What is Hydrocarbon Refrigerant, and why is it important to foodservice operations?

03/05/2019 |

The drive to achieve sustainability in making better use of our planet’s resources while saving money is an important part of our everyday lives. Foodservice operations are no different.

To achieve these goals, cleaner and more efficient hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants are being used to power commercial refrigeration systems in high-end restaurants, corporate dining facilities and even food trucks. In Europe over the past twenty years, some 4 million commercial refrigeration units have been produced and installed.

The rise of R290

For decades, the most widely-used refrigerants used in commercial applications have been R134 for refrigerator applications or R404 for freezer systems. Both have very high Global Warming Potential (GWP) that is harmful to the atmosphere. By contrast, R290 is a highly-refined propane used as an alternative to these refrigerants.

Its capacity to absorb heat is nearly 90% higher than R134 or R404 which results in quicker temperature recovery and lower energy consumption. Also, its low ozone-depleting properties and extremely low GWP make R290 one of the most climate-friendly and cost-effective refrigerants on the market.

R290 Diagram

Global warming potential (GWP) of three commonly-used refrigerants in commercial applications

A little goes a long way

Just a small amount of R290 is required to charge the average upright or prep table refrigerator, often less than a disposable flame lighter. From an economic standpoint, the cost of R134 and R404 is rising quickly as it faces a total phase-out by 2022 while at the same time, R290 has become cheaper and more widely-available.

As a result, True believes that R290 is by far the best alternative for powering commercial refrigeration systems.

Yet R290 refrigerant alone is not responsible for lowering energy costs. The advent of R290 has meant the need for component manufacturers to develop more energy-efficient compressors, condensers and evaporators to be compatible for use with R290. Herein lies the real savings behind the use of R290.

Fridge Manufacturing

The impact of R290 is greater when paired with manufacturing more sustainable components

More advantages to R290

Another big advantage is that R290 can be vented directly into the atmosphere without the need to recapture and recycle the refrigerant. This eliminates the need for technicians to invest in and carry around expensive tanks and accessories traditionally used when servicing older systems using R134 or R404.

The outcome

R290 is far and away the best, and most sustainable, option for your refrigeration solution. Ensure you ask your supplier about the refrigerant in your product and choose those with R290 to give you products with the longest lifespan and best environmental credentials.

If you would like to find out more about True’s sustainable refrigeration solutions contact us today.

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