There is a real dilemma at the centre of the debate over cooling sustainably – as the planet gets hotter, we need more cooling for comfort and health reasons, but generating this cooling is itself contributing to climate change.

As a new report – The Climate Action Pathway for Net Zero Cooling – points out: “Cooling is critical for health, prosperity, and the environment. It keeps our vaccines safe and food fresh, ensures we have comfortable buildings to live and work in, and is central to our industrial and transport infrastructure.

“However, cooling is typically energy intensive and highly polluting due to the emissions from the electricity that powers this equipment (generated mostly from carbon intensive sources) and the refrigerants and insulation foam gas used in it (especially if not properly recovered and recycled).”

Cooling accounts for more than 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions and these emissions are increasing precipitously.

The Climate Action Pathway for Net Zero Cooling lays out a vision for action to 2050 to counter this alarming situation.

Key milestones for Paris Agreement

The pathway, co-authored by the Carbon Trust, Cool Coalition, Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program, Oxford University and High-Level Champions, details the key milestones that will be necessary to fully implement the Paris Agreement, exceed the Kigali Amendment, and contribute to the UN’s sustainable development goals.

The report’s authors outline an ambitious vision – that, by 2050, there will be net-zero cooling for all achieved through a focus on three areas:

  • Passive cooling: Adopting measures that avoid or reduce the need for mechanical cooling.
  • Super-efficient equipment and appliances: Developing super-efficient cooling equipment and appliances powered by zero carbon energy.
  • Ultra-low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants and insulation foam gases: Market domination by refrigerants with a GWP of 5 or less.

Realising these goals will require businesses involved in the cooling sector to invest in advanced technologies and make cutting-edge developments. There are countless examples of this happening; here are just four.

Ultra-high efficiency heat pumps

A prime example of the sort of commitment needed to develop a sustainable product in the HVAC sector is the pioneering Engie Refrigeration Spectrum Water supplied by Klima-Therm. This ultra-high efficiency heat pump designed for industrial and commercial applications or integration into heat networks and district heating in housing developments

The Spectrum Water heat pump offers outstanding energy efficiency, superb operational reliability, and the highest possible quality thanks to a combination of innovative components including oil-free turbo compressors with magnetic bearings, an efficiency-boosting open-flash economiser, and an intelligent Siemens S7 PLC.

The 12 models in the series boast nominal heat outputs of 350 to 3,100kW, a condenser leaving water temperature of up to 65 deg C, and the choice of four refrigerants – R1234ze, R515B, R513A, and R134a which are refrigerants with a relatively low global warming potential.

One of the biggest benefits of the climate-friendly Spectrum Water heat pump is its high efficiency. A unique combination of turbo compressors with magnetic bearing, flooded shell and tube condensers, and the open-flash economiser as standard guarantees maximum seasonal efficiency and performance with a minimal footprint.

Hybrid heat pumps

Simultaneus heating & cooling: Another example of sustainable innovation is the Rhoss EXP/HT heat pump which uses a hybrid four-pipe air or water source heat pump to produce simultaneous or independent cooling and heating using heat recovery wherever possible for ‘free’ heating or cooling. It also employs a water source heat pump producing high temperature hot water primarily for domestic hot water.

What makes this revolutionary heat pump stand out is its use of cutting-edge technology which pushes the boundaries of innovation in heating, cooling, and heat recovery; offers a definitive change to existing techniques / equipment and contributes to environmentally friendlier cooling / heating through reduced carbon emissions, best-available energy efficiency, and improved performance.

The Rhoss EXP/HT boasts a 22% operating energy cost saving and 28% reduction in carbon emissions compared to a traditional chiller and boiler four-pipe solution (without water source heat pump). The additional cost of 28% for the hybrid heat solution over a chiller and boiler system can be paid back in just over two years from the energy cost saving.

Hybrid adiabatic dry cooler: Meanwhile, Althermo’s DMR-H is a revolutionary hybrid adiabatic dry cooler that delivers exceptional energy efficiency and application flexibility thanks to several important innovations in components, design, and control.

A single module can dissipate up to 56kW (Δt 5 °C air in – water out, eg 25 °C) with a total footprint of only 1.21 sq m. Thanks to its distinctive shape, it can draw air in from all around and can be installed very close to walls. The combination of these elements allows to reduce by 75% the installation area of the dry cooler.

Althermo’s DMR-H dry cooler can be used as a single module or multiplexed to create a compact array, providing high performance, high efficiency cooling up to 2.3MW. It can also be deployed in a closed-circuit, through installation of another plate heat exchanger with a recirculating pump for even greater efficiency.

Heat pump AHU: Finally, the 3DxHP Series three-coil integral DX heat pump air handling unit (AHU) offers ultra-low carbon defrost-free operation with low installation costs, with the option for bespoke design incorporating components such as humidifiers, attenuators and carbon or HEPA filters.

The built-in refrigeration system with variable speed scroll compressors can eliminate the need for secondary cooling or heating systems such as chilled water and hot water derived from boilers. This reduces the energy required to move the secondary medium from the source to the AHU (pump power input), further maximising energy efficiency and therefore reducing the system carbon footprint.

The built-in refrigeration system minimises the refrigerant content, eliminating pipe runs through the building and dramatically reducing the refrigerant content in comparison to VRF systems.

The refrigeration system uses one or more variable speed scroll compressors, ensuring close temperature control of the environment and maximising energy efficiency since the system can react closely to varying performance demands.

The thread that connects all four of these developments is innovation. But, equally importantly, sustainability lies at the heart of these advances.

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