Beverage-Air Corp., Winston-Salem, N.C., a division of Italian conglomerate Ali Group, is rapidly converting its foodservice refrigeration equipment to R290, according to Erica Motes, VP of sales.

About 90% of the company’s products have already made the transition, including its under-counter refrigerators, sandwich prep units, reach-ins, merchandisers and bar units, she said, noting that the company’s entire product line is expected to feature R290 refrigeration by the end of 2019.

Beverage-Air showcased its R290 equipment at the99th annual National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show in Chicago in May.

“We feel this is the socially responsible thing — to make the most efficient equipment, and do the right thing by [our customers] for the environment,” said Motes, citing the low GWP and zero ozone depleting potential of propane.

The company’s large chain customers have readily adopted the new refrigerant, and in fact have encouraged its use in Beverage-Air’s equipment, she said.

“We have more end-users who want to know that they are doing the socially responsible thing and using an environmentally friendly refrigerant,” said Motes. “We have a number of chains that encourage us to get ahead of the technology and move it forward.”

Equipment using R290 can be anywhere from 10%-50% more efficient than synthetic refrigerants, said Nick Schriner, engineering manager at Beverage-Air.He attributed the increased efficiency largely to the technology that manufacturers rolled out in connection with R290.

“We have more end-users who want to know that they are doing the socially responsible thing and using an environmentally friendly refrigerant.” 

Erica Motes, Beverage-Air

The use of R290 has allowed Beverage-Air to expand the capacity of some pieces of equipment. In one of its sandwich prep coolers, for example, the company added about 30% to its capacity, with better cooling power.

In development at Beverage-Air are variable-speed condensers that could further augment the efficiency of R290 systems, Schriner said.

The proposed increase in the propane charge limit also would allow Beverage-Air to revamp some of its equipment to operate on a single refrigerant circuit using a larger charge, he said.

Although some in the industry initially had concerns about the availability of technicians who have been trained to service propane systems, Motes said such fears have, to her knowledge, proven unwarranted. All of the major service companies now have technicians who are trained for servicing propane cases and the right tools needed for doing so, she said.

Beverage-Air is doing its part by offering hands-on training sessions around the country to teach technicians and students about its equipment and how to properly service it.

“We can’t certify them, but we can educate them on our product, so they know what it looks like, they know where to clamp, they know where to check, and they know what the proper tools are,” Motes said, noting that using the actual equipment in these training sessions is important.

Want to find out more, or have something to say about this story? Join the ATMO Connect network to meet and engage with like-minded stakeholders in the clean cooling and natural refrigerant arena.

Author Mark Hamstra