Q&A from UK Refrigerants Webinar 23 February 2021Climalife UK
Q: Reclaimed refrigerants bought from outside UK, do I need quota in UK for this?
A: Yes, any reclaimed refrigerant supplied from the EU needs UK quota to cover its supply. Only product reclaimed inside Great Britain does not need quota.
Q: What is the international policy on natural refrigerant?
A: The term 'natural' refrigerants covers a range of very different refrigerants, most commonly Hydrocarbons, Ammonia and Carbon Dioxide. The first group are highly flammable, whilst Ammonia is toxic. Regulations on their use vary from country to country and local regulations should always be followed. When using these chemicals as refrigerants always use refrigeration grade product.
Q: Equipment supplied without a charge (Nitrogen only) will give better trading conditions and control of refrigerant consumption.
A: Bringing in equipment without containing F-Gas is an option to avoid needing to buy pre-charged equipment quota authorisations.
Q: What will the future hold for mid-level HFO Blends like R-513A, etc.?
A: Good for new equipment for the next few years. By 2030 may need to consider other lower GWP options for new equipment. Service demand should be OK.
Q: What GWP is considered as suitable and safe from future clampdowns and restrictions? i.e. <300, <150 or other?
A: There is no generic answer to this question, as it will depend on the application and the operating conditions required. There will always be some situations where a non-flammable refrigerant is the only option. For some applications there are already bans on GWP>150. This is where there are proven alternatives that can meet this criteria. There is a ban coming on refrigerants with a GWP>750 in 2025 for split AC systems with a charge below 3kg. Our advice is to try and install new equipment with the lowest approved GWP refrigerant in conjunction with safety and energy efficiency considerations.
Q: Is there any neutral guidance and advice for contractors installing A2L’s either inside or outdoors?
A: Our industry bodies such as FETA, IOR, and Refcom have publications for guidance on the use of A2Ls. We would also expect equipment manufacturers suppling equipment for such applications to give guidance as part of their duty of care.
Q: Any low GWP A1 refrigerants on the horizon for scroll chillers?
A: R-513A and R-515B.
Q: I can see you promote retrofits vs servicing with reclaimed 404A. Is it related to to a specific availability situation in UK?
A: As mentioned in the Webinar, reclaimed product can only be sourced from systems being retrofitted or replaced, so without retrofitting there will not be any regenerated product for the market.
Q: What do you see as the future for VRF technology and its reliance on R410A? R466A was mooted as a possible replacement, and a number of OEMs showed initial interest, but this was due to be commercially available from late 2019. Since then, nothing. Are there any other alternatives on the horizon or will we need to look at alternatives to the whole VRF idea?
A: This is probably a question for the VRV/VRF manufacturers to answer. There is no indication that R-466A is coming to market any time soon. R-470B might be an option, but we are not aware that any manufacturer is looking at this refrigerant.
Q: You also need to check the charges and areas they are use in as they may well need to do a Dsear risk assessments to be compliant and safe would it be as well to make people aware of this as we have seen a number of installations with both A2L and A3 categories that fall foul of this and have had to be taken out and others fitted?
A: Yes it is very important to do DSEAR risk assessments. It is a legal requirement and one that has been highlighted by trade associations, the trade press and suppliers of refrigerant. Full details of the DSEAR regulations can be found on the HSE website. The FETA guidance document can be downloaded from their website.
Q: Can you define "commercial" use? My understanding is that this covers things like supermarket display cases, but not rooftop chillers for comfort cooling, distribution centres etc.
A: The definition of Commercial use Refrigeration is defined in the F-Gas Regulation as "used for the storage, display or dispensing of products, for sale to end users, in retail or food services". Chillers for comfort cooling, cold rooms for storage, distribution centres are not considered 'commercial use' under the definition of F-Gas.
Q: Are any of the A2L refrigerants suitable for low temperature DX applications such as cold storage at circa -30C SST?
A: Yes, R-454A is well suited for such applications.
Q: Are there are any plans to remove the letter of assurance facility for any F-gas registered businesses to buy F-gases?
A: Not to our knowledge. Making sure that F-Gases are only sold to and used by refrigeration and AC contractors with an F- Gas company certificate is a key part of the F-Gas legislation.
Q: Will R134a be banned for use in new chillers under the significant alternatives policy as of January 2024?
A: The SNAP Policy applies only to the USA. However, with a further cut in UK and EU Quota coming in 2024, it would be wise to use one of the lower GWP alternatives to R-134a as such chillers can be expected to last for 20 years. There is already a widespread move away from using R-134a in new chillers.
Q: Can you clarify the situation around using reclaimed gases. In particular R134a, and if the 2030 date has any impact?
A: The use of reclaimed refrigerants is a vital part of the F-Gas phase down process and will become much more important for keeping legacy equipment running on refrigerants such as R-410A and R-134a by the time we reach 2030.
Q: Is ammonia still a real option due to the toxicity and associated problems of its usage?
A: Yes. Ammonia is a successful option for Industrial systems where those offering such systems follow strict design and install procedures and engineers who work with Ammonia are thoroughly trained to work with its potential hazards. Having said that there are applications where Ammonia is not the best option.
Q: Why are low GWP refrigerants still more expensive than the higher GWP refrigerants? I know that there could possibly be a more expensive manufacturing process but lowering these prices would encourage end users and manufacturers to jump over so to be.
A: The current cost of low GWP HFO based refrigerants includes the significant development costs that have gone into bringing them to market as well as the cost of making the HFO. Whilst the comparison cost right now is not that significant, these refrigerants will actually be cheaper than the higher GWP refrigerants in the years to come as the effect of the F-Gas quota reduction comes into effect. This has been demonstrated by R-404A following the first major cut in 2018 and the other higher GWP refrigerants such as R-410A, R-407F etc. will follow as the cost of their CO2 equivalent continues to rise. This makes moving to the Low GWP A2L refrigerants a sensible option in new equipment to protect end users and manufacturers from future cost increases.
Q: What is the maximum charge for very low GWP refrigerants carrying an A2 certification that is allowed in an air cooled chiller (rooftop)?
A: You need to consult EN 378 and carry out a risk assessment based on the charge required. For most applications roof top chillers are not restricted on charge size for A2L refrigerants. With more information we can use the Chemours calculator mentioned in the webinar.
Q: R454A/B/C are blends of same 2 components, only different %. What happens with leaks? If we fill A and it becomes B or C. It is difficult to manage and service units with these refrigerants in the long term.
A: For the vast majority of leakage events with these three refrigerants the composition shift will not be significant and the system can be topped up with new refrigerant. Even in an extreme rarely occuring scenario any changes that may occur are manageable.
Q: What's the difference, in terms of surface too, between "Commercial application" and "Supermarkets"?
A: Supermarkets of any size are commercial, as are any retail outlet. See above answer for F-Gas regulation definition of 'commercial'.
Q: Any thoughts or insight on the current F Gas review - how this may impact A2L adoption and if there's any appetite to move the share the focus with energy efficiency, overall environmental impact rather than purely GWP?
A: The current F-Gas legislation should be spurring the adoption of lower GWP refrigerants and the phase down steps facilitate this. Whilst it could be a while before new legislation is enacted, it will only speed up A2L adoption. There is a recognition that overall energy efficency and environmental impact is very important as a means to achieving 'Net zero'.
Q: R32 on VRF is limited by Charge size.
The questions raised and answered on the day of the webinar can be viewed on the recording here.