The race is on to find suitable alternatives to R-404A. In 2009 the Honeywell corporation invented a new refrigerant called Genetron Performax (R-407F). This new refrigerant is an HFC blend containing forty percent of R-134a, thirty percent of R-125, and thirty percent of R-32. The thinking behind this refrigerant was to come up with a viable alternative to the currently used R-404A in supermarkets and grocers that would be more friendly to the environment.
R-404A has one of the highest Global Warming Potentials in all of the refrigerants on the market today standing at 3,922 GWP. To give you some perspective the GWP of R-134a is only 1,430. Just by looking at the numbers here you can see why there is a large concern over the damage that 404A is causing to the environment and the impact that it is having on Global Warming. This is the main reason that when we hear about the phasing out of HFC refrigerants R-404A is the first one targeted. (The phase out began in the United States last year.)
This new refrigerant designed by Honeywell, R-407F, has a GWP of 1,824. That is over a fifty percent decrease in GWP from 404A. While the 1,824 is still very high for a refrigerant it is significantly better than what we had been using. Imagine if everyone converted over to this new refrigerant. The impact on the environment from supermarket freezers and refrigerated transport would be cut in half.
Along with having the lower GWP than 404A the R-407F is an A1 rated refrigerant. That means low toxicity and that it is non flammable. This is a big deal as a common occurrence with alternatives to HFCs is higher flammability ratings. A few more benefits to this refrigerant are that it is an efficient R-22 retrofit option, lower discharge temperature than R-22, similar cooling capacity to R-404A, uses the same oil as 404A, and has around a ten percent energy savings when comparing to existing 404A systems.
At the close of 2016 Honeywell celebrated reaching their 15,000th store being converted over to R-407F. That is quite the achievement. Honeywell predicts that over the course of 2016 they saved over ten million metric tons of Carbon Dioxide equivalent. That is equal to eliminating five million cars off of the road.
Most of these retrofitted units were implemented in the Asia Pacific region and in the European Union. The ASDA supermarket chain in the United Kingdom reported that they consumed fourteen percent less energy on the systems using R-407F when comparing it to R-404A.
Along with the added efficiency these stores and business will be in compliance with the European Union’s F-Gas regulation from 2015. The EU regulation’s main goal is to reduce the EU’s HFC usage by 1/4 of 2014 levels by the year 2030.
R-407F is an HFC refrigerant and as I mentioned above HFC’s will be going away. Honeywell does offer a lower GWP under their new Solstice Hydrofluoroolefins refrigerant line. This refrigerant is called N40 or R-448A. R-448A has a GWP of 1,273 which is sixty-eight percent lower than 404A. This HFO refrigerant is also rated as an A1 by the ASHRAE classification. That means low toxicity and low flammability. The downside to alternative HFO refrigerants is the price. Hopefully, as time goes on the price will eventually lower to be closer to HFCs.
As the years pass by we will begin to see more HFO’s, like the R-448A that I mentioned above, come into the marketplace. While HFC’s are going away the push is on to shrink the GWP of refrigerants as much and as quickly as possible. Even though R-407F will most likely be replaced by an HFO refrigerant in the near future Honeywell is still seeing outstanding success in converting systems over to their 407F. It’s better to start converting now and save some carbon than wait until the ‘perfect’ refrigerant comes along.
I predict that in the next few years we will see the push to switch to the lower GWP HFC alternatives increase and during that increase we will slowly transition over and away from HFCs to the newly developed HFO refrigerants that have even lower GWP.
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