Ice rinks

As we all know, when January hits in 2020 R-22 production and importing will no longer be allowed within the United States. The only way to receive R-22 will be through purchasing virgin product from those distributors who have stockpiled or by purchasing reclaimed refrigerant. This simple fact is causing a lot of concern for ice rink owners, managers, and local governments. In most cases their ice rinks are decades old and need repairs every other year or so. In the United States R-22 was the primary refrigerant used for ice rink applications.

The problem occurs with the R-22 ice rinks that are aging. These business owners and government leaders are left with two choices. They can continue with their R-22 systems and hope that the cost of the refrigerant doesn’t climb when the phase out hits. Or, they can bite the bullet and invest in a completely new refrigeration system for their arena. Yes, there is a third option of retrofitting but in many cases retrofitting to a new refrigerant simply isn’t possible. A retrofit is very dependent on what refrigerant you are using and what refrigerant you will be moving towards.

A new refrigeration system for ice rinks can cost multiple millions of dollars. It this reason alone why many managers have decided to kick the can down the road and go with the first option we listed. The prospect of stockpiling R-22 is much cheaper than replacing their old R-22 system with Ammonia or an HFO refrigerant.

One arena out of East Grand Forks, Minnesota is doing exactly that. In an article I read this morning they stated that they are purchasing nearly three-thousand pounds of R-22 in anticipation of the January 2020 phase out. While this may sound like a lot of refrigerant a standard ice rink can use several thousands of pounds of R-22. So, this stockpile may only be able to handle one or two full recharges. When their stockpile runs out, they will be in the same boat again only this time facing a higher priced R-22.

The prospect of spending millions on replacing an outdated system is simply just not possible for many of these ice rink owners.  In most cases they have to get grants from their local city or county government in order to pay for the replacement. Often times these grants are difficult to get pushed through.

This is why we see many arenas stock piling R-22. There is no better time to buy R-22 then right now as the prices are at rock bottom. I haven’t seen prices this low in years.  Depending on where you look a thirty pound cylinder can cost less than three-hundred dollars. That’s less than ten dollars per pound.  No one knows for sure what’s going to happen to the price as we get closer to January, so if you are looking to stockpile then now is the time.

Conclusion

This problem is rather unique to the United States. Outside of the US most ice rinks use R-717 ammonia.  Ammonia is cheap and is one of the most efficient refrigerants in the world. The downside though is the toxicity risk if a leak occurs. There are specific safety regulations and procedures taken when working with Ammonia systems though that helps to mitigate the risk of exposure.

The US though has always been apprehensive to refrigerants that come with safety concerns such as hydrocarbons or ammonia. However, in recent years though this has begun to change. When these arena owners do finally decide to bite the bullet and pay for a new system ammonia is a viable option.

Along with ammonia there are other options out there as well. Last year, I wrote an article on the future of ice rinks. The article went into all of the possible refrigerants that could be used in ice rinks today. Click here if you’d like to review it.

All of the above being said, this is assuming that these ice rinks can actually get the money to replace their existing system. In many cases the money is just not obtainable and when their existing R-22 system finally breaks down beyond repair these arenas may have to shut their doors for good.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

For those of you who do not know, I am originally from Michigan. While I haven’t lived there for twenty or more years the state has always had a fond place in my heart. My extended family still live up there and I occasionally visit. It only makes sense for me to be a Red Wings fan. (If you couldn’t tell by the featured image!) After all, they are the only true hockey team out there…right?

Hockey, along with ice skating and curling, all depend on ice rinks. In the past ice rinks were rather isolated to colder climates due to the limits in technology but now over the years we can now find ice rinks as far south as Texas and Florida. The number of ice rinks have exploded, but what kind of refrigerants are they using today?

Depending on where you go in the world you will most likely find an ice rink using either R-717 (Ammonia) or R-22 (Freon). Here in the United States R-22 is most common and as all of you know it is being phased down and will be phased out in just over a year and a half. (2020 production/imports will stop.) The question now is what will all of these ice rink owners do if they need a repair or maintenance on their systems?

Most of the rinks out there today are older, some even as old as twenty or more years. In the past when a repair was needed they would pay for the parts and then a recharge but now with the rising price of R-22 even the smallest of repair can become a huge burden to the owner rather it be a businessman or a city. A lot of us cringe when trying to quote a homeowner for a few pounds of R-22. Now think about charging a customer for thousands of pounds of R-22. The price is just not feasible in today’s world and even if your customer could afford the recharge whose to say that they might not have a different problem months down the road and have to pay again for another recharge?

