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Natural Refrigerants vs. Synthetic Refrigerants: Is One Really Better than the Other?


Natural refrigerants have been growing in popularity over the years thanks to changes in regulations and a desire for low environmental impact options.


Recently the Environmental Protection Agency announced a phase-out of ozone-depleted substances by 2020. This includes the end of R-22 production—the most common Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) used in air conditioners and refrigeration equipment.


Not surprisingly, the recent literature surrounding this phase out, and natural refrigerant alternatives has painted a picture that they are a better choice than synthetic refrigerants. But is this really the case?


Let’s take a look into both natural refrigerants and synthetic refrigerants.


Natural Refrigerants


Natural refrigerants, in certain applications, are energy efficient, sustainable and can save money.


They are energy efficient. Natural refrigerants conduct energy more efficiently and reduce the work required by compressors. Essentially, they use less energy to accomplish the same tasks as systems using many synthetic refrigerants.


They are sustainable. Natural refrigerants have a low Global Warming Potential (GWP), meaning they trap less heat in the atmosphere, making them more environmentally sustainable than synthetic refrigerants.


They can save money. Natural refrigerants conduct energy more efficiently and lessen the work the compressors in your system need to do. Equipment for natural refrigerants can be costly. However, operating and maintenance costs are typically lower, resulting in a good return on investment (ROI) over the life of the system.


Examples of Natural Refrigerants


Ammonia (NH3) • Excellent heat transfer properties • Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP): 0 • Global Warming Potential (GWP): 0 • Harmful—highly toxic gas


Carbon Dioxide (CO2) • Excellent heat transfer properties • Good for low temperature applications • Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP): 0 • Global Warming Potential (GWP): 1 • Can be harmful or deadly at high concentrations


Hydrocarbons • Excellent heat transfer properties • Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP): 0 • Global Warming Potential (GWP): <4 • Highly flammable. Requires costlier exposion-proof design


Synthetic Refrigerants


Synthetic refrigerants tend to be less expensive, compatible and highly customizable for performance and design.


Benefits of Synthetic Refrigerants

• Typically, more cost effective in small to mid-sized applications. • Many different types suited to a wide range of applications. • Good equipment compatibility - systems may be able to be retrofitted if requirements change. • Industrial refrigerant ODP are less than 0.1. • Factors such as chemical compatibility, refrigeration performance, and safety can be balanced based on priorities.


HFC Regulations There have recently been two significant regulatory changes.


HFC Regulations September 2016: US EPA announces that specific refrigerants including R134a cannot be used in new chillers, effective January 1, 2024. October 2016: Montreal Protocol amended to implement the phase down of HFCs to about 10% of current levels by 2036. Developing countries will phase down HFCs at a slower rate through the next decade.


HFC Regulations The complexity of the changes and their impact on the industrial refrigeration industry can be confusing.


Implications of New Regulations R134a will be available long after 2024 to service existing chillers and is a key component of refrigerant blends including R513A, R513B and R450A, which are about 40% R134a. This assures the continued production and abundant supply of R134a well into the future.


Implications of New Regulations The gradual phase down of HFCs by the revised Montreal Protocol allows time for development and regulatory approval of new alternatives and continued use of refrigerant R134a.

DONâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;T PANIC


New HFC Refrigerants New lower GWP HFC refrigerants are being developed and commercialized for industrials applications to replace R134a, R404A, R407C, and R507. Some will require new refrigeration systems while others will be compatible and require minor upgrades or retrofits. Over time, as production capacity ramps up, costs for both the refrigerant and equipment are expected to fall significantly.


Natural vs. Synthetic The choice between natural and synthetic refrigerants comes down to a number of complex factors and there is rarely a one-size fits all solution. We recommend you speak to a Berg professional about which refrigerant is the most appropriate for your applicationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;today and in he future.


Learn more about refrigerants.

Berg Chilling Systems Inc.

51 Nantucket Blvd. Toronto, ON M1P 2N5 (416) 755-2221 bergsales@berg-group.com berg-group.com

Natural Refrigerants versus Synthetic Refrigerants  

Thanks to changes in regulations and a desire for low environmental impact options, natural refrigerants have been growing in popularity ove...

Natural Refrigerants versus Synthetic Refrigerants  

Thanks to changes in regulations and a desire for low environmental impact options, natural refrigerants have been growing in popularity ove...

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