Ammonia has been used for refrigeration since the 1850s, and it’s still in use today because it’s safe, efficient, and cost-effective. Ammonia has a low boiling point and a high latent heat of vaporization, making it exceptional for cooling large areas efficiently. Though once used extensively in air conditioning systems, it is now the most common refrigerant for industrial applications. Ammonia is at work in refrigeration systems all around you: pharmaceutical labs and storage facilities, cheese and meat processing facilities, beverage companies, cold storage providers, ice skating rinks, and more.
Ammonia Refrigeration System: How It Works
Vapor-compression refrigeration systems all work the same way: multiple components work together to draw in warm air, remove the heat, and send the cool air into the space. Ammonia is so good at this because it’s able to absorb more energy than other chemicals as it changes from liquid to vapor, resulting in a system that is up to 10 percent more efficient than one that uses chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as a refrigerant.
Ammonia Refrigeration System Components
Vapor-compression refrigeration systems are made of four primary components:
- Compressor: This is where the ammonia is compressed, creating the high and low pressure zones of the system.
- Condenser: As that high-pressure gas moves into the condenser, the heat is removed and the ammonia turns from gas into liquid.
- Expansion Valve: This hole opens into a low pressure area, cooling the ammonia to the desired operating temperature by releasing flash gas. Ammonia liquid then takes the heat from the space and is converted into a vapor where it goes to the compressor to repeat the process.
- Evaporator: The evaporator is responsible for absorbing heat from the room.
Additional components include heat exchangers, valves, thermostats, a receiver tank, and fans to direct the air.
Ammonia Refrigeration Steps
Those components all play a key role in the ammonia refrigeration cycle:
- Ammonia vapor is compressed.
- The heated ammonia moves to the condenser, where it releases the heat and condenses back to liquid form.
- The ammonia boils after moving through the expansion valve into a low-pressure space. This is called “flash gas,” and it cools the ammonia so it can once again take heat from the desired space.
- In the evaporator coils, cold ammonia absorbs heat.
Ammonia Refrigeration Advantages
Ammonia is still in use as a refrigerant today because it’s effective. It offers many advantages over CFCs and other types of systems:
- Efficiency: A high latent heat of vaporization makes ammonia one of the most efficient refrigerants, which allows for lower utility costs. As compared to CFC refrigerants, an ammonia-based system is 3-10 percent more efficient. It’s a simple step you can take toward having a more environmentally friendly facility.
- Ozone Safe: Ammonia doesn’t harm the ozone layer and doesn’t contribute to global warming. CFCs do.
- Chemical Cost: Not only is ammonia more energy efficient, it’s also less expensive per pound when compared to CFC’s. While the initial construction of the system is more, it has significant energy savings that offer paybacks within a short time when compared to freon refrigerants.
- Safety: Ammonia refrigeration systems are built according to strict regulations. It’s highly unlikely for anyone to come in direct contact with the ammonia used in such a system. If there’s a leak, ammonia’s distinctly unpleasant odor will encourage you to leave the area. You can smell ammonia long before it exists in quantities large enough to cause any harm.
Read more about the benefits of ammonia, and debunk ammonia refrigeration myths that persist about this highly effective and efficient refrigerant.
Kuhlman Incorporated Refrigeration Solutions
For decades, Kuhlman Incorporated has specialized in turnkey industrial refrigeration solutions for a variety of industries, including food and beverage, storage and warehousing, and sports and recreation. From an ice cream freezer to an ice skating rink, our refrigeration solutions include custom design and installation, maintenance and repair, and optimization and retrofitting. Our highly experienced team can help with engineering and design, safety compliance, project estimates, on-site project management, system controls, 24-hour parts and service, and so much more. We work according to industry standards as outlined by OSHA, the National Pipe Welding Bureau, IIAR, RETA, ISNET, and other organizations. Lastly, we’re proud to be known for exceptional customer care and collaboration.
To learn more about our ammonia refrigeration systems and how we can help you with your next refrigeration project, contact us today. To discuss your system requirements with one of our team members, request a quote.