22 March 2017

Making the Switch

A-Gas Managing Director John Ormerod explains how help is on hand to assist installers and end users to change from high GWP refrigerants to low GWP options

The move towards low GWP refrigerants is gathering pace. The stepdowns driven by the F-Gas Regulations are well under way and in their present form they will continue to 2030 and beyond. According to industry sources, Brexit will not halt the progress of F-Gas as the Government is unlikely to reverse established environmental legislation and DEFRA expects there will be no watering down of the regulations in the acr industries.

The fact that change is happening is now firmly in the minds of most working in the refrigeration and air conditioning industries. We are only nine months away from 2018 and a 37 per reduction in the supply of virgin HFCs (on a CO2 equivalent basis). This is the year when it’s predicted that a shortfall of virgin refrigerants will begin to have a significant impact on the industry.

Most of the big players in the supermarket sector are moving in the right direction and this is encouraging. End users are leading the call for change and engineers are working on replacing high GWP gases with lower GWP options but whatever the scale of the job it may seem a challenging task. That’s an understandable reaction but help is on hand to guide you in the right direction when a decision is needed. 

So how should you react when considering replacing a high GWP refrigerant with a low GDP option? Well, first of all, there is no silver bullet or one-size fits all drop-in replacement. Twenty years ago we may have believed there might be one on the horizon ready to ride to the rescue but we now know this is not the case.

It’s important to talk to your refrigerant provider to get the right advice. At the forefront of people’s minds when making the switch is this: will the replacement gas perform the same as the existing one and what modifications am I going to have to make to the equipment?

Most installers want to make the switch as easy as possible. Getting the same kind of cooling capacity as the current refrigerant will top their agenda and you won’t be surprised to know that this is something we are discovering from the inquiries we are receiving. Will it use any more power than is being spent at the moment is another common question. Naturally, cost is also at the front of everybody’s mind. Other questions are, typically, will I need to change the seals or will I need to tweak the control systems? Clearly there are significant technical elements to all of this.

This is where we can help as a refrigerant supplier. Firstly, we can undertake modelling on how a particular refrigerant might perform, for instance, against R404A. There has been slow progress in the move away from R404A in some parts of the industry as this has been the go-to refrigerant for many but eventually this will change.

Secondly, we can provide an update on what’s happening in the market place. We can use our expertise to draw on the experiences of those who have already made the switch. We can highlight the pitfalls and the advantages – and in turn share this knowledge with the installer or end user looking to make a similar move. This is an element of the switch which is evolving all the time and the knowledge we gather here can be passed on to the customer as it emerges. 

There has been much talk about the rise of R32 as a practical alternative to R410A in air conditioning equipment. It is early days for this gas but R32 is already viewed in the industry as an effective refrigerant with good environmental properties. As a single component zero ODP option, it has a GWP of 675, significantly less than R410A with a GWP of more than 2000. In this respect the air conditioning industry is ahead of the game on this.

To assist users in making the right choice in changing to a low GWP option A-Gas has a new online refrigeration selection form, Refrigerant Suggestions. It’s easy to use and all you have to do is visit the A-Gas website and follow the instructions on the refrigerants’ pages.

If you need help in selecting a refrigerant complete the form and the A-Gas technical experts will be in touch to suggest the low GWP refrigerant options available. You can download a sample report that will provide you with an indication of relevant system parameter changes. This includes cooling duty, power requirements, charge sizes and other key elements.

We can model specific refrigerant comparisons for end users or installers and this can provide an enhanced appreciation of the options available. With the benefit of this expertise you will be in a better position to make the right decision but with the greenest option at the forefront.

It is fair to say that low GWP refrigerants are no longer the unknown entities they once were and many are already proving that they can do a good job. With each day that passes there is more equipment running on low GWP refrigerants in the UK. You can be sure that whatever the equipment, help is available and designed to make the switch away from high GWP gases that much easier.

ACR Journal