Why your supermarket shouldn’t wait to transition to natural refrigerants
It’s no secret that supermarkets and food retailers are some of the country’s most significant HFC refrigerant users and refrigerant leaks are an industry-wide problem. Recent regulations have the supermarket industry reviewing refrigerant use across facilities and making changes. We’re here to answer your natural refrigerant questions and prepare you to transition away from high-polluting refrigerants.
What are HFCs?
Hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) refrigerants are greenhouse gases and known contributors to climate change, most commonly used in HVAC and refrigeration equipment. The EPA regulates these gases due to their high Global Warming Potential (GWP). Many refrigerants commonly used today have GWP values hundreds of times higher than CO2. Once considered a suitable replacement for ozone-depleting substances, HFCs are now the world’s fastest-growing greenhouse gases. Their use grows exponentially as the global demand for refrigeration and air conditioning continues to climb.
What are natural refrigerants?
Natural refrigerants like CO2, ammonia and propane are low GWP refrigerants that will future-proof your facilities while reducing gas, energy, and water consumption. CO2 systems are often preferred among natural refrigerants because they are safer than ammonia and more scalable than propane. The EPA classifies CO2 as a safety group A1 refrigerant (non-toxic, non-flammable), making it a preferred refrigerant for use in public by retail customers.
What are the regulations around refrigerants?
In late 2020, congress enacted the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, which directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address the nation’s HFC problem. In response, the EPA implemented a landmark program to phase down the country’s production and use of HFCs by 85% by 2036.
The EPA estimates that in 2036 alone—the year the final reduction step is made—we’ll prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to the annual output from one out of every seven U.S.-registered passenger vehicles! This move is estimated to save .5 degrees Celsius of global warming by 2100. The benefits aren’t just environmental: the agency also estimates annual net benefits of $1.7 billion, rising to $16.4 billion in 2036.
States have the authority to enact stricter rules regarding HFC use. Our friends at the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council put together a handy HFC tracking tool to help you check the status of your state’s regulations.
Is this an issue for supermarkets?
The average supermarket system contains thousands of pounds of refrigerant and, due to the size and complexity of its refrigeration system, leaks 25% of its refrigerant each year. According to the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency, a single supermarket emits 875 pounds of HFCs each year, equal to the carbon dioxide from more than 300 cars. Since most supermarket refrigeration systems run on HFCs, stores will have to switch to low GWP refrigerant systems to meet the new rule.
Are there downsides to natural refrigerants?
CO2 systems and other natural refrigerants aren’t a new concept. Early in their development, CO2 systems were challenging to install and maintain, and their costs were prohibitively expensive. That has all changed.
Today, as refrigerant regulations take widespread effect, trans-critical CO2 systems are becoming an increasingly competitive low-GWP refrigerant alternative to conventional refrigerant systems, with over 30,000 CO2 systems installed worldwide. Not only do they offer tremendous environmental benefits, but they future-proof companies’ investments in their mission-critical infrastructure.
We at CoolSys are industry-leading experts in CO2 and other natural refrigerant systems. We’re committed to helping food retailers adopt low GWP refrigerants for the future of supermarket refrigeration—and our planet. As a leader in CO2 technology with over a decade of experience installing more than 150 CO2 systems across the country, CoolSys has the expertise to help you transition away from HFCs and future-proof your systems.
Don’t wait to transition. Contact us today to learn more about how CoolSys can help you make the switch.