Ultimate Guide to Refrigeration Systems

Refrigeration is the process wherein the temperature is lowered to meet the preferred coldness level of a stored product. This enables the products to be stored for long periods while avoiding spoilage or damage. Some may assume that the refrigeration process is only for refrigerators and freezers but there are more applications for it aside from the ones stated earlier. That is one of the topics that I will be presenting to you in this writing.

 

 

What is a Refrigeration System?

A refrigeration system is a system where warm or hot air that is circulating inside a location or unit is transferred to another place. It uses this method to lower the temperature to your desired level depending on the products that will be stored in the unit.

 

Different Types of Refrigeration Systems:

Several types of refrigeration systems are currently in use. Each of these systems has a unique function in providing the required cooling efficiency, however, they all have one similarity, which is to remove heat from the surroundings and convert it into cool air. This is what makes a refrigeration system work.

 

1. Mechanical Compression

This system is comprised of four important parts, the compressor, the condenser, the evaporator, and the expansion valve. The components of the refrigeration system work together seamlessly to convert the refrigerant from a liquid to a gas state. This is achieved by compressing the refrigerant, which initially exists as a low-pressure liquid, and transforming it into a high-pressure gas.

Mechanical Refrigeration System

 

2. Absorption

The main idea behind this system is that it uses absorption and heat. The refrigerant is moved through the system by heat because it is the one that provides the energy for the refrigerant to move. The common material that is used as a refrigerant is ammonia while water is the absorber. The absorber functions by taking in the ammonia from the low-pressure side of the system, while simultaneously removing heat. Afterwards, a pump transfers a water-ammonia solution to the generator where the solution is boiled to separate ammonia from water. The ammonia is then sent to the high-pressure side of the system. This procedure cools down the liquid and transforms it into gas, which is then used to cool down the designated area.

 

3. Thermoelectric Refrigeration

This type of system does not require water or any refrigerant to run. Instead, a thermoelectric refrigeration system works by having a direct current pass through two different conductors or metal wires that produce different temperatures (hot and cold). The cold side is placed in the area that requires cooling. This will attract and remove heat from the surrounding air. The other side, which is the hot end, is placed outside.

thermoelectric refrigeration system

 

4. Evaporative Refrigeration System

This cooling system uses the evaporation process to cool the air. It starts by drawing in warm outdoor air and passing it through pads that are submerged in water. The water evaporates, absorbing heat from the air and the surroundings, and cools the air. The resulting air is then circulated into the area that needs to be cooled.

Evaporative Refrigeration system

 

 

Applications of Refrigeration System.

Refrigeration systems are utilized for various applications based on the specific needs of different industries or businesses. The main objective is to maintain a consistent temperature to prevent damage to products and loss of revenue.

 

The following are Some of the Industries that Require Refrigeration or Cooling Systems.

 

1.  Food & Beverages Industry

The food and beverages industry requires a specific temperature to prevent the growth of microorganisms and food contamination. 

They mostly use a walk-in freezer or cooler to store a large variety of products needed for their business. This helps to extend the shelf life of the food and minimize food waste and loss of income.

Walk-in Freezer

 

2.  District Cooling

This is a system that utilizes a cooling plant to chill the water which is then moved to insulated pipes connected to various places inside a building. Most buildings use this kind of system because of its efficiency and low energy consumption rate. The pumped water, while circulating runs through an air conditioning system where it is being pumped to produce cold air.

The district cooling plant is made up of various significant components and equipment. These include chillers, a condenser, a thermal energy storage system, distribution pumps, an electrical system, and an automatic control system. All of these are housed in a plant-building structure.

 

3.  Chemical and Petrochemical Industries.

This industry may not require temperature control as strictly as others, but it is still important for them to maintain proper temperature levels to achieve optimal efficiency in their production and operation processes. Heat removal is necessary during various operations to meet specific standards.

Some chemical and petrochemical companies often utilize cooling towers to regulate the temperature of their equipment and maintain the proper temperature of the chemicals. These towers help to remove heat from the surroundings, which enhances cooling efficiency for employees and prevents overheating of the equipment.

Chemical and Petrochemical Company

 

4.  Electrical Plants

Industries that produce electricity utilize turbine generators which require gas and fuel to convert mechanical energy to electrical energy. The steam generated by the heat then moves the blades of the turbine to function.  Since heat is the driving force, the temperature level inside the plant is high and this is where the air-cooling system is necessary. The cooling system will balance or lower the temperature to ensure that the accuracy and efficiency of the production are maintained.

Most power plants in the United States use a type of cooling system called “wet recirculating cooling” to reduce the amount of heat generated during power production. This cooling system is both efficient and eco-friendly. The way it works is by reusing water in a closed loop and cooling it through evaporation in a cooling tower. The water is sprayed over fill materials to increase its surface area and contact with air. As a result, some of the water evaporates, while the rest is sent back to the condenser. These systems only withdraw water to replace what is lost through evaporation in the cooling tower.

Power Plants

 

5.  Pharmaceutical Industries

Drugs, medicines, and vaccines play a huge role in the health industry. These need to be stored in a location with a standard temperature setting so they may keep their effectiveness for long periods. This is the reason why the pharmaceutical industry maintains strict control on the temperature of the storage units of these products or else they may lead to unforeseen circumstances that may risk the patients’ well-being.

