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Cost is reason #1 why HFO Refrigerants are a strong alternative to ammonia in mild freezing applications

When installing an industrial chiller in a food, beverage, or dairy setting, it is important to consider whether the traditionally used NH3 (ammonia) is the most appropriate refrigerant solution. Companies that need a mild freezing cooling system are increasingly turning to HFO (Hydrofluoro-olefin) refrigerants to improve sustainability, boost performance, and significantly reduce costs.

The ideal refrigerant is non-toxic, non-flammable, non-explosive, non-corrosive, environment-friendly, inexpensive, easy to produce and handle and with good thermodynamic properties operating at low pressures.

HFO refrigerants meet these criteria ― at a lower cost.


The initial investment in an ammonia process cooling system can be significantly more expensive. They demand longer design time, expensive stainless-steel piping required to withstand ammonia’s corrosive properties, and special devices required to monitor the safety of the system.

Standard design, production and components allow manufacturers to offer HFO-based systems at a lower cost.


Safety precautions required with ammonia chillers incur additional costs. Given the toxicity of the gas, should a leakage occur, buildings and sometimes surroundings will need to be evacuated. Special planning permission to mitigate hazards or documentation to adhere to local regulations may imply further financial investment. Ammonia is a volatile refrigerant and if mixed with air in the 16% - 25% range, can cause explosions possibly incurring significant damage.

A standard HFO chiller fitted with R1234ze can be easily installed without these safety concerns, implications, or considerations.


Increased ongoing costs are often associated with the service and maintenance of ammonia chillers. The toxicity of the ammonia refrigerant requires additional measures to ensure it is suitably contained. Ammonia chillers need a more robust contingency plan should breakdowns occur. Prices are then likely to go up in-line with the expert response required in such situations.

Conversely, planned preventative maintenance of HFO chillers is for the most part routine service and less costly.
In a recent project for a global brewery based in the UK, the customer had initially planned on purchasing a new ammonia chilled water system. The ammonia chiller proposed by a third-party supplier was quoted double the cost of the HFO solution quoted by Trane taking in consideration the initial investment and lifecycle costs of service and maintenance.


In circumstances when an ammonia system is still favoured, it is critical to take in account:
• NH3 systems are often designed based on component performances. While HFO systems are designed and tested with overall unit performance being tested and documented within industry tolerances, verified by third party testing and certification.
• In many cases, ammonia units offer no testing capabilities before on site installation.
• The need for additional safety devices.


In a dynamically changing world, a different approach to capital investment is also available. Trane EaaSY (Equipment-as-a-service) is our long-term rental program for HFO-based equipment without the need for capital investment. This means our customers can benefit from the latest, most efficient chiller technology and low GWP refrigerants with the peace of mind that all planned maintenance and emergency breakdown repairs are included for a known subscription cost.

The flexibility and risk transfer of a rental solution are the best way to meet modern-day demands and perform upgrades, new installations, or replacements to satisfy cooling whilst achieving cash flow optimisation.


For the manufacturing industry, the importance of high performing, energy-efficient and sustainable process cooling solutions is, of course, not new. Manufacturing companies need to balance the rising costs and energy emissions of their chiller plant while at the same time maintaining product quality and process efficiency. This is particularly important for processes such as in food and dairy factories, breweries, and other beverage industries, where manufacturers must meet many standards and regulations related to the quality and safety of the end products.

HFOs offer a safe non-toxic, non-flammable at 30°C, non-explosive, and non-corrosive alternative to ammonia. With zero ODP (Ozone Depletion Potential) and near-zero GWP (Global Warming Potential), HFOs deliver the best balance choice on all economic, environmental impact and safety risks aspects.

HFO refrigerants can substantially reduce the Total Lifcycle Cost of your investment and are ideal for almost every application – a perfect cooling alternative to ammonia.

See Sustainable low temperature HVAC systems

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