HFCs are potent greenhouse gases

The hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) widely used in refrigeration have extremely high Global Warming Potentials (GWP). When equipment such as walk-in chillers and refrigeration cabinets have leaks or failures the refrigerant gas is lost to the atmosphere, contributing to the effects of climate change. Look after your refrigerants by getting advice from qualified engineers on maintenance schedules, and make sure that all service people use the IRHACE Code of Practice.

3 ways to save energy costs and reduce emissions

  1. 1

    Carry out regular maintenance

    A well-maintained refrigeration system will operate efficiently, use less energy and last longer. A qualified engineer should carry out scheduled checks including system set points, refrigerant pressures, fan operation, coil cleanliness, electrical checks, door seals and defrost settings. Use manufactures guidelines to optimise equipment operations.

    Find a qualified engineer(external link)

  2. 2

    Set the rules, get staff on board

    Develop and embed a policy that keeps warm air out of refrigerated areas. Make sure the door is never jarred open when loading or unloading stock – this simple rule can save a lot of energy. Ensure you have the right size fridge for your requirements. A full load acts as a thermal store and maintains an even temperature.
  3. 3

    Reduce heat gain

    A fridge with faulty door seals or a broken door will increase heat load in the refrigerated space, allowing unconditioned air to enter the room. Use LED lighting and EC fans and minimising defrost cycles will all reduce heat loads and reduce energy use. Frost build up inside a freezer room is a sign moist air is getting in. Train staff to look for and report warning signs of an underperforming refrigerated space, and fix problems early.

New systems and upgrades – opportunities worth investigating

Choose a low GWP refrigerant

Under the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) the cost of refrigerants is increasing with some types are being phased out. Replace systems with a high Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerant with low GWP gases such as CO, propane and ammonia.

The refrigerant most widely used in New Zealand – known as R-134a – is 1,430 times more harmful than carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere.

Review the past, plan for the future

When designing a new system, start by reviewing your current needs. Provide suppliers with maximum, average and minimum demand over the past year – then project into the future. A refrigerated space is more efficient when fully loaded, so cold space should match demand as closely as possible – with allowances for future expansion. 

Identify ways to recover heat as early as possible

Refrigeration systems reject valuable heat straight to the atmosphere. Look for ways to capture and reuse that heat so you don’t pay twice. Many businesses save energy costs by heating water with waste heat.

Build in good insulation and automatic doors

Using correct insulation panelling and installing fast closing doors in the design phase will minimise heat gain and reduce long-term operating costs.

 Climate Control Companies Association New Zealand (CCCANZ)(external link)

  • Larger energy-using businesses or public organisations may qualify for co-funding to improve their refrigeration systems, such as industrial systems design advice or industrial energy audits.
  • Recovery New Zealand is a trust that facilitates and manages refrigerant gas disposal. Recovered refrigerants are transported to a storage facility and disposed of using cost-effective, environmentally safe technology.