Ammonia Makes a Comeback: How Packaged Systems Cut Emissions and Boost Efficiency

In the fight against climate change, every step counts, even down to the hum of refrigeration units. Traditionally, large-scale ammonia refrigeration systems, while efficient, posed safety and environmental concerns due to their high charge of the potent refrigerant. But a cool revolution is brewing, championed by Kurt Liebendorfer, Vice President of Evapco’s Evcold division. He’s leading the charge with packaged low-charge ammonia systems, promising a win-win for both the planet and businesses.

Lowering the Ammonia Footprint:

The key differentiator is in the name: low charge. These systems significantly reduce the amount of ammonia used compared to traditional setups, minimizing risks associated with leaks and accidents. But the benefits go beyond safety:

  • Environmental Hero: Less ammonia translates to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Compared to conventional systems, Evapco’s low-charge units boast a 75% lower carbon footprint. This aligns perfectly with companies striving for ambitious sustainability goals.
  • Operational Efficiency: Smaller ammonia charges also bring energy savings. Liebendorfer points to specific energy consumption values (SEC) in cold storage applications, ranging from 0.3 to 0.7kWh/ft3/yr, significantly lower than the 0.75kWh/ft3/yr to 1kWh/ft3/yr of centralized ammonia systems.

Packaging the Benefits:

Beyond the reduced charge, packaged low-charge ammonia systems come with other advantages:

  • Faster Deployment: Prefabricated and pre-tested units arrive ready to roll, slashing installation time and costs.
  • Plug-and-Play Simplicity: Minimize operational complexity with easily maintainable and modular systems.
  • Scalability: Choose the ideal unit size for your specific needs, ensuring efficient performance without overcapacity.

Regulatory Green Light:

Liebendorfer highlights the regulatory advantages as well. These systems often fall below OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) threshold for refrigerant quantities, simplifying compliance and potentially reducing liability.

A Chilling Example:

Evapco has already installed its low-charge system at a cold storage facility in Utah, proving their effectiveness in real-world settings. The results speak for themselves: not only did the system deliver on its promised energy savings, but it also earned praise for its ease of operation and reliability.

The Future Chilled with Ammonia:

As the demand for sustainable and efficient cooling solutions grows, packaged low-charge ammonia systems are poised to play a leading role. Evapco, with its innovative technology and industry leadership, is paving the way for a greener future, one chillingly efficient step at a time.

Ammonia refrigeration systems have both advantages and disadvantages that you should consider before implementing them:


  • Highly efficient: Ammonia absorbs a lot of heat per unit volume, leading to lower energy consumption and operational costs compared to other refrigerants.
  • Environmentally friendly: Ammonia has a low Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 0 and an Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) of 0, making it a valuable alternative to traditional refrigerants that contribute to climate change.
  • Cost-effective: Ammonia is readily available and generally cheaper than other refrigerants.
  • Excellent heat transfer properties: Ammonia’s excellent heat transfer capabilities allow for smaller pipe diameters and more compact systems.
  • Tolerates some water contamination: Unlike some refrigerants, ammonia can handle small amounts of water contamination without significant performance loss.


  • Toxic: Ammonia is a poisonous gas that can be fatal in high concentrations. This requires special design considerations, rigorous safety procedures, and trained personnel for handling and maintenance.
  • Flammable: Ammonia vapors can ignite in certain conditions, adding another layer of safety concern.
  • Material incompatibility: Ammonia is corrosive to some materials commonly used in refrigeration systems, requiring specific components and construction practices.
  • Strong odor: Ammonia has a pungent odor that can be unpleasant and potentially irritate people exposed to it, needing additional ventilation and leak detection measures.
  • Regulatory restrictions: Due to its safety concerns, ammonia may be subject to stricter regulations and permitting requirements compared to other refrigerants.


Ammonia systems offer significant advantages in terms of efficiency, environmental friendliness, and cost. However, their toxicity, flammability, and odor necessitate careful handling, specialized equipment, and stricter safety protocols. Evaluating your specific needs and priorities, balancing the pros and cons carefully, and ensuring compliance with regulations is crucial before deciding if an ammonia system is the right choice for your application.

It’s important to consult with experienced professionals and experts in ammonia refrigeration systems to make an informed decision and ensure the safe and efficient operation of your system.

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