Refrigeration Engineering Design – Cold Storage Distribution

With more than 45 years of commercial and industrial energy refrigeration design experience, RECCO’s engineers have the technical expertise to meet your needs. RECCO’s focus is on total system reliability as well as energy efficiency. We always keep our fingers on the pulse of the latest state-of-the-art developments in the refrigeration industry and have a special interest in making refrigeration engineering designs that are environmentally friendly.

From our thorough conceptual refrigeration engineering designs to our cost-effective and efficient equipment selection, system engineering, fabrication, installation and commissioning, we consistently met the individual needs of each client. All commercial refrigeration systems designed by RECCO come with the flexibility of choosing a variety of refrigerants to meet any application requirement. Regardless of the complexity, RECCO has the broad-based knowledge, expertise and technical skills to guide you through the entire process from the design stage through installation and beyond.

RECCO can assist you with the evaluation of different types of refrigeration systems to determine the most efficient and cost-effective design that will meet your long-term maintenance and budget requirements.

The Benefits of Ammonia (NH3) Refrigeration

With the exception of a few special fields, a circulating refrigerant is required in low-temperature refrigeration. In large cooling systems, such as those used for food processing facilities and petrochemical refineries, ammonia is the common refrigerant used.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were widely used as refrigerants, but were banned after it was discovered that they are a cause of the depletion of the ozone layer. They are prohibited for use in new systems.

Since the invention of the refrigerating machine in the 1800’s, large refrigerating systems in the food, beverage and chemical industries have predominantly been built for anhydrous ammonia refrigerant. Today, this is still the case. In almost all dairies, breweries, meat processing facilities, and large freezing plants, ammonia has been used for many decades.

In comparison to other substances, ammonia can serve its purpose with the least consumption of energy.

It is surprising that competing substances could ever challenge ammonia’s position as a refrigerant. Yet, some challenges were offered, including the propagation of so-called “safer refrigerants.” In fact, some ammonia producers also produce other refrigerants, which can be marketed much more profitably.

One of the many technological advantages of ammonia refrigeration system design is that it requires only small-dimensioned piping and throttle cross sections. While copper piping has typically been used for refrigeration systems, ammonia is incompatible with copper, leading to different technologies being utilized for building ammonia systems – a job which so far can only be mastered by a few specialized companies.

There are many advantages to using ammonia as a refrigerant; some key points to consider:

  • In nature, ammonia is produced by biological processes, is naturally decomposed and does not add to the global greenhouse effect.
  • Only 3 percent of the ammonia existing on this planet results from human activity, even though it is produced in large quantities for fertilizers.
  • Ammonia is readily soluble in water; the solution is called aqueous ammonia, which is well-known in households.
  • The odor of ammonia has a highly alerting effect. Even the slightest traces of ammonia in the air can be perceived easily. Refrigerant leaks are therefore detected at once.

As long as a person can voluntarily endure the smell, only completely harmless concentrations exist. Actually, even among persons who are exposed to relatively high concentrations of ammonia due to their work, not a single case of a lasting disease has been reported over an observation period of several generations.

Of course, there is no reason for thoughtless handling of ammonia, and in any case, there are reasons for legitimate reservations where the effects on a crowd are concerned if suddenly exposed to the smell of ammonia. Increased attention is also required for preventing liquid ammonia from getting into sewage or ground water.

  • Ammonia refrigeration systems do not require explosion prevention. In a compound with air, ammonia is ignitable only within a very narrow span of concentrations – and this only in combination with high-ignition energy. Therefore, fears of explosions are unfounded; not even from war-zones have any NH3-relevant incidents have been reported.

In this respect, ammonia differs substantially from the other natural refrigerants, such as propane and butane.

  • Ammonia accidents have no serious consequences for the neighboring community. Unforeseeable emissions cannot be completely ruled out. However, except for a temporary irritation due to the bad smell for the neighboring residents, no further consequences need to be feared.

