Here’s something that a lot of us just don’t think about. Believe it or not our grocery stores and supermarkets that we visit once a week or so are some of the most energy intensive commercial buildings in the country. Why is that you may ask? Well folks it all boils down to refrigeration. (No pun intended on the boils!)
Seriously though, think about all of refrigerated and freezer units lining aisle after aisle. Now imagine how much power it takes to run all of those. Some reports put it at fifty percent of a store’s total power usage is dedicated to keeping food cold. That has to be quite the hefty bill to pay each month. I would imagine that store managers or owners are always looking for ways to shrink monthly expenses. But what options are out there? Well folks Honeywell has a fairly new alternative refrigerant under their Solstice brand name known as N40.
Honeywell’s Solstice N40
N40, also known under it’s refrigerant name R-448A, is a Zeotropic HydroFluroOlefin blend. It was designed to serve as a replacement to supermarket refrigerators and freezers that are currently using R-404A or other R-22 in medium or lower temperature applications. It is listed as an approved refrigerant in the Significant New Alternatives Policy from the EPA. (Source from the EPA’s website.)
The energy savings on switching from R-404A over to R-448A range between five to sixteen percent. Let’s think about that for a second. These supermarket freezers have to run twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. Going back to that monthly power bill and putting myself in a manager’s shoes I would gladly take a savings of ten percent of my power bill. I’ve read some figures that state an average supermarket can easily spend two-hundred thousand dollars on power per year. Ten percent of that back is an easy twenty-thousand dollars to reinvest into the business instead of throwing it to the power company.
It’s not all about energy savings though folks. A big part of this switch to a new refrigerant has to deal with Global Warming Potential, or GWP. GWP is a measurement of how much heat a greenhouse gas can trap in the atmosphere. The zero based scale of this is Carbon Dioxide or CO2. CO2 has a GWP of 1. If we look at R-404A we find a GWP number of 3,922. That means that R-404A has 3,922 times the GWP of Carbon Dioxide. That is a huge number and puts R-404A as the ‘king’ of GWP numbers. This combined with the energy savings is why there has been a big push to switch over to a lesser GWP alternative. Honeywell’s Solstice N40 refrigerant has a GWP of 1,273. While this number isn’t fantastically low it is sixty-eight percent lower than R-404A. So, while it’s not a fix all it does help immensely with the GWP problem of R-404A.
Along with energy savings and lower GWP the N40, or R-448A, refrigerant offers a few more benefits when comparing to R-404A:
- This falls in line with energy savings but N40 is an average eight percent more more efficient than R-404A.
- The flammability rating on Solstice N40 is rated at A1. That means it is NOT flammable. For more information on refrigerant toxicity and flammability classifications please read our other article.
- This is one that we haven’t mentioned yet. With N40 the actual capacity, or amount of space that is cooled, goes up by an average of seven and a half percent. So, you get to cool more area for less the cost.
- The retrofit process going from R-404A over to R-448A is rather simple. Honeywell’s official retrofit document can be found by clicking here.
Who’s Using It?
So, who is using this new refrigerant? Like with most new refrigerants the European Union has taken the first leap forward. Going all the way back to 2013 we can look at the ASDA supermarket chain out of the United Kingdom. They began using N40 and haven’t looked back. They have seen the energy savings in real life examples and at the same time have lowered their environmental impact. Sticking in the European Union we can look at the company Precision Refrigeration. These guys are a manufacturer of catering and restaurant equipment. They have recently selected R-448A as a replacement for R-404A. Again, with the EU, the Tewis supermarket chain out of Spain carried out a full conversion of their systems from R-404A over to Solstice N40 nearly four years ago back in November of 2014. Another Spanish supermarket chain known as Eroski went through a remodel in April of 2015 and during their remodel they switched their units from 404A over to R-448A.
But hey, don’t think it’s all Europe having the fun with this new HFO refrigerant. A super market chain out of Wisconsin named Festival Foods launched a new location back in 2016 that is using R-448A based equipment. What’s unique about this store is that it was the first super market that was built specifically catering towards the Solstice N40 refrigerant. Previous applications have been conversions or retrofits, but this was the first truly new building geared for N40. There are further plans to convert the other twenty Festival Food stores over to Solstice refrigerants as well.
Lastly, we can’t leave out Asia from this mass conversion away from R-404A. Just a few days ago it was announced that the South Korean supermarket chain called Lotte Mart would be converting and adding new R-448A/N40 machines to their stores. They expect to see an eight percent energy savings by the year 2025 along with three percent less energy consumption. I didn’t even come close to touching all of the companies out there that have converted or are in process of converting. One thing is certain: The reign of R-404A is quickly coming to an end.
There’s a war going on back and forth between these newer HydroFluroOlefin refrigerants and the tried and true Hydrocarbons or Natural Refrigerants. It seems everyday I’ll see a news article stating that XYZ company has converted their machines over to HFOs but then the very next day I’ll see another article saying that a different company has just moved to R-290 or CO2.
It’s hard to say what side is going to win or if any side is going to win at all. Who knows? Maybe we’ll have a fifty percent split market between Hydrocarbons and HFOs. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of the natural refrigerants just because they’ve been around for decades and we are all familiar with them. Introducing more and more new refrigerants I feel is only going to muddy the water.