Does your local supermarket use HFC gas in its refrigerators?

  Forum Editor 08:15 AM 31 Jul 12

I get lots of press releases, and although I read them all I don't often learn something new.

One arrived yesterday that did make me sit up and take notice however. It was from the prominent and authoritative environmental charity EIA, and concerned the use of HFC gases in supermarket refrigeration equipment. HFC gases are associated with global warming, and are many times more powerful than Carbon dioxide.

The release stated that "HFC emissions from commercial refrigeration in Europe equate to about 20 million tonnes of CO2 per year – that’s about one-third of Sweden’s annual greenhouse gas emissions."

There are alternatives, and apparently 344 supermarkets have now installed climate-friendly refrigeration systems, compared to just 14 in 2008. It's an improvement, and all of the big retailers come in for praise - all except Tesco. Despite a 2009 promise to have 150 HFC-free stores by 2012 the company has so far managed just 60.

At a time when we see the big food manufacturers slapping all kinds of 'natural ingredients, no additives' notices on their products it's depressing to discover that Britain's largest supermarket chain doesn't appear to care too much about the environment its customers inhabit, as long as they keep coming.

You can read the EIA release here

  Quickbeam 08:21 AM 31 Jul 12

Now you've done it, there's going to be a craze of people pulling supermarket freezers out to check the CE label on the back as well as the sell by dates on the peas before buying!

  amonra 13:45 PM 31 Jul 12

Why oh why do they fit the fluorescent light fittings INSIDE the freezer cabinets ? That's an extra load on the compressor which results in more heat, requiring more cooling, which requires more electricity !!! Efficiency doesn't seem to enter into the equation.

  oresome 15:52 PM 31 Jul 12

I have noticed recently that some supermarkets no longer have refridgerators with individual compressors.

The coolant is piped from a unit outside the retail area.

I presume this offers some economy of operation and as it's quite recent will follow the latest emission requirements.

The problem at one store is that the central compressor is attractive to metal thieves and all the cabinets are often out of order as a result.

  OTT_B 15:59 PM 31 Jul 12

The two largish Tesco's close to me have doored freezers - this seems to be as good a way as any for a supermarket to reduce their freezer-energy usage, irrespective of the coolant used. Maybe Tesco have reworked the climate figures and calculated that they won't cause the world to disintegrate by next year if HFC is used for a while longer.

  spuds 17:43 PM 31 Jul 12

Like most things in life nowadays, it doesn't take much to break a promise or 'bend' a regulation, irrespective of environmental or not.

My local council, and no doubt many other council's, go right off the rails if they find that a fridge or freezer as been disposed off through unofficial channels.

One thing that I have noticed in some of the supermarkets local to me, when one unit goes wrong, it seems to have a knock-on effect with others. Perhaps the practise of coolant piped from outside is becoming the normal?.

  WhiteTruckMan 17:56 PM 31 Jul 12

You might also want to consider all those thousands of fridge vans, trucks and trailers that are driving around or parked up in some rental yard. And before anyone asks, I don't know either.


  Forum Editor 18:45 PM 31 Jul 12


That's a very good point. I imagine that the refrigeration plant on a big truck is every bit as powerful as those in a supermarket, if not more so. There must be a fair amount of HFC gas involved, if you add up all the vans,trucks and trailers.

  namtas 21:44 PM 01 Aug 12

In the 80s CFC was declared unusable at the Montreal agreement as emission created global warming and all systems were scrapped or recharged, costing probably millions. The replacement was HFC which a short while later was found to deplete the ozone layer. Now the recommendation is HCF which surprisingly once again to a lesser degree causes global warming.

Incidentally motor vehicle and mobile refrigeration systems worldwide calculate to cause 66% of the world emission contamination.

  WhiteTruckMan 22:38 PM 01 Aug 12

I do recall reading somewhere quite a while back that butane was a practical alternative for refrigerent, at least as far as domestic units were concerned, but that it wasnt taken up due to flammability fears, despite the actual amounts being quite low. (I do however have to admit that my recollection of the above may be less than perfect)


  Terry Brown 10:16 AM 02 Aug 12

I wonder the the HFC system is now 'Safer' until the majority of larger customers have converted to it and then a Newer system will emerge, which will involve buying a new system again.

Perhaps I am being cynical.



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