Global Activists Target Refrigeration Systems as a High Impact Area for Saving Energy and CO2

February 4, 2020
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As Americans are finally getting serious about the need to address Climate Change, and organizations lay out ways to take action, there have been a few areas that have consistently floated to the top of the list. Everyone first thinks of common generation measures, like solar and wind, but did you know that there are several big hitters on the conservation side?

At the top of many lists you see lighting, HVAC and building envelope as common energy conservation steps both in the commercial and residential sectors. One that has flown under the radar, however, is refrigeration. That is no longer the case.

Project Drawdown, a worldwide organization, was founded in 2014 and has a mission to measure and model the most substantive solutions to stop global warming, and to communicate those findings to the world. They are currently active in hundreds of major cities around the globe to execute their findings on the actions with the most impact.

Number one on their lists currently is commercial refrigeration. On their website (www.drawdown.org) they say this about their conclusions:

“Project Drawdown defines refrigerant management as: controlling leakages of refrigerants from existing appliances through better management practices and recovery, recycling, and destruction of refrigerants at the end of life. This solution replaces conventional refrigerant management practices…HFCs, the primary replacement [of older more destructive refrigerants] have 1,000 to 9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.”

The good news is that conservation through better refrigeration management is win-win because energy conservation also saves the almighty dollar. It has a direct impact on overhead expenditure; and can be seen as a better investment than any traditional financial investment.

To summarize their report, Drawdown details five actions:

  • Lowering the demand/use of appliances and thereby production of refrigerants.
  • Replacing refrigerants with low-warming HFCs/new cooling agents/non-HFC substances.
  • Increasing the refrigeration efficiency in appliances, thereby lowering the use of refrigerants.
  • Controlling leakages of refrigerants from existing appliances by good management practices.
  • Ensuring recovery, reclaiming/recycling, and destruction of refrigerants at end of life.

Additionally, the U.S. EPA has published a report that originated in the UK by the organization called “Carbon Trust” which is dedicated to offering solutions to businesses that want to join the worldwide effort to make a difference in protecting ourselves and the planet.

Their extremely detailed and comprehensive report, called The Refrigeration Roadmap, can be read here:   https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/RefrigerationRoadmap.pdf

It lists everything and documents their potential CO2 reduction impacts, as well as their ease of implementation. Both of these reports mentioned here make clear: there are lots of ways to conserve for not that much time and expense in refrigeration alone. The reward could be priceless.

Mary English has been working in sustainable construction and building science for over thirteen years. She has worked with multiple designers and builders in the Kansas City region testing and consulting on best practices from building envelope to HVAC. She currently serves as the Committee Chair for the USGBC Central Plains Programs Committee.


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