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Evolution of Refrigeration Systems as an Alternative to High-Global Warming Potential Refrigerants

2050 will be a remarkable year. It will be the year when the world will have thrice the number of air conditioners than what it has today. The meteoric rise of ACs was frowned upon by many because it was one of the reasons why the ozone layer was depleted. Air conditioners used to have HCFC refrigerants that caused all the fuss. The R11 and the R12 versions were introduced in the late 1970’s and they were still popular at that time. However, it was soon found that they comprised of chemicals that affected the environment, especially the ozone layer. There was a change in the refrigerant and the R22 version was started in the 90’s. Although the R22 was considered superior to its predecessors, it was still a threat to the environment.

The Montreal Protocol in 1987 was a turning point in the use of HCFC in the air conditioners. It was decided that the HCFC and CFC refrigerants will be abolished because they had a high percentage of global warming potential. This brought HFC or hydrofluorocarbon into the picture. The refrigerants that have HFC have zero ODP. That means the chances of depleting the ozone layer is zero. This is a huge benefit because there was a time when the experts were concerned about the rising need for air conditioners and how they would affect the environment and the ozone layer. As per the latest reports, the ozone layer has been recovering for a decade now because there is a collective effort to save it from all fronts.

The Rise of HFC Refrigerants

HFC refrigerants have gained enough popularity in the last couple of decades because of their zero ODP. The use of R410A has been a revelation for the air conditioning industry. It is by far the best refrigerant that has been used to date. Although the GWP values are still nowhere close to zero, the experts are of the opinion that there can be still some modifications made to the existing refrigerants but overall, the environment is safe with the use of R410A.

The R22 version that used CFC gas was also a safe refrigerant. However, ACs that leaked created a lot of havoc because the R22 refrigerant was safe as long as it was inside the unit. When exposed to the environment, it had the same effect as its predecessors. AC leaks are quite normal if you have used the system for years or if it is out of gas. If the gas is not refilled or the leak is not attended to in time, it can cause some severe effects to the ozone layer. You might argue that a single AC leak will not have the capability to deplete the ozone layer and it is a false logic after all. Well, that is not the case. Millions of AC users face leakage problems and the ones that have R22 refrigerant will affect the ozone layer to a great extent.

HFC refrigerants are used in full swing these days. One of the reasons why this gas has become popular in the air conditioning industry is that it does not have chlorine atoms. This automatically eliminates the chances of depleting the ozone layer. The global warming potential of these refrigerants is also well under control. Tests are performed every day to find a better alternative to HFC. An ideal scenario will be when the refrigerant has zero ODP and zero GWP. There are several alternatives like Ammonia (R-717), propane (R290), carbon dioxide (R744), and so on. These have almost zero GWP and also zero ODP. However, they have not yet been used in air conditioners because the manufacturers are not sure as to how they will work in the ACs. Moreover, the manufacturing cost of the AC will increase and so will the selling price. All these are being taken into consideration to find the next best alternative to R410A.

Some of the best features of the R410A refrigerant are as follows:

  •    Critical temperature – all refrigeration systems operate efficiently when the critical temperature is higher than the temperature of the refrigerant. The R410A has a heat rejection capability and cooling capacity that works in low critical temperature. Almost all the units that use R410A have a high critical temperature. This also makes the AC energy-efficient.
  •    Condensing pressure – the difference between evaporating pressure and condensing pressure is what decides the energy consumption of the compressor. R410A refrigerants are used in air conditioners that have low condensing pressure. This reduces the energy consumption to a great extent.
  •    Latent heat – the refrigerating effect of an air conditioner is dependent on the latent heat of vaporization. The R410A has a high latent heat percentage that makes it the perfect refrigerant to date.
  •    Evaporating pressure – one of the primary functions of the refrigerant is to make sure that moisture and air from outside are not able to enter the area of refrigeration if there is any leak involved in the unit. Ideally, the minimum operating pressure of the refrigerant should always be more than that of the atmospheric pressure. That is precisely what R410A offers. It had often happened that the R22 refrigerant allowed air and moisture into the cooling unit when there was a leak. This brought down the performance of the AC significantly. When air enters the refrigerant, it can reduce the cooling capacity of the air conditioner. This automatically brings down the performance of the system. As for moisture, it can react with the refrigerants and form acids. This leads to corrosion of the lubricant and sometimes it can also freeze the refrigerant flow.

The ideal refrigerant  from HTTP://WWW.BLUONENERGY.COM has many other features and none of the refrigerant until now has been able to achieve all those features. However, experts have declared that R410A is safe to use for now. It may have slight concerns with the global warming potential but the overall damage to the ozone layer has been controlled. Alternatives are being searched to make sure they have lower GWP than R410A.

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