How an Ammonia Refrigeration System Differs from Other Systems

If your business uses industrial cooling processes, chances are you have an ammonia refrigeration system. This kind of cooling method is different than standard methods that use halocarbon type refrigerants. It’s a good idea to know the difference between these systems so that you can have the most effective preventative maintenance plan in place. Here are some important things to know.


To help explain the differences, it helps to know how the systems are alike. Both systems work on the principle of vapor compression (evaporating gas removes heat). A compressor pumps and compresses a liquid refrigerant through a set of coils (evaporator coils) where the refrigerant boils and becomes a gas. The gas removes the heat from the area and is pumped to a set of condenser coils, where it becomes liquid again, and the heat is blown through the coils by a fan, exhausting it to the outdoors.

In essence, both systems cool by removing heat. However, they use different refrigerants.


A halocarbon refrigerant system mixes oil with the refrigerant to keep the compressor lubricated. The oil becomes part of the refrigerant. However, since ammonia is lighter than oil, it doesn’t mix, and you can easily drain oil from the system. This makes it easy to keep track of the oil in an ammonia refrigeration system and change it periodically without completely discharging the system and replacing all the refrigerant.


You can’t use materials like brass and copper or alloys containing copper like bronze. If there is any moisture present, ammonia and moisture are very corrosive to copper materials. Instead, steel and stainless steel is the better choice. However, with halocarbon systems, copper materials are fine.


Leaks in an ammonia refrigeration system can be dangerous. It’s important to have safeguards in place and a qualified professional refrigeration service taking care of your maintenance needs.

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