• CCN editor, Sandra Rossi.
    CCN editor, Sandra Rossi.

For businesses planning to transition their equipment to lower GWP refrigerants there are a myriad of costs to consider.

Not to mention the complications that accompany such a huge transition.

For a few years organisations had the luxury of putting those costs and complications on hold, but not anymore.

Australia’s HFC phase-down is beginning to bite.

The inertia of 2023 is no longer an option because this year businesses need to prepare for another 10 per cent drop in the quota.

That sufficient stock of refrigerants that had been masking the phase-down is about to be lifted.

A prime example of why this dilemma can no longer be put on hold is R404A.

Realising the industry needs a little push the government has commenced consultations to look at ways to move away from R404A in commercial refrigeration.

The main obstacle raised by technicians to using alternatives such as R448A or R449A is the refrigerant price difference (approximately $30 to $40 per kg more expensive than R404A for end users).

Obviously higher ongoing demand for high GWP HFCs will mean higher prices and supply problems across the HFC market.

Other obstacles include the technical characteristics of alternatives, such as flammability, toxicity, and high operating pressures; these can increase the price of the equipment compared with an R404A system.

According to the government’s issues paper there is a lack of suitably trained technicians for installation and maintenance.

Training presents yet another cost.

Equipment in this category have other challenges from the management of refrigerant glide and discharge temperatures, to accessing parts such as thermal expansion (TX) valves, the report said.

Moreover, flammable (A3) refrigerants are severely restricted by Australian Standard 5149 and while mildly flammable, non-toxic A2L refrigerants can be used, they require additional risk mitigation.

The report noted alternatives that are currently available have noticeably higher prices.

One option the government may consider is introducing a GWP limit of 1,500 for most new equipment and condensing units in this category.

For new equipment that cools at or below -20℃ there would be a GWP limit of 2,500 initially, decreasing to a GWP limit of 1,500 down the track.

This regulatory pressure which isn’t restricted to Australia has led to exceptional growth in natural refrigerant technologies around the globe.

ATMOsphere data shows the number of stores using CO2 rack systems grew by 20 per cent last year while the number with CO2 condensing ballooned by 70 per cent in Europe.

For Australia’s HVACR industry, the costs and complications related to transitioning can no longer be put on hold. The time to act is now.