Synthetic refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) have a negative impact on the earth’s atmosphere. They destroy the protective ozone layer. The ozone-friendly successors however, the also synthetic hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), contribute to global warming up to 4,000 times more than CO2. Even though they are specified as greenhouse gases (GHG) under the Kyoto Protocol, they are still widely used in refrigeration appliances. The concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere is at an all-time high and the contribution of HFCs is growing.
A sustainable alternative to synthetic refrigerants is already on the market: Natural refrigerants. They got their name as they occur naturally in the environment. These substances are hydrocarbons (HCs), carbon dioxide, ammonia, water and air (also called “the natural five”). In the amounts used in refrigeration their direct emissions have no or only a negligible impact on the climate should they escape to the atmosphere.
The refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump (RACHP) sector is facing many changes over the next years. Due to their harmful impact to the environment many refrigerants currently used will be banned or strongly reduced in the next decades as agreed under the Montreal Protocol and its Kigali Amendment, and as outlined in the EU Regulation on fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-Gas Regulation). The legislative pressure on the sector will continue to increase. Switching to more sustainable options therefore becomes more urgent for manufacturers and users of RACHP systems. There is a growing trend towards applying natural refrigerants as an environmentally friendly alternative that is less expensive compared to other synthetic refrigerants with a low global warming potential. They are also considered “future-proof” as it is unlikely that any new environmental legislation will prohibit or severely limit their use.