By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
This one’s kind of like looking over the back fence to watch the neighbors squabble. You know you shouldn’t watch but you can’t look away.
You may recall that Europe has enacted some very stiff environmental rules that are now driving the worldwide mobile HVAC industry to adopt low-GWP refrigerants. But some of those rules also apply to the other side of the industry as well, to what we in the U.S. term “stationary” refrigeration. That side includes the HVAC units used for homes, office buildings, beverage machines, food chillers and the like.
As the new rules begin to take effect over there, manufacturers are scrambling to provide units that comply and of course, everybody wants to be first on the street. That sets the scene for a recent dust-up within their industry that took place in early February at the ASHRAE conference and AHR show in Las Vegas.
It seems that two British companies, Klima-Therm and Cool-Therm, worked in cooperation with Geoclima of Italy to develop a new chiller targeted at food markets and retail outlets in the European market. The chiller uses some state of the art technology and it includes a compressor purchased from the Danish company Danfoss Turbocor.
The squabble began when the British companies recently announced to the industry that they had tested these units with an alternate refrigerant, and would begin accepting orders for chillers using HFO-1234ze, thus becoming one of the first to market a low-GWP commercial unit. The company also said they anticipated using HFO-1234yf as soon as it becomes commercially available.
(With a GWP of 6, HFO-1234ze is a near-relative of HFO-1234yf . The companies said they chose this chemical because it is currently in use as a foam blowing agent and is more available than the “yf “ variant.)
The only problem was that the Brits didn’t discuss it with the Danes first, and Danfoss Turbocor took great and immediate objection. Noting that the company’s compressors are designed and tested for R-134a, a company spokesman said, “Danfoss Turbocor has stated categorically that it does not endorse use of HFO refrigerants with its Turbocor compressor. DTC does not offer our products with HFO refrigerants and would not warrant the use of our products in this application.”.
The company later solidified its stance with another release stating, “Danfoss Turbocor compressors are not qualified to operate with HFO-1234ze, and the company does not warrant its products with HFO-1234ze. […] Danfoss Turbocor is actively engaged in research regarding the capabilities of many emerging refrigerants. However, it is premature to commercialise Turbocor products with HFO-1234ze because of concerns for reliability, performance, materials compatibility, safety code compliance and refrigerant infrastructure support for this new refrigerant. These are issues the company takes very seriously.”
In the business world “taking something very seriously” is often code-speak for “we plan to sue you back to the 17th Century unless you stop this at once.”
It seems to have had an effect. Within days, the two British companies issued their clarifying response, saying, “We believe that HFO refrigerants show great promise for the future and could meet the pressing need for an in-kind, low GWP alternative to HFC refrigerants. However, following discussions with Geoclima S.r.l. and Danfoss Turbocor, we accept that further development work and testing are required before these products can be introduced to the market. We will continue our research and development with these new refrigerants, and plan to offer an HFO-based chiller to the market when it is fully qualified through our supply chain.”
Two lessons here for our side: New, low-GWP refrigerants will appear in many markets and uses beyond the mobile segment, and our industry isn’t the only one experiencing “difficulties” as we try to manage the change.
When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.
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