Carbon Dioxide: A Solution for a More Sustainable Future

Icemakers have been around since early in the industrial revolution (the first US patent was developed in 1851).  Throughout this time, the technology used for making ice has changed dramatically. Modern icemakers must be designed to combine efficiency and sustainability. This has proven to be a challenge, especially when it comes to choosing refrigerants.  For over four decades, one of the most commonly used was the hydrochlorofluorocarbon refrigerant HCFC-22, also known as R-22. However, when released into the atmosphere, R-22 has proven to be harmful to the environment and linked to ozone depletion.  The production of R-22 also produces byproducts which are believed to contribute to global warming.  For these reasons, R-22 is being phased out as a refrigerant by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with a total ban planned by the year 2020.  Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants have also been used for years as alternatives to HCFCs, but HFCs have problems of their own.  While HFCs do not deplete the ozone layer, they have a long lifespan (some last several hundred years) and contain the potential to contribute greatly to global warming.

Solution: Natural Refrigerants

If leakage could be prevented in refrigeration systems, the chemical composition of refrigerants would not be an issue.  Unfortunately, the number of refrigeration systems used worldwide makes it impossible to prevent some refrigerant gas from escaping.  One solution to these growing environmental concerns is the use of natural refrigerants, such as carbon dioxide (CO₂).  Some may associate CO₂ with the emission of greenhouse gases, and indeed, when produced as the by-product of burning fossil fuels, CO₂ can be highly concentrated and contribute to global warming.  However, CO₂ is also a naturally occurring gas, and when used as a refrigerant, it is not just benign; it helps promote sustainability and is one of the greenest refrigerants.

Available in abundance, CO₂ has zero potential for ozone depletion and a negligible impact global warming rating when used in closed cycles for refrigeration.  CO₂ is also very safe; it is chemically inert, heavier than air, and non-flammable.  No waste disposal or recycling of CO₂ is required, as it is a natural part of Earth’s atmosphere.  CO₂ is a reliable and sustainable alternative to HFCs, especially when it comes to climate change.  Some HFCs have a global warming potential (GWP) nearly 4,000 times higher than CO₂.  Switching from HFCs to CO₂ helps limit the emission of greenhouse gases, encouraging long range sustainability and making our planet safer for generations to come.

High-Performance Efficiency

Using CO₂ as a refrigerant provides more than just environmental advantages.  There are several unique physical properties that CO₂ possesses which enable the gas to exhibit excellent performance as a refrigerant.  This gas features good heat transfer properties and high density, allowing for relatively small refrigerant line sizes. In fact, CO₂ has been measured as having 20 to 50% lower compression pressure ratios when compared to HFCs, improving volumetric efficiency.  CO₂ has been employed in refrigeration systems in a number of grocery stores throughout Canada and the US, and has proven to be more efficient than their HFC counterparts. In fact, a Canadian grocery store using a CO₂ system was proven to be 18% more efficient than a conventional system.

Howe Ice Machines Provide a Sustainable, Efficient Solution

 The efficiency of CO₂ as a refrigerant translates well to ice machines.  Howe has introduced a range of CO₂ flake ice machines for use with Transcritical, Subcritical, and Secondary systems.  These machines include valves and controls that are piped, wired, and installed to the flaker, making our icemakers compatible with all CO₂ racks and rack controllers.  Our CO₂ machines feature simple, low cost installation, and include features which improve the cleanliness and quality of food cooling applications.  Howe CO₂ ice machines are designed for applications including supermarkets, seafood, bakeries, dairies, produce, and many others.

Making a more sustainable future is everybody’s business.  To learn more about our ice makers which employ CO₂ and other natural refrigerants, please contact us today.