Commercial Refrigeration and Food Retail applications are very diverse regarding systems types and refrigerants used. It includes cold rooms, glass door merchandizers, and display and islands cabinets, either in centralized or plug-ins – hermetic or autonomous cooling circuits with condensing units.
Commercial Refrigeration and Food Retail applications are grouped into three main categories.
Hermetically sealed applications are suited for using low GWP refrigerants, which are safe due to their low charge amounts. Many of these systems already use hydrocarbons like R600a and R290 and the EU phasedown has required GWP values below 150 since 2016.
Condensing units have a refrigerant charge that is typically between 5 and 20 kg and safety on flammability is imperative as many of these systems can be accessed by the public.
High GWP refrigerants like R404A have been used for many years, but new alternative, A1-classified HFCs have a GWP of less than 60% of R404A. Nevertheless, the impact of higher compressor discharge temperatures on the operating envelope and the impact of refrigerant glide on cooling performance present new challenges. We believe that the market will quickly move to an average GWP level of around 1500 before slowly seeking for more, lower solutions like CO2, R290 (Hydrocarbons), or HFO blends.
Centralized systems are by far the highest refrigerant-consuming application due to their large charge sizes and high leakage rates. In the EU phasedown, they are estimated to use more than 40% of the baseline amount of refrigerant recommended by the phasedown. During the last ten years, CO2 has become a viable refrigerant and can be used in different system setups:
- Transcritical systems where CO2 is used in all circuits (MT and LT). CO2 transcritical systems have also been driving the development of integrated heating and cooling systems, linking the refrigerant choice to the type of system.
- Indirect systems where a chiller-like rack using HFCs, HCs, or NH3 cools the CO2 in a receiver, which is then circulated in the MT circuit, cooling the MT circuit. LT is also covered by CO2 and condenses either directly to the chiller on top or the CO2 MT circuit.
- Cascade systems where CO2 is used only in the LT circuit and cascaded into the MT circuit which uses HFC. This type of system still uses around 80% of the HFC refrigerant used in a conventional system
Geographical location affects the energy efficiency of any system due to outdoor ambient temperature. Transcritical CO2 systems have been known to be extraordinary sensitive to outdoor temperatures. However, the latest developments with injection technologies have seriously increased CO2 system efficiency even in very warm climates and we expect it to see a market breakthrough during the next years.