ammonia refrigeration system

Ammonia refrigeration is among the most popular types of refrigeration technology, in large part due to its efficiency and low environmental impact. This type of refrigeration is found across a wide array of applications, from food storage and processing to wineries, sports events, and more. 

The cost-effectiveness and performance efficiency make ammonia refrigeration particularly advantageous for large cooling systems found in industrial applications. Ammonia refrigeration also offers the benefit of continually meeting strict refrigerant guidelines, as it is more environmentally friendly than synthetic refrigerant alternatives. Understanding the properties and advantages of ammonia refrigeration is very helpful in determining whether it may be a good option for your needs.


Ammonia Refrigeration Basics

Ammonia was one of the first substances used in the refrigeration industry before a synthetic refrigerant known as chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) replaced it in the 1920s. Ammonia is a naturally occurring gas composed of nitrogen and hydrogen, and it is classified as a natural refrigerant. In addition to ammonia, the class of natural refrigerants includes:

  • Water
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Air

In contrast to synthetic refrigerants, natural refrigerants such as ammonia are very environmentally friendly. Ammonia has no negative environmental impact, and its potential for ozone depletion and global warming is negligible. Despite being overtaken by CFCs, ammonia experienced a significant resurgence as the industry learned more about the risks of synthetic refrigerants.

Click to ExpandEverything You Need to Know About Ammonia Refrigeration

Benefits of Ammonia Refrigeration

When compared to alternative refrigeration technologies, ammonia refrigeration offers numerous advantages.

Negligible Environmental Impact

Throughout the 20th century, people considered CFCs to be completely harmless. Their stability made them a popular choice, and ammonia refrigerants experienced significant competition for several decades. Over time, however, research revealed the environmental harm that CFCs are capable of. The industry responded by refocusing its attention on ammonia and other natural refrigerants that have no negative environmental impact. 

Unrivaled Efficiency

At full capacity, ammonia refrigeration systems are up to 20% more efficient than alternative refrigeration system options. At partial capacity, ammonia refrigeration offers even higher levels of efficiency when compared to alternative options. As such, applications that require a refrigeration system that consistently runs at partial capacity experience a significant increase in efficiency when switching to ammonia refrigeration.

Numerous factors contribute to the high efficiency of this refrigeration technology. The first area where ammonia has an advantage is its thermodynamic properties. When it is intended for refrigeration, ammonia is stored under pressure and rapidly vaporizes as soon as the pressure is released. As it vaporizes, it causes the temperature to drop to approximately -33° C, enabling it to outperform synthetic refrigerants.

Additionally, ammonia offers excellent cost efficiency. Its prices per pound are significantly much lower than alternative options. Ammonia is also able to lower electricity costs, as it is up to 10% more efficient than CFC refrigerants.

Fewer Health and Safety Concerns

While many synthetic refrigerants pose numerous safety risks, ammonia is typically safer. The most common concerns with ammonia come in the case of leaks, which generally occur when the refrigerant is being loaded or unloaded. Leaks of this nature may result in difficulty breathing or skin burns. While death is possible, it is incredibly rare. Risks are lowered further when highly trained employees are the ones handling the ammonia during loading and unloading.

Ammonia also has a distinct smell, giving it a safety advantage over the majority of other odorless refrigerants. As humans can detect the scent of ammonia even at low concentrations, it is unlikely for a leak to go unnoticed. Even minor leaks are easy to identify and resolve. A cascade or brine of CO2 and ammonia is a simple method for reducing ammonia charge if necessary.

Industrial Ammonia Refrigeration SystemsAmmonia Refrigeration

Becoming familiar with the functionality of ammonia refrigeration systems is helpful in reaping their full benefits. In these systems, the refrigerant first enters the expansion valve that is located before the evaporator. Once in this valve, the pressure and temperature of the liquid ammonia begin to drop. As this process occurs, the ammonia becomes a combination of both liquid and vapor. This vapor causes the ammonia to cool down to the desired temperature prior to the ammonia entering the evaporator, as it ensures the proper amount of heat transfer.

As the ammonia flows through the evaporator, it begins absorbing heat from the evaporator coil. It then moves toward the compressor, which is set to maintain a specific pressure or temperature. Once it reaches the compressor, the refrigerant rapidly begins to compress under high pressure.

After it has made the shift into a high-pressure, high-temperature vapor, the ammonia moves through the discharge line and into the condenser. In most cases, air and water are forced over the condenser coil to remove the latent heat from the ammonia vapor, condensing it into a liquid.

The ammonia then flows through the receiver where some of it evaporates, and it is stored for future use when industrial refrigeration system components require fluid. Once the ammonia has finished flowing through the receiver, it enters the liquid line. At this point, it reenters the expansion valve and begins the cycle over again.

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Ammonia Refrigeration Services at Kuhlman, Inc.

At Kuhlman, Inc., we work with our customers throughout the entire process of designing and implementing an ammonia refrigeration system. We understand that each facility has different needs, and we can offer a unique refrigeration solution to meet your specific requirements. 

Our experts have extensive experience in the design, construction, installation, and maintenance of these systems, and we are here to ensure your ammonia refrigeration system delivers optimal performance. Additionally, we offer refrigeration training classes to teach best practices to maintenance managers and technicians. 

Contact the Experts at Kuhlman, Inc.

There is a good reason for the continuing popularity of ammonia refrigeration systems. From their reduced environmental impact to their impressive efficiency, these systems benefit facilities in an expansive array of industries. At Kuhlman, Inc., we have been innovators in the industrial refrigeration field since 1957. Our certifications include those from OSHA, the National Pipe Welding Bureau, and the Local and National Union of Refrigeration Pipefitters Service Technicians.

We have experience working with an array of central built-up refrigeration systems, including high-efficiency systems designed to reduce electrical costs, and our systems meet standards set by the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR). In addition to designing and building new refrigeration systems, we also work with customers to optimize and retrofit their current refrigeration systems.

Once we have installed an ammonia refrigeration system, we remain available to our customers to provide preventative maintenance and repair. We fully customize these services to meet the needs of each facility. In addition to providing repairs, our technicians look for opportunities to optimize the equipment and enhance its overall performance. We also provide remote troubleshooting if any mechanical issues should arise, and our experts can provide a list of recommended parts that facilities should keep on hand to ensure a rapid repair process.

We are dedicated to helping our customers find custom refrigeration solutions that are efficient and effective, and our decades of experience enable us to meet the unique specifications of any project. To learn more about our ammonia refrigeration system services, contact us today.

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