Looking to purchase R290 (also referred to as propane)? You have a lot of options. However, not all R290 refrigerants are the same and the difference comes to purity, which affects system performance and impacts your business. In fact, certain contaminants can cause significant issues even at concentrations below 50 parts per million (ppm).
For a refrigerator manufacturer, purity can be the difference between an increase or decrease in warranty claims. For an industrial plant, it can be the difference between maximizing uptime or shutting down operations. Additionally, it determines if a product meets the UL standards for commercial refrigeration systems.
1) Is It Refrigerant-Grade?
Many people assume most, or all propane qualifies for use as a refrigerant, but this is not the case. Propane has different applications and therefore, it comes in varying grades i.e., fuel-grade, chemical-grade, and aerosol-grade. The difference is in the purity levels, which can range from 80% to 99.9%. For example, aerosol-grade propane, which can be used for spray paint applications, has lower purity requirements.
2) How Pure Is It?
However, refrigerant-grade propane is still likely to contain varying levels of contaminants like water, mercury, and ethane. These contaminants, and others, impact performance in a variety of ways.
Examples of contaminants:
- Water: Even a small amount of moisture can alter the coefficient of performance (COP) of the compressor. High-purity R290 helps ensure lower compressor discharge temperatures extend the compressor’s life.
- Mercury. Trace amounts cause the metal to become brittle and lead to stress fractures in components and equipment.
- Ethane: As a high-pressure gas, this contaminant increases the required horsepower and results in wasteful power consumption.
Think about it this way: If you invested in a high-performance car, like a Maserati, would you fill the tank with regular-grade gas?
Probably not. Many high-performance cars require premium fuel because manufacturers understand how fuel impacts performance, efficiency, and longevity. Furthermore, when you upgrade from 87 octane gasoline to 90 octane gasoline, the price difference is nominal, and the benefits far outweigh the difference. The same is true for refrigerants.