Fluorinated gases (F-gases) are man-made gases which, because they do not damage the atmospheric ozone layer, have often been used to replace those gases that are ozone depleting such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). However, F-gases are powerful greenhouse gases and have a global warming effect of 23,000 times greater than Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
From 1st January 2015 the phasing down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and bans on the use of refrigerants in certain sectors of new equipment began. The EU F Gas Regulations 2014 aims to achieve an 80% cut in emissions across the EU from HFCs by 2030 based on 2015 levels.
The F Gas Regulations will directly affect a number of products used in building services. Those that are to be banned include the following:
- Stationary refrigeration equipment running on HFCs that have a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 2500 or more will be banned from 1st January 2020
- Moveable air conditioning appliances that contain HFCs with a GWP of 150 or more will be banned from 1st January 2020
- Central refrigeration systems for commercial use with a capacity of 40kW or more that use F Gases with a GWP of 150 or more will be banned from 1st January 2022
- Refrigerators or freezers for commercial use containing HFCs with a GWP of 2500 or higher will be banned from 1st January 2020 and those containing HFCs with a GWP of 150 or more will be banned from 1st January 2022
- Single split air conditioning systems containing less than 3kg of F-gases with a GWP of 750 or more will be banned from 1st January 2025.
The phase down of F-gases will operate using a quota system. This will be policed by the Environment agency in the UK. The baseline for the quotas has been determined from the average HFC sales between 2009 and 2012. This equated to 183 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent per year.The chart shows what percentage of the baseline 183 million tonnes of CO2-EQ will be available each year from 2015 to 2030. Important to note that biggest reduction is between 2017 and 2018.
Which refrigerant gases are the worst?
The table below shows the most common HFCs and their Global Warming Potential and the quantity of them that is equivalent to 10 tonnes of CO2-EQ. Refrigerants with a high GWP, such as R404A, R407C and R410A, are going to be reduced in availability well before they are banned.
What can we do?
We need to reduce the need for cooling and consider hybrid or non refrigerant cooling systems. We need to use refrigerants with lower GWPs (note these are not always a direct replacement).
Other issues to be considered
The new regulations also call for more leak detection. Any system with more than 5 tonnes of CO2-EQ refrigerant must have leak detection installed, otherwise it must be checked every 6 months. Note this means that even a small 5kW split system with R410A refrigerant will need leak detection installed.