Over the past few years, building owners have dealt with a lot of changes required by the F-Gas Regulation.
For some this has been an opportunity to install new air conditioning systems; others have opted for replacement refrigerants.
Faced with further changes to the rules on HFCs, it may be a little overwhelming to consider yet more investment in time and money.
However, it may be best at this point to review your air conditioning systems (in existing buildings) and take time to plan ahead.
We here at Mitsubishi Electric suggest the following steps, aimed at encouraging you to gather the information before making a decision:
Step 1: For new building projects
For new building projects this is a time to ensure that the designers have taken into account the F-Gas Regulation when specifying air conditioning or heat pump systems. It is important to consider if systems with the next generation of refrigerants or ones that use less refrigerant could be used.
It may be an opportunity to adopt a system such as the increasingly popular Hybrid VRF (HVRF) which typically uses 30-40% less refrigerant than a traditional VRF system as it employs water to carry heating and cooling around the building.
Under the new quota system, although HVRF technology utilises R410A which has a relatively high GWP, it still provides a significantly better alternative as a result of the requirement for less refrigerant and thus a lower CO2 equivalent.
Alternatively, there is an opportunity to adopt a system which uses a low GWP refrigerant such as an R32 split system.
The benefit here is that R32 has a GWP of just 675 which is just one third of the GWP of R410A (2,088) and as a result these systems will also produce a significantly lower CO2 equivalent.
Step 2: For existing buildings
For existing buildings, a review of air conditioning systems is vital if you do not already have the information to hand.
In older buildings it’s not uncommon to find a number of different systems and different refrigerants. Managers of multiple properties may find themselves with the same challenges.
Points to look out for are:
What information do I have on my air conditioning system?
For example, are there good service records (as required by law)?
Am I sure I know what refrigerant is being used in all systems?
For example, R22 was completely banned in 2015 (including refrigerant top-ups) so immediate action will have to be taken if this is found, R22 systems can no longer be serviced if the refrigerant circuit is touched. Spare parts are also difficult to source, so a planned approach for replacement should be carefully considered.
On the other hand, it is important to note that there is no planned phase out of R407C or R410A .
Therefore if you already have equipment installed, or in the process of being installed utilising R410A, you can be confident that it will be unaffected by the phase down in terms of maintenance, spares and system re-charge.
Even after 2030 it will still be possible to use R407C or R410A although it is possible that supplies of this refrigerant will become limited.
Step 3: Make a plan
Make a plan, working with your air conditioning service and maintenance contractor.
The contractor will understand your obligations and help organise a planned approach to changes required by F-Gas Regulations.
It will be important to consider issues such as:
What is happening to any reclaimed refrigerant from your systems? Refrigerants have a re-sale value that is rising, so make sure that this is clear on any contracts, or you may find it is no longer yours to use.
Leakage of refrigerant is now covered by installation standards, and in some buildings you may need to fit leak detection (see the Mitsubishi Electric Guide on this topic). This is also a good strategy to reduce the amount of HFC you are using.
Energy efficiency is not specifically dealt with by the F-Gas Regulations, but a good survey of your equipment should include this factor. Older systems that are using unnecessary amounts of electricity will also add to building operation costs.
If the systems is business critical and very old or using banned refrigerant such as R22, a plan to do full replacement should be carefully considered in order that business is not affected by breakdowns or unreliability.
For more information on F-Gas Regulations, I recommend reading our Working with F-Gas Regulations CPD Guide which can be viewed here.
Or take a look at my colleague’s article The 18 things you need to know about F-Gas in 2018.