The mechanical services industry is in the midst of a major change, as manufacturers and contractors must adapt to new limits on the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Also known as F-Gases, HFCs are used as refrigerants in air conditioning systems, but many have high global warming potential (GWP).
A phasedown is underway, with a quota system legislating the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent allowed on the market. The aim is to reduce that measure by 80% by 2030, so the result will be lower availability of existing refrigerants, and higher prices as demand increases.
In preparation, manufacturers have introduced new refrigerants such as R32, which has a significantly lower GWP than its predecessors.
Refrigerant and service gas supplier A-Gas details the phasedown and various alternatives in the graphic below. The key dates in the timeline are:
2017: Quota cut by approximately 11%, so availability is dropping. Suppliers are switching to low-GWP options so they use up less of their quota.
2018: For new systems, the quota will have dropped by 37% compared to the baseline set in 2015. Reclaimed and recycled refrigerant can still be used.
2020: Refrigerants with a GWP greater than 2,500 will be banned in new systems. Engineers will also not be allowed to top up systems with these refrigerants if the volume is more than 40 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
2022: The ban applies to virgin refrigerants with GWP greater than 750, for use in single split air conditioning systems with a charge less than 3kg.
2030: Reclaimed F-Gases can no longer be used. The quota placed on the market will have dropped by 80% compared to the 2015 baseline.