HFCs are amongst a number of substances classed as F-Gases. They enable safe and efficient refrigeration and air-conditioning and they are widely regarded as the most appropriate refrigerant based on their overall technical performance, environmental impact and safety. Containment of HFCs is essential for the minimisation of their environmental impact. EU Regulation 842/2006 aims to reduce the emissions of F-Gases, primarily via leak prevention.
Using HFCs responsibly involves action to reduce their emissions and any negative impact on the environment. This now includes the design, installation, servicing and disposal of HFC-using equipment and training in the use and handling of HFCs.
HFCs have a global warming potential if released. Thus when used in refrigeration and air-conditioning systems emissions must be minimised.
F-Gas containment is known to work, as shown by systems such as STEK in the Netherlands. “From leakage rates at the level of 30% at the early 90’s, emissions in the Netherlands now are at the average level of 4.8%, with 92% of installations having no emissions at all in the reference year 1999.”
Leakage control is a key element of F-Gas containment. Valve selection, use of hermetic systems and leak detectors all play a part. Leaks can also be avoided by eliminating accidents – which requires continuous training. If these simple actions are taken, it is thought that over 80% of F-Gas refrigerant losses could be avoided.
Recovery and recycling of HFCs is recommended during air conditioning equipment servicing and at end of equipment life. HFCs are safe to handle and recovery equipment is widely available and the deliberate release of refrigerant is banned in most countries. TK Air Conditioning is a Registered Waste Carrier, able to recover and dispose of refrigerant.
Regarding refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, the fluid in the system can be drained out of the kit and reprocessed for re-use.
Recovery of the insulating gas in plastic foam insulation is more difficult but it is possible and, again, the gas may be re-used.
Reducing the internal volume of systems allows the charge of refrigerant to be reduced without negative impact on energy efficiency. Replacing traditional heat exchangers with compact heat exchangers can further reduce the refrigerant charge.
With new buildings, heat absorbing glazing can significantly reduce climatic effect. Cavity wall and loft Insulation should be optimized for both heating and cooling seasons. This should reduce the heat load in the winter, and air conditioning power consumption in the summer.
Much of the F-Gas emissions are caused by leakage and bad practice. Air Conditioning and refrigeration equipment owners have a responsibility to ensure that appointed contractors carry the F-Gas Certificate.