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A Cool Decision

11 January 2010

At least 40 percent of all refrigeration and air conditioning equipment in the UK operates with R22. The phase-out deadline for R22 is now passed. Reclaimed R22 is hard to get and increasing in price. Steve Warnock explains the options for FMs

TIME HAS NOW RUN OUT for existing chillers which use R22 and other HCFC “drop-in’ R22 replacement refrigerants, such as R408 and R409. From 1 January 2010, production of R22 halted, with the EU now indicating a preference to ban recycled R22 by 2012.
Although this phase out was announced and legislated for several years ago through the EU Ozone Regulation, there is little evidence that the necessary steps have been taken to prevent those users of HCFC systems being caught out. In fact, some R22 users are waiting for a ban on the recycled product to be introduced believing that there will be a readily available supply of reclaimed R22 that they can use until this point. The signs are that this will be a high risk approach.
Industry sources indicate that the big users of R22 refrigerant, such as pharmaceutical
companies, have been steadily stockpiling reclaimed R22, as well as ring-fencing future
supplies. Recycled R22 should be available until 2015, but the likely result of this activity is that the amount of recycled R22 becoming available to the general market will fall far short of demand leading to a sharp escalation in its price. In fact, it is estimated that there will only be enough recycled R22 available to meet an estimated 10-12 percent of the servicing needs of R22 chillers still in operation.
So where does this leave FMs? If you are responsible for the maintenance of a building
which includes m have guaranteed access to a readily available supply of reclaimed R22, then there is no pressing problem. But if you have no reclaimed stocks to rely on what are the options? In our view, there are two choices. Find a replacement refrigerant for the chiller or invest in a new one.
It is also now illegal to use stockpiled virgin or recovered R22 which hasn’t been reclaimed. To avoid prosecution FMs need, therefore, to act as quickly as possible to ensure they comply with the legislation. One option is refrigerant replacement which is a quick simple operation that can ensure compliance with minimal disruption. Providing the chiller is in good working order, making a straightforward switch away from R22 will extend its life indefinitely, or at least until it passes the point of economic repair.
The simplest solution and the best opportunity to make the switch from R22 is when the chiller is being repaired, or undergoing a scheduled maintenance. When the chiller is being repaired, it is highly likely that the R22 refrigerant will have to be removed, and it might not make sense to reinstall R22.
Following developments in alternative refrigerants, the replacement of R22 is now a
straightforward procedure requiring minimum or no engineering work, and, in most cases, no change of lubricants. Replacement refrigerants, such as MO99, are designed specifically to replace R22 refrigerant in water chillers. MO99 operates very closely to R22’s cooling capacity and energy performance characteristics, showing distinct improvements over other R22 alternatives currently on the market.
Replacing R22 now with this high performance alternative is an immediate cost-effective
solution, but looking to the long term, now is the time for FMs to start planning their future chiller replacement. With recent technology developments and improvements in chiller design and performance, replacing old chillers with new high efficiency ones can bring real cost benefits and guaranteed, longer term performance advantages.
However, in a replacement scenario, selecting the most energy efficient chiller is not
necessarily that simple. It is necessary to consider each chiller’s EER (Energy Efficiency
Ratio), the ratio of cooling output compared to power input. Eurovent, the European Committee of Air Handling and Refrigeration Equipment Manufacturers, has set its own formulae to calculate EERs, making it easier to compare the performance of chillers manufactured by aintaining R22 chillers, and you Eurovent accredited companies. Its classification for full load EER follows a similar path to the A to G approach to the Energy Labelling Directive, with the energy efficiency of chillers designated by Eurovent A or Eurovent B in catalogues and the Eurovent Directory of Certified products. A chiller’s EER should not be considered in isolation. Reference to the chiller’s ESEER
(European Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), as set out by Eurovent will allow clients to compare the efficiency of one chiller against another under part load conditions at which most chillers will operate at for most of their working life.
Since the compressor is the single, largest energy consumer within any air conditioning
system, the choice of scroll, screw or Turbocor centrifugal chiller is a key factor in defining the EER and ESEER. Chillers featuring the latest oil free Turbocor centrifugal compressors, with their inverter-driven, permanent magnet motor and magnetic bearings, have recently grabbed plenty of headlines. Typically, traditional induction
motors of this size are in the 92 percent efficiency range, but the Turbocor compressor’s
permanent magnet DC motor provides an efficiency of between 96 to 97 percent. Yet, they are not necessarily the best option for all applications.
For those tasks requiring cooling capacities up to 350-400kW, the chillers featuring four or six independently operating scroll compressors are still very likely to be the most efficient selection. Matching a reducing load simply means turning compressors off - considerably more efficient than allowing compressors to continue to run in an unloaded state.
For those projects where demand exceeds 500kW, then the choice is probably between a Turbocor or screw chiller. Where load conditions are going to be constantly above 70 percent, it is probable that a screw compressor chiller will be just as efficient as a Turbocor one, and considerably less expensive. Where loads are likely to reduce for considerable periods to around 50 percent, Turbocor chillers will be significantly more efficient than screw.
Common sense needs to be applied when selecting chillers by their capacity. The calculated cooling capacity, for example, will very likely include some margin of over capacity. The chiller selected will normally have a slightly higher than lower capacity than the calculated need, and the overall selection will be based on the peak load occurring on the hottest day of the year. It is also likely that the selection criteria will be based on an ambient condition of up to 35°C. That may be fine for central London, but for more rural or northerly applications is that really necessary? In other words, in no time at all, FM’s could be committing their clients to an oversized chiller which will cost more to operate and maintain throughout its lifecycle!
● Steve Warnock is Managing Director of Coolmation. The Coolmation Group is the exclusive distributor for low energy Rhoss Eurovent certified chillers and air side equipment, and with REFCOM certification an approved supplier and installer of R22 replacement, MO99.

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