Beverage-Air is converting all of its foodservice refrigerators to R290, while Traulsen is offering both R290 and HFC models.
Beverage-Air hydrocarbon unit
Foodservice equipment OEMs Beverage-Air and Traulsen are taking different approaches to the marketing of hydrocarbon-based refrigeration units.
While Beverage-Air is committed to selling only propane equipment, Traulsen has decided to continue offering HFC (R134a and R404A) units along with R290 models, with an eye to adding equipment that uses HFO blends in the future.
“Just about everything here is R290,” said Peter Kelley, regional sales manager for Beverage-Air, at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show in Chicago last month. Based in Winston-Salem, N.C., Beverage-Air sells equipment to many restaurant chains.
The reason for its propane-focused approach is that Beverage-Air did not want to re-engineer its HFC units to meet the Department of Energy’s 2017 energy efficiency requirements, only to have to re-engineer them again when HFCs are delisted by the Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP (Significant New Alternatives Policy) program in 2020. With hydrocarbons, “we just did it all at one time,” he said.
Beverage-Air, which has its own UL-certifying labs, says its R290 units can reduce energy consumption from 5% to 25%.
Kelley acknowledged that going from a couple of product categories with hydrocarbon refrigerants to all of its products is “a huge task.” Beverage-Air is still converting a few products, but “the lion’s share is done.”
Sandwich prep units did not have to meet any new energy requirements, “but we went to R290 anyway,” he said.
Beverage-Air’s restaurant chain customers are satisfied with the change to hydrocarbon refrigeration “as long as it doesn’t affect the operation of the unit,” Kelley said.
““Just about everything here is R290."
– Peter Kelley, Beverage-Air
On the other hand, Traulsen, based in Fort Worth, Texas, offers the same refrigeration units with either R134a or R290, both of which meet the 2017 DOE efficiency requirements, said Laura Gutkowski, sales development manager. “The global restaurant chains are definitely interested in R290, but other chains are mixed, and that’s why we’re not going to 100% hydrocarbons.”
About 5% of Traulsen’s customers currently use R290 equipment, Gutkowski said.
While acknowledging that R290 has a superior heat of absorption, she maintained that Traulsen’s R290 units “are not always more energy efficient across the board” compared to its HFC units.
Traulsen plans to offer R134a and R404A “until they are delisted” in 2019 and 2020, she said. At that point, the company intends to make available equipment with HFO blends like R450 and R513 (which have a global warming potential of 601 and 630, respectively). “We know R290 is safe, but there are fire codes where it is difficult to get it accepted,” she said. “So if we can offer a non-flammable option, we’ll do that.” School districts, in particular, have pushed back against hydrocarbons.
“We tell them it’s safe,” she said, adding, “And if you’re worried about your [carbon] footprint, hydrocarbons are the way to go.”