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Improving Refrigeration Research, Energy Use and Communication

Improving Refrigeration Research, Energy Use and Communication

By Mary Kate McGowan, Associate Editor, News
From HVAC&R Industry News, June 27, 2019

A “golden era” of refrigeration research has taken place during a “refrigeration revolution” over the last few decades, according to industry leaders and innovators.

Yesterday marked the first annual World Refrigeration Day, the world’s biggest celebration of all things refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pumps as part of an international awareness campaign that focuses on the industry and its technology’s significant roles in modern life and society. Associations from around the world celebrated the industry’s accomplishments and addressed the challenges it is facing through different events.

Those challenges are many. The refrigeration industry is facing regulations, and policies continue to call for reduced use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and other refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP). This demand and projected growth in air-conditioning use has spurred refrigeration research.

A panel of industry experts discussed the changing landscape of refrigeration in a webinar sponsored by UN Environment–OzonAction and ASHRAE yesterday. Five keynote speakers, including Andy Pearson, Ph.D., C.Eng., Fellow ASHRAE, addressed various concerns and challenges the refrigeration sector is facing during the “Refrigerants for Life: How Refrigerants Affect Modern Life” webinar.

More money has been spent on research and development in the refrigeration sector in the last couple decades than ever before, but the solutions might not be addressing real world benefits, said Pearson.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement in refrigeration research,” he said.

The hot areas for refrigeration research are, according to Pearson:

  • Compressor development
  • Expander development
  • System configuration
  • New working fluids
  • New lubricants

The neglected areas are:

  • System modeling
  • Digital twin
  • Performance prediction
  • Internet of Things
  • Non-cooling alternatives
The Energy Use Challenge

Energy use is the greatest challenge and must be a research focus said Pearson.

The energy HVAC&R systems consume often has a greater climate impact than refrigerant emissions, said another speaker, Rajan Rajendran, Associate Member ASHRAE and chair of ASHRAE’s Refrigeration Committee. He said equipment must be maintained to ensure it is operating correctly throughout its life cycle.

Rajendran said the industry should focus on both the direct and indirect emissions and select refrigerants using a holistic approach instead of based on a single factor.

Indirect emissions, related to energy type of consumption, represent about 80% of total emissions, while direct emissions, related to refrigerants, represent a smaller share of total emissions, said Andrea Voigt, Member ASHRAE and director general of the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE). She said both are interrelated and need to be addressed.

“It’s useful and important to have these technical discussions,” she said, but the HVAC&R industry must start talking to those outside of the industry to raise awareness of the challenges and solutions.

Other World Refrigeration Day Activities

The refrigeration industry celebrated the first World Refrigeration Day in different ways.

In Australia, retailer Woolworth opened two of its plants that use transcritical CO2 refrigeration systems to the public. Forums, press conferences and webinars in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom discussed the opportunities of the refrigeration industry in various sectors.

Associations and societies in China, Columbia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, the Middle East and other regions and countries recognized the day in their own ways. Some government officials issued letters and statements of commendation to celebrate the day.

World Refrigeration Day was established in 2018 to increase awareness and understanding of the public on the significant role refrigeration has in modern life.  

“ASHRAE has been pioneering refrigeration research and advancing the development of refrigeration technologies for close to 125 years,” said Darryl K. Boyce, P.Eng., 2019-20 ASHRAE President. “We are proud to support World Refrigeration Day and look forward to working with partnering organizations to celebrate the important contributions that refrigeration makes toward our daily well-being around the world.”

For more ASHRAE resources on refrigeration, visit.