Moving towards refrigerants with very low GWP is a fact. Incorporating an eco-efficiency plan is essential!

Current climate change is such that all available solutions must be implemented in order
to reduce the impact on the climate and global warming, as the IPCC (Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change) reminds us in its latest report.


Reducing the CO2 equivalent tonnes of emissions from greenhouse gases heavily relies on the use of new solutions with very low GWP in all applications (refrigeration, air conditioning, insulation, propellants, extinguishing agents, etc.)he F-Gas regulation in Europe favours this path to achieve the 2030 climate and energy objectives set by the European Commission. The recently published revision proposal even aims to accelerate the current « phase down ».


At an international level, the Kigali amendment also defines a timetable for the substitution of high GWP refrigerants by 2050, depending on the territory. All these measures have a common goal: to preserve our ecosystem.


industrie laitiereIf we look more specifically at the HVACR* sector in Europe, it is recommended to move towards refrigerants with a GWP < 150 in the face of future developments. GWP is an important criterion to consider but it is only part of an effective solution.

Indeed, the choice of a refrigerant for a new refrigeration installation is based on several parameters: durability, long-term technology, energy cost, overall carbon footprint during the life of the equipment, etc.

It is not enough to select the refrigerant only on the basis of its GWP, it is important to look at it from the point of view of the « energy efficiency first » concept.**


The « Energy Efficiency First » Principle


This means that least-cost energy saving measures should be considered first and foremost when defining energy policies and making investment decisions. This should be achieved by appropriately assessing energy efficient solutions through a cost-benefit impact analyses, which is relevant and appropriate for different industrial contexts and sectors.
The basic principle of Energy Efficiency First is that "the best energy is the energy that does not have to be produced because it is not needed".

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This means that reducing energy demand should be a priority action over renewable energy production. Developing efficiency is therefore an environmental and economic priority for all industries.

Choosing a refrigerant means seriously considering the options that will result in the greatest reduction in direct and indirect emissions from the thermodynamic installation.




How can this concept be integrated into an investment in a new refrigeration plant ?

For example, since 1st January 2022, multi-compressor centralised refrigeration systems for commercial use with a cooling capacity ≥ 40 kW must use a refrigerant with a GWP < 150.


Choices can be made between several technology options for the architecture of the refrigeration production system and the refrigerant. In order to make an informed choice, Climalife has an eco-efficiency calculation tool to assess the overall financial (CAPEX and OPEX) and environmental (TEWI) impact of the selected technologies. It allows the most eco-efficient option to be highlighted for a given installation.

This calculator takes into account many key indicators: The direct (GWP) and indirect CO2 emission (CO2 emitted in the production of electricity of the system), the architecture of the installation, the investment cost, the cost of maintenance, without forgetting the price of electricity, the fluid, etc.


It is based on real data from manufacturers and has been validated by the CEMAFROID institute. The eco-efficiency model analyses all the impacts and proposes a comparison between the architectures in order to determine which will be the most economical and least polluting.


Let's take the case of a supermarket with a sales area of 2000 m².
éco-efficiency results supermarket



After considering all the parameters, the results of this comparative study (Figure 1) confirm the importance of evaluating all the possible options when choosing a solution. Indeed, for providing the same refrigeration capacities, it can be seen that the lowest total emissions, as well as the highest investment and operational savings are not necessarily generated by the fluid with the lowest GWP.
The climatic conditions of the geographical area, the technology of the installations and the selected fluid have a considerable impact on the carbon emissions and the expenses during the whole life of the installation.


The eco-efficiency approach in situ


In Catalonia (Spain), the Sorli supermarket chain installed a 29.3 kW positive refrigeration system with R-455A fluid equipped with a Grupo Disco condensing unit with three Emerson scroll compressors approved for A2L fluids. For this 1200 m² supermarket, this means 13% less life cycle emissions compared to a CO2 transcritical system with a 16% lower total cost of ownership. View the case study.


Also in Spain, the calculation was carried out for the 4000 m² Olano seafood warehouse and logistics centre. The site is refrigerated by a 280 kW direct expansion system. Compared to a CO2 transcritical system, R-455A off ers a 17% reduction in emissions over the lifetime of the system. This optimisation is accompanied by a 19% reduction in the total cost of ownership. View the case study.


Another performance study was carried out in France by Optinergie on a 15,000 tonne apple storage site. It shows that the change from ammonia to R-1234ze generated energy savings of 25%, equivalent to a lifecycle saving of €2 million.  Read more.




In summary, the issue of refrigerant choice should be approached from an « energy efficiency first » perspective, which means taking into account energy saving measures at the lowest cost, by appropriately evaluating energy efficient solutions through cost-benefit impact analyses. As we have seen, the refrigerant with the lowest GWP is not always the most eco-efficient option.

Furthermore, the geopolitical, economic and environmental situation means that energy prices will continue to rise in the coming years. The availability of raw materials, which remains tight, and the new regulatory restrictions (quotas, bans, etc.) to come make it even more essential to take this approach into consideration in investment decisions. Energy performance and financial gains can go hand in hand and are not negligible. Reconciling the lowest power consumption, the best refrigeration performance with the lowest cost of ownership will become the rule of thumb in the years to come... don't wait any longer !

The eco-efficiency model is currently available for the retail sector. However, additional modules are being developed to compare industrial refrigeration architectures, integrate heat recovery, etc


Dedicated Climalife staff are available to discuss this concept and model different refrigeration production architectures on request.


* Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration
** Sources : EPEE, Annex to the Commission Recommendation on « Energy Efficiency First » : From principles to practice. Guidelines and examples for its implementation in decision-making in the energy sector and beyond.