Refrigerant leaks in supermarkets

Reminder of some figures on refrigerant leaks in supermarkets. Focus on the situation in the United States. 

Refrigerant leaks in commercial refrigeration systems present two major issues: 

  • Scientific sources available to date indicate that annual leakage rates in supermarkets can vary from 11 to 30%. [1] [2] These figures come from studies conducted in the mid-2010s. 
  • The energy efficiency of the refrigeration system is affected when the refrigerant charge is lower than the nominal charge. The system must therefore consume more energy to compensate for this loss. 


Since then, various initiatives have been put in place in Europe and in the United States to combat refrigerant leaks. 


  • In Europe, the REAL Zero project was conducted by the IOR from 2009 to 2013. Its objective was to reduce emissions and refrigerant leaks. It was then continued by the REAL Alternatives project, in which the IIR is part. The fourth REAL Alternatives e-learning module is dedicated to containment and leak detection. [3] 
  • In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has implemented the GreenChill project. According to figures provided on the EPA website, GreenChill project partners reduce their refrigerant emissions by 10% in the first year. The report issued in 2011 indicates that compared to the estimated average annual leakage rates of 25%, those of the project partners were estimated to be around 13%.  [4]  


Today, despite these various initiatives, refrigerant leaks remain a recurring problem in commercial refrigeration, as illustrated by a report released by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in the US. In this report, EIA investigators visited 45 stores in Washington, Virginia and Maryland. They found that 55% of the supermarkets visited were ”measurably leaking”. According to this report, if all US supermarkets matched the annual leakage rates of the GreenChill project partners, $108 million could be saved each year, and CO2 emissions could be reduced by 9.1 million MTCO2e. [5] 


The GreenChill project stresses the need for regular preventive maintenance on refrigeration installations, but also and above all the importance of replacing the HFCs still used in a large number of installations with alternative refrigerants such as R744 (CO2). [6] [7] 




[1] FRANCIS C., MAIDMENT G., DAVIES G. An investigation of refrigerant leakage in commercial refrigeration. International Journal of Refrigeration. 2017. See in FRIDOC (free of charge for IIR members).

[2] LAZZARIN R. Advancements in supermarket refrigeration, 37th Informatory Note on refrigeration technologies. 37th IIR Informatory Note on refrigeration technologies. See in FRIDOC (free of charge).