Greenfreeze technology conquers U.S. market

By Sabine Lobnig, Oct 31, 2008, 00:00 2 minute reading

More than 300 million fridges using hydrocarbons are already operating worldwide. Developed by the green NGO Greenpeace 16 years ago, the “Greenfreeze” technology is now set to capture the last major market still missing on the world map: the USA.

Under the title “The last bastion has fallen”, Greenpeace celebrated on 31 October the announcement of US manufacturing group General Electric to switch to the “German technology” using hydrocarbons (HCs) in domestic refrigerators. GE’s decision and the expected removal of national use restrictions now paves the way for HCs to become a world standard in household fridges. The USA is the last key world market to bar manufacturers from building and selling small refrigeration appliances using isobutane, propane and other hydrocarbons.

The GE announcement is another major step for Greenfreeze, which has already become the leading refrigerator technology worldwide. Developed and introduced by Greenpeace in 1992, up to 350 million Greenfreeze fridges are operating today in Europe, China, Japan, Russia, India, Australia, and Latin America. So far, there hasn’t been a single incident with flammable hydrocarbons.

“Back in 1993, we didn’t foresee this development. We wanted to prove that cooling technology can work without the extremely climate damaging HCFCs and HFCs. That this could result in such a breathtaking commercial success, we couldn’t imagine,” welcomed Wolfgang Lohbeck, Greenpeace campaign leader responsible for the introduction of Greenfreeze, the latest developments.

The Greenfreeze success story

Following the scheduled phase out of CFCs under the Montreal Protocol in the early 1990s, most appliance manufacturers turned to ozone depleting HCFCs and high global warming HFCs. In 1992, Greenpeace set out to develop a refrigeration technology that could serve as a safe, energy-efficient and cost-competitive alternative to these substances. Together with German manufacturer FORON, Greenpeace developed the first 10 prototypes of Greenfreeze - a completely fluorocarbon-free household refrigerator using isobutane as a refrigerant and cyclopentane for blowing the insulation foam.

Within three weeks, Greenpeace gathered 70,000 preorders for the yet-to-be-produced new refrigerator from the German public. After the HC technology had proved to be safe, less noisy and more energy-efficient than HFC models, the four leading German manufacturers Miele, Bosch, Siemens, and Liebherr introduced their own HC lines only one year later. Over the next years, Greenfreeze was introduced to other Western European countries, China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil and Australia. End-2007, Russia joined the group of countries with Greenfreeze production as the latest country to date.

The door to the US market was finally opened by the RefrigerantsNaturally! group uniting leading consumer brands, such as Coca-Cola, Unilever and McDonalds, in their attempt to strengthen the use of natural refrigerants at point of sales. In September 2008, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s – new part of the Unilever group – announced to start a “freezer revolution” based on a widespread use of HCs in the United States. GE now followed this example to issue a clear commitment to hydrocarbons as a standard solution for the U.S. refrigeration industry.


By Sabine Lobnig

Oct 31, 2008, 00:00

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