Although HFC refrigerants were recommended as the best alternative to the ozone depleting HCFC refrigerants, such as R-22, they have been found to be similarly damaging to the environment. HFC refrigerants have significant global warming potential. Their release into the environment occurs through leaks in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment used in motor vehicles, commercial and residential applications.
Global warming is real; and has devastating environmental effects. To reduce global warming, and with it, the nasty associated effects it’s essential that the world at large adopts a unified stand on the reduction of the emission of greenhouse gases.
Global warming refers to the process through which the temperatures on the earth’s surface are continuously rising as heat from the sun bouncing off the earth’s surface is reflected back to the surface by greenhouse gases.
HFCs are known to collect in the earth’s atmosphere reflecting heat back to the earth’s surface. This combined with the fact that they remain there for a period of more than fifteen years means that they have the ability to have a huge global warming impact overall.
Fortunately, as you will find out below, a number of vital and deliberate steps have been taken towards reducing the global warming impacts of HFC refrigerants over the last few years.
What Are HFC Refrigerants?
To understand why HFC refrigerants are said to have global warming effects, it’s important to start by looking at what they are made of.
In the beginning, CFCs or chloroflorocarbons, which were developed back in the 1920’s, were used in commercial, automotive and residential air cooling systems. These compounds were however banned from production and use under the Montreal protocol due to their ozone depleting properties.
CFCs were replaced by HCFCs, or Hydrochloroflorocarbons. HCFCs were preferred over their predecessors due to their lower potential in depleting the ozone layer. However, the refrigerants were simply a stop gap before a lasting solution could be found as they still had ozone depleting and global warming properties. This led to their eventual phase out.
In came HFCs, hydroflorocarbons. These refrigerants were developed to replace HCFCs. The absence of chlorine in HFCs meant that they had no ozone depleting potential. This made them the perfect alternative to HCFC refrigerants. However, they were discovered to have global warming properties.
Since some HFC refrigerants could be used as “drop in” alternatives in some cooling systems that were originally designed to use HCFC refrigerants, they became an instant hit. Maintenance technicians could simply switch out the scarce and pricier HCFC refrigerant with widely available HFC alternatives with minimal system changes.
HFC Refrigerant Examples
Some of the popular examples of HFC refrigerants that have been widely used to replace HCFC refrigerants include R-134A, R-404A, R-410A and R-23 among others.
HFC Phase Out
A global HFC refrigerant phase out was agreed upon in 2016. The phase out was signed off on by more than 170 nations, effectively ratifying amendments to the Montreal Protocol in favor of such action.
This amendment was arrived at as a result of the observation that HFC refrigerants, though significantly lower than the level of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere had a significantly higher potential to cause global warming.
The global warming potential (GWP) of a gas is usually expressed in relation to CO2. CO2 is said to have a global warming potential of 1. In comparison, HFC refrigerants have a global warming potential that goes into the thousands. As you can see, the refrigerants have more potential to cause serious global warming effects in a shorter amount of time.
HFC Phase Out Dates
The adoption of the 2016 amendments to the Montreal Protocol kicked off the start of the HFC phase out. According to the amendments, no new equipment using HFC refrigerants would be produced as from the first of jan 2024.
The production of the refrigerant would however continue past this date, and would be completely banned by the year 2047. This is due to the fact that the use of the refrigerant was estimated to reach its global peak by the year 2028 or as early as 2019 in developed nations. The huge variety of cooling equipment designed to use this refrigerant would make it quite necessary for a gradual phase out that would terminate by the year 2047, as stated above.
With the HFC phase out in gear, the search for viable alternatives is in top gear. Here is a list of the top HFC alternatives available today.
Ammonia has been used in cooling applications for a long time. Even though ammonia is considered to be harmful, it has no ozone depleting or global warming properties; and is therefore a great alternative to HFC refrigerants.
It has been used all around the world as a refrigerant in industrial applications in the food processing industry and commercial air conditioning equipment.
Hydrocarbon And Propane
These alternatives namely isobutene R600A and R29 are also considered to be great alternatives to HFC use due to their zero ozone depleting potential and negligible GWP rating. The refrigerants are however flammable; their use is therefore highly regulated in the United States and Canada.
These refrigerants are however used extensively in domestic cooling equipment in Europe, China and Japan.
Although CO2 is a global warming gas on its own, its GWP rating is substantially lower than that of HFC refrigerants. The gas is no-flammable and non-toxic making it a great alternative to HFC refrigerants used in domestic cooling systems. It is however worth noting that carbon dioxide can only deliver its cooling effect when placed under high pressure; as such, it would require the installation of new cooling equipment.
HFC impacts on the environment are being combated by the global adoption of the HFC phase out as envisioned in the Montreal Protocol amendments. However, the absence of a guiding framework has played a part in delaying the phase out. For instance some countries such as the US are yet to agree to the requirements of the protocol due to political bureaucracy. Find out more her HTTP://WWW.BLUONENERGY.COM.