Preparing for the phase-out of HCFCs

Published:  10 March, 2009

Eaton-Williams - Ray Paice
Consider all the options — Ray Paice.

With service and maintenance providers in for a busy year helping users cope with the changes in refrigerant legislation, Ray Paice warns companies not to rely solely on drop-ins but to look at all the options with their HVAC service provider.

Although most businesses are well prepared for phase out of HCFCs (such as R22) there are still some SMEs that are planning to rely on ‘drop-ins’ to keep their plant or processes running. Examining all the options is essential as a drop-in replacement might not be the most appropriate solution. The options available to ensure that you comply with the legislation for the phase out of HCFC refrigerants are pretty straightforward — switch to a zero-ODP (ozone-depletion potential) replacement refrigerant or ‘drop-in’, make use of a refrigerant bank and use recycled material that’s already been deposited, use a natural refrigerant or invest in new plant. Recycled refrigerants offer a quick fix. But figures from the British Refrigeration Association (BRA) indicate that at current reclaim rates there will not be sufficient quantities of recycled material available to meet maintenance demands between now and the total phase out (currently January 2015, but it may be brought forward two or three years during the review process). Unless users have built up their own bank of refrigerant, they may find using recycled HCFCs is not really an option. The laws of supply and demand are also taking effect, and, with manufacturers running down their supplies, prices are creeping up and shortages are quite likely by the middle of the year. Little wonder, then, that some customers are pinning their hopes on alternatives such as ‘drop-in’ refrigerants. However, there is no such thing as a true ‘drop-in’ replacement. Any refrigerant that is chemically different from what is already in a system cannot be dropped in on top of the existing one. It is essential that systems are purged thoroughly of all traces of other refrigerants and any oils replaced with compatible alternatives. Even so, there may be a noticeable drop in performance of some systems that are retro-fitted with a replacement refrigerant. Before considering converting existing plant to a new refrigerant it is vital to identify the options available and take advice from service and maintenance providers who understand how crucial plant and processes are to your operations. We can inform, advise and help plan to ensure that the choices made have a positive impact on your business. Charging a system with blended refrigerants such as R417A and R407C requires special considerations, and changing to R410A or R134a, for example, may help improve the energy consumption and costs of your plant Although the downturn is encouraging businesses to tread cautiously, using the legislation as an opportunity to invest in new plant need not be expensive. New plant, although an expensive item in terms of first cost, may be an affordable option if significant energy savings can be made — rather than incur the costs of upgrading existing plant and using a drop-in. In some cases upgrading or replacing existing kit can be carried out without impacting existing finances. Not only will your plant be designed to have the best energy efficiency but will be taking advantage of the latest technology and is likely to have a lifespan of 20 years or more. The more money invested in energy efficient plant the greater the savings. Coping with the demands of new legislation is viewed by many as yet another burden, when in fact it throws up an opportunity to bring the benefits of modern refrigerants and the latest technology plant to your business. Service providers and manufacturers are in the ideal position to guide your through all the options and help you take advantage of an interest-free loan from the Carbon Trust if buying new plant. A comprehensive review service will provide you with a fully costed business plan that matches your specific requirements, analyse costs and identify savings that can be achieved, thus showing the benefits of replacement and will supply, install and commission providing continuity through the entire process. Talking to the experts will save time, money, energy and make sure your business complies with its obligations. Ray Paice is national sales manager with Eaton-Williams Service Ltd.

Eaton-Williams - manufacturers
Service providers and manufacturers are in an ideal position to guide users through all the options for complying with HCFC legislation.

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