At Kuhlman Incorporated, we specialize in turnkey mechanical refrigeration system solutions for industrial and commercial applications. Our expert team offers a full range of services—including design, construction, installation, and servicing—to ensure our customers’ refrigeration needs are fully met. Equipped with over six decades of industry experience, we have the knowledge and skills to develop more efficient and effective systems. Below we outline how much can be saved on electrical efficiency by choosing the right refrigerant.

Choosing a Refrigerant

Refrigeration systems come in all shapes and sizes and one of the main differences between these systems is the selected refrigerant.  A refrigerant is a working fluid used during the refrigeration cycle where heat is removed from one space and transferred to another. In most cases, they undergo a repeated phase transition from a liquid to a gas/vapor and back again. Refrigerants are heavily regulated due to their toxicity, flammability, and detrimental impact of certain refrigerants, such as CFC and HCFC, on ozone depletion and global warming.

Choosing a refrigerant can depend on a variety of things including toxicity, ozone depletion, construction materials, and initial cost. One thing that often gets overlooked when selecting a refrigerant is operating efficiency. Refrigerants have vastly different thermal properties that cause them to operate at different efficiencies throughout the refrigeration cycle.

Ammonia vs. Freon

Ammonia is the main refrigerant for most industrial applications due to its unrivaled efficiency and low price per pound. Ammonia (NH3) is a naturally occurring substance made up of one nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms. As a biodegradable compound, it is an increasingly popular eco-friendly option, replacing more harmful chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in a variety of applications.

While ammonia has been one of the main refrigerants since the dawn of vapor-compression refrigeration, it has started to be replaced by fluorocarbons, CFCs, HFCs, also known as Freons due to upfront cost savings. These CFC and HFC compounds have more compact systems allowing for a smaller upfront cost when compared to a central industrial ammonia refrigeration system. Over the past few decades, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other regulatory bodies have begun paying special attention to traditional CFC, HCFC, and HFC refrigerants. Ozone depletion, global warming, energy efficiency, and life cycle climate performance (LCCP) have all become major considerations for manufacturers and users alike. Ammonia offers exceptional thermal efficiency and does not have ozone depletion or global warming characteristics, making it the ideal environmentally-friendly refrigerant option.

While the initial cost of an ammonia system may seem high in comparison to CFC and HFC systems, the difference in operational savings can sometimes pay for the price difference in just a few short years.

Example Calculations –  100 Tons of 38°F Cooler (Freon vs Ammonia)

449A Freon System

Freon Compressor Operating at 26°F Suction & 110°F Condensing

  1. Compressor                   =  1.820 BHP/Ton x 100 Tons = 182.0 BHP
  2. BHP to kW                    =   (182 x 0.7457) = 135.7 kW for compression
Ammonia System

Ammonia Compressor  Operating at 26°F Suction & 95°F Condensing

  1. Compressor                   =  1.026 BHP/Ton x 100 Tons = 102.6 BHP
  2. BHP to kW                    =   (102.6 x 0.7457) = 76.5 kW for compression

kW Difference                   =   (135.7 – 76.5) = Ammonia +77% more efficient at these conditions …………….       59.2 kW

With constant operation and an assumed electrical cost of $.10/kWh, the ammonia system saves over $50,000 annually.

Based on the above information and our extensive knowledge of the design, construction, and installation of mechanical refrigeration systems in general, we create custom solutions for our customers that are both effective and efficient. 

Contact the Refrigeration Solution Experts at Kuhlman Inc. Today

At Kuhlman Inc., we are dedicated to ensuring every customer receives the right refrigeration system for their needs. To learn more about our refrigeration system capabilities, contact us today