NHL & Chemours

The National Hockey League has launched a new initiate known as ‘Greener Rinks.’ The goal with this project is to provide more climate friendly ice rinks across North America. Today there are approximately forty-eight hundred rinks between the United States and Canada. The NHL’s initiative looks to tackle a variety of issues to ensure that their rinks are as climate friendly as possible. Some of these include replacing diesel run ice resurfacers with electric, replacing high intensity lights with LEDs, improvements to ice monitoring to ensure the proper thickness is met, and lastly refrigerants and refrigerant equipment.

It was announced today through a press release that the Chemours company (Formerly DuPont Refrigerants) is partnering with the National Hockey League in their Greener Rinks Initiative. This partnership isn’t just dedicated to the NHL’s arenas but instead to all aspects of hockey rather they be in community ice rinks or in large scale arenas like the Red Wings! The hope is to push these conversions and switches to all aspects of the country, not just to the big cities.

Chemours brings to the table eighty-five years of experience in the refrigerant industry. Some of you may not be as familiar with the Chemours name but I am sure you will recognize DuPont. Chemours is a split off from the original DuPont company and a lot of the same people that were at DuPont migrated over to the new Chemours Company. In fact it was often called the ‘Billion Dollar Startup.’

The goal of this partnership is to provide ice rink owners and cities the education and the possible alternatives to the expensive and dying R-22 refrigerant. When looking for alternatives business owners have a few key features that they are looking at:

  1. No Ozone depletion potential.
    1. Ozone depletion is the exact reason why we are phasing out R-22. Any replacement refrigerant would HAVE to have no Ozone depletion potential.
  2. Low Global Warming Potential or GWP.
    1. GWP is the new Ozone. In other words, now that the worry on the Ozone is gone there is a new concern about the GWP on all of these commonly used HFC refrigerants like R-404A. Any refrigerants with a high GWP are already being phased out or they are on the chopping block.
  3. Safety
    1. This is a big one as well as there are alternative refrigerants out there that may provide a great solution but may be either flammable or toxic. A great example here is R-717, or Ammonia. While R-717 is one of the most efficient refrigerants on the market it is also highly toxic and if a leak occurred things could get very messy and costly.
  4. Cost
    1. While we would all like to believe that these ice rink owners want to convert to alternative refrigerants out of the goodness of their hearts a lot of the time it’s going to boil down to cost. That’s exactly why there are so many R-22 rinks out there still today. Owners aren’t going to replace these expensive machines until they absolutely have to. Having a lower cost alternative refrigerant, especially one that can retrofit, is the perfect way to get these old units switched over to a more climate friendly refrigerant.

Chemours has committed to helping ice rink owners to finding the perfect alternative refrigerant for their needs. There are so many variables that have to be considered before selecting the proper refrigerant. How old is the equipment on sight? What safety standards are required? What performance or energy cost? I could sit here and try to go through everyone of these scenarios but it would serve you better to contact Chemours direct by clicking here. You can then be consulted by an expert who will guide you through exactly what kind of refrigerant you need.

Chemours’ Opteon XP40

One of the most popular alternative refrigerants to R-22 in ice rinks is the Opteon XP40. (R-449A) The reason for that is that older R-22 systems can be retrofitted over to accept XP40. That means significantly less cost to the business owner. I know if it was me, I would like to extend my current equipment as long as I could instead of having to pay millions for a completely new system.

R-449A, or Opteon XP40, is a new HFO refrigerant blend comprised of R-32, R-125, R-1234yf, and R-134a. This refrigerant, like Honeywell’s R-407F, was designed as a replacement product for R-22, R-404A, and R-507. The difference here is that this an HFO refrigerant rather than an HFC. HFO’s are the new lines of refrigerant being developed by Honeywell and Chemours.

The XP40 is non Ozone depleting and has a GWP number of one-thousand two-hundred and eighty-two. That’s about five-hundred less then R-22 and four-hundred less then Honeywell’s R-407F HFC. It is non-toxic and non-flammable so safety is not an issue. Along with that the Opteon XP40 is actually more energy efficient then CO2. The savings aganist CO2 is a big deal as that is one of the competing alternative refrigerants for ice rinks. While the popularity of CO2 ice rinks has not taken off yet the technology for Co2 refrigerant systems is evolving rapidly. (It has already been adapted for usages in automobiles in Germany.)

