A new lower carbon refrigerant is being tested as an alternative to the current standard R-404A, by Thermo King on trailer fridges. R-452A is a hydrofluoro olefin (HFO) based blend and is reckoned to offer a reduction in environmental impact.
The initial impetus to develop the new refrigerant were rules introduced in the European Union, aimed at minimising the environmental impact of refrigerants by 79 per cent, by 2030. These new rules were to cover refrigerant in both new and existing equipment. The new rules took effect in 2015 and now Australia is seeing the new refrigerant being prepared for introduction here.
The new gas is reckoned to be very similar to the older refrigerant, as there is no need to adjust the fridge unit, when introducing R-452A. It is also compatible with any of the refrigeration units currently running R-404A gas. Being more environmentally friendly the new refrigerant seems likely to start appearing as a requirement on contract tenders with large corporates like the supermarket chains.
One of the fleets using the new refrigerant, in a trial being run by Thermo King, is Nolans Interstate Haulage from Gatton in Queensland.
This is a large refrigerated fleet with trucks running over most of the country. Regular fridge servicing is done in the company’s own workshop at 1,500 and 3,000 hours in the fridge unit’s life. Interstate trailers are expected to run out to around 20,000 hours in their first three or four years of life, before moving to the less strenuous intrastate tasks.
“Thermo King came along and introduced the new refrigerant in one unit and we have noticed nothing, no complaints, no issues,” says Paul Ryan, Nolans Refrigeration Manager. “It hasn’t been long enough to see whether the fuel use is lower. We won’t know until we have more units running with the new refrigerant.”
According to Thermo King any fuel savings are likely to be quite small. There should be some fuel savings, but at a marginal rate. The quicker pull-down times will mean less fuel is being used.
Newer fridges are now going to micro-channel condensers, which are made of aluminium and, consequently, more efficient. This reduces the charge required to run the fridge. Older fridges can run with 6.8 kg of refrigerant, the latest models are down to around five kilograms.