Footprint is the 7th Reason 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. Minimal footprint has also become a driving factor in the decision-making process. The ideal solution needs to be compact, self-contained and easily accessible to carry out service and maintenance.
HFOs have zero ODP (Ozone Depletion Potential) and near-zero GWP (Global Warming Potential). HFO systems do not need intermediate heat exchangers to isolate the toxic ammonia. The use of copper and the smart optimization of all components as a basis for a standard product help creating a compact yet well serviceable cooling system. The compact design of HFO chillers, the ease of installation and reduced maintenance requirements makes them a flexible, sustainable and cost-saving option compared to ammonia.
FACTORY SPACE IS PREMIUM REAL ESTATE
The amount of cooling plant with ammonia should be kept to a minimum in workspaces. Safety and ammonia’s risk to human health raise important questions about where an ammonia chiller is installed.
Real estate on factory floors is at a premium, and although a chiller plant can be installed externally depending on size and cooling requirements (Free cooling implies an external chiller for example), there are benefits of having a chiller near the food or beverage application it is cooling, not least for observation and ease of use.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR INSTALLING AMMONIA CHILLERS
If installing an ammonia chiller indoors, provisions should be made to locate it either in a separate building or at least away from where personnel are working. Precautions should be taken should the ammonia chiller leak and gas propagate through different parts of the building. Risks can be mitigated with self-closing doors and ensuring the plant room is sealed adequately.
Access to the ammonia chiller and all its components for both testing as well as planned preventative maintenance and emergency repair is critical. Even if the ammonia chiller is sited outdoors, and any leak vented to the atmosphere, there will still need to be special pipework and infrastructure set up between the chiller and the vessel, tank or bottling line it is cooling. This can be problematic if space constraints are an issue.
In a recent project, a UK based dairy opted for an 1200kW HFO chiller over their original ammonia chiller solution. One important factor was conserving as much space at their facilities as possible. The supplied cost-efficient HFO cooling system also presented a better footprint than the ammonia alternative they had looked into. The ammonia system would have required expensive stainless-steel piping to withstand its corrosive properties, more maintenance and additional devices to monitor the safety of the system, which would have monopolized plant room space they had other plans for.
While ammonia provided a cost-efficient cooling medium for over 150 years in chillers for the F&B industry, HFO refrigerants now offer the best balanced option for all process cooling requirements. Refrigerants like R1234ze are environmentally friendly and non-toxic with zero ODP and a below 1 GWP. They allow easy maintenance with limited risk ― and a smaller footprint.
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