- CFCs and HCFCs have already been designated for phase out by the Montreal Protocol. An agreement adding HFCs to the Montreal Protocol for gradual phase down was reached in October 2016, which will reduce HFC production and consumption gradually over the next two decades.
- R123 will be phased out for new HVAC equipment on January 1, 2020; it has a significant ozone depletion potential (ODP). An HVAC chiller's life span of 25-30 years makes any R123 dependent chiller purchased today virtually obsolete.
- Effective January 1, 2017, the requirements of Section 608 of the U.S. Clean Air Act are changing. The refrigerant handling and reporting requirements are being extended beyond CFCs and HCFCs to include all replacement refrigerants, including HFCs and HFOs. Additional details can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/section608/revised-section-608-refrigerant-management-regulations
Read more about this changing landscape so you can make the best choice today.
Class A Refrigerants are Safer Choices
Class A refrigerant choices, like R134a, available for centrifugal machines, offer the lowest ASHRAE toxicity classification ("A"), whereas R123 and the proposed alternative, R514A, are both Class “B” refrigerants, carrying a higher toxicity classification than R134a. That is why R123 has not been an acceptable refrigerant for many customers. R514A does not address this safety issue, remaining in the “B” classification.
No True Drop-ins for HCFCs
There is no such thing as a "drop-in" for R123. R1233zd is an alternative to R123, and is an A1 refrigerant. However, it is not a retrofit alternative for existing R123 chillers; equipment must be designed from the start to use R1233zd, because it requires higher pressures and operates at a different volumetric capacity than R123. In addition, new R1233zd chillers will require ASME code construction of the heat exchangers.
The identified retrofit alternative for R123 is R514A, which will require some changes to the equipment to operate. R514A carries the same undesirable higher toxicity "B" designation as defined by ASHRAE Standard 34 as R123, and will reduce the capacity of an R123 machine.
No Guarantee of Availability of Phased Out Refrigerants
There is no guaranteed supply of refrigerant after a phase-out, and demand is difficult to predict. With widespread availability of R134a, at a reasonable cost, combined with its efficiency, it remains the best positive pressure A1 choice today for new centrifugal chillers.
ODP vs. GWP
HFCs such as R134a (used in positive pressure centrifugal chillers) have no ozone depletion potential (ODP). HFCs do have global warming potential (GWP), which affects the environment if the refrigerant escapes to the atmosphere. HFC refrigerant escaping into the atmosphere generally only occurs with a catastrophic chiller failure leading to a refrigerant leak, and such occurrences are generally very low.
The refrigerant GWP is only part of the story, because the chiller's energy use has a more significant impact on global climate change than the refrigerant GWP. Selecting a chiller with an A1 refrigerant solely on the basis of GWP could be a losing proposition. If the refrigerant is less efficient than R134a or R410A, the lower efficiency chiller will contribute more to global warming through higher energy usage, leading to increased carbon emissions.
Understanding Refrigerant Regulation
In October 2016, more than 170 countries agreed to a gradual phase down of HFCs through an amendment to the Montreal Protocol (referred to as the Kigali Amendment). Daikin Applied fully supports the Kigali Amendment and will continue to invest in technology to increase efficiency, use alternative refrigerants, and reduce impact to global climate change. This amendment still requires ratification by the US Senate. After ratification, the US Congress may be required to pass laws to establish the mechanisms to meet the requirements of the Kigali Amendment.
Separately, the EPA acted to “de-list” the use of R134a and R410A in new chiller applications effective Jan 1, 2024, under the SNAP (Significant New Alternatives Policy) program. However, on Jan. 26, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit made its final ruling that invalidates certain HFC de-listings based on the EPA’s legal right to regulate replacement refrigerants and foam blowing agents under SNAP. While this decision did not directly address the SNAP delisting of R-134a in Chiller applications it is expected that EPA will shortly announce that this action was vacated. While the decision has been appealed to the Supreme Court, this does not affect the action of the Appeals Court. We expect a guidance document from the EPA shortly.
Today, R410A and R134a represent the best choices for use in positive pressure equipment. For low pressure applications, R514A (a higher toxicity “B1” fluid) and R1233zd (an “A1” fluid) are available today, so there is no reason to use R123, an HCFC that is nearing the end of its phase out schedule.
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Additional Refrigerant Resources