Chemours Company Technical Fellow, Charles Allgood, explains why the need to have a strong refrigerant management program is growing exponentially.
The need for a strong refrigerant management program applies to every level of the HVACR industry, and is influenced by two significant dynamics.
The first is the move to reduce use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, replacing them with lower-global-warming-potential (GWP) hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs).
Although HFC production and consumption phasedowns are happening at different stages worldwide, they’re creating a gap between supply and what is needed to operate and service existing equipment.
The second dynamic is the heightened focus on circularity, which has become much more than the “right thing to do” for our planet. Maximizing resource efficiency is essential for the strength of our industry and the businesses that support it. It drives everything from lower energy consumption and better budget strategies to supply chain resilience and consumer preference.
Refrigerant management starts with understanding the “Three Rs” and how each contributes to your business and sustainability goals. First is recovery, which means taking refrigerant out of a system and moving it into a separate container.
Next is recycling, achieved by putting refrigerant back into the system after it is recovered, often after some minor “cleanup” or filtering to reduce contamination. Perhaps the most important of the three is reclamation.
Recovered refrigerant that is not recycled should go to a certified reclaimer to be reprocessed and reintroduced into the supply stream as refrigerant that meets all virgin purity specifications.
Phasedowns are causing unprecedented demand for HFCs—to the extent that, for the first time ever, OEMs are depending on reclaimed product to meet some regional regulatory criteria. Plus, reclaimed product is needed for service applications.
It is critical for contractors to get every possible pound of refrigerant back during equipment maintenance and at end of life. Lastly, stepping up reuse and reclamation efforts to ensure adequate supply of certified product can help deter illegal refrigerant trading, which can lead to a host of other economic and safety issues.
Given the increase in recovery and reclamation efforts, it’s advisable to refresh your contractor and technician training and make sure proper recovery machines are in place. This applies to HFCs as well as new-generation, mildly flammable A2L refrigerants, which are finding greater use as lower-GWP replacements.
These steps are imperative to maintain the integrity of the product and prevent it from leaking into the environment, as well as ensure optimal equipment performance and safety for technicians and end users.
One final point to remember is that refrigerant management is just one component of achieving circularity. Collaboration must occur all along the value chain. Chemours, for example, is seeing increased use of our OpteonHFO/HFO-blend refrigerants due to their criticality in the industry’s transition to significantly lower-GWP solutions.
Consequently, HFOs represent a huge opportunity to advance circularity through optimal resource efficiency. As a refrigerant innovator and manufacturer, Chemours is hyperfocused on responsible manufacturing.
We create sustainable pathways to circularity and support proper reclamation, recycling, and reuse of all our refrigerants.
Across the board in HVACR—from major OEMs to independent service contractors and everyone in between—we have the ability and responsibility to positively impact the environment.
Moreover, while supporting the health of our planet, you can support the health of your businesses. Practicing the Three Rs of refrigerant management, consistently and properly, is a solid place to start.
About the Author
Charles “Dr. Chuck” Allgood holds a PhD in chemistry, has more than 30 years of experience in the HVACR industry, and is a respected speaker at many industry events. In addition to Chemours, he’s worked for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.