Demand for refrigeration systems with natural refrigerants on the rise

NürnbergMesse / Thomas Geiger

Exports of German refrigeration technology rose by almost 13 percent in nominal terms from January to July 2022. This also means growth in real terms. Exports to China performed particularly well, rising by 22 percent in nominal terms. By comparison, exports to the USA rose by 16 percent. With exports up 14 percent in nominal terms, shipments to the EU also showed a positive trend. Poland and Belgium in particular contributed to the good development. By contrast, exports to Italy stagnated. Deliveries to Switzerland, the UK and Turkey also increased in the first seven months. Among other things, high demand for heat pumps is driving exports. 

According to an analysis of the current economic survey conducted by the VDMA Air Handling Technology Association, companies in the refrigeration industry expect nominal sales growth of a good 5 percent for 2022 as a whole. Expectations for the current year have thus hardly changed compared to the spring survey. However, a downturn is expected for 2023. Here, the companies in the refrigeration sector expect nominal growth of only 2 percent.

Due to the increase in price indices, this means an average real decline for the industry as a whole. This is also reflected in the order intake for refrigeration technology: although orders may increase by 8 percent in real terms in the current year, a slight decline in order activity can already be observed for the months of June to August.

Suppliers of air conditioning and ventilation technology are slightly more positive about the outlook for 2023, anticipating a nominal increase of 3 percent. Fan manufacturers in particular consider their prospects for the coming year to be solid.

Energy efficiency in demand

A major potential for refrigeration technology lies in the high demand for energy-optimized systems and energy-efficient solutions. The implementation of the F-Gas Regulation is also leading to rising demand for refrigeration systems using natural refrigerants. In addition, positive impetus is being felt from the IT sector – especially data centers – and the metalworking industry. This offers opportunities for innovation.

On the other hand, due to energy cost increases, customer industries such as food retail and the non-residential building sector are facing major challenges. 

Mechanical engineering companies are currently experiencing a significant backlog of orders. Risks such as supply bottlenecks for materials and precursors, a lack of expensive transport capacities, and a significant shortage of skilled workers – particularly in refrigeration technology – are offset by potential opportunities. In 2023, it will be elementary for Air Handling Technology to keep an eye on external risks.

There is a prospect that individual bottlenecks will ease more quickly than expected. However, it is to be feared that orders will be postponed or even canceled due to significant cost increases in customer industries.

Industry meeting after four years 

Chillventa, after the last presence event in 2018, has been held live again for the first time at the exhibition center in Nuremberg from October 11-13. The Air Handling Technology Association and VDMA member companies have presented their expertise as well as efficient components and solutions for a wide range of applications at the international meeting place for the refrigeration, air conditioning, ventilation and heat pump industry.

In addition to the focus on refrigerants and energy efficiency of refrigeration systems, the focus at the VDMA booth has been on the impending restriction of PFAS under REACH. The abbreviation PFAS stands for the substance group of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These accumulate in the environment due to their properties, such as high resistance, water solubility or mobility, and some of them can also be detected in human blood. A declaration of intent by EU member states now plans to ban the production, marketing and use of the PFAS group of substances through the European chemicals regulation REACH.

This fact has significant consequences for the refrigeration industry: A full ban could come into force as early as 2025 and would affect fundamental components of a refrigerating curcuit. The VDMA has compiled the most important information on this topic in a factsheet. 

Detailed information on the presentations and the other VDMA topics at Chillventa can be found at