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Seven Design Changes That Reduce Refrigerant Charge
Browse: Date of publication:2019-06-18

  Optimizing refrigerant charge has always been a key part of designing cooling systems and balancing their efficiency, reliability, performance, and cost. But recently, that balance has shifted, and refrigeration engineers are once again looking at refrigerant as a key piece of the puzzle.

There are two main reasons for this.
First, refrigerant prices are rapidly increasing in certain parts of the world. This is largely driven by dwindling supplies as traditional options are phased down under European F-Gas regulations, and other measures to limit the production of greenhouse gases under the Kyoto, Montreal, and Kigali protocols.
As a result, some refrigerants — such as R-404A — have risen in price by more than 500 percent in Europe since 2017.
Where once refrigerant may have been a relatively minor cost compared to a system’s components, now the charge has a far larger impact on its overall production and installation price – making every saving valuable.
Second, the move to reduce GWP has resulted in the growing use of flammable alternatives. In such cases, having less refrigerant charge materially increases the number of applications where a system can legally and safely be used.
So, in the current climate, reducing refrigerant charge is a key  part of gaining competitive advantage — for manufacturers and installers alike — satisfying end users, and maintaining profitability.
The advantages of reducing refrigerant abound
Refrigerant costs seem unlikely to fall in the near future. Supplies of traditional refrigerants are being reduced, and new alternatives being developed will likely carry the price premium that comes with having limited suppliers and competition.
But it is not only the increase in prices that is an issue. Fluctuating costs and supply mean that designing for lower refrigerant charge also reduces a manufacturer’s exposure to risk should things change at short notice.
Reducing charge can also significantly improve installation flexibility. A reduced charge means A2L, A2, and A3 refrigerants can be used in a greater range of settings too — as it becomes easier to satisfy standards like EN 378:2016 and ISO 5149:2014.
And with easier installation comes easier servicing. By making units simpler and lower in charge, servicing and maintenance can be carried out more quickly and safely — further reducing total cost of ownership and offering a competitive advantage.
Seven ways to reduce refrigerant charge:
1.Reduce internal volume by reducing piping
2.Improve heat transfer efficiency
3.Consider system architecture
4.Take advantage of new compressor technology
5.Deploy smart control systems
6.Reduce receiver, accumulator, and filter-drier size
7.Consider better economizers