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HFC-134a

AN IDEAL
REFRIGERANT

By: Jim Parsnow


Environmental Systems Marketing
Carrier Corporation
2/98
HFC-134a AN IDEAL REFRIGERANT
WITH APPLIED TECHNOLOGY

Solutions to improve the quality of life and sustain the environment often belong to the corporations who have
the technology, resources and global reach. A good example of such a solution is the application of
refrigerant HFC-134a for refrigeration chillers. As the industry phases out chlorine based refrigerants that
destroy the ozone, choices for the future are limited. Basically the industry is left with about six compounds
that could be used for fluorocarbon refrigerants. Of these six, HFC-134a is the only compound that is being
applied to equipment in singular compound form. The remaining five compounds will be mixed to form
zeotropes and azeotrope blends.1

HFC-134a has proven to be an optimal refrigerant in chiller kW/Ton Vs. Year Centrifugal Chillers
application. The compound has no chlorine and does not

n
contribute to ozone depletion. Ozone depletion is the main

o
0.9
reason the industry is obsoleting chlorine refrigerants (CFCs, 0.85

T
HCFCs). 0.8

/
0.75

Deviation
HFC-134a is a highly efficient thermodynamic refrigerant in 0.7

k
0.65
application. Current centrifugal chillers using HFC-134a are
0.6
21% more efficient than chillers sold just six years ago and 0.55
35% more efficient than the chillers installed during the 0.5

1970

1975

1980

1985

1990

1995
1970s and 1980s.

These chiller efficiency gains can be attributed to the new technology that has been applied to provide
solutions. This applied technology will continue to improve the efficiency of refrigeration equipment for the
future. The improved efficiency will have a great environmental affect on climate change as we replace older
equipment and lower the consumption of power generated from fossil fuel burning plants. Carbon dioxide
and nitrous oxide generated by burning these fuels account for over 55% of the emitted greenhouse gases.

Type Of Old Old New chillers New


Equipment Installed Installed Hermetic ChillersHFC-134a is a positive pressure refrigerant, which when
Chillers -
Hermetic
Chillers
Open Drive
Motor
Driven
Open
Drive
applied to chiller refrigeration requires that the pressure
Motor Motors Motors vessel be built to a national pressure code (ASME
Driven
Negative Section 8)2 and every step in the construction must be
Pressure
( Operating inspected by third party insurance companies. As a
15% 17% 0.5% 1 - 2%
below
atmospheric
result of the stringent testing and applied technology,
pressure in
cooler)
chiller leak rates can be lowered to less than 0.1% 3
Positive annually. Existing chillers have a leak rate of 2 - 15%.
Pressure
(operating HFC-134a also has a small molecular mass than the
above 8% 10% 0.1% 1 -2%
atmospheric past CFCs and HCFCs. This is an important feature as
pressure in
cooler) it results in an overall product size that is 35 to 40%
Source: Input discussion with ARI smaller. This size reduction helps offset the cost of
construction and facilitates the use of smaller
interconnecting pipes. This advantage has led to adding isolation valves to the chiller piping connection so
the HFC-134a can be stored in the chiller during service. This feature allows the end-user the option of never
having to remove the refrigerant from the vessels once charged -- A true no emissions feature.
The smaller size and ability to design chillers in a bolt together modular form means the equipment has
less impact on the building environment when replacing
existing equipment. Knocking holes in buildings, digging up
parking lots and disposal of the scrap can be eliminated when
you can fit the equipment through the standard entrances.
The oil used in the chiller is a waste material which is reduced
by use of HFC-134a. HFC-134a lacking the chlorine element
does not use mineral oils in the system as CFCs and HCFCs
do. The oil used is synthetic and has superior properties to
the older oils. Where a CFC or HCFC chiller design would
require the oil to be changed yearly and dispose the oil as
waste, the HFC-134a chiller may run for four to five years
before a scheduled oil change. New technology being applied
to HFC-134a may eliminate the need for any oils in future equipment, as designs may use the refrigerant
(HFC-134a) as the lubricant.4
SAFETY GROUP Per ASHRAE 34
( with examples shown ) Safety is always a concern with the use of refrigerants5. Some
of the commercial refrigerants that are in use have proven to be
High quite toxic when misapplied6. HFC-134a is probably one of the
Flammability A3 B3
safest refrigerants in application. With the high quality of
Low
containment design and the low toxicity properties, HFC-134a
Flammability A2 B2 results in a product that service technicians can be exposed at
R-406a R-717
minimized risks. HFC-134a is the leading propellant in
No Flame A1 B1 respiratory inhalers (metered dose inhalers). 7 A person can
Propagation R-11,R-134a, R-410a R-123, actually breathe the refrigerant without the body metabolizing the
Lower Toxicity Higher Toxicity refrigerant.

Is HFC-134a a perfect refrigerant? There are no perfect


refrigerants but HFC-134a is definitely an ideal refrigerant in application. As we continue to apply
technology, HFC-134a will be the refrigerant of choice for chillers.

Jim Parsnow is Director Of Environmental Marketing For


Carrier Corporation and can be contacted at
315-433-4376 or E-Mail: jim.parsnow@carrier.utc.com

References:

1. Alternative Refrigerant Choices: Limited But Promising - J.R. Parsnow, 11/97


2. ASME Pressure Vessel Code Overview, Carrier Catalog Number 819-054
3. Carrier Press Release, Baltimore, June 12, Carrier Positive Pressure Chillers Attain
0.1 Percent Leak Rate
4. May, 1996 ASHRAE Journal - New Bearing Has HVAC Implications
5. ASHRAE 15-1994 - Safety Code For Mechanical Refrigeration - available from ASHRAE
6. Lancet Medical Journal Epidemic of Liver Disease Caused by Hydrochlorofluorocarbons 23,
August, 1997 issue
7. 3M Health Care Announces Use of HFC-134a In Meter Dose Respiratory Devices UNEP IE Ozone
Action Newsletter