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Ammonia refrigerant

TechmanTechman Posts: 2,144Member
I've worked on a few Ammonia refrig systems over the years. I went to the Servel AC class. Now for my story.
25 -30 years or so ago my customer was a Sea Food Distributor w/all R12,R22,R502 units. They wanted to purchase an ice machine, about 6,000 lbs of ice a day. The icer they wanted was an old Ammonia system,so I looked the old setup and said"sure",its OK. But being a 1man band, I could not,would not do all that massive amount of piping,wiring,humping,relocating, and redoing everything . The customer wanted "that" system, so they got it. They also got ( lets call him)"Rodger" the AMMONIA EXPERT out of NY City. Rodger put on his mask and Sawzalled the refrig lines, the Ammonia cloud went inland , the cloud passed by/over/around/in about 20 homes. If memory serves me correct there were about dozen Law Enforcement Agencies that responded to the "incident", the local Police,Sheriff, EPA,DEC , FireDept,Ambulances,Helicopters,and the Marine Bureau and some others. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So "Rodger" setup the newly relocated ice maker in my customers bldg. and it purred and made LOTS of ice, and I was FORBIDDEN to even touch the ice maker, not even the steel refrig lines. What , me FORBIDDEN!?!? Well, "Rodger"didn't allow for any "overflow makeup" from the Cooling Tower on the roof, I mentioned this to the customer and then I was repremanded for having"LOOKED" at the icer w/o "Rodger" being present. OK OK , I know my place!!!! Now fast forward about 3 years , about the same time as the other bldgs in the industrial park were closing for the day. The water cooled cond ruptured,the Ammonia went into the water, the water went thru the Cooling Tower, the Ammonia went into the air, the air went into the neighbors parking lot , the air went into the peoples lungs, and ALL of those Law Enforcement people were responding all over again. Holy Moly!! Hay, what do I know ?

Comments

  • clammyclammy Posts: 2,312Member
    Wellthats a new one ,i believe there s still a large ammonia in newark making block ice .When ever in the past de commissioned a system we bleed it out using water to dilute and purge it out or use a pump to pump the liquid to cyclinders but being very cheap it usually got dilute and down the drain .I can t believe any one would be that stupid but it happens i guess.My dad was real big on ammonia and alot smarter than i but he operated and worked on strickly large commerical and industral equiptment .I still feel that aside from few down sides that packaged ammonia systems for cooling /heating in combination w solar hydronics is a viable alternative to air to air or gronud loop heat pumps aside from the ozone depletions w cfc s and possibel hcfc .Only real issues are space and storage and money but maybe some time in the future .There electrical draw is nil to any compressor and i believe servel offers then w a modulating burner to controll capacity of course these are not direct cooling or heating system they are indirect and would require water coils for cooling and heating and all the good stuff that comes with that . But as many know there alot more you can do easier with controlling water temps then refregerant temps for controlling humidy ,i always felt that water cooled systemss in homes did a better job of removing humidy aside from unico and hi vee systems down side being those chilled water coils and there a /h where quite large in comparision to a standard ref based ah thanks for the post peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • SWEISWEI Posts: 7,356Member
    There have been some experiments with ammonia refrigeration direct fired by parabolic trough solar thermal collectors. Always seemed like the simplest system to me, but as @Techman pointed out, when they go off the reservation it can get ugly fast.

    ISTR a big cold storage warehouse in Phoenix running on ammonia.
  • clammyclammy Posts: 2,312Member
    Only one up side on a leak you can smell it no matter how small can t say that for any freons .
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • unclejohnunclejohn Posts: 1,420Member
    My first year as a helper I was set into the piping pit at the local meat distributer to " find " the leak. How will I know when I find it. We will know said the lead mechanic. I asked them how long I was out and they said only a few minutes, but we know about were the leak is now.
  • jumperjumper Posts: 1,359Member
    How many pounds of ammonia did this system contain? There's new ammonia systems that contain very little. Say four pounds for forty tons.No accumulator,receiver,or liquid overfeed like tradition NH3 refrigeration.
  • TechmanTechman Posts: 2,144Member
    edited March 2015
    I would say "a lot" the water cooled cond was 8' long x 2' diameter or so.a horizontal reciever,40'-50' or so of 1" liquid line.
  • CanuckerCanucker Posts: 553Member
    unclejohn said:

    My first year as a helper I was set into the piping pit at the local meat distributer to " find " the leak. How will I know when I find it. We will know said the lead mechanic. I asked them how long I was out and they said only a few minutes, but we know about were the leak is now.

