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Innovation in Refrigeration – We have to look back to be able to look forward

19th April '18

Like all technologies, the pace of innovation in refrigeration is relentless. Get the inside track

Back in 1835 Charles Darwin arrived in the Galapagos Islands aboard HMS Beagle to study the biology and geology of the remote archipelago. The samples and information that he gathered became the foundation of his Theory of Evolution.

Science was having a particularly good year as in August of that year Jacob Perkins dubbed “The Father of the Refrigerator” was granted the first patent for a vapour-compression refrigeration cycle, titled: "Apparatus and means for producing ice, and in cooling fluids."

Jacob wasn’t the first person to try his hand at refrigeration. Historians note that in around 1000 BC the Chinese would cut blocks of ice to help to store food and drinks for longer. It would appear that Evolution and Refrigeration have long been intrinsically linked.

The evolution of refrigeration continues at pace in 2018. It’s no longer just about keeping products cool. It’s about doing it with optimised energy efficiency and reduced impact on the environment. Gone are the days of boasting about having new and fangled LED lighting in your equipment. The food and beverage industry are constantly raising the bar and one such new frontier is the refrigerants used.

A quota system for the production and supply of R404a means that the manufacturers of the refrigerant can only produce a constantly reducing amount, therefore the cost to buy R404a has risen by more than 500%. Since January 2017 making it not only a refrigerant that is seen as not environmentally friendly but also a product that is not cost effective to use.

Lowe are working hand in hand with the manufacturers to bring staged phase outs of these older refrigerant, generating a new wave of efficient and environmentally friendly units. The team at Lowe Rental pride themselves on being an early adopter of lower GWP refrigerants as illustrated with our move to R449a (GWP 1397) in 2015 as an alternative to R404a.

In addition to this the use of HFC’s with a GWP above 150 will be banned in new hermetically sealed commercial refrigeration equipment placed on the EU market after January 1st 2022.

With one eye on 2022 the experts at Lowe Rental have recently supplied over 800 pieces of equipment to one customer utilising R600a refrigerant which has a very low GWP of 3. The combined Corporate Social Responsibility targets of retailers and suppliers dictate that if you’re not going forwards in this industry then you’re going backwards and therefore being progressive and seeing the risk as an opportunity is a catalyst for future success.

So, when we look back at history and forward to the future perhaps Charles Darwin and Jacob Perkins would be equally pleased with our evolution.

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