What is Ammonia Refrigeration?
Ammonia refrigeration, as the name suggests, uses ammonia to keep items cold. A naturally occurring compound that is one of the most abundant gasses in the environment, ammonia absorbs heat from one area and brings it to another area to dissipate.
Ammonia’s chemical formula is NH3, meaning it can be broken down into one atom of nitrogen and three atoms of hydrogen. The colorless gas is a key component in the nitrogen cycle for plants and animals, and it is a vital part of many biological processes. Because of how common it is in nature ammonia is commonly referred to as a “natural refrigerant.”
Concentrated ammonia is much colder than room temperature, making it an excellent choice for keeping things cool. Ammonia refrigeration dates back to the mid-nineteenth century France and is still used today because it is such an effective, reliable, and safe refrigerant. However, ammonia refrigeration systems are not typically found inside homes because ammonia is toxic, and the refrigerator systems are very costly. Ammonia refrigeration is commonly used in commercial industries that need large refrigeration devices that can cool substances quickly.
How Does Ammonia Refrigeration Work?
A refrigerator is designed to alter the state of a gas. By changing a gas’s state, a refrigeration system also changes its temperature and how much heat it carries. The compressor in a refrigerator increases the temperature and pressure of the gas, allowing it to hold more significant amounts of heat. Ammonia refrigeration systems work in a way similar to most other refrigeration systems. Some components are necessary to keep the ammonia refrigeration system working correctly. If any of them are missing or break down, the refrigeration system will stop working.
The required components in an ammonia refrigeration system are the compressor, condenser, expansion device, and evaporator. The ammonia is distributed among pressure vessels that separate the liquid ammonia from the gas, store the refrigerant, and then distribute it to different parts of the system when it is needed. The purpose refrigeration is to remove the heat from a given space. With ammonia refrigeration, this is done when the heat evaporates and condenses. Liquid ammonia travels through evaporator coils, the liquid turns into a gas, and the evaporating gas removes heat. The ammonia gas and heat travel to a compressor that compresses the gas and discharges to a condenser coil. The compressed gas condenses back into liquid ammonia. The heat is dissipated out of the condenser coils. The cycle repeats itself again and again.
Benefits of Ammonia Refrigeration
Some of the main advantages of ammonia refrigeration include:
- More efficient. Ammonia is a 3-10% more efficient refrigerant than chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). An ammonia-based refrigeration system uses less electricity, leading to lower operation costs. Ammonia has better heat transfer than most chemical refrigerants, allowing for the use of equipment with a smaller area of heat transfer. Ammonia also has a lower density in the liquid phase as well, meaning an ammonia leak will be detected quickly due to the odor; therefore, any potential loss of refrigerant will be lower.
- Cheaper. Ammonia is less expensive to install than some other refrigeration systems, and the cost of ammonia is significantly lower than hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC). It’s also cost-effective to custom build. Ammonia refrigeration systems typically cost at least 10% less to build than one that uses CFCs because narrower piping can be used.
- Environmentally friendly. Ammonia is not harmful to the environment like HCFC. With an Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) rating of 0 and a Global Warming Potential (GWP) rating of 0, ammonia is safe for the environment.
- Availability. Ammonia is plentiful and readily available worldwide.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ammonia Refrigeration
How is ammonia used?
Historically, ammonia as a refrigerant has been used as a 99.98% pure substance. Ammonia is readily available, inexpensive, and capable of absorbing large amounts of heat after it evaporates. In recent years, blends incorporating ammonia have been shown to provide additional benefits regarding temperature, compression ratio, and refrigeration capacity. A few of the standard blends include the hydrocarbons propane (R290), octafluoropropane (R218), and isobutane (R600a).
Is ammonia flammable?
It is difficult to ignite ammonia as it has a narrow range of flammability. Ammonia is flammable only at high concentrations and under certain conditions. Ignition of ammonia vapor requires a constant external flame source because ammonia will not sustain a flame on its own. Ammonia’s burning velocity is much lower than other flammable refrigerants and is not high enough to cause an explosion.
Contact Ammonia Refrigeration Experts
TDI Refrigeration services industrial refrigeration and commercial HVAC systems in everything from small offices to cold storage warehouses. Founded in 1999, TDI Refrigeration has built a reputation as a trusted HVAC/R service provider with expert technicians who get the job done quickly.
As a top ammonia refrigeration contractor serving southern California and Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, TDI Refrigeration provides top-notch service through every step of the process. Our technicians monitor systems and present solutions to help keep your ammonia refrigeration system running at optimum efficiency.
TDI’s highly skilled technicians are RETA and EPA certified. We only hire the best technicians in the industry because we are committed to providing the highest quality service. We are so confident that you will be completely satisfied with our work that all repairs and services are backed by warranty.
To learn more about how we can help with all your ammonia refrigeration needs, reach out to the ammonia refrigeration experts today at (866) 383-2653.