Marking the continued uptake of R290 light-commercial plug-in systems in China, retailer SPAR recently installed 32 plug-in freezer cabinets charged with R290 at a newly opened store.

SPAR China is a part of SPAR, a Dutch multinational group that manages independently owned and operated retail stores worldwide. The new store is located in the city of Chengdu and is owned by SPAR Sichuan Dehui, a division of SPAR China that operates more than 400 stores in nine Chinese provinces. 

The R290 plug-in freezer cabinets were supplied by AHT Cooling Systems (Changshu), a division of Austrian multinational refrigeration system manufacturer AHT.

The decision by the store owner to install the R290 units was driven mainly by the energy savings when compared to traditional R404A, according to AHT.

“The owner was planning to use a remote R404A system,” explained Felix Liu, China sales director for AHT. Liu estimates the energy savings to be “up to 40%” compared to a remote R404A system, which would result in a payback period of two years.

In addition, Liu added that the advantages for the end user also included “no piping or water drain work” needed due to the plug-in nature of the systems.

Energy efficiency is also driving SPAR Beijing Huaguan, another division of SPAR China, to  install R290 light commercial plug-in systems at its stores.

Presenting during ATMOsphere China 2018 in Beijing, a representative from SPAR Beijing Huaguan spoke about its experience with R290 cabinets.

Since 2015, the company said that it would adopt R290 plug-in freezers for all new stores and would be gradually replacing 300 of the R404A units in old stores.

In addition, the company found that the energy consumption for a R290 unit was “6.8kWh per day, which was 24% lower than a similar cabinet using R404A”.

Energy efficiency driving R290 interest 

According to AHT, energy efficiency is the main driver for its R290 light commercial plug-in system sales in China.

The company exhibited its R290 cabinets at its first own-branded booth at ChinaShop 2018 last November in Kunming, China.

All of the cabinets on display at the exhibition boasted a “Level 1” rating on the China Energy Label (CEL) – an energy consumption label for products in China similar to the European Union energy label.

It is very rare for a product to achieve the highest energy-efficiency rating, according to Jonas Chen, general manager, AHT Cooling Systems (Changshu).

He attributed AHT’s score to the combination of using propane refrigerant together with variable speed drives.

“We are very happy,” Chen said during the event, “because not many equipment providers can provide ‘Level 1’ plug-in units. But we already have a whole series of these models here”.

With the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) charge limit increase on A3 refrigerants from 150g to 500g in commercial refrigeration equipment, Chen predicts a positive effect on the uptake of AHT’s larger R290 cabinets in China.

This is because a charge of about 400g is needed for its bigger R290 systems, explained Chen;  these systems currently need three independent refrigerant circuits. This increases the cost of the whole unit as well as the complexity of the system. Now that the limit is increased, AHT will have the opportunity to use a single system (if the standard is adopted in China), making everything simpler and easier to use. “It will really bring us a lot of advantages,” Chen said.

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