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The latest refrigerant transition is well underway, with the 10% cut in the production of HFC refrigerants that went into effect last year. A much steeper cut happens next year, when production of HFCs must be reduced to 60% of the baseline established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There is no question that this stepdown will be a challenge for the HVACR industry.
As most know, these production cuts are a result of the AIM Act, which became law in December 2020. Under this legislation, Congress gave the EPA the authority to phase down the consumption and production of high-GWP HFC refrigerants in the U.S. by 85% over the next 15 years. Unlike the last refrigerant transition, in which HCFCs such as R-22 were phased out due to their ODP, this transition is due to the fact that HFCs such as R-410A and R-404A are considered to be contributing to global warming.
In addition to ODP and GWP, however, there are growing concerns about some of the chemicals used in certain synthetic refrigerants. For example, PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used in many consumer products, including nonstick cookware, clothing, and furniture since the 1940s. They are highly resistant to heat, water, and oil, making them useful for a variety of applications, including refrigerants used in air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. However, their ubiquitous presence in water, soil, and air samples has raised concerns about their potential impacts on human health and the environment.