Pharmaceutical industries utilize cooling towers to meet their cooling requirements, similar to the chemical and petrochemical industries. Additionally, pharmaceutical chillers are employed to store drugs and medications, particularly during the formulation of a new drug. Maintaining strict temperature control is crucial to ensure the maximum efficacy of the drug.

 

6.  Data Centers

Data centers are composed of a large number of computers and servers that use a lot of electricity which then generates a lot of heat. Operating on high temperatures results in overheating of these networked computers that are designed to organize, process, store, and distribute large amounts of data that is why it is very important to have a refrigeration or cooling system to prevent the risk of data loss due to overheating.

A chilled water system is a cooling system that is commonly used by data centers and large companies with numerous employees and equipment. These systems comprise various types of equipment, such as industrial chillers, air handling units, distribution pumps, and cooling towers. The primary function of these systems is to maintain a cool temperature inside the building while transferring heat to the outside.

Data centers

 

 

Refrigeration Systems’ Refrigerants

This is a substance whose main function is to absorb heat from the surrounding air. After absorbing heat, it then provides cool air after it runs through the refrigeration system composed of compressors and evaporators.

 

The following are some of the Commonly Used Refrigerants:

 

1.  Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC)

This is a non-toxic and non-flammable methane-based compound made up of carbon, fluorine, and chlorine. This was the most common refrigerant before it was banned in the early 1990s because of its harmful effect on the environment.

 

2.  Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC)

A variation of the CFC was used as its alternative after it was banned. It is different from CFC because of the additional hydrogen compound added to the carbon, fluorine, and chlorine. It was a temporary alternative but because of the presence of chlorine, it still poses a risk to the environment specifically the ozone layer.

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC)

 

3.      Hydrocarbons (HC)

A cost-effective refrigerant and the better alternative to the previous two because of its non-toxicity and climate-friendly properties. The only downside is that is highly flammable.

 

4.  Ammonia (NH3)

Made up of nitrogen and hydrogen, this makes ammonia sustainable as a refrigerant but because ammonia becomes a hazard even in small amounts, its use is limited to large Industries.

Ammonia (NH3)

 

5.  Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

A non-toxic and environmentally friendly alternative as a refrigerant. It is also energy efficient because even at small amounts, its capacity per unit volume is large due to its good heat transfer capability.

 

 

What are the requirements to maintain a refrigeration system?

To ensure your refrigeration system lasts longer and operates more efficiently, it is important to understand the basic maintenance requirements.

 

Here are some basic ways to maintain your refrigeration system more efficiently:

 

Clean your Equipment:

It is important to keep your equipment clean. Cleaning it every week will prevent foreign objects from getting stuck and help your refrigeration system work at its best. 

Cleaning refrigeration system

 

Inspect the Control Board Setting

Checking the control board settings regularly is also essential. This will ensure that the temperature remains accurate and prevent fluctuations that can affect your products or goods. By setting the temperature according to your specific needs, you can also conserve energy.

 

Create a schedule for defrosting.

Defrosting schedules are necessary for refrigeration systems that require defrosting. These schedules prevent ice build-up and contamination due to bacterial growth and ensure proper air circulation.

Defrosting schedules

 

Organize and Maintain Proper Placements

Proper spacing or placement is essential for refrigeration systems such as walk-in coolers or freezers, chillers, or any kind of refrigerators. This ensures adequate airflow and prevents cross-contamination between products or goods by organizing them according to their types.

 

Clean the coils and fan blades

Cleaning coils and fan blades at least once a month is highly recommended.  You’ll need to examine the evaporator and condenser coil as well as their fan blades. This will not just promote good air circulation but also prevent dust and debris build-up. This will also prevent possible damage to your unit. 

 

Hire a Professional  Licensed Technicians

For simple problems and troubleshooting, an experienced employee may do the job but to ensure that your refrigeration units run in their optimal condition, it is recommended to obtain the services of a licensed professional technician. The technician’s responsibility is to check the components and parts that make up the whole system and ensure that they are all in good working condition. Twice a year is the recommended preventive maintenance schedule to keep your machine efficient and in good condition.

licensed professional technician

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

 

How to install a refrigeration system?

Installing a refrigeration system can vary depending on the specific application you require. There are many types of applications for refrigeration systems, such as in households or commercial freezers, air conditioning, and any other equipment that requires a cooling system. We highly recommend hiring a professional to handle the installation process to ensure that your equipment is properly installed and to avoid accidentally damaging any parts, which could void your warranty.

Installing a refrigeration system

 

How Much is the Possible Cost of a Refrigeration System?

For residential, a refrigeration cooling system will cost you around $260 – $800 while the costs will increase for commercial units which may cost you around $1,500 – $11,000 or more. Before buying and investing in a refrigeration system, you also need to consider some factors first such as the location, the size of the available space, and ventilation. You also need to check if there is a nearby power source to supply power to the entire system. 

 

 

Conclusion:

            Nowadays, having a refrigeration system is becoming a common thing, especially for businesses. They vary based on their types, the kind of industry they are being utilized, the refrigerant they use, and the costs of maintenance and installation. No matter which sector we belong to, we must understand how a refrigeration system works so that we can plan and build the optimal refrigeration system that will be beneficial to us and to our business.

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