In the mid-19th century, carbon dioxide was being used as a reliable and efficient refrigerant. However, with the introduction and wide use of synthetic refrigerants, such as HFCs and CFCs, the utilization of CO2 in industrial and commercial refrigeration decreased.
Today, new refrigeration regulations are in place with the goal to reduce the use of harmful refrigerants. As a result, the adoption of natural alternatives is rising. According to sheccoBASE, the research arm of shecco, there have been 650 installations of transcritical CO2 in the US as of October 2020 with Europe leading the world in transcritical CO2 adoption with 29,000 installations.
Barriers and concerns on using CO2 as a refrigerant are the main hindrances of its full integration into food retail stores worldwide. One myth is that CO2 is not safe. Contrary to popular belief, CO2 is a natural substance that has been shown to be safe for the environment and can be safely used in food retail applications. CO2 is classified as an A1 refrigerant which means it has no flame propagation. It is environmentally benign with a zero Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) and Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 1.
Another myth is that CO2 is difficult and dangerous to install. CO2 is as safe as any other refrigerant, given the right conditions and proper design and handling. Its high working pressure is one of the major concerns retailers face when installing CO2; however, its characteristic as a high-pressure refrigerant offers numerous benefits. For one, it has good heat reclaim potential and high suction pressure which result in lower costs and greater energy efficiency.
Another misconception is that it is expensive. Far from the truth—in fact, CO2 is readily available and inexpensive to produce and install compared to other refrigerants. The benefits of installing CO2 as a refrigerant in retail stores outweigh the costs since its unique physical properties allow for reduced cost when used in various applications.
CO2’s high volumetric cooling capacity reduces costs since it allows the use of smaller pipes and compressors. Likewise, its high heat transfer characteristic leads to a reduction in the size of evaporators and condensers. CO2 equipment, like transcritical CO2 systems, is one of the most common uses of CO2 in the commercial and industrial refrigeration industry. Aside from the cost savings and energy efficiency benefits of using transcritical CO2 systems, it also helps future-proof retail operations since natural refrigerants are exempted from looming refrigerant regulations.
The viability of CO2, and the multitude of benefits it offers to food retailers, make it one of the best natural alternatives available for use today. With CO2’s increase in usage and the continuous innovation that is happening in the industry concerning natural refrigerants, we could affect huge gains toward eradicating all harmful greenhouse gases and saving the health of our planet.