Low GWP Refrigerants
Commercial refrigeration systems are known to be prone to high leak rates and to consume large amounts of electricity. As such, both the direct emissions related to refrigerant leakage and the indirect emissions resulting from primary energy consumption contribute greatly to their Life Cycle Climate Performance (LCCP). In this paper, an LCCP design tool is used to evaluate the performance of a typical commercial refrigeration system with alternative refrigerants and minor system modifications to provide lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerant solutions with improved LCCP compared to baseline systems. The LCCP design tool accounts for system performance, ambient temperature, and system load; system performance is evaluated using a validated vapor compression system simulation tool while ambient temperature and system load are devised from a widely used building energy modeling tool (EnergyPlus). The LCCP design tool also accounts for the change in hourly electricity CO2 emission rates to yield an accurate prediction of indirect emissions. The analysis shows that conventional commercial refrigeration system life cycle emissions are largely due to direct emissions associated with refrigerant leaks and that system efficiency plays a smaller role in the LCCP. However, as a transition occurs to low GWP refrigerants, the indirect emissions become more relevant. Low GWP refrigerants may not be suitable for drop-in replacements in conventional commercial refrigeration systems; however some mixtures may be introduced as transitional drop-in replacements. These transitional refrigerants have a significantly lower GWP than baseline refrigerants and as such, improved LCCP. The paper concludes with a brief discussion on the tradeoffs between refrigerant GWP, efficiency and capacity.