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New HCFC regulations call for alternative cooling solutions

Companies should start to find alternative solutions to systems using R22 refrigerants in plenty of time before 1 January 2015, says Adam Spolnik of ICS Cool Energy

In a statement he said: “This is the date when recycled or reclaimed hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) will no longer be used to service refrigeration and air conditioning equipment; many companies are already turning to alternative systems.

Under the law, refrigeration or air-conditioning units found to use HCFCs, (particularly the ozone-depleting R22 refrigerant), will become obsolete, and suppliers will not be permitted to service them.

It is important to identify individual systems that contain HCFCs, including all air conditioning plants, and refrigeration blends that contain HCFC components.

Upgrades required

Sites with existing cooling systems in poor condition, or those with systems not meeting current cooling loads, should upgrade to those that use non-ozone-depleting refrigerants, such as R410A and R134a.

Similarly, units in good working order will need updating with a convert solution. Depending on the existing system, replacements could take the form of a simple retro-fill operation, carried out during a standard service drop-in.

Alternatively, a more comprehensive modification may be needed, which would require a new oil type, an additional compressor and/or a heat exchanger.

Currently, there is no recognised retro-fill solution for flooded or pump-circulation systems, so if an existing system incorporates a flooded HCFC, those responsible are advised to contact a refrigeration contractor.

Although conversion is potentially an option, a converted flooded system may have less cooling capacity and, potentially, be less efficient than a new unit.

Compressor solution

As a solution to the change of legislation and to replace equipment containing HCFCs, many companies are beginning to use energy-saving compressors.

These use a digital rotor speed control that allows for high partial load efficiencies with up to 40 per cent higher European seasonal energy efficient ratio (ESEER) values compared with traditional scroll/screw chillers.

Magnetic levitation works within the compressor, so there are no moving parts, which can reduce noise emissions by up to 8dB(A). Even at low conditions, a building’s requirements can be matched through inlet guide vanes, which extend the compressor’s operational limit.

For certain applications, units can use high condensing temperatures, enabling recovered heat to be used elsewhere onsite.

So, rather than rejecting this heat through a cooling tower or air blast, outlet temperatures of up to 50 deg C can be channelled to drive water-cooled chillers.

Free-cool approach

As well as compressors, free-cooling methods can be used to replace R22 refrigerants.

Free-cooling is a fast and effective method of using low external air temperatures to assist in the cooling of water for industrial temperature control applications or in heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, reducing cooling costs by up to 70 per cent.

In industrial temperature control applications, a free-cooler can be installed in series with a chiller system’s evaporator, so partial or 100 per cent free-cooling is possible in lower ambient conditions.”

Adam Spolnik is owner of ICS Cool Energy

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