As an industry leader in temperature-controlled storage solutions, Leer strives to continuously adapt to the ever-changing technologies, market demand, and the world we live in.

For those of us who remember the hazardous chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that were used until the 90s in freezers and refrigerators, eco-friendly refrigerant is especially surprising.

Fortunately, refrigeration technology has come a long way. Leer started manufacturing Ice Merchandisers in 1952 and since then, we’ve offered three different refrigerants. Technology and global environmental awareness have enabled the introduction of a much-improved refrigerant.

The newest is called “R290” and it’s the eco-friendly refrigerant of the future. It will be the fourth one we’ve used as a business and we happy to add such a superior refrigerant to our current offerings.

Continue reading to explore what eco-friendly refrigeration looks like, how it works, and why it benefits your bottom line, as well as the environment.

First, How Does Refrigeration Work?

To understand why R290 is so exciting to refrigeration enthusiasts and users of Ice Merchandisers, let’s take a quick look at how refrigeration works.

Remember from seventh grade or so when we learned about thermodynamics? Us neither.

So, here’s the basics: hot flows to cold. Not the other way around.

In refrigeration, this means that we’re essentially sucking hot air out of where the ice is, leaving only cold air behind. This hot air is “captured” by the refrigerant, in this case R290, and cycled through the Ice Merchandiser by way of the evaporator and compressor.

Benefits of Eco-Friendly Refrigerant, R290

First, what does R290 mean? It’s a “refrigeration grade propane.” Meaning, that it’s a natural, non-toxic hydrocarbon refrigerant and is the safe alternative to past alternatives.

R290 has a higher thermal conductivity than other refrigerants. This means that the Ice Merchandiser will not only perform better but will also typically cost less to run. Thermal conductivity is the ability for a substance to transfer heat. Higher is better because transferring heat out of the Ice Merchandiser is exactly what we’re trying to do.

It also offers users a longer compressor life, due to its lower high-side compressor pressures. Essentially, this puts less wear and tear on the unit because it doesn’t have to work as hard.

According to ACHR News,

“R290 has a more consistent performance than comparable products, resulting in easier-to-size and verify proper capillary tube and charge amounts… no glide (the total temperature glide of a refrigerant blend is defined as the temperature difference between the saturated vapor temperature and the saturated liquid temperature at a constant pressure). Another definition is the temperature difference between the starting and ending temperature of a refrigerant phase change within a system at a constant pressure.”

Why R290 is More Eco-Friendly Than Other Refrigerants

Being a non-toxic and natural hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerant, R290 differs from older options in three primary ways that benefit the environment:

  1. Eco-Friendly Properties – The components making up the refrigerant are HCs and not HFCs, making it a safe and eco-friendly alternative to refrigeration of yesteryear.
  2. Ultra-Low GWP (Global Warming Potential) – The gases used measure low in their climate impact, meaning they stick around in the atmosphere for less time and do much less damage while they’re there. This is one of the biggest technological advancements present.
  3. Zero ODP (Ozone Depletion Potential) – No ozone-eating chemicals are present in R290!

Comparing R290 to R448a: Which is More Environmentally Conscious?

R290 isn’t the only refrigerant on the market that’s touted as a better solution than refrigerants of the past. Another primary contender is R448a.

Leer has chosen to use R290 in our products. Let’s break down why. We evaluated seven factors:

R290 R448a
Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP)
Lower Value = Better (AKA More Ozone for Us)
0 0
Global Warming Potential (GWP)
Lower value = Better (AKA More Glaciers for Nature)
0 1300
Compliance in 50 States Yes Yes
Thermal Conductivity
Higher Value = Better (AKA Costs Less to Keep Cool)
0.0676 0.0469
Service Yes Yes
Future Support/Longevity Yes Temporary
International Markets Yes Temporary

Not only does R290 have the lowest environmental impact but it has the highest performance for our customers and is best poised for longevity in the market, making it the clear choice for Leer.

As a leader in temperature-controlled storage solutions, Leer is committed to staying at the forefront of new technologies and serving our customers better every day.

So How Does It Even Impact the Environment?

The simple answer is R290 uses less energy to run the unit. Multiple that by the thousands of Ice Merchandisers deployed in the wild, and there’s a noticeable decrease in energy consumption.

Refrigerants are commonly known as hurting the environment because they contribute to global warming and ozone layer depletion. Certain greenhouse gases from some refrigerants contribute to negative environmental effects by absorbing infrared radiation and holding it in the atmosphere. The Refrigerant reaches the environment when/if:

  • The unit leaks.
    • R290 systems are hermetically sealed and proven to have far less leaks.
  • The unit needs repaired, and the refrigerant is evacuated.
    • R290 systems are more reliable and have a projected longer useful life.
  • The unit is disposed of improperly.

When any of those events occur, the refrigerant contributes to global warming by trapping heat in the atmosphere. This is called Global Warming Potential (GWP). Carbon Dioxide (CO2) has a GWP of 1, and every gas with a level higher than 1 traps more than CO2.

Under those same situations, Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) occurs when the refrigerant contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer. ODP is the measure of how much a substance causes the ozone layer to degrade as compared to trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11), which has a ODP of 1. Therefore, every gas with an ODP over 1.0 will degrade the ozone layer more than CFC-11.

Interested in learning more about R290 or our Ice Merchandiser options? Contact us today.


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