If you’ve read my last post and realised just how risky it is to stay on R22 you are probably thinking about a change.

You’re not the only one.

You may have noticed that the refrigeration industry globally is dealing with legislative impacts created through commitments to the Montreal Protocol as the world tries to address climate change.

This has been hard for synthetic refrigerants and synthetic manufacturers are struggling to provide a clear vision of their future without the current reliance on hydrofluorocarbons in their various forms. It has also meant refrigeration engineers have had to think about the skills and expertise they have to provide the best solutions for their customers.

This can become painfully obvious when the need for change becomes critical through pressure such as the phase out of refrigerants such as R22. On a recent seminar about changing out R22 refrigerant, an engineer asked if it was ok to simply top up the R22 with a new refrigerant. That’s like your mechanic ringing BP to ask if it’s ok to simply top up your fuel tank with biofuel.

Here are the Top 5 things you need to know so you don’t end up with a costly refrigeration system issue on your hands:

  1. Choose the right professional.

    Ask yourself if the person you are using has the right skills. A lot has changed in refrigeration in the last 5 years. Make sure they have kept up to date with the latest technology and areas such as system performance and energy efficiency. As well as taking a look at their existing clients and work, look for someone who is affiliated to the CCCA / IRAHCE and has professional backing. Ask yourself if the person you are using has the right skills.

  2. Expect performance.

    Anyone can take out R22 and put something else in. Getting the same performance and operating costs as your existing system is a different ball game. Be skeptical if someone is blaming performance issues on a new refrigerant and suggesting this is the norm. Over the last 5 years, we have transitioned a number of clients without any performance or gas issues and with 100% system reliability. It can and should be done.

  3. Don’t take shortcuts.

    Refrigeration is business critical, so don’t risk long term problems or losses for short term savings. Retrofitting, or changing to another synthetic refrigerant, isn’t just about swapping out one for the other. Getting system performance means following a very clear procedure, including recovery, seal replacement, oil changes and doing proactive pressure and leak testing before you begin the recommissioning process. It’s critical to understand how the new gas with its new properties works within the system. If your refrigeration provider hasn’t discussed a proper transition plan then ask for more advice (See 1.)

  4. Understand the long game.

    Many businesses have been looking for a quick, low-cost solution. This can make sense in situations such as when plant has only has a few years left in it before it’s up for replacement. Don’t get caught out. Be aware that a number of the refrigerants that are being suggested as R22 alternatives may be subject to the same restrictions and limitations as R22 in the future.

  5. Be natural.

    There is a lot of discussion about “natural” refrigerants. Increasing experience, changes in technology and reducing costs make them an attractive alternative, particularly as synthetics face ongoing legislative restrictions. If you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t have experience with naturals or isn’t talking about them as an option then look around.

The change from R22 may not be the best timing for you but it can be a great opportunity.

Changes in refrigeration and system operation can contribute to energy and cost savings that translate directly to the bottom line. Even more exciting are the systems that can also provide a competitive advantage. Take the opportunity to review how systems are working for you and how they can become more than just a necessary cost of doing business.