Industry leaders have called on governments to urgently rethink rumoured plans for early phase-out of HFCs. The call comes amid threats to bring in stricter controls on HFCs, at a time when the industry believes it is starting to make headway on reducing leaks.
Many believe an early phase-out would cause huge upheaval just as the new training regime for F-Gas is only just starting to be introduced and when the leak reduction goals of the legislation have yet to be proven.
The threat was laid out in dramatic fashion at RAC’s Alternative Cooling Conference last month by Graeme Fox of European contractors’ association AREA. He said: “It is ridiculous of the European Commissioners and many of our UK politicians to contemplate banning a range of gases that any serious engineer sees as part of the solution.”
The campaigners argue that the high levels of energy efficiency achieved by HFCs and potentially strong containment levels through implementing F-Gas legislation mean the refrigerant, controversial because of its global warming potential, still has plenty of legs.
Eurammon, the European initiative for natural refrigerants, cast doubt on the campaigner’s claims. Chairperson Monika Witt disputed that HFCs were the most energy efficienct refrigerant or easy to contain.
“If there is no clear target for HFC phase-out, industry will not invest in new technologies,” she said.
“Clients looking for a sustainable, energy-efficient refrigerating system should choose natural refrigerants. Ammonia is acknowledged as the most efficient refrigerant of all.
“Practice has also shown that leakage rates from refrigeration systems with odourless refrigerants are clearly higher than the estimated 1 to 3 per cent. The industry has always told politicians the containment model works very well. But if so, there should be plenty of recycled R22 available, so why is there a shortage?”
Mr Fox responded by claiming efficiency of refrigerant was largely dependant on the application.
“Its horses for courses, in some applications ammonia is the most efficient refrigerant, but in others it will be HFCs. It is in air conditioning where I’m backing HFCs because they are the best bet.”
At the Alternative Cooling Conference, Mr Fox showed figures from Japanese air conditioning firms that proved HFCs remain the most efficient gases for medium to high temperature, medium duty ac systems.
On leakage rates, he insisted no one held accurate figures for the UK but added: “If manufacturers stop putting holding charges into equipment, this will be easier to measure, and it will also make it much harder for the DIY cowboys to install ac kit.”
Despite the lack of UK figures, Mr Fox strongly believes that containment can work.
“The only proper containment regime for F-gases was implemented in the Netherlands, and it has been proved to cut leakage rates dramatically.”
According to its own figures the Stek Mark scheme has cut leakage rates from 35 per cent to 5 per cent since being founded in the mid-1990s.
|Time for Action
The F-Gas Works campaign will be a chance for the industry to make its feelings known on HFCs, said RAC editor Andrew Gaved.