Natural Refrigerants: A Guide to Commercial Refrigeration Solutions

Andrea Lorenzo February 15, 2024

Step into the future of commercial refrigeration, where sustainability seamlessly intertwines with efficiency. In this guide, we’ll uncover the vital role of natural refrigerants in commercial settings. Join us on a journey that unveils Smart Care’s commitment to eco-friendly solutions, focusing on CO2, propane, and a touch of ammonia refrigeration. This guide navigates the landscape of natural refrigerants, establishing Smart Care as your trusted partner in redefining the refrigeration experience for your business.

Are you curious about enhancing your commercial refrigeration systems? Explore our reliable services for commercial refrigeration system maintenance and repair, where efficiency meets sustainability for the future.

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Key Takeaways
  3. What are Natural Refrigerants?
  4. Types of Natural Refrigerants
  5. Advantages Over Synthetics
  6. Navigating Barriers in Shifting to Natural Refrigerants
  7. Discover the Unique World of Natural Refrigerants with Smart Care


Discover the future of eco-friendly commercial refrigeration with Smart Care’s guide on natural refrigerants. This comprehensive exploration navigates the role of CO2, propane, and ammonia in reshaping the commercial refrigeration landscape. Discover the environmental benefits, energy efficiency, and the journey businesses must undertake to overcome barriers in adopting these natural solutions. Join Smart Care in embracing a sustainable and efficient future where cutting-edge natural refrigeration solutions redefine the refrigeration experience for businesses nationwide. Explore, learn, and take the first step toward eco-friendly, efficient commercial refrigeration with Smart Care.

Key Takeaways from this Blog

  1. Explore Smart Care’s commitment to eco-friendly commercial refrigerant solutions featuring natural refrigerants like CO2, propane (R-290), and ammonia. Whether for a  grocery store or cold storage facility, these refrigerant alternatives can help you to prioritize sustainability without compromising efficiency.
  2. Understand the significance of natural refrigerants in commercial settings, where their environmentally friendly characteristics contribute to lower global warming potential (GWP) and ozone depletion potential (ODP) compared to synthetic alternatives.
  3. Delve into the properties and applications of three primary natural refrigerants—CO2, propane (R-290), and ammonia (NH3)—widely used in commercial refrigeration systems for various temperature applications.
  4. Learn about the advantages of choosing natural refrigerants over synthetic counterparts, such as minimal environmental impact, enhanced energy efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, regulatory compliance, and long-term cost savings.
  5. Navigate potential challenges in shifting to natural refrigerants, including initial cost and lack of knowledge and expertise. Discover strategic approaches to commercial refrigeration and overcome these refrigerant barriers systematically.
  6. Explore Smart Care’s cutting-edge natural refrigeration solutions and services, specializing in CO2 and propane applications. Take the first step towards eco-friendly and efficient commercial refrigeration by contacting Smart Care’s team of experts.

What are Natural Refrigerants?

In commercial refrigeration, natural refrigerants, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), propane (R-290), and ammonia (NH3), are utilized in refrigeration systems. Derived from natural sources, they have gained popularity for their environmentally friendly characteristics compared to synthetic alternatives. The term “natural” signifies that these refrigerants exist naturally or can be obtained from natural substances, making them more sustainable and environmentally responsible. These natural refrigerants have lower global warming potential (GWP) and ozone depletion potential (ODP) than synthetic alternatives. They are used in various commercial applications, including supermarkets or convenience stores, cold storage, industrial refrigeration, and standalone equipment. Their use aims to mitigate the impact of climate change and align with environmental regulations by phasing out high-GWP synthetic refrigerants.

Types of Natural Refrigerants

Natural refrigerants have gained popularity in recent years due to their environmental benefits and sustainability compared to traditional synthetic refrigerants. Three prominent types of natural refrigerants commonly used in commercial refrigeration systems are carbon dioxide (CO2), propane (R-290), and ammonia (NH3).

