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11 January 2019

Alternative Solutions

A-Gas commercial director Enzo D'Alessio on making the right choice when looking to replace high GWP refrigerants.

The reaction at Chillventa to the launch of A-Gas Rapid Recovery in Europe highlights how much the industry has changed in the last two years. Customers are looking for more efficient and quicker ways of recovering refrigerant because they understand that every little drop that can be returned to use will make an impact on overall supplies to the market.

The price of R404A has levelled out in the UK but Europe still has to do some catching up as some suppliers maybe sitting on stocks of the widely-used legacy gas bought at high prices. This has thrown the spotlight further on recovering refrigerants and the good news is that new practices in recovery techniques have brought wide-ranging benefits. We can now recover refrigerants swiftly and this means that with a typical supermarket job you don't have to demerchandise refrigeration cabinets.
We have seen at first hand with A-Gas Rapid Recovery call-outs in the UK how end-users value this significant benefit.

Removing stock from cabinets can be a costly burden to a store operation and by keeping products in place business can continue as normal.
In these circumstances, choosing the right alternative refrigerant has never been more important. The challenge for installers and specifiers is to decide which is the best route to take when switching to low GWP refrigerants. It's likely to be a choice that will feature the three Rs - re­use, retrofit or replace. When deciding on an alternative refrigerant there are a number of key steps to take before making any decision. The first, and most important, is to get advice from your refrigerant supplier.

Sustainable solutions

If you are looking to re-use as a solution, reclaimed product is already on the market and exempt from the F-Gas quota. A-Gas has invested heavily in reclamation facilities and our services in this area provoked an encouraging reaction from customers at Chillventa as they look for more sustainable solutions.
With a retrofit the operational conditions of the existing equipment will be an important factor. The easiest way to make the right choice is to complete the A-Gas refrigerant selection form. This easy to use online tool is a great starting point and will lead you in a direction which will assist you in making the right choice.
Our experts analyse the information you supply and run this data through our software to look at how your system is performing currently. From that we will recommend up to four alternative refrigerants - one of which may be the right one for your current equipment. This also allows us to predict where you may have issues and gives you an informed choice to go back to the customer with.
All depends on the original gas but if you are looking at R134a in a chiller you could be considering R450A or R513A as alternatives. They still fall within the A1 category so won't give you a flammability problem and with their low GWPs of just over the 600 mark they are a good alternative. In the air conditioning market there isn't a retrofit for R410A. R32 is an A2L and can only be used in new equipment. There is much information out there, so I encourage you to do your research or speak to the experts if you are unsure on using an A2L.
There are plans to introduce a low GWP A1 product, N41, also known as R466A, but this is still in the development stage. Although this may be available in the middle of next year it is important to note that this is not a retrofit for existing R410A equipment. A2Ls are not suitable for a retrofit and this leads me to replacement alternatives. 

Important decisions

When replacing refrigerant in a system it is always prudent to consider an alternative that has the lowest GWP. These alternatives will give you longevity - a key factor when you consider that the stepdowns will continue until 2030 and are likely to stretch beyond th is. In some cases, you may be in the realms of single digit GWP figures. For example, R1234ze in a water chiller installation will take you down as low as seven - a great achievement considering where we were a few years ago.
On a supermarket installation with the correct pack size you could be seeing gases with a GWP of between 145 and 260 as an option. To go lower and to travel down the naturals route, co, and ammonia are versatile alternatives. They do have their advantages and disadvantages which have been well documented in the trade media.
You should not rush these important decisions. Talk to the customer to find out which gas will suit their needs the best.

Take time over making the right choice and bear in mind that information is key to ensuring that you come to the right conclusion on an alternative refrigerant.
In summary, you must consider if the existing equipment is good enough to retrofit? Also ask yourself, would the end user be able to run the system-for another three years on the same sort of gas or is only a full-blown replacement the most cost effective answer to their needs?
Finally, never be afraid to ask for help. Your refrigerant supplier is a mine of information and they will be able to assist you in finding the right alternative refrigerant. 

As seen in ACR Journal