While XP40 checks most of the boxes that we mentioned earlier there is one downside that I want to point out. It’s the high GWP number. While, yes, it is lower then R-22 and other HFC refrigerants out there it is still relatively high. A high GWP number means that the refrigerant very well may be targeted for phase down or phase out.

Conclusion

Chemours’ partnership with the National Hockey League will benefit both companies greatly. Chemours will get their Opteon brand promoted across the NHL and the NHL will move closer to achieving their greener ice rinks initiative.

Converting all of the ice rinks over to climate friendly refrigerants is going to be a large endeavor. In the short term, especially as R-22 rises in price, I could see retrofits dominating the market. It is the ‘easy’ solution. Chemours is in a great position here with their XP40 product. But, as these current units age and eventually get to expensive to repair a new more permanent refrigerant solution will be needed. What will it be? Opteon? Solstice? Ammonia? Carbon Dioxide? Time will tell.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

While I love writing about the standard everyday refrigerant applications that we see in our homes and at the grocery stores I always find it interesting to dive into some of the more obscure or niche types of refrigerant applications. In this article we’re going to take a look at the types of refrigerants that are used in the ice rinks around our country and around the world.

Ice rinks are just one of those things the general population just doesn’t think about. They are just there, that’s all there is to it. But, if we go back thirty years ago ice rinks were rarely found in the warmer climates. In fact, most of them were located in Canada, northern Europe, or in the northern parts of the United States. (I’m originally from Michigan, and I can attest that the colder climates are much better!) In today’s world though we are seeing ice rinks as far south as Houston and New Orleans. That’s not even mentioning the ones in Saudi Arabia. This explosive growth is thanks to not only changes in refrigerants but also changes in components such as compressors, evaporators, and condensers.

The question  though is that with all of this new growth what kind of refrigerant are these chillers and ice rinks using? What should they be using, and what will they be using in the future?

The Contenders

Now, if you were to ask me realistically what the best refrigerants to use in ice rinks are today I would tell you that there are only two to three that we should look at. But, for arguments sake I am going to do a quick walk through on all of the options that are out there. If I miss some I apologize but after my research this evening this is what I have found.

R-22

Ok, folks we all know our good friend R-22. R-22 is an HCFC refrigerant that can be traced back nearly eighty years. R-22 began to be phased down in 2010 due to the Chlorine that it contained and the affect that it had on the Ozone layer. In 2020 we hit a very important deadline. Once 2020 hits no new R-22 can be manufactured or imported into the United States. The only source for it will be already existing product or reclaimed refrigerant from reclaimers or distributors.

Here in America R-22 became kind of the default refrigerant used in ice rink applications. But, now with this phase out the price of R-22 has skyrocketed to the point of refilling a damaged unit becomes extremely expensive. Managers or owners of ice rinks with R-22 systems need to find an alternative solution not only because their systems are aging  but also due to the incoming phase out. They need new systems, but what should they use?

R-717 (Ammonia)

Over in the European Union instead of using R-22 for their ice rinks they opted for using R-717, or Ammonia. Ammonia is rated as one of the most energy efficient refrigerants on the market today. R-717 is a hydrocarbon refrigerant and dates back just as far back as R-22. The pros of Ammonia are it’s energy efficiency which means much lower monthly power bills, it has no Ozone depletion, and  it has zero Global Warming Potential. This is a very climate friendly refrigerant. The EU has had great success with as well as Canada. All sound too good to be true? Well, it is folks.

The downside of Ammonia is that it is rated as a B2L safety rating from the ASHRAE Safety Group. The 2L means that it is slightly flammable. That’s not the big deal though, my big concern is the B. The B states that this refrigerant is toxic if you are exposed to it. This stuff can be deadly folks. Fatalities have occurred during a leak event. Is saving the climate worth the risk to our own safety? I think not.

R-744 (Carbon Dioxide)

R-744, or Carbon Dioxide, is one of my best picks for an ice rink application. It has been around forever and can be traced back to one of the very first refrigerants. It has no Ozone depletion and a Global Warming Potential of one. In fact R-744 is the baseline measurement for GWP. (So you know you’re good there.) It is non-toxic and non-flammable so there is not a safety risk to workers or to patrons.

The downside of CO2 is that it operates at a very high pressure when compared to other refrigerants. In the beginnings of refrigerants and air conditioning CO2 was used widely but systems experienced repeating failures on compressors and other components. These failures ended up being costly to repair and when Freon came on the market everyone jumped ship over to R-12 and eventually R-22.