    I'm in a different industry but had something similar happen my first year at work. We sometimes use ammonium hydroxide for processes and it comes in the 55 gallon drum. When the drums are emptied, we can use them for the liquid waste that,s generated during the process, it just needs a quick hosing out. During training, the gentleman I worked with said that if I needed to sniff the drum to identify the last solvent, I should take my hand and waft the vapours toward me, never stick your nose over the hole. Me being the eager, bright lad that I was, forgot about this suggestion when I had to go get some drums and proceeded to stick my nose right in the hole while inhaling deeply. I was probably seconds from passing out before my lungs let me take any air in after that bout of stupidity, I feel your pain. Needless to say, I don't stick my nose in any drums anymore. haha

    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
  • Harvey RamerHarvey Ramer Posts: 2,200Member
    clammy said:

    Only one up side on a leak you can smell it no matter how small can t say that for any freons .

    I'm not sure why, but I can smell 134A. It makes me sneeze. If I stick my head in a fridge with a leaking evap, It hits me like a sledge hammer.
    Ramer Mechanical
    ramermechanical.com
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Jean-David BeyerJean-David Beyer Posts: 2,641Member
    When I was little, in the early 1940s, my parents had a Ice Box. The Ice Man delivered Ice every other day: a huge block of it. We emptied out the drip pan twice a day. Just after WW-II, my parents got a used GE "monitor top" refrigerator. After a few years, we determined that it used ammonia as a refrigerant. Wow! The top got taken away and we got a more modern, new top for $106, for which my parents paid cash. Time passed and we then determined that it used sulphur dioxide as a refrigerant. Not as awful as ammonia. We then got a whole new refrigerator, and I suppose it used a Freon, but that never leaked, at least while I still lived there.

    Our kitchen stove was old enough that there was an exhaust pipe from the oven to a chimney. We had a coal burning furnace to heat the house. The former owner put a blower in it so it was a forced hot air system. When the city stopped picking up ashes, my dad had a gas burner put into the old coal furnace.
  • Harvey RamerHarvey Ramer Posts: 2,200Member
    We used to have a Kerosene refrigerator. It stank on the outside but you could always find some good treats on the inside.
    Ramer Mechanical
    ramermechanical.com
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • ttekushan_3ttekushan_3 Posts: 918Member
    Somehow, I don't fear Ammonia very much in relatively small quantities. It must be all that time spent as a kid around the architectural blueprinting machines with the ammonia developer. All those old architects seemed to live to about 90 after all that exposure! But the magnitude of some of those industrial systems make them. . .Inescapable.

    But I wonder how close "sawzall Rodger" got to any ignition points. These people have an interesting take on NH3.
    http://nh3fuelassociation.org/
    http://www.greennh3.com/

    I find Ammonia interesting, since you have a vapor compression refrigerant, an absorption cycle refrigerant, a fuel, and a means of storing thermal energy chemically at low temperature in a NH3 synthesis system:
    http://stg.anu.edu.au/research/storage/ammonia.php
    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/pdfs/tces_workshop_2013_lovegrove.pdf

    Fun stuff! But don't breath too deeply.

    As for the absorption fridge, I use a Servel in the basement. I set up the burner with my combustion analyzer for 0 ppm CO (it can rise sharply with too large a flame or a burner a little out of alignment). It still has the 1946 Office of Price Administration decal on the inside of the door. No post war price gouging here! And yes, the treats stored therein are particularly appreciated when there's an occasional hot summer power outage!

    OPA Maximum price:
    image
    terry
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 6,029Member
    Servel is still around, I believe it's called Robur now. I installed a couple of there chiller/heaters a few years ago..actually more like 20 yrs ugh
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