A global commitment to a healthy, sustainable environment is changing the refrigerant landscape for the HVAC industry:
- CFCs and HCFCs have already been phased 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, because of the ozone depletion potential (ODP). An HVAC chiller's life span of 25-30 years makes any R123 dependent chiller purchased today virtually obsolete.
- Existing equipment using HCFCs will be subject to a government reporting program, and refrigerant available for servicing will be limited.
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 the 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, it remains the best choice today for a new centrifugal chiller.
ODP vs. GWP
HFCs such as R134a (present 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 chiller could lose efficiency and contribute more to global warming through higher energy usage leading to increased carbon emissions.
In October 2016, more than 170 countries agreed to a gradual phase down of HFCs through an amendment to the Montreal Protocol. In the United States, refrigerants R134a and R410A will be "delisted" for use in new chillers beginning January 1, 2024, under the EPA SNAP program. Daikin Applied fully supports the HFC phase down amendment to the Montreal Protocol and is on track to meet the EPA SNAP requirements. Until then, A1 HFCs including R134a and R410A represent the best choices for new equipment today.
R134a has been and continues to be the overwhelmingly popular choice on a global basis for use in centrifugal chillers. If you are looking to buy a centrifugal chiller today, focus on safe, efficient R134a chillers to deliver the best impact for your building and the environment.
Download our free white paper on the Myths and Facts of Refrigerants here. And call 800-432-1342 to learn more from your local sales representative.
Additional Refrigerant Resources