The event, which took place at the DeVere Theobalds Estate in Cheshunt, was the second of its kind to be held by Climalife this year, as F-Gas regulation continues to make an impact and the acr industry is forced to undergo change at an unprecedented rate.
Recognising the need to keep its customer base both informed and reassured, Climalife ensured that the afternoon of seminars addressed openly and realistically the F-Gas problem as it presently stands.
Climalife managing director Allan Harper commenced proceedings with a frank overview of the current situation and the state of the refrigerant market. Acknowledging the 32 percent reduction required this year for HFCs, he stated: “The R404A train has left the station. The honeymoon period for F-Gas is over and we need to make the marriage work.”
Mr Harper added that equipment manufacturers have been slow to respond, and declared: “You have to ask equipment manufacturers to place new products on the market which support A2Ls or 2021 will be very difficult.” However, he concluded his introduction with a message that was fundamentally positive as he told customers: “Don't panic.”
This set the tone for the presentation which followed, as Climalife technical director Peter Dinnage offered attendees a more comprehensive overview of the F-Gas phase-down in relation to both existing and new equipment, putting forward practical solutions to cope with the phase-down and noting the importance of leak prevention and careful planning.
While Mr Dinnage emphasised the need to move much more quickly to low GWP refrigerants, with quota management being essential, he said the transition away from R404A in particular could be fairly straightforward when it came to existing equipment, with “a whole choice of R404A alternatives” being available.
For new equipment, meanwhile, he said: “There's a requirement for 2022 that quite a few commercial applications move to A2L refrigerants”, noting R454A, R454C and R555A in particular. He added that visitors to Chillventa 2018 in Nuremberg, Germany, are likely to witness equipment using A2L refrigerants, explaining that the HFO R1234yf is already to be found in the air conditioning systems of many cars.
Mr Dinnage acknowledged the limits to which one will be able to go with low flammability refrigerants, stating that while mildly flammable options are somewhat an unknown, they will become increasingly necessary with new systems from 2021-2030. Indeed, he explained that R410A does not have a low flammability alternative, advising customers: “Very rapidly, we'll move from R410A to R32 and HFO blends. Conserve R410A for systems where there is no alternative.”
Nacer Achaichia, engineering manager at Honeywell also addressed concerns surrounding new and mildly flammable refrigerants, giving a detailed overview of the Solstice products which comprise the A1 and A2L low-GWP refrigerants replacing R134a, R123, R404A and R410A.
He explained to customers that R1234yf is very difficult to ignite due to its high minimum ignition energy (MIE), while R455A, a new refrigerant below 150 GWP, has a very low flammability window with a lower flammability limit of 12 percent and a higher flammability limit of 13 percent, likewise making it hard to ignite. The popular R32, meanwhile, has a very wide flammability range.
Mr Achaichia stressed that a mild flammability rating should not be a barrier to the uptake of new A1 and A2L refrigerants and labelled R32 a temporary solution, with “final solution refrigerants requiring a GWP under 150”.
Honeywell account manager Barbora Kopecka shared the company's experience with the F-Gas quota and noted the issue of pre-charged equipment which is now included in the quota. She also observed that “the incumbent quota is shrinking much faster than originally thought,” and thus echoed the call for customers to put proactive pressure on equipment manufacturers. She implored: “Push them to start the conversion; they don't see the urgency. Otherwise, customers will be in difficulty and won't have enough product to service equipment.”
Finally, UK head of sales for Climalife's IDS Refrigeration, David Richards, concluded the seminars with a refreshing look at some quota-free solutions, explaining that recovered HFCs, HFO yf and ze, ammonia, and CO2 are all free from quota.
Although the F-Gas problem is a significant one, the industry is certainly not without solutions and it is evident that low GWP alternatives must be pushed for and embraced. As Mr Harper said: “The future will be challenging and we need to adapt, but the UK is ahead of the curve and there's a lot of opportunity.”