The EPA has recently started considering alternative refrigerants for air conditioning units, refrigerators and other appliances dedicated to cooling. Its efforts lead to the certification of these alternatives and even releasing other chemicals from scrutiny. Propane (R290) became the most recent beneficiary of this research and it is likely that we will soon start seeing it used in commercial refrigeration in Florida. Here is an overview of this decision and how it may affect commercial refrigeration options in the future.
Introducing climate-friendly options
The Climate Action Plan addressed the need to increase options used in refrigerants. This is due to the fact that previous resources often produced greenhouse gases. Freon was a well-known offender in this category. For years, many substances used especially in air conditioning were a threat not only to the ozone layer but also to indoor air quality.
Fortunately, technology allowed for the development of alternatives, and efforts focused on these climate-friendly chemicals. One of these options included propane, also known as R290. While it is flammable and requires different controls for cooling applications, it passed the EPA evaluation for its low impact to global warming potential. It is thought that propane can replace ozone-depleting substances and create less pollution.
Other alternatives are also being considered. For now, propane seems to be the best option under these new certifications. The refrigeration industry is anxiously considering new options in using propane for more-efficient and less-polluting appliances.
Goals and applications
Propane is already used in cooling applications throughout Europe. While it is not widespread in larger commercial HVAC operations, it is common in smaller appliances, like residential window air conditioners. Part of this has to do with the technology available to manipulate it, but that is quickly changing as propane starts to prove its virtues.
In the United States, propane is certified for household refrigerators, freezers, combination refrigerator-freezer units, vending machines and room air conditioners. Other chemicals that also benefited from the newest certification include ethane and isobutane, with potential also noted for R-441A for commercial applications. Other substances are also being exempted from climate regulations as it has been proven their release into the atmosphere does not have any significant impacts. It is likely that not only are options becoming more numerous, but that the impacts of the refrigeration industry on climate change will also be greatly reduced.
While the certification starts with basic applications, there is potential that, as technology and research grow, we will also see propane used for commercial HVAC purposes. It has several advantages, mainly that it is plentiful and inexpensive. The challenge lies in controlling its flammability and finding the best way to process it. Future dedication to research makes this more than possible.
5 Star Refrigeration & Air Conditioning, Inc. is your specialist for the repair of commercial refrigeration in Florida. We stay updated on developments in this field so we can address the latest technology and recommend upgrades that you may find more efficient. Contact us today if your system requires maintenance or repair.