As the implications of the F-Gas regulations start to affect building services, Dennis Flower looks at the implications for the facilities management sector.

Facilities managers in charge of facilities with plant and equipment that use refrigerant gases with a high global warming potential (GWP) face a number of issues in the near future.

These are resulting from the various updates to the F-Gas regulations in recent years, which aim to improve the environmental sustainability of air conditioning, refrigeration and cooling systems around Europe.

One example is the rise in the price of R410A, which is commonly used throughout the air conditioning  and refrigeration sectors, but is now in short supply following the change in regulations.

It is also becoming much more expensive, with sources reporting that prices have risen by an average of around 30% each month since last autumn.

It is now imperative for any plant using refrigerants with a high GWP to implement upgrades in the near future

Dennis Flower PfM Dennis Flower Editor of Premises & Facilities Management

Fines for contravention

A further level of complexity within the use of refrigerant gases has emerged after an amendment to the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases regulations was laid before Parliament at the end of last month.

It is supported by the cooling industry and is expected to be approved by MPs with the result that from 1 April this year those found to be in contravention could face fines of up to £200,000.

These would be levied for those committing offences including the deliberate release of F gases to the atmosphere or failing to comply with enforcement notices.

Contraventions deemed to be less serious will still be eligible for fines of up to £100,000.

Even failure to correctly label equipment or not registering and verifying quota usage will result in fines of up to £50,000, with fines of £10,000 possible for those missing relevant deadlines.

Alternatives

Industry suppliers are now advising the use of refrigerants with lower GWP ratings, such as R32 or CO2 and we are now seeing R32 air conditioning models hitting the market, with manufacturers such as Mitsubishi Electric leading the way.

These models are only available in smaller systems though (what are known as RAC and PAC), as there are other challenges for the industry in trying to utilise R32 for larger VRF-type systems.

There are rumours of smaller VRF systems (under 28kW) that may be available in the UK late in 2019 but no details are yet available. 

One solution emerging could be an R32 version of Mitsubishi Electric’s Hybrid VRF which the manufacturer has promised to release more details on in the next few months.

Next steps for FM

There has been considerable discussion over the best refrigerant to use that has increased in intensity as the impact of the F Gas regulations has been seen to take effect.

It is now imperative for any plant using refrigerants with a high GWP to implement upgrades in the near future, in order to avoid the issues highlighted above.

Those needing to justify the expense of upgrading equipment have the option of including compliancy with legislation such as the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) on the basis that the new equipment has the potential to reduce energy consumption, which also have serious financial implications for those failing to comply.

All in all, it looks like an interesting time ahead for the FM sector in 2018.

Dennis Flower is editor of Premise and Facilities Management Magazine.