Over the years the technology has improved and we can now use a CO2 system even with it’s high pressure. While these systems work great they have to come with custom components that can withstand the higher operating pressures. That means more cost. Installing one of these systems new can be very costly but if you can afford the upfront payment then it is highly worth it. You get a great system as well as a system that will stand the test of refrigerant phase downs and phase outs. No government is going to phase out CO2 as there is no reason to. This is ONE of the three refrigerants that I would recommend for an ice rink.

R-404A

While the HFC R-404A is a better option then R-22 it is by far not a good option to use to either retrofit or to outfit a new chiller for an ice rink. I’m sure most of you are familiar with 404A so I won’t get too much into this but just to say that 404A has one of the highest Global Warming numbers out there. It comes in at an astounding three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty-two. That is a huge number and there has been immense pressure from around the world to phase out HFC refrigerants.

R-407F (Honeywell’s Genetron Performax LT)

R-407F, or Genetron Performax LT, is an HFC blended refrigerant from Honeywell. It consists of three refrigerants: R-32, R-125, and R-134a. It was designed as a replacement for current Ozone depleting HCFCs like R-22 and also for high GWP HFC refrigerants such as R-404A, R-134a, or R-410A. It operates very closely to the efficiency levels and operating ratios of R-22. It is also non-toxic and non-flammable so safety is not a concern.

The big seller on this refrigerant is that it is a near drop-in replacement for R-22. That is a HUGE deal especially to those owners who are struggling with an aging R-22 system and just can’t afford to install a new CO2 or Ammonia unit. Using the R-407F as a retrofit option will save the owner a ton of money and also result in very little downtime during the conversion. In most cases only the O-rings and seals need to be replaced before the system can be charged with 407F. (Source from Honeywell’s website.) Less downtime means less business lost.

 

The downside on the Genetron Performax LT refrigerant is that this is an HFC refrigerant and has a GWP number of one-thousand six-hundred and seventy-four. That’s only about one-hundred GWPs lower than R-22. That means that there will still be pressure to phase these types of refrigerants out over the next few years. Anything with a high GWP is a target for phase down or phase out.

Overall this is a great refrigerant for those ice rink owners who are in a tight spot and can’t afford to do a large system conversion over to R-744 or R-717. Just be aware that this refrigerant is a patch or a band-aid that may only last ten years or so.

R-449A (Chemour’s Opteon XP40

R-449A, or Opteon XP40, is a new HFO refrigerant blend comprised of R-32, R-125, R-1234yf, and R-134a. This refrigerant, like Honeywell’s R-407F, was designed as a replacement product for R-22, R-404A, and R-507. The difference here is that this an HFO refrigerant rather than an HFC. HFO’s are the new lines of refrigerant being developed by Honeywell and Chemours. The XP40 is non Ozone depleting and has a GWP number of one-thousand two-hundred and eighty-two. That’s about five-hundred less then R-22 and four-hundred less then Honeywell’s R-407F HFC. It is non-toxic and non-flammable so safety is not an issue. Along with that the Opteon XP40 is actually more energy efficient then CO2.

Again, the downside here is the high GWP number that I mentioned earlier. A high GWP number means that the refrigerant very well may be targeted for phase down or phase out. While this is more efficient then CO2 I wouldn’t use that as a selling point as CO2 will be around forever and a high GWP refrigerant may not be. I think this is a great refrigerant for those of you in a bind but I do not see this refrigerant lasting in the long run due to it’s somewhat high GWP number.

Conclusion

My first and best suggestion for someone looking for a new system would be to go with the R-744 or CO2. Yes, it’s a large upfront cost to handle but once you get past that point and you then have the peace of mind knowing that your system and unit is phase down/phase out proof and that it will stand the test of time. If you are looking for a solution that doesn’t require taking on the cost of a whole new system then I would recommend either Honeywell’s R-407F or Chemour’s R-449A. Both of these refrigerants give you a great replacement product that will keep your current R-22 systems moving along for another decade or so.

 

While Chemours offers an HFO refrigerant under their R-449A refrigerant I am still waiting for an announcement on a more viable HFO refrigerant with a much lower GWP. As of today I do not believe such refrigerant exists but I’m hoping that in the future we have a good competitor to go up against Ammonia and Carbon Dioxide.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources