An ideal refrigerant should be non-toxic, stable (inside the refrigeration system), non-flammable, environmentally friendly, and readily available. It should also be self lubricating, low cost, easy to handle and detect in case of any leakage, compatible with various materials that is used service and fabricate the refrigeration system, and shouldn’t require extreme pressures—high or low. Today, as many manufactures are shifting from CFCs and HFCs, Ammonia would be a perfect alternative. ASHRAE and IIAR (the International institute of Ammonia Refrigeration) hold that ammonia is an efficient and cost effective alternative to CFCs and HCFs and is also friendly to the environment.
Chemically, ammonia is comprised of two other gases: Nitrogen and hydrogen. It is colorless and has a sharp pungent smell—whether found naturally or manufactured. The ammonia used commercially in refrigeration plants is called anhydrous ammonia because it is almost free of water (99.98 percent pure).On the contrary, household ammonia is only 10 percent by weight mixed with water.
As a refrigerant, ammonia has certain advantages and disadvantages. Here is an overview of some pros and cons of ammonia refrigerants.
• Developing ammonia-based refrigeration systems cost 10 to 20 percent less than CFCs based systems due to narrow diameter piping used
• Ammonia is 3 to 10 percent than CFCs; so ammonia-based refrigeration systems consume less power hence lower operational costs.
• Ammonia is environmental-friendly with a global warming potential (GWP) and Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) ratings of 0.
• Cost wise, ammonia is cheaper than CFCs and HCFCs
• Ammonia chillers have great and better load capacities
• Ammonia refrigerants have better transfer capabilities than CFCs and HCFCs
• Ammonia is incompatible with copper and cannot be used in refrigeration systems with copper pipes
• In high concentrations, ammonia is poisonous. However, this is mitigated in two ways: to begin with, ammonia has a distinctive smell at high concentrations. Again, ammonia is less than air, so if there are any leaks, it will rise fast and dissipate in the atmosphere.
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