This will be a year of continued growth for hydrocarbons in light commercial refrigeration systems following impressive market progress in 2017, manufacturers told this website for the latest in our NEXT Series of articles.

“In 2018, I see the growth of R290 (propane) applications in small-size applications,” Marek Zgliczynski, Embraco’s manager of commercial refrigeration product engineering, told “This trend is visible already in the most recent products sold in 2017.”

André Patenaude – director, food retail growth strategy, cold chain at Emerson Commercial and Residential Solutions – agrees that the adoption of self-contained propane equipment will continue to grow around the world in 2018.

“In 2018, I see the growth of R290 (propane) applications in small-size applications.

Marek Zgliczynski, Embraco

Regardless of the confusion surrounding a court decision to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) delisting of HFCs under the SNAP {Significant New Alternatives Policy} program, Charles Hon, engineering manager at True Manufacturing, says his company will forge ahead with its plan to make 100% of its equipment use the natural refrigerant R290. 

“We are continuing to increase our sales of R290, and finalizing more redesigns of equipment.  Most of the industry is holding back, hoping the [EPA’s] SNAP reversal will hold up in court.   The few companies that are moving forward are being driven by customers,” Hon said.

Some observers expect bodies such as AHRI, the IEC, ASHRAE, UL, CEN-CENELEC and the EPA to announce new charge limits for hydrocarbons in the coming years.

Embraco’s Zgliczynski does not see hydrocarbons becoming as competitive as HFCs until the limits increase. “For bigger size cabinets/compressors, the transition blends are still the main interest, since the [charge-increase] legislation is not ready yet for R290 or A2Ls,” he told

Emerson’s Patenaude believes that “Impending increased charge limits for A2L and A3 refrigerants may drive development of higher-capacity equipment”.

“I am optimistic that policy regarding hydrocarbon charge limits will slowly but surely begin to move in the right direction in 2018 and beyond,” says Whole Foods Market’s director of sustainability & facilities, Tristam Coffin.

“As for adoption, to me going natural is a no brainer. Why wait? The sooner you adopt, the more experience and practice you get, which means the sooner you perfect system operations. I trust others in the industry will begin to share that mentality,” Coffin adds 

Other applications? 

Menno van der Hoff, head of R&D and manager HVAC at Uniechemie, believes more must be done to encourage the use of hydrocarbons in applications beyond commercial refrigeration, like HVAC.

“Why? The F-Gas Regulation does not force them to say goodbye to [the HFCs] R410A or R134a and the costs of refrigerants is a minor percentage of the total cost of a [variable refrigerant flow air-conditioning system] VRF or chiller. So, a large change will not take place. Only early adopters or green customers will pull the market”, der Hoff explains.

He also notes that the fragmentation of the market makes it difficult to communicate the benefits of adopting natural refrigerants. “Investor, architect, specifier, component manufacturer, production, consultant, main contractor, M&E contractor, subcontractor, commissioner, tenant, owner – it’s such a complex chain,” he said.

“Another issue is to clarify and warn the market about the dangers of HFOs. There is too much unknown about environmental safety.

Menno van der Hoff, Uniechemie

He places some hope in the Chinese market. “I expect the market for HVAC to develop into propane solutions in larger volume only if Chinese RAC producers do not move into R32,” he told 

“Another issue is to clarify and warn the market about the dangers of HFOs. There is too much unknown about environmental safety,” he cautions.

As for the inventor of the TripleAqua, he will continue his push for hydrocarbon-based HVAC solutions. “For 2018, we will continue to focus on propane as the most efficient choice for low-temperature heat pumps. People will see more brands on propane, in particular for chiller, mobile and split solutions,” Van der Hoff said.

The NEXT Series takes an annual look at the key market, policy and technology drivers likely to influence natural refrigerant uptake. For updates on these and other key policy developments over the course of the year, sign up to our newsletter.

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