Optimising chillers and heat pumps for use with R-32

Carrier UK’s product manager for chillers and heat pumps Andy Legg highlights recent system refinements that are delivering major improvements in performance for R-32 systems – with benefits for end users and the environment


here was an understandable rush to adopt the lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant R-32 when it

was first proposed as a replacement for higher GWP R-410A in chillers and heat pumps. With a GWP of 675 compared to 2088 for

R-410A, R-32 offers a major step forward in environmental protection. Early adoption of new technologies,

however, can come at a cost, as anyone who invested in a shiny new Betamax video system back in the ‘70s will tell you. There are often unforeseen issues and wrinkles to iron out, and it may take time to fully harness the benefits of new materials and technology. This has proved to be the case with R-32. It is clear that chillers and heat pumps operating on R-32 are not all equal. Some early examples were not fully optimised to operate on the new refrigerant, resulting in lower efficiency and higher running costs than are now possible with the latest generation of systems. The move to more environmentally conscious options is a priority, and the industry

has been highly proactive in responding to the challenge. The risk of prioritising speed to market rather than the performance of the product, however, is that sub-optimal

design may exacerbate the problem the solution was intended to address. The majority of a chiller’s carbon

footprint results from energy consumption during operation throughout the product lifetime. The greenhouse gas emissions from chiller operation are dependent on the local fuel source, and globally, the majority power plants are run on greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels. While there are global efforts

to transition to renewable energy sources aligned with the Paris Agreement, chiller energy efficiency remains an important factor in addressing climate change.

According to the International Energy Agency, without action to address energy efficiency, energy demand for space cooling will more than triple by 2050 – consuming as much electricity as all of China and India today. The reality is that power consumed accounts for some 80% of a chiller’s carbon

emissions. The refrigerant makes up the remaining 20%. In switching to more environmentally acceptable refrigerants, therefore, it is important to ensure that

34 April 2021

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