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Something in the air

Adding the smell of bakewell tart to refrigerant will, says its developer, transform the business of detecting a leak by making all staff aware, not just engineers

The loss of refrigerant from established rac systems is an ongoing issue that is difficult to combat, even through continuous engineering development. This loss has a direct impact on both the efficiency of the system and the profitability of a store.

In some systems, refrigerant loss may be 15 per cent per annum resulting in up to double the running costs plus the cost of replacing the charge, not to mention the cost to a store’s green credentials. Therefore, quicker detection of these ‘ordinary’ leaks will enable significant cross-estate savings. Small leaks add up.

HFC Leak Alert is a low-cost, low-technology approach that can be readily adopted by estate managers. By dosing a system with it, even minor leaks can be detected quickly and inexpensively. Rapid detection dramatically reduces the time between leak occurrence and repair, minimising expensive refrigerant loss.

With the advent of the F-Gas legislation, the industry is facing increased scrutiny of its use of HFC refrigerants, with a phased reduction of all HFCs, upcoming restrictions on high-GWP gases and tighter leak detection thresholds. In the meantime, CSR focus and environmental pressure is geared towards significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly those with a high CO2 equivalent.

As the industry adapts to these pressures and the legislation through the careful selection of new equipment technologies, the existing HVAC estates will need to continue to be maintained. Thus for years to come, end-users will need efficient and cost-effective solutions that help in the minimisation of inevitable refrigerant loss.

A study undertaken by Tesco and Space Engineering last year (RACSeptember 2013) identified that 8 per cent of works orders in the first 12 months of a new store opening were due to refrigerant leaks.

While low, it is still significant and represents lost refrigerant
that must be accounted for – not only financially but also through CO2 equivalency measures. For ageing equipment, in any installation, the leakage rate is likely to be higher, again causing expensive refrigerant to be lost.

Ambersil HFC Leak Alert has been developed to meet the need of refrigeration estate managers and maintenance managers to have a leak detection system that is both easy to use and inexpensive to operate. It is a fragrance-based concept that allows a pleasant scent to be added to the pack system via the existing top-up inlet valve.  Should there be a leak at any point of the system (whether centralised or distributed) the distinctive cherry-almond fragrance will be detected by staff that have been trained to notice it. The human nose is very sensitive and because the chosen fragrance is not typically present in the chilled section of a store, leaks are noticed quickly and reported for action.

Smell of success

The cherry-almond fragrance reminiscent of bakewell tart was chosen as an inoffensive and pleasant odour that would not cause a negative reaction from members of the public should they detect it, ensuring their shopping experience continues unaffected.

A single 200 ml aerosol can of HFC Leak Alert is designed to dose approximately 100 kg of refrigerant as a one-shot application. The system can be dosed by the field/service engineer during a routine call. It is a handy pack size, and the specially designed and manufactured connector transfer tube is made from high quality components for long-life and multiple uses.

The product has been extensively tested on different refrigerant blends to ensure in-application stability and performance. It is particularly suitable for blends R404A and R407A, with no negative results reported on other HFC blends. It is not recommended for use with R22-based blends and is not compatible with hydrocarbon refrigerant blends.

The service engineer will already know how to dose the refrigerant system with the product, but if unsure, technical advice is available through their distributor or directly from Ambersil.

Once dosed, the engineer affixes an identification sticker to the dosing point area, as well as in-store to connected equipment so that other engineers will know that there is a fragrance in the refrigerant, along with the date of dosing. Before leaving the site, the engineer can leave a copy of the product information leaflet with the store manager for staff training so that staff will be able to accurately identify the scent should a leak occur. A special scent-matched air-freshener is also available for staff training.

Every person who works in a store already has the equipment necessary – their nose – and once the leak is reported, a call to the service engineer can be placed.

The benefits are:

nShortens time between leak detection and engineer call-out;

nReduces the potential for refrigerant loss and expensive replacement;

nHelps meet environmental targets;

nAssists efficient refrigeration/cooler operation;

n No expensive equipment required;

nSimple to implement and use;

n  ‘Green’ image among staff is enhanced – they are key components in the system;

nPleasant fragrance that is unique to the chilled section of stores;

nNon-toxic and ‘safe in use’ formulation;

n No leak = no smell.

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