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What not to use as a blank canvas.
Shorter one this week as I’m taking a break with the extended family.
We are staying a few days in a mountainous part of the country. Normally blanketed white, but alas it is quite mild and snow-free (unlike on the other side of the Atlantic)... As we’d valiantly promised the kids some sort of winter activities, we were left with few options, apart from passing a few hours at the local ice rink.
It was a relatively small outdoors space, and given everyone seemed to have the same idea, there was little room. So rather than joining the melee, I stood watching the kids battle their way around in circles, until I got to the point where I went in search of warmth.
I knew where I could find it. A short exploration around the back of the premises, and I came across the rink refrigerant condensers and a warm breeze coming off the fans.
As I slowly defrosted myself with the rejected heat, I surveyed the state of the condensing fins (rows of densely arranged alloy designed to release heat from the refrigerant). I always check them out when in passing, something I do out of habit. Following the thoughts I shared a couple weeks back, the external appearance normally provides some clues on the levels of maintenance and potential for refrigerant leaks.
The fins on these units were in quite a state. There were long furrows and deep scars in the alloy arrangements, well beyond what you’d normally see with a bit of careless cleaning. As I stood there somewhat puzzled, I shuffled a few steps sideways and looked at them from a different angle. Then it struck me.
They had been used as a canvas for graffiti, and not the stylish Banksy stuff. Someone had worked out that scraping the fins in a certain way produced the same effect as spray paint, but cheaper. There were a couple of particularly distasteful symbols etched into the condenser surface that gave it away.
I’ve seen plenty of condensers in all sorts of conditions, however this kind of intentional harm was a new one. The damaged fins would no doubt reduce the heat transfer capabilities of the condenser, impacting the overall capacity and efficiency. The extent of the inflicted damage possibly a source of leaks also.
I imagine at some point in time (possibly sooner rather than later) we will probably come to question artificial ice rinks in warming climates. I also know facility managers have lots of plates to juggle when it comes to maintaining their refrigerant systems. Often with limited budgets. So hopefully, the graffiti works I came across this week are relatively isolated.
It’s also interesting what you find when you’re cold and curious.
New Year’s Greetings to all and ‘till next time,
p.s. last week’s title – Rewind – was from Paolo Nutini, courtesy of my wife’s collection but a song I like so I’m comfortable borrowing it
p.p.s. No F-gas hiding places this week but rest-assured I’ll have one in the next edition
Fixed stuff here for newcomers
There is lots of news every week from the cooling industry and plenty of newsletters that cover it well. The intention is to keep this newsletter focused on the most prominent f-gases, refrigerants and importantly their environmental impact. That’s the lane I’ve chosen - I’ll do my best to stick to it.
Below is the seven (formal) greenhouse gases that countries and companies should track, report and hopefully reduce.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6)
Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)
Not to mention the still circulating, ozone damaging chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and the ‘new-generation’ hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs).
Hopefully you can spot the pattern.
Emissions from f-gases and refrigerants have been the fastest growing greenhouse gases over the past decade (more than CO2 and methane - check out IPCC WG3 summary for policy makers). They are also classed as super pollutants given their outsized global warming and other environmental impacts.
Some useful permalinks
The scale of the climate challenge can often feel daunting. This piece helps me take a step back and understand where we need to focus first - recommend a read.
There are plenty of technology solutions available to address the cooling and refrigerant challenge. You can find many of them here
Beware when the same entities who have contributed to the current f-gas problem propose you new solutions… This is a good place to get up to speed.