  • CO2 as a Natural Refrigerant:
    • Properties and Characteristics: Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a naturally occurring compound in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is used as a refrigerant in refrigeration applications due to its low environmental impact and excellent thermodynamic properties.
    • Use in Commercial Refrigeration: CO2 is often used as a secondary refrigerant or in cascade systems. It is particularly well-suited for medium and low-temperature applications. Transcritical and subcritical CO2 systems are prevalent in supermarkets, cold storage facilities, and other commercial settings. These systems contribute to lower greenhouse gas emissions and comply with environmental regulations.
  • Propane (R-290): A Sustainable Choice:
    • Properties and Characteristics: Propane, or R-290, is a hydrocarbon refrigerant with low global warming potential (GWP) and ozone depletion potential (ODP). It is a colorless and odorless gas.
    • Use in Commercial Refrigeration: Propane is commonly used in standalone commercial refrigeration equipment, such as beverage coolers, ice cream freezers, and small display cases. Its excellent thermodynamic properties make it an energy-efficient option. Addressing its flammability requires addressing safety considerations, and strict safety standards should guide equipment designs.
  • Ammonia:
    • Properties and Characteristics: Ammonia (NH3) is a natural refrigerant used for over a century in various applications. It is a colorless gas with a pungent odor known for its high efficiency and low environmental impact.
    • Use in Commercial Refrigeration: Ammonia is widely used in industrial refrigeration applications, including cold storage warehouses, food processing plants, and large-scale refrigeration systems. Ammonia is suitable for low and ultra-low-temperature applications due to its high efficiency. It is crucial to ensure proper safety measures when using ammonia, as it is toxic and flammable.

The Advantage of Natural Refrigerants Over Synthetics

Natural refrigerants offer a range of compelling advantages over their synthetic counterparts, making them increasingly popular in cooling and refrigeration. Here are key benefits that set natural refrigerants apart:

  • Environmentally Friendly:
    • Natural Impact: Unlike synthetic refrigerants, natural options such as CO2, propane, and ammonia have minimal environmental impact. They don’t contribute significantly to ozone depletion or global warming, aligning with sustainability goals.
  • Energy Efficiency:
    • Lower Energy Consumption: Natural refrigerants have the ability to boast higher thermodynamic efficiency, leading to lower energy consumption in refrigeration systems. This not only reduces operational costs but also enhances overall energy efficiency.
  • Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions:
    • Low Global Warming Potential (GWP): Natural refrigerants exhibit lower Global Warming Potential, contributing to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. This is a significant advantage in combating climate change.
  • Regulatory Compliance:
    • Meeting Environmental Regulations: Natural refrigerants align with evolving environmental regulations and standards. Choosing them ensures compliance with stringent measures to reduce refrigeration systems’ environmental impact, like the phaseout of ozone depleting refrigerants.
      Year to Be Implemented Implementation of HCFC Phaseout through Clean Air Act Regulations Year to Be Implemented Percent Reduction in HCFC Consumption and Production from Baseline
      2003 No production or import of HCFC-141b 2004 35.0%
      2010 No production or import of HCFC-142b and HCFC-22, except for use in equipment manufactured before January 1, 2010 2010 75.0%
      2015 No production or import of any other HCFCs, except as refrigerants in equipment manufactured before January 1, 2020 2015 90.0%
      2020 No production or import of HCFC-142b and HCFC-22 2020 99.5%
      2030 No production or import of any HCFCs 2030 100.0%

      US EPA,OAR. (2015, July 22). Phaseout of Class II Ozone-Depleting Substances | US EPA. US EPA.


  • Long-Term Cost Savings:
    • Economic Benefits: While initial investment costs might vary, natural refrigerants often lead to long-term cost savings. Energy consumption, reduced maintenance, and regulatory compliance contribute to long-term economic benefits.

Shifting to natural refrigerants in commercial applications may encounter several barriers. Navigating these challenges requires careful consideration and strategic approaches. Some common obstacles and ways to address them include:

  • Initial Cost and Infrastructure Changes:
    • Challenge: The initial cost of transitioning to natural refrigerants and potential infrastructure modifications can be barriers.
    • Approach: Assessing long-term benefits, including energy efficiency and reduced operational costs, can justify the initial investment.
  • Lack of Knowledge and Expertise:
    • Challenge: A lack of knowledge and expertise in handling systems with natural refrigerants may be a hurdle.
    • Approach: Investing in training programs for staff, collaborating with experienced consultants, or partnering with suppliers specializing in natural refrigerants can provide valuable guidance.

By addressing these barriers systematically and proactively, businesses can successfully navigate the shift to natural refrigerants and reap the long-term benefits of environmentally friendly and sustainable refrigeration systems.

Discover the Unique World of Natural Refrigerants with Smart Care

Maintaining a sustainable and efficient commercial space is essential, not only for environmental responsibility but also for operational efficiency. Explore Smart Care’s cutting-edge natural refrigeration solutions, where sustaible alternatives like CO2, propane, and ammonia redefine the refrigeration experience for your business. For inquiries about our services tailored to natural refrigerants, contact our experts at  (888)-887-1675 or fill out our contact form. Find a Smart Care service provider with nationwide coverage by visiting our Find Service page. Smart Care is your trusted partner for comprehensive commercial equipment design, installation, repair and maintenance, here to help your transition to natural refrigerants. Take the first step towards eco-friendly and efficient commercial refrigeration with Smart Care.

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