Barcelona-based OEM AREA Cooling Solutions has announced that it expects to bring its CO2 (R744) condensing units to the U.S. market by the end of 2022, providing a new natural refrigerant option for small supermarkets and convenience stores.

Well-known in Europe as a manufacturer of inverter CO2 condensing units, AREA is currently working through the certification process with U.S. safety standards body UL for its iCOOL CO2 product range. The company expects to have this finalized by the end of the year.

In the U.S., CO2 condensing units have rarely been used in supermarkets, which favor rack systems, or in convenience stores, which typically install HFC condensing units or self-contained cases.

AREA’s plan was shared by Josep Ventura, its CEO and Founder, during his presentation in a refrigeration case study session at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) America Summit 2022 on natural refrigerants. The conference took place June 7–8 in Alexandria, Virginia, and was organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of

AREA has been developing inverter-driven condensing units since 2010, with 12,000 of its iCOOL units currently in operation across Europe. Initially basing the condensing unit on HFCs, the manufacturer introduced iCOOL CO2 to its product range in 2016 after seeing the need for such a product.

The benefits of CO2 condensing units

In addition to using a natural refrigerant with a GWP of 1, one of the main benefits of iCOOL CO2 condensing units is its energy efficiency, according to Ventura.

Compared to a typical on-off condensing unit, the iCOOL CO2 unit uses 35% less energy and has a payback period of less than a year, he said. As detailed in the presentation, these efficiency savings come from better load matching, fewer on-off cycles, a softer start-up and fewer defrost cycles.

In the field, iCOOL CO2 has provided improved temperature stability inside the freezing chamber compared to both an on-off R404A-based condensing unit and a competitor’s R744 condensing unit, even under high ambient temperatures, said Ventura.

The units are designed and approved to operate up to 110°F (43°C). “Our remote control records show cases in which a unit worked for an extended period of time over this limit, at 116°F (46.7°C), with smooth starts and without alarms,” said Ventura. “However, it’s not approved for such high temperatures.”

Other benefits include heat-recovery options and advanced remote control, which allows customers to monitor system performance and modify several parameters at any time from their phone or computer.

From a contractor perspective, AREA’s iCOOL CO2 condensing units are easy to install, easy to commission and easy to service, according to Ventura.

The iCOOL CO2 range currently covers both low temperature up to 34,000BTUH (2.8TR/9.8kW) and medium temperature up to 100,000BTUH (8.3TR/29.2kW), with plans to develop a unit that offers 300,000BTUH (25TR/87.9kW) , which would be an alternative for supermarket rack systems. That said, during his presentation, Ventura detailed the experience of one client who operates a 13,000ft2 (1,200m2) supermarket that opted for 28 iCOOL CO2 condensing units instead of a rack system.

Ventura also noted that AREA is working on adding predictive maintenance features to the iCOOL CO2 product range.

Having recently opened a new facility in Poland, AREA has expanded its manufacturing floor space by 32,300ft2 (3,000m2). With this additional capacity, Ventura expects to produce around 5,000 units between now and 2025.

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