Saving Energy in Refrigeration Systems is A Win-Win for Everyone

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Published: 12 April 2016


Everyone wins

Alan Jackson BJA Refrigeration
Alan Jackson
​Plant owners like reducing running costs, contractors who save their clients’ money win favour, and everyone benefits from lower global warming effects by reducing CO2 emission from power production.

The F-Gas Regulations were introduced to limit leakage of high GWP refrigerants. However, the CO2 released from the production of power used by refrigeration and air conditioning systems contributes far more to global warming than the direct leakage of refrigerants.

So why aren’t all fridge systems as efficient as they could be?

Market forces and lack of knowledge

​One answer lies in the effect of market forces.

​Suppliers of refrigeration systems need to win projects to survive so are tempted to offer the lowest capital cost systems to get the order. This invariably means skimping on the selection of components and system designs. Energy efficient systems almost always have a higher initial cost.
​"Many end-users do not have a technical understanding of the relative merits of different refrigeration systems"
​Many end-users do not have a technical understanding of the relative merits of different refrigeration systems so they are ill-equipped to make value judgements about which system would be best for them in the longer term. Even when a contractor offers an efficient system and explains the benefits they may not be believed or the purchaser may not be able to afford his plant.

Another reason many systems do not work as efficiently as they could is a lack of understanding among some refrigeration engineers. For instance, there is a common belief that it is necessary to maintain artificially high head pressures even though there are thousands of systems working perfectly well with lower ‘floating’ condensing temperatures. Every 1°C condensing temperature that can be reduced can save around 3% energy.

​Maintenance can significantly reduce energy consumption

"​If air-cooled condensers are not kept clean the condensing pressure can rise significantly leading to high energy consumption."
​A lack of maintenance of systems causes excessive energy use. If air-cooled condensers are not kept clean the condensing pressure can rise significantly leading to high energy consumption. End users may not wish to pay for and engineer’s time if the plant appears to be working OK and their product is cold but it could save a lot of money by reducing their electricity bill.


​To improve the energy efficiency of the average refrigeration system there is a need to improve the understanding of all concerned with buying, maintaining and operating them. This is never going to be easy. A low capital cost for a new system is always going to be attractive to a client and a man whose job is making and selling food products will see learning about the efficiency refrigeration as being low on the list of important things he needs to do, and the refrigeration industry’s main aim is to sell goods and services to the user and if the user wants a cheap system that is what they will sell.

However, it’s not all gloom. Having tried to sell efficient systems against cheaper ones for nearly 40 years, in the past 5 years I have found a growing interest in energy saving by end users. Perhaps it is high energy prices, perhaps is a growing awareness of global warming but should all encourage this interest and do our part in informing the user of the benefits of buying the efficient plant.
​After all, as I said at the start of this article - it is in everyone’s best interest.