In this age of global climate disaster, many people are looking for ways to diminish or eliminate their personal carbon footprint. Home items that use electricity are inevitably going to have some impact, but some appliances have a lesser impact than others. From this line of thinking, certain home cooling appliances are beginning to switch away from hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), in favor of more ecologically friendly alternatives. Ammonia-based cooling appliances are a great way to minimize the ecological impact of your home. Let’s take a look at the science.
History of HFCs
HFCs were originally introduced as a solution to the problems of cholorfluorocarbons (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) which were found to have serious ozone depletion potential and global warming potential. However, while HFCs are not as detrimental as their predecessors, they are contributing to global warming at an increasing rate. To prevent the effects of this, HFCs are now being phased out of use while ammonia refrigerants are being introduced and becoming the dominant refrigerant.
Ammonia Protecting the Environment
Leaks in ammonia-based refrigerants are vastly less dangerous than leaks in HFC-based refrigerants. This is because ammonia is a naturally occurring chemical, and it is able to biodegrade into the biosphere cleanly without causing and harm to the surrounding environment. In contrast, HFCs are known to cause extreme damage both to the ecosystem and to the ozone layer. This damage is so extreme that the effects are visible from satellites in space, and individual leaks are detectable from orbit. For this reason, many industrial refrigeration maintenance companies prefer to use ammonia-based coolers in favor of those using HFCs.
While far safer for the environment, ammonia can be dangerous if you come into contact with it as it can irritate or harm the skin, eyes, and lungs. To mitigate this damage, some operations employ alarms that detect and alert the users that an ammonia leak has occurred. Alarms like this allow maintenance crews to respond quickly to an emergency and further minimize the risk of ecological damage, physical injury, and monetary losses. Fast action and competent repair jobs are necessary in order to maximize safety and eliminate any potential for ecological damage. This further reduces the risks associated with ammonia-based cooling systems.
For the reasons outlined above, and many others, if you’re looking for a new refrigerator, you should seriously consider looking into purchasing an ammonia-based refrigerant instead of one that uses hydrofluorocarbons.
Anita Ginsburg, the author, is a Freelance Writer