion valves. As part of the vetting process, the owner should complete a cost-benefit analysis of each approach.

Advantages of ACTs

While many options may exist for the grocer, including the installation of an entirely new system, equipment running on ACTs is reliably safe, simple and sustainable. These new-generation solutions present minimal safety risks, receiving low flammability and toxicity ratings from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). 

Additionally, ACTs provide operators with ease of use. They are simple to service by a wide range of technicians and can be retrofitted into existing systems, saving both expense and effort. This ease is particularly advantageous in light of current challenges in recruiting qualified technicians.

Sustainability is also critical. Energy efficiency is vital to reducing a refrigeration system’s climate impact. Indirect emissions — including energy efficiency — account for 60% to 90% of a system’s total emissions. In other words, the “green” impact of a refrigeration system is largely a function of how efficiently it cools. Total equivalent warming impact (TEWI) and life cycle climate performance (LCCP) are well-established metrics that help operators gauge the total environmental impact of a system, including indirect emissions from energy usage. ACTs enable operators to optimize energy efficiency in their stores and test favorably against comprehensive climate impact metrics like TEWI and LCCP. 

Across many measures, ACTs help grocers achieve safe, simple and sustainable refrigeration in their stores.

While regulators are driving original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to develop equipment that’s both more efficient and environmentally friendly, store owners remain committed to making the smartest long-term investment for their businesses. So, as grocers consider system enhancements, why shouldn’t they select “tried and true” ACTs? 

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