What are the retrofit options?Climalife UK
F-Gas has been the main driver of change in our industry since the first legislation came into force in 2006. Since then, there have been a number of restrictions and bans on different types of equipment.
The current F-Gas Legislation with its phase down steps is on target to cut CO2 equivalents (tCO2e) for HFCs placed on the market by at least 79% by 2030. The overall aim is to reduce and contain refrigerant emissions by taking every step to adopt responsible refrigeration.
15 Year F-Gas Phase down plan
Retrofit Overview and Good Practice
Many people have been retrofitting systems where the refrigerant has a GWP >2500 and we encourage the market to continue change if they are not currently in a position to invest in new equipment that could use very low GWP products.
Improved energy efficiency can often be realised from retrofitting R-404A and R-507 direct expansion (DX) systems to refrigerants such as R-448A and R-449A. In the short term retrofits are significantly cheaper than new equipment options and companies can reduce their CO2 footprint by replacing a high GWP refrigerant with a lower one, if leakage rates can also be reduced at the same time then the CO2 footprint is reduced even further.
What are the retrofit options?
With R-404A and R-507 now banned in new equipment, R-448A and R-449A have widely been used in both new equipment and for retrofit. There have been many successful conversions of DX systems (including capillary systems) over the last 8-10 years. Many supermarkets, industrial, light industrial and smaller hermetic systems have successfully been converted. R-448A and R-449A are proven options for most DX systems often with only a nominal adjustment of the expansion valve and controller settings required.
Another solution, R-452A is the closest match to R-404A performance, discharge temperatures and mass flow, but its GWP means it should only be used where R-448A or R‑449A cannot. This tends to be transport refrigeration, small hermetic and low temperature applications where the discharge temperature increase cannot be overcome by liquid injection or oil cooling.
Compressor selection software is available on-line and can be used to check suitability.
R-407A and R-407F
R-407A and R-407F have themselves been used in new equipment and as a retrofit for R‑404A. The GWP values of 2107 and 1825 respectively mean they are not banned under F‑Gas, but quota reductions in 2024 and beyond may affect them. Both can be replaced by R‑448A or R-449A (depending on the age and type of installation).
R-404A/R-507/R-434A/R-428A flooded systems
Flooded systems vary in design and can be gravity fed, pump circulation, and low-pressure receivers (LPR), most are bespoke to a specific application. Therefore, each application needs to be looked at individually. Many are old R-22 systems that are over 30 years old where, rather than rely on availability of reclaimed refrigerant, the most sensible option would be to replace with new equipment using a very low GWP refrigerant. We are aware of a couple of systems that have been successfully converted including an LPR, but there is little or no data available other than they are reported to be working.
R-422D & R-434A
R-422D and R-434A were used to convert R-22 DX systems but with a GWP > 2500 the use of virgin refrigerant is now banned for systems with charge sizes >14.7kg and >12.3 kg respectively. If the equipment is not being replaced, the easiest retrofit would be to use either R-438A or R‑453A, similar products which were also used to replace R-22. Both allow the same oil type to continue to be used. Another option would be to consider R-448A or R‑449A, but both would require a full POE oil change and the system pressure rating would need to be checked.
R-134a has a relatively low GWP compared to other refrigerants and isn’t banned, but R‑513A is now widely approved in new equipment, has less than 50% of the GWP of R-134a and is easy to retrofit with a very close match on COP and capacity. R-450A can also be considered a retrofit option if a system has enough spare capacity.
R-410A is not affected by the current legislation for existing equipment, however at 2088 GWP could come under pressure from quota reductions. R-32 is not a retrofit option. New to the market is R-470A (RS-53), it has an A1 classification with a GWP around 50% less than R‑410A and the manufacturer claims has a similar cooling capacity and pressures but without equipment or compressor manufacturer approvals. Another product that has been talked about is R‑466A, but it is not yet commercially available and may not be suitable as a retrofit option.
Reclaimed refrigerants continue to play an important part for the continued operation of systems using high GWP refrigerants that are not easily retrofitted, and will continue to do so for a number of years. However, the quantity of reclaimed refrigerant is finite and heavily relies on existing systems being retrofitted or replaced. As the number of retrofits decrease, so will the quantity of available reclaim refrigerant until eventually the supply will be exhausted. Using reclaim should only be part of a managed strategic plan to move to lower GWP options. It should be noted the exemption for use of reclaimed refrigerants with a GWP>2500 will expire on 1st January 2030.
The F-Gas phase down is encouraging the industry to shift to products that have lower environmental implications as well as maximising the energy efficiency of our cooling systems. But with the recent lockdown, we all seem to be much more aware of these environmental goals that go hand in hand with our daily lives. We have to consider our options. Do we invest now in new equipment with very Low GWP Refrigerants? There are numerous good alternatives available. Or do we consider retrofitting? The real answer is a mixture of both options, Climalife understand these decisions and can give you helpful advice on which is the best route to take for your business and your applications.