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Changing the way we consider refrigerants

The new F-Gas regulation will force us to rethink our views on the use of HFC refrigerants. The first changes to come into force will affect the purchase of refrigerants, with distributors and wholesalers now obliged to ensure they check the F-Gas status of the company and person to whom they are selling the refrigerant.

To start with, this will undoubtedly lead to some confusion in the market, but as the UK has in excess of 33,000 registered engineers and approximately 4,000 companies that use HFCs, once over the initial hurdle of putting systems into place to monitor the situation the process should become relatively straightforward.

There are different rules that govern the supply of units that use HFCs, such as split systems. The regulation states that suppliers of such systems should not sell the equipment to end users unless they have proof that the system will be installed by an F-Gas registered engineer.

This is clearly aimed at the DIY enthusiasts who were previously able to buy systems and install them themselves – but it will also have implications for large accounts that sometimes purchase equipment directly from manufacturers.

Suppliers of RAC equipment are insisting that the companies they sell to provide proof that they are F-Gas registered and their employees who use F-Gases hold the relevant qualifications. Although this is not explicitly stated in the regulation, this can ensure that suppliers meet not only the letter of the law, but also its spirit.

While the supply of equipment will be resolved relatively quickly, the next issue to be addressed is the change to leak detection requirements.

This will involve both end users and maintenance companies, and will necessitate that the currently installed base of equipment is checked and surveyed to see what leak checks need to be carried out.

It is important to understand how refrigerant volumes will be measured under the new law. This involves working out the CO2-equivalent emissions of the refrigerant used. This sum is obtained by multiplying the weight of refrigerant by its global warming potential and dividing it by 1,000.

Introducing leak detection systems can effectively reduce the frequency of leak checks. Accepted types of leak detection systems can be found on the DEFRA website.

While the new F-Gas regulation can be seen as being too onerous on the air conditioning and refrigeration industries, I tend to believe that it will make us change how we look at HFCs – currently, we think of them as consumables.

The fact is we should treat them as a finite resource that needs to be handled with due care and attention.

Graham Wright is HEVAC president

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