If you are in the air conditioning industry, you will know all about the move to R32. It’s been a hot topic for some time and one article we posted here on the subject in April 2017 is still our most read piece, now having been viewed over 39,000 times.
What you may not be fully aware of though, is just how much of a difference R32 will make for our industry as we seek to minimise any potential damage to the environment.
The change in refrigerants is part of the F-Gas Regulations, which seek to reduce the impact of refrigerants on the environment and specifically, lower the global warming potential of the refrigerants used within direct expansion air conditioning systems.
That is why we are seeing the reduction in the use of R410A systems, which have a global warming potential (GWP) of 2,088, to R32 based air conditioning, which reduces the GWP to 675, less than a third of R410A. GWP is measured against a base of 1 for CO2, and we will see the introduction of lower GWP refrigerants over the next decade.
A significant reduction in emissions associated with refrigerants is something that is straightforward to achieve
The move to R32 refrigerant is driven by the latest set of F-Gas regulations and the phase down of high global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants for Europe and the United Kingdom.
The F-Gas regulations are a set of rules to help control emissions from fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-Gases) commonly used in refrigeration, air conditioning, aerosols, foams and electrical switchgear. The aim of the Regulations is limit the damage to the atmosphere if refrigerants are leaked.
For contractors and users of equipment containing refrigerants, there are specific rules for repairing leaks, reporting and logging the use of refrigerants and recovering refrigerants correctly at the end of equipment life.
Manufacturers are also looking at alternative technologies and developing equipment using lower GWP refrigerants.
Potential versus impact
It is widely known that R410A has a global warming POTENTIAL of 2,088 and R32 is less than one third of this, but what is not as widely understood is how this translates into IMPACT, when refrigerant is leaked to the environment.
The first round of the F-Gas Regulations were aimed at containment. Keeping the refrigerant in hermetically sealed systems with zero leakage is the perfect application of a direct expansion system.
However, due to unforeseen circumstances on site, leakage due to service and maintenance, end of life reclamation, etc, the leakage rate was deemed too high which is now we are part way through the second round of F-Gas which is the Phasedown of HFCs.
Any leaks turn the ‘P’ of ‘GWP’ from the potential of the refrigerant into a direct impact, and this is where a simple calculation can help everyone understand just why this is so important.
If we take an assumed figure of 1 million tonnes of refrigerant currently in the UK market inside hermetically sealed direct expansion units, then we can show a direct comparison between R410A and R32 and demonstrate the importance of this transition to our industry.
For arguments sake and to keep the numbers simple to calculate, if we assume a leakage rate of 1% from this 1 million tonnes, this would mean 10,000 tonnes of R410A being released into the atmosphere.
When the refrigerant is inside the sealed system, the global warming ‘potential’ is 2,088, but once it has been released this becomes the global warming ‘impact’ and in the case of R410A, the impact would be 20.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (10,000 tonnes x 2,088 GWP).
If we run through the same scenario with R32, the 1% leakage rate from 1 million tonnes, still results in 10,000 tonnes being released into the atmosphere.
However, now the GWP has been significantly lowered from 2,088 to 675.
This means that the global warming ‘impact’ of R32 would be 6.75 million tonnes compared to 20.8 million tonnes with R410A.
That is a reduction of over 300% regardless of the figures used in the calculation. The tonnes may change, but the GWP figures for both refrigerants are constant and the percentage improvement from the use of R32 is also constant.
A significant reduction in emissions associated with refrigerants and something that is straightforward to achieve.
That is the spirit of the F-Gas
Phil Ord is Head of Marketing and Sales Strategy