Brazilian compressor manufacturer Embraco sees highly efficient variable-speed compressors for R290 “taking off” in North America since “we started promoting it” a year ago, said John Prall, application engineer for Embraco.

He shared his views on the R290 market at the AHR Expo, being held Monday-Wednesday in Atlanta, Ga. Embraco introduced an R290 variable speed compressor, model FMFT415U, at the show that has a 20% higher capacity than previous models

“Variable speed is the way to achieve energy targets in a cost-effective way, particularly for freezers,” Prall said.

Variable-speed R290 compressors are especially popular in the medical industry, where, in addition to better energy efficiency, the variable speed units offer “unbeatable” temperature stability, he said.

Marek Zgliczynski, director of research and development for Embraco, pointed out that by saving compressor energy, variable-speed units generate less waste heat in air-cooled systems, reducing the burden on the air-conditioning system. The cost of a variable-speed compressor may be higher than a conventional compressor, “but people don’t understand that the return is quick – a few months for a freezer,” he noted.

Prall explained that the cost of a variable-speed compressor may range from zero to 50% higher than a conventional unit, But its energy efficiency reduces the cost of other components in a self-contained case, rendering the overall cost of an optimized case the same as a standard HFC case that is not optimized.

Overall, there has been a marked shift toward R290 self-contained cases in North America over the past 2-3 years, said Prall. 

“Variable speed is the way to achieve energy targets in a cost-effective way, particularly for freezers.”

John Prall, Embraco

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