The 411 on Ammonia and Chillers

Ammonia is a common choice of refrigerant in very large cooling systems.  There are basically three reasons ammonia is often selected the refrigerant of choice:

  1.  Ammonia is economical, effective and efficient for large systems.  
    Ammonia is produced by biological processes and The International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) states that ammonia is 3 to 10% more thermodynamically efficient than competitive refrigerants.   This allows an ammonia-based refrigeration system to achieve the same cooling effect while using less power.
  2. Ammonia breaks down quickly in the environment.
    Ammonia is a natural refrigerant and normally lasts less than a week in the air.  In addition ammonia has a GWP  (Global Warming Potential) rating of 0 and an ODP (Ozone Depletion Potential) rating of 0 as well .
  3. Ammonia smells.  
    Any spill or even the slightest is quickly and easily detected due to the offending odor. However, it needs to be noted that steps must be taken to prevent liquid ammonia from getting into a sewage system or seeping into the ground.

Dangers of Using Ammonia 
Ammonia has many benefits when used in a chiller, however there are dangers when using ammonia.

  1. Mislabeled pipes.
    Ammonia pipes that aren’t labeled properly could pose a pose a serious safety risk to workers. Impurities can enter the system during repairs or normal service times. Potential issues that are associated with impure ammonia include the release of ammonia due to excess water within the system freezing, which causes broken pipes and equipment.
  2.  Leakage.
    Ammonia leaks may lead to seepage into food packaging and could contaminate food products.
  3. Effect on humans.
    Ammonia is not known to have long-term effects.  However, it be problematic. With direct contact a person may experience symptoms similar to frost-bite, irritated eyes coughing, congestion and difficulty breathing.  Exposure to high concentrations could lead to serious injuries.

Precautions when using ammonia 
Ammonia has many benefits when used in a chiller, however there are precautions that should be adhered to in order to keep everything operating properly and safely.

  1. Clear labeling of all pipes and equipment.
    IIAR Bulletin No. 114 specifies sizes, colors, and arrangements for ammonia pipe and component labels. This coherent system simplifies maintenance and promotes safety, and is compatible with ANSI/ASME A13.1, the most widely-used industrial standard for general facility pipe marking.
  2.  Stay current with the latest news and code updates.
    This information may be found by visiting The International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration.  Their mission is to provide advocacy, education, and standards for the benefit of the global community in the safe and sustainable design, installation and operation of ammonia and other natural refrigerant systems.
  3. Effective training and ensuring safeguards are in place.
    Proper training and adhering to industry standards in regards to ammonia will tend to keep workplaces safe.


If you’re interested in learning more about Ammonia Chillers and how it could benefit your process, our sales team is able to assist you or feel free to call 440-918-0505 with any of your questions.


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