As a manufacturer of stainless steel catering equipment, this company is very active in its field. It also promotes the collaborative participation of employees in proposing new solutions adapted to customer needs. All customer requests are processed in project mode by the design office integrated into the structure. 'Innovation, sustainable commitment and energy efficiency are important drivers of growth for the company,' Philippe Jaunard, quality and environment manager at Tournus Equipement points out.
In 2008, Tournus Equipement decided to conduct a full review of its self-service line to reduce electricity consumption of the equipment. An industrial choice that was to be successful with the launch of a new OREO2 range reducing energy bills by 20%, following improvement of insulation and airflows in particular.
The rate can reach up to 40% by focussing more specifically on the use of the product with the end customer. 'We have introduced electrocards allowing delayed start-up, for example,' explains Franck Boisselon, laboratory manager.
The purpose of this new range was also to 'guide the user in the right direction for achieving energy savings. The refrigeration part of the equipment was not discussed at that time. Even though the company's carbon footprint revealed that refrigerants accounted for 7% of total greenhouse gas emissions, there was little alternative to R134a at the time with varying performances or R290 with few units available and the flammability issue to manage,' recalls Mr Jaunard.
Which fluid to choose?
F-Gas accelerated the search for long-term refrigerant options to address the R404A issue and reduce environmental impact.
Always with an eye on technology, Tournus Equipment discovered a new fluid under development, HDR-110, at Climalife’s 'Energy Efficiency' conference in Lyon, September 2015. The refrigerant, marketed today by Honeywell under the name Solstice L40X and assigned R455A by ASHRAE, caught the full attention of Mr Jaunard. On the one hand, its very low GWP fully in line with the 2022 F-Gas ban hit the mark and, on the other hand, its low flammability made it stand out. The first tests began at the laboratory of the Tournus factory in close collaboration with the producer, Honeywell, and Pierre-Emmanuel Danet, technical support manager at Climalife.
Under the leadership of Mr Boisselon, a project team was set up, validating the thermodynamic characteristics of the fluid and undertaking a risk analysis to approve the A2L feature of R455A.
Qualification of R455A through risk assessment
Finding it difficult to refer to standard EN 60335-2-89 on the safety of commercial refrigerated cabinets, which still prohibits loads higher than 150 g for this type of fluid, Tournus Equipment turned to an external organisation, LCIE Bureau Veritas.
The purpose was to determine the maximum volume of fluid charge based on its flammability rate, the risk of electrical spark and the volume of the room in which the equipment was to be installed. The OREO2 range of refrigerated display cabinets with 3 levels of tempered glass and the IDECO2 range cabinets did not require adjustment after the tests. Only the R404A regulator would be replaced with a R407F regulator to take into account refrigerant temperature glide pending the development of R455A components. The Roll-Fresh unit, a cold-connected mobile climate control cabinet equipped with a 'Hermetic Unit' arranged in the lower part with rear ventilation to ensure the stability of the unit while avoiding hot air rising in the refrigerated enclosure when opening the door, is being improved in terms of engineering to limit the risks of flammability and meet the requirements laid down. The publication of the EN378 standard in 2017 confirmed the manufacturer’s point of view and validated the authorised load quantity. Tournus is now able to consider putting its new equipment on the market thanks to its self-certification supported by numerous tests.
R455A : best performance / safety compromise
Solstice L40X has the same thermodynamic performance as R404A in terms of discharge temperature, lower power consumption (-10%) and a coefficient of performance (COP) equivalent to R-290. 'And in addition, the flammability limit of R455A is 11 times higher than that of propane,' Mr Jaunard reminds us.
More specifically, Jean De Bernardi, European technical manager - EMEAI LGWP Refrigerants at Honeywell explains: 'The lower flammability limit (LFL) of R455A is relatively high, at 11.8% (431 g/m3). It is the minimum concentration of the product that needs to be achieved in the air in order to have a potentially flammable gas mixture (and only if the other relevant conditions are also met at the same time). The upper flammability limit (UFL) is 12.9% (462 g/m3). This means that the potentially flammable concentration range (the difference between LFL and UFL) is only 1.1%. And if the gas mixture with air began to burn, the composition of the latter would change immediately and take the concentration of this refrigerant outside the flammability range. In fact, it is a self-extinguishing product.' This advantage confirmed the choice of Tournus Equipement compared to the hydrocarbon market alternatives.
Providing an offer with a long-term solution now fully satisfies Tournus Equipement customers who are becoming increasingly demanding in their specifications for fluids with low environmental impact. Real prescription and training work is carried out by the manufacturer's sales force to inform the market and implement Solstice® R455A in new installations.