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CHILLERS: The RACE to replace R-22

For chiller manufacturers, 2010 represents the dawning of a new age: effective January 1, the industry's mos...


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July 10, 2010 by Canadian Plastics

Which refrigerant will replace the popular R-22?
Which refrigerant will replace the popular R-22?

For chiller manufacturers, 2010 represents the dawning of a new age: effective January 1, the industry’s most widely used refrigerant–R-22–was history. Under the terms of the Montreal Protocol, it’s now illegal to make, import or sell chillers in Canada and the U.S. that use R-22.

With process cooling’s across-the-board standard gone, the onus is on equipment suppliers to come clean with their customers. “The fact is, we don’t know which replacement refrigerant will come out on top, if any,” said Don Berggren, president of Toronto’s Berg Chilling Systems. “For this reason, we direct our clients to choose the refrigerant that best suits a particular application.”

With this caveat in mind, here’s a quick look at three leading R-22 replacements.

THE FRONTRUNNER: R-410A

The early favorite to replace R-22 has to be the non-ozone-depleting R-410A. “The largest compressor manufacturer in the world, Copeland, is saying that R-410A is the refrigerant they’ll use in their digital scroll compressors,” said Ziggy Wiebe, owner of Newmarket, Ont.-based Chillers Inc. Chiller manufacturers such as Advantage Engineering, for example, have already released new chiller models–in this case the Maximum portable waterchiller–that use R-410A, as has Thermal Care with its’ NQ line of air-cooled portable chillers, and Mokon with the new Iceman portable and central chillers.

SECOND PLACE: R-134A

Not so fast, however. “Because R-410A operates at significantly higher pressures than R-22, many components must be more robust than is standard in conventional chillers.” said Balbir Anand, vice president of Brampton, Ont.-based Freeze Co. Systems. “Also, R-410A can’t be used to retrofit existing R-22 equipment, due to significantly high operating pressures By comparison, the low-pressure R-134A refrigerant can replace R-22 with minimal adjustments to the chiller.” In addition to Freeze Co., another manufacturer embracing R-134A is The Conair Group: The company’s EarthSmart portable chiller product actually uses both R-134A and R-410A refrigerants.

THIRD PLACE: R-407C

Another alternative to R-22 is R-407C. “We’ve standardized on the R-407C, which has been very popular in the European chilling industry for some time,” said Henry Van Gemert, president of St. Joseph, Mis.-based Regloplas Corporation. The company’s air-and water-chilled Reglochill units, for example, use R-407C, as do larger chillers offered by Advantage Engineering.