While there have been a large number of industrial refrigerants options available over the past century, not all have been viable. Some substances became popular for a time until they are identified as environmentally unsafe or dangerous to use. Refrigeration engineers can evaluate a system to determine which product works best in any situation. The various types of refrigerants available will vary depending on system compatibility, stability, toxicity, flammability, boiling points, and more.
In recent years, companies have strived to modify their chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) levels to become more eco-friendly. Years ago, the most common refrigerant, R12, was deemed a major contributor to the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer. As a result, the refrigerant industry has worked hard to create more environmentally friendly refrigerants.
What Are Refrigerants?
Refrigerants are commonly used in anything that cools, though they may be found in heating devices. A refrigerant is a substance that transfers heat from one area of a system and moves it to another. Quite often, at room temperature, the substance is a gas—but liquids have also been used.
Some refrigerants, like R12, are phasing out and other materials are taking on the role. Though R12 was the active refrigerant in most refrigerators and freezers produced before 1995, the product has been banned globally in new refrigeration units since that time. The replacement for home refrigeration is 134A, a substance that does not harm the ozone but is still a potent greenhouse gas.
Refrigerants Used in Industrial Refrigeration Plants
Industrial refrigeration plants needs are massive compared to simple home usage. As a result, these systems require high volume and economical refrigerants to create and hold the required temperatures.
- Ammonia or R717 continues to be the most common refrigerant in the world and has been the dominant industrial product for decades. While the operational characteristics of ammonia are excellent, the substance can be harmful to humans if a leak should occur. However, because of ammonia’s highly identifiable odor, leaks are usually detected before they can create a serious health problem. Ammonia, which has been an essential industrial refrigerant since the late 1800s, is efficient, environmentally positive, safer than other options, operationally simple, and less expensive.
- CO2 (carbon dioxide) or R744 is another option as a refrigerant for industrial use. The gas has the right refrigerating properties, but the colorless, odorless nature of the gas can create health threatening problems if a leak should occur. However, as a refrigerant, CO2 requires special handling and must be pressurized to 4,000 psi to be operation. Adding equipment to pressurize the gas to this degree can be expensive.
- HCFC or hydrochlorofluorocarbons have been used in some industrial refrigeration situations, but are being phased out due to dangerous characteristics. Banned in some states, HCFCs were intended to be a replacement for CFCs, but are nearly as problematic. Only trained refrigeration experts should handle or remove this product.
- Hydrocarbons like propane or butane can also be efficient refrigerants, though flammability is a serious risk. Because of this, these materials are used in less than 5% of the refrigeration units in place today.
Choose General Mechanical for Chicagoland Commercial & Industrial Refrigeration
With close to 50 years in the business, we are adept at managing emergent situations regarding your refrigeration unit, as well as ensuring regular maintenance minimizes the risk of future breakdowns. We customize each technician’s visit to your needs, making sure that your refrigerator is running at optimal efficiency.
Choose General Mechanical for your Chicago area commercial and industrial refrigeration needs—we optimize current systems through our maintenance package and handle emergencies! Call us at 847-999-4100 to schedule a visit from one of our certified technicians.