As we get ready to judge our semi-finalists in the 2018 Sustainable Brands Innovation Open, we wanted to check in with last year’s semi-finalists to learn about the impacts they continue to have on the business world. Here, we catch up with Bluon Energy.
In the US, ozone-depleting substances are regulated as class I or class II controlled substances. Class I substances have a higher ozone depletion potential and have been completely phased out in the U.S. Class II substances are all hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are transitional substitutes for many class I substances. New production and import of most HCFCs will be phased out by 2020. Freon™ 22 (R-22), the most common HCFC, is used for a wide range of applications, including residential and commercial air conditioning; and for medium- and low-temperature commercial refrigeration applications such as food service, supermarket display cases, food storage and processing, and transport refrigeration systems — its phase-out will cause a rigmarole across industries.
Enter Bluon Energy, which has created alternative refrigerants such as TDX 20, which increases operational efficiencies in existing h*eating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (*HVAC-R) equipment, helping companies decrease their electricity consumption and carbon footprint. Bluon bills TDX 20 not only as a replacement for R-22, but an upgrade.
Matt Case, Bluon’s VP of Business Development, recently told us more about how Bluon and TDX 20 are revolutionizing refrigeration.
Tell us a bit about the origin of Bluon. What made you decide to focus on HVAC?
Matt Case: Bluon really begins with our founder, Peter Capuciati — a physicist that spent 20 years in commercial real estate. Peter had left the industry to pursue his passion in science and R&D, and started a venture capital fund dedicated to finding and building businesses around environmentally beneficial solutions to large problems that impact existing infrastructure. He was introduced to a small team working on an early version of an energy-efficient replacement to R-22 and he immediately recognized the vast potential for such a product, given his commercial real estate and science background. Peter was one of the very few who recognized the coming unexpected consequences of the R-22 phase-down – which is a huge increase in electricity consumption from our vast existing HVAC infrastructure. He knew that all of the existing replacements caused a substantial loss of efficiency when replacing R-22. The environmental impact of R-22 (as a HCFC) may pale in comparison to the unintended consequences of substantially increasing our electricity needs if we are unable to find an R-22 replacement that is at the very least as efficient as R-22. Bluon represents the first and only replacement that is actually more efficient than R-22 when used in existing HVAC infrastructure.
Why are R-22 and R-404 refrigerants problematic, and what sets TdX 20 (R-458A) apart from these industry standards?
MC: R-22 and R-404 are problematic for very different reasons. R-22 is an HCFC that contains chlorine, negatively impacting the ozone layer of our atmosphere. The Montreal Protocols established a global phase-out of all ozone-depleting chemicals, of which R-22 is one. The phase-down of R-22 is nearly complete; after 2019, there will be no more production or importation of R-22 into the US and the rest of the developed world (the developing world’s phase-down completes in 2040). R-22 is also a greenhouse gas (GHG), however that is not the reason for the phase-down; ironically R-22 is actually far better than most of its replacements from a GWP (Global Warming Potential) perspective. R-22 has a GWP of 1810.
Bluon TdX 20 (R-458A) is an HFC (hydrofluorocarbon), which means it has no chlorine and no impact on the ozone layer; it has a vastly lower GWP (1650), and more importantly, TdX 20 improves energy efficiency by up to 25 percent when installed in any system that was previously running either R-22, R-404 or R-507C. This increase in efficiency is far more impactful to the environment in comparison to the impact of its relatively low GWP. This is because, when considering the overall impact a refrigerant has on global warming/GHGs, one must look at the greater impact caused by the electricity generation required to run the equipment, which is 90 percent or more of the total impact, leaving the impact from the GWP or refrigerant leaking into the atmosphere at 10 percent or less. Please see http://www.bluonenergy.com/sustainability/ for a deeper discussion and explanation.
What are the benefits of using Bluon's refrigerants as opposed to other alternatives on the market? How do they compare to other energy-efficiency measures?
MC: Bluon TdX 20 is unique in the refrigerant market for three primary reasons:
- It is the only energy-efficient replacement for R-22, meaning it represents an upgrade to R-22 with a powerful ROI.
- It is the only replacement refrigerant that offers comprehensive technical support surrounding its installation and use. This includes a team of industry veterans on call to help contractors in the field anytime/anywhere, as well as an industry-first mobile app containing a database of over 10,000 pieces of equipment, with specific tuning and installation instructions for each; as well as a set of unique tools to assist the contractors with the installation of TdX 20.
- It is the only R-22 replacement likely to increase equipment longevity due to its proven ability to decrease compressor head temperatures, decrease operating pressures and increase compressor stability.
How can TdX 20 help companies reduce impacts?
MC: Bluon TdX 20 represents the single most cost-effective investment a company can do to help reduce its carbon footprint. For example, if a company with a standard 100,000-SF building decides to replace the R-22 in its existing HVAC infrastructure, it will cost them approx $40,000 (including 3rd-party labor), and they will reduce their overall carbon footprint by over 100 metric tons of CO2 per year. To obtain this same impact using other methods, it would cost many times that amount, and possibly up to $1M.
TdX 20 can reduce HVAC energy consumption by up to 25 percent! HVAC usually accounts for 50 percent or more of total energy spend in a commercial setting, which is a huge amount if potential savings that can be realized by switching to TdX 20.
As R-22 becomes very expensive and hard to obtain, companies are going to be forced to choose a replacement. Many times, this choice will happen without their knowledge or consent, as it is simply done as part of normal repairs and maintenance and the contractor will likely choose the least expensive replacement which will end up increasing the company’s electricity bill and carbon footprint dramatically. Getting ahead of this issue and ensuring your company has an R-22 replacement chosen and specified for the contractors is extremely important.
Can TdX 20 be used in newer infrastructure?
MC: Yes! Bluon is currently working with a world-class equipment manufacturer to produce the first new equipment designed to run on TdX 20. These units have already been chosen and spec’d with Bluon TdX 20 for a project by one of the largest real estate developers in the world. We will have an announcement on this in the months to come.
Bluon allows companies to continue operating with existing equipment. What are the next steps for Bluon?
MC: Bluon recognizes the vast coming changes in the HVAC service industry due to the advent of blends, and more complex systems and refrigerants becoming the norm. We at Bluon call this the coming Replacement Reality. This paradigm shift is not fully recognized by most of the industry and as a result many contractors and their technicians are not fully prepared for these changes. Bluon is busy developing comprehensive training, tools, resources and support to assist the contractor community through these changes. Bluon is actively building a large community of contractors to share best practices and intelligence while all having access to our growing arsenal of tools and resources. The Bluon Mobile App is currently in beta, ready for broad launch in June, and is the first of its kind in the HVAC service industry. The app allows the contractor to simply type in the model number of the equipment and immediately gain access to all of the pertinent information on that system as well as detailed instructions on how to best install TdX 20 and how to best tune the system for maximum efficiency. The app also includes a series of tools, best practices and calculators all to make the contractor’s job easier and more effective. We see a huge future in this community we are building and the tools that we are building alongside it.
Leonardo DiCaprio recently joined your board of directors. How has Bluon benefited from his presence?
MC: Short answer is YES! Having the support and influence that comes with Mr. DiCaprio’s involvement and investment is extremely beneficial. We expect to gain even more out of this relationship in the coming years as the end-users (companies and landlords) become more aware of the coming Replacement Reality and we are able to help them increase their awareness of this issue and its potential impact with Mr. DiCaprio’s help. He allows us to grab the attention of the corporate user and enable us to communicate with them much more readily so they can understand the issue and its potential impact on them.