Addressing the effects of climate change is a top priority for The U.S. Department of Energy. Record heat puts the Earth at a higher risk of more intense and frequent weather events such as droughts, wildfires, and floods. Global warming has been linked with greenhouse gases used as cooling agents in commercial refrigeration, namely hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). While President Obama’s Clean Air Act is phasing out HFCs, they continue to be the most prominent greenhouse gas present during testing.
Normal climate changes are caused naturally, but in recent decades, human activities have been the likely cause of warming, mostly due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Regulating energy efficiency in commercial refrigeration is one way to reduce greenhouse gas pollution linked to ozone damage. Commercial refrigerators generally must be kept cold constantly, consuming large amounts of power and generating emissions on a daily basis.
The Energy Department has proclaimed appliance efficiency a top priority. Therefore, to counteract these emissions, the government will begin regulating the way refrigeration can be produced and sold. To stay within the Clean Air Act guidelines, manufacturers have the option of using the hydrocarbon refrigerant known as R290. R290 is a refined blend of propane, a naturally-occurring compound. The explosive nature of propane is a big concern; therefore it is advised not to use open flames when working with R290. However, the results of an ignition risk assessment study of a R290 refrigerant leak revealed the probability of an explosion is less than 0.001%.
In the end, hydrocarbon refrigerants like R290 mean more efficient, environmentally conscious, commercial equipment. The new alternative is safe for operators and will decrease emissions of ozone-depleting substances in the years to come. Manufacturers in the U.S. have already started using the new alternatives in applications such as refrigerators, freezers, bottle coolers, beverage dispensers, and dehumidifiers. Time and future testing will tell us know how much safer it really is.