Subscribing to our award-winning Hub enables readers to receive regular emails with the top articles most likely to interest them

F-Gas is more important than ever

I was shocked into silence the other day, which is a pretty drastic and unusual state for me, as anyone who knows me will testify.

I was having a conversation with an air conditioning engineer who told me he wasn’t going to renew his F-Gas qualification as he didn’t need it now that we were going to be using refrigerants that no longer contain Fluorinated gases in them.

He could not be more wrong.

However, this got me thinking about how our industry has been using the ‘F’ word so much that it’s now lost its true meaning as I’ll explain further on.

For anyone who hasn’t the time to carry on reading this short piece though, can I be very clear.

You MUST HAVE F-Gas if you are working with refrigerants.

It’s about showing that you are trained, competent and Fit to work with gases and refrigerants.

Ben Bartle Ross Ben Bartle-Ross Technical trainer

It’s not just about fluorine

The European Environment Agency describes Fluorinated gases (or F-gases) as being man-made gases that are used in a range of industrial applications, explaining that F-gases are often used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances because they do not damage the atmospheric ozone layer.

These ozone-depleting substances include chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), halons, methyl bromide, carbon tetrachloride, hydrobromofluorocarbons, chlorobromomethane, and methyl chloroform.

Aside from being widely used in refrigerants, these chemicals were ubiquitous in insulation, aerosol sprays and foam packaging. All were to be phased out worldwide by 2010 under the Montreal Protocol – A global deal that was brokered to repair our ozone layer, which was adopted soon after researchers discovered a gaping hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica in the 1980s.

The industry was forced to find alternatives to CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances. Thanks to this, the earth’s ozone layer is on the mend.

F-Gas Regulation

The EEA goes on to say that: “F-gases are powerful greenhouses gases, with an even higher warming potential than carbon dioxide (CO2). They thus contribute greatly to climate change.”

The control of these gases is therefore regulated by the F-Gas Regulations, and they are being slowly phased down and replaced with refrigerants that have less global warming potential (GWP), such as R32, R744 and R290.

The length of an F Gas qualification depends on which type it is and whether it is linked to Continuous Professional Development (CPD) but it is quite clear that ALL engineers working on systems that involve a refrigerant circuit must have F-Gas qualification.

The exceptions are sealed systems such as monobloc air source heat pumps but even here, anything that breaks the refrigerant circuit can only be done by an F-Gas engineer.

That’s why for me, we need to stop thinking about F-Gas in terms of Fluorinated gases and start thinking of it in terms of refrigerant.

And there’s a reason why this is so important.

We are so adaptable

Our industry is very adaptable as we have shown over the decades and we will develop the products, systems and skills that deliver the modern levels of comfort people expect, whether that involves HFC’s, CFC’s, R32, CO2, Propane, etc, etc.

But what this does mean is that the systems we manufacture are getting more complex and the refrigerants we use will need greater pressure, so that we can capitalise on gases with a much lower GWP.

Not only will this increase the pressure on engineers (literally), but some of these newer refrigerants are more flammable and more harmful, meaning even more safeguards will be needed.

That means the skills and training that engineers will need to be able to demonstrate to work on one of these systems is more important than ever.

And that’s why F-Gas qualification will continue to be so vital.

So, the bottom line is that perhaps we should rename F-Gas to R-Gas as it’s about refrigerants.

However, I can see that’s never going to happen.

Perhaps we just need to re-think of F-Gas as ‘Fit-Gas’.

You are trained, competent and Fit to work with gases and refrigerants.

Just a thought!

Ben Bartle-Ross is a technical trainer