Gaseous ammonia is considerably lighter than air. Therefore, it ascends quickly to higher atmospheric layers, where it decomposes within a few days. The released nitrogen is washed out by rain and spread out as a fertilizer in the ground of the farther surroundings.

  • Ammonia protects the Earth’s atmosphere. By using ammonia, refrigeration can be realized with the least possible energy requirement. In this respect, the endeavors to reduce the global greenhouse effect can also be best supported with this refrigerant.

In comparison to existing old systems, modern ammonia systems are designed for clearly reduced refrigerant charges. They correspond to ideas that do justice to today’s environmental awareness.

The fears of ammonia’s risks, which are for a large part unnecessary, must not lead to exaggerated requirements by supervisory authorities.

This material was translated from the original German and was prepared by Eurammon of Frankfurt, Germany, for distribution at a past IKK trade show. We found it to be well written and still current. It was printed in July 27, 2000 in The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration NEWS.

Minimum (Low) Charge Ammonia Refrigeration Systems: the Advent of the Distributive Refrigeration Plant

For the past 15-20 years, many plant owners have wanted to reduce the size of their ammonia refrigerant charges for the following reasons:

  • To reduce the potential for injuries to workers and occupants
  • To reduce the potential of a large ammonia release to the environment
  • To reduce the potential for product contamination, especially in large cold storage facilities
  • To avoid exceeding the 10,000 pounds charge threshold that requires that a facility become a PSM/RMP operation, as required by OSHA and the EPA.
  • To avoid having cities and towns saying no to a large ammonia refrigeration plant.

Historically, there were several factors that made the design and operation of minimum (low) charge systems problematic. The systems had to be free of non-condensables and contaminants, such as water; valves did not exist that could be controlled within very tight tolerances.; condensers, evaporators and vessels contained large interior volumes for performance and protection of the compressors, thereby requiring large amounts of ammonia; and long piping main runs between the mechanical room and the cooling units added to the requirement for increased ammonia inventory.

It took a simple idea and advanced technology to provide the breakthrough. In simple terms, the traditional central ammonia plant is transformed into a distributive refrigeration plant. The basic refrigeration cycle does not change, and the components needed to build this type of system are currently available for plant installation.

The advantages of this type of system are huge!

Noteworthy factors include:


  1. A system that would normally require up to 10,000 pounds of ammonia now requires approximately 1500 pounds.
  2. PSM/RMP programs can be eliminated in large facilities, along with the cost of managing those programs
  3. The most amount of ammonia that can be dispensed into a refrigerated space in the event of an accidental hit to an ammonia air unit is 20-25 pounds.
  4. Worker safety is greatly improved.
  5. Product loss liability from ammonia leaks can be eliminated in most large facilities.
  6. No evaporative condenser is required and, therefore, no water treatment chemicals will be necessary.
  7. No remote sumps and pumps will be necessary.
  8. Water consumption is dramatically reduced, generally more than 80 percent, along with the accompanying sewer charges.
  9. Annual maintenance costs are reduced
  10. The amount of real estate needed for a mechanical room can be cut by approximately 66 percent.


RECCO is excited to be one of a group of elite contractors to offer this type of system and with the ability to put it all together for you. Please contact us for more information.


“Refrigeration Engineering & Contracting Co. Inc. has been my refrigeration contractor of choice since March of 2007; their contract has recently been extended through 2016. The RECCO Team displays a professional attitude and is very knowledgeable in the field. They have helped to reduce energy cost in my facility; they perform all preventive maintenance tasks, repairs, and all required inspections that allow me to maintain an affective PSM Program. I would recommend their services to others upon request.”
Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.

Contact RECCO’s helpful and knowledgeable customer service department by telephone at 800-990-9423 or by email at today to discuss your cold storage refrigeration, design and engineering needs.


Copyright © 2021 Refrigeration Engineering & Contracting Co, Inc.