A Greener Choice: Ammonia as a Refrigerant
Supermarkets are high energy users, with more than half of their energy usage attributed to refrigeration, according to an article in Environmental Protection.
The online publication points to a paper from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory that puts the average supermarket energy usage at 1 million to 1.5 million kWh per year. Compare that to the 11,040 kWh an average home uses per year. High energy usage, particularly with some of the older technologies, leads to more wear and tear on our ozone layer, according to the article.
The EPA’s GreenChill partnership program works with supermarkets and other food retailers to reduce refrigerant emissions by making operational changes, investing in new systems and focusing more intensely on leak prevention. Retailers showing the most improvement in energy efficiency initiatives are recognized yearly by the EPA. The most recent awards ceremony was held in early September.
Newer stores have the upper hand in emissions reductions as they can use newer refrigeration systems. Many of these newer stores offer technologies not available when the GreenChill program originally started.
Ammonia is part of a group of natural refrigerants, similar to propane, carbon dioxide and other gases, that is showing more use throughout the industry in, according to Supermarket News. These gases have little impact on global warming and don’t harm the ozone layer.
While ammonia has been used less in the past because of health hazards as well as its smell, the newer technologies are making ammonia use safer in chiller tubes, air conditioner coils and cooling towers. Ammonia is becoming a potential replacement for other refrigerants, such as R-22, which are known to harm the ozone and affect global warming harshly.
Keilly Witman, a representative for the EPA’s GreenChill program, spoke last spring at the Food Marketing Institute Expo about ammonia and other natural refrigerants dominating the food retail industry, according to Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News.
“In the U.S. supermarket industry, misconceptions of ammonia (R-717) and the codes that govern it, coupled with a lack of knowledge pertaining to the systems, serve as major hurdles that will need to be cleared before ammonia can be accepted as a viable alternative to traditional halocarbon refrigerants,” says Caleb Nelson of CTA Architects speaking at the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration’s annual conference in 2012.
In the same speech Nelson explains that ammonia has been used safely and efficiently for years in other industries around the world. The initial cost and training can be substantial, but they’re only temporary. And the issues with ammonia use are no different that the issues faced in using other natural refrigerant technologies.
- Read Ammonia As a Refrigerant: Pros and Cons, one of our most popular posts.
- Read Ammonia As a Refrigerant: Pros and Cons Follow Up, a follow-up to the popular post.
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