“Modern Building Services” and Mitsubishi Electric brought together a panel of industry experts to examine the issues facing the sector as gases such as R410A surge in price and R32 enters the UK market.
The F-gas Regulations, introduced to reduce F-gas emissions by 79% between 2015 and 2030 by cutting the availability of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) with a high Global Warming Potential (GWP), enter the next, much tougher, phase in 2018. End users can expect big price rises and availability issues for industry stalwart gases such as R404A and R410A.
“MBS” brought together a panel of industry experts to examine the issues facing the sector, what alternative solutions are emerging, the benefits they offer, any installation and service challenges and the training and education required.
R32 is the alternative refrigerant being used in new small split systems
Timing is crucial as the regulations enter the next phase.
“The key thing is that there is a massive step in 2018,” said refrigeration consultant Ray Gluckman. “The headline number is a 37% cut, though the real number is a 44% cut if you allow for imports of pre-charged equipment. This compares to a headline cut of 7% this year and last, so it is a massive difference.”
The F-gas phase down allows for availability of gases for service, maintenance and repair of existing systems, although prices are now shooting up. In terms of specification of new equipment that moves away from HFCs with a high GWP, the role of the manufacturer is crucial.
R32 is the alternative refrigerant being used in new small split systems now available from manufacturers such as Mitsubishi Electric. R32 is being used instead of R410A. R32 has a GWP of 675, one third that of R410A which has a GWP of 2088. Larger chiller systems are seeing hydrofluoro-olefins (HFOs) being introduced, which have GWPs below 10.
“Certainly, the much lower GWP of R32 is a massive driver for our end users, and there is also around a 5% improvement in system efficiency over R410A,” said Seb Desmottes, head of product marketing at Mitsubishi Electric.
The key issue exercising the minds of the industry is one of flammability. The likes of R32 are classified as mildly flammable and have been given a new category of A2L. This is a higher level of flammability than A1 refrigerants such as R410A, but much lower than A3 refrigerants such as propane.
While A2L refrigerants may be new to the UK and Europe, they are well established in other parts of the world.
“There are already over 10 million split systems using R32 up and running in Japan,” said Carl Dickinson, product marketing manager at Mitsubishi Electric. “Europe is not going to be a test bed; it’s been well and truly field tested. We are very confident that what we’ve got in our technology, and the refrigerant, is going to be safe. I don’t think that’s going to be a challenge.”
The panel agreed, but stressed that the correct procedures must be followed.
“The key point now is that we put R32 systems into the market with confidence,” said Wayne Buckley, managing director at Temperature Control. “As a contractor, we wouldn’t be recommending something we didn’t have every confidence in. If it is applied correctly, there should be no risk, in the same way that flammable refrigerants are used in domestic refrigerators.”
Graeme Fox, senior mechanical engineer at BESA, raised the important issue of training. Industry umbrella body ACRIB has called for mandatory training in A2L refrigerants. “The idea would be a half-day module that would give installers an awareness of the specific issues with the different classifications of refrigerants,” said Fox.
Wayne Buckley thought the introduction of new refrigerants will have a positive impact. “Hopefully, it will improve the skill level in the industry. We will need to stop and think about what we are doing and how it is applied.”
This report by Ken Sharpe is a synopsis of the recent Roundtable held by Modern Building Services. You can view the full report in the online magazine here.
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