Which gas is used in commercial refrigerators nowadays?

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As a responsible business owner, you’ll be aware of the growing need to reduce your business’s environmental impact.

Upgrading your commercial refrigerators can go a long way in helping you achieve this. Older refrigerators were made with hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, which are now known to have a significant impact on global warming.

Regulations have been brought in to ensure a transition into more sustainable refrigeration gases, which have a reduced impact on the environment. New refrigerators are now manufactured using natural gases (Hydrocarbons), which are less harmful to the environment. So, if you’re looking at improving your environmental impact and your energy efficiency, then upgrading your commercial refrigerator to a newer model is a sensible business decision. Here’s why…

Different types of gas

Most refrigeration systems use gases (refrigerants) to absorb the heat from the air and transfer it out of the refrigerator. This gas can be harmful to the environment. Traditionally, commercial refrigerators were made using HFC gases, also known as F-gases, which are detrimental to the environment. HFC gas became popular commercially in the 1990s as the demand for refrigerators and air-conditioning systems and appliances increased, particularly in developing countries. Where HFC is present in old systems, it can slowly leak out into the atmosphere causing environmental damage. To reduce the use of this harmful refrigerant, regulations were brought in to end the use of HFCs in new refrigeration systems. Legislation came into place in January 2020 to ban the sale of refrigerators using R404A gas. This was followed by a further piece of legislation, in January 2022, which banned the sale of new units using R134a. These harmful gases have been replaced by natural Hydrocarbon (HC) gases – predominantly R290, a highly-refined propane.

Reducing your environmental impact

To keep global warming below the 1.5°C rise set out in the Paris Agreement of 2015, we need to act responsibly as individuals, businesses and governing bodies. Banning dangerous HFCs in commercial refrigerators is a step in the right direction. Choosing to upgrade your commercial refrigeration units will help to reduce your business’ impact on the environment. Be aware that if you’re disposing of an older unit, you need to do so in the most environmentally sensitive way. The harmful gas in your unit will need to be collected by a registered waste carrier. This will ensure the gas isn’t released into the atmosphere. The Government website has further advice for businesses on the safe disposal of these gases.

A modern commercial refrigerator will be made with environmentally friendly gases. To reduce your environmental impact, make sure you choose the most efficient commercial refrigerator to suit your business.

The benefits of HC refrigerants

The shift from HFC to HC gases in commercial refrigeration systems presents several compelling benefits for businesses. This transition is particularly relevant given the increasing focus on environmental sustainability and energy efficiency. Here are the key advantages of using HC gases over HFCs in your commercial refrigerators:

Enhanced energy efficiency: HC refrigerants, such as propane (R290) and isobutane (R600a), are known for their high energy efficiency. This translates to lower electricity bills, a significant consideration for UK businesses grappling with rising energy costs.
Reduced environmental impact: HCs have a much lower global warming potential (GWP) compared to HFCs. This is in line with the UK’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change, resonating with the growing eco-conscious consumer base.
Compliance with regulations: The UK, following EU F-Gas regulations, is phasing down the use of HFCs due to their high GWP. Switching to HCs ensures compliance with these regulations and avoids potential penalties.

Lower refrigerant costs: Generally, HC refrigerants are less expensive than HFCs. This cost-effectiveness is beneficial for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, looking to manage operating costs effectively.

Improved corporate image: Using eco-friendlier refrigerants like HCs can enhance your business’s brand image, particularly in markets where consumers are increasingly making choices based on environmental considerations.

Potential for smaller system designs: HC refrigerants often allow for the use of smaller, more compact refrigeration systems due to their efficient heat transfer properties. This can be a significant advantage in space-constrained areas, a common scenario in many British urban retail spaces.

Safety and reliability: While HCs are flammable, modern commercial refrigeration systems are designed with rigorous safety standards. When properly installed and maintained, HC-based systems are both safe and reliable.

Futureproofing the business: As global and local regulations continue to favour refrigerants with lower environmental impact, transitioning to HCs positions your business as forward-thinking and adaptable to future changes in environmental legislation.

Choosing the most efficient commercial refrigerator

In March 2021, the energy rating systems for appliances changed. A modern unit rated as a B or a C, is equivalent to an older A+++. This new rating system was introduced to encourage manufacturers to improve the energy efficiency of their systems, as well as to make it clearer for consumers. By upgrading your commercial refrigerator you not only reduce your environmental impact by using a less harmful refrigerant gas, but also by improving your unit’s efficiency. Small businesses spend an estimated 70% of their running costs on energy, of which commercial refrigerators consume a high proportion. So, upgrading to a newer model could lead to significant savings in running costs over the long term.

Consider the best type of commercial refrigerator for your business. While open-fronted units are popular for a grab-and-go store, they’re inherently less economical than those with doors. Choosing wisely will impact your business outgoings.

Come to Fridgesmart for your next commercial refrigerator

Choosing to upgrade your commercial refrigerators is a sensible business decision. Reducing your environmental impact and energy consumption will help your business. Consumers are becoming more aware of the impact of their buying decisions, and are more savvy when it comes to understanding the environmental stance of the businesses they use. Upgrading your units to improve your green credentials can be an excellent PR opportunity for your business, so make sure you shout about the steps you’re taking to improve your carbon footprint. A modern refrigerator will be more economical to run, which will ultimately help your bottom line. When you come to Fridgesmart for your next commercial refrigerator, you can be confident that all of our products only contain safe and legal hydrocarbon gases. You can take a look at our extensive range of commercial refrigerators to suit all businesses and budgets. If you need advice or support on choosing the best commercial refrigerator for your business, speak to our knowledgeable and helpful team today on 01792 677169.