Climate control with care

Friday, December 06, 2019

 

In response to Kyoto Protocol commitments, the EU has adopted the F-gas regulation that bans usage of harmful refrigerants. This has also spurred innovation because of the resulting increased demands for environmentally friendly alternatives. Being an international market leader in portable dehumidifiers, the Dantherm Group welcomes the initiative by planning to relaunch its entire range of portable units in the course of 2020.

By Lee Austin, Chief Technical Officer of the Dantherm Group

What are F-gases and why are they a problem?

Whilst fluorinated gases (F-gases) account for just 2% of the EU’s overall greenhouse gas emissions today, they have risen 60% since 1990 (74% for the US). In that same period of time, emissions stemming from all other greenhouse gases have been reduced. A disturbing fact.

F-gases (HFC, PFC, SF6 and NF3) are all man-made and were originally introduced in the early 1990s to replace other substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) that deplete the ozone layer. They are often applied as refrigerants in air-conditioning systems. Being an ozone-friendly and very energy-efficient alternative that is also safe to use due to low toxicity and flammability, intentions where all good.

Yet, F-gases remain in the atmosphere for a very long time. Some types for decades and some even for millennia, thereby contributing significantly to global warming.

The environmental prospects of eliminating F-gas usage

Quantifying that, the term “Global Warming Potential” (GWP) is a unit indicating the heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere combined with the time it remains there relative to carbon dioxide (CO2). The higher the figure, the more damaging the substance in question is. The level for certain F-gases exceeds 20,000 GWP, more than 100 times above the future maximum level which has been set to 150 GWP for portable dehumidifiers.

In other words, there is good reason for the EU to have adopted two legislative acts to control and limit emissions from these F-gases: The F-gas Regulation and the MAC Directive.

To the Dantherm Group, this means that transitioning from using high GWP F-gas refrigerants in our portable dehumidifiers to more environmentally friendly alternatives must be completed before January 2020.

The majority of Dantherm Group’s portable dehumidifiers use R407C F-gas, a non-flammable refrigerant ideal for medium pressure humidifiers for residential, light air conditioning and direct expansion air-conditioning systems. R407C has a GWP of 1,774, so it is well below the average for F-gases, but still more than 10 times above the future maximum.

Refrigerant alternatives

There are at least four realistic alternatives that meet or exceed future requirements:

R1234yf, R1234ze, R454C and R290. R1234yf and R1234ze are suited for low-pressure systems with small compressors, ideal for higher temperature applications, but the performance for dehumidification at lower temperatures is compromised, and there are some toxicity concerns.

R290 (propane) is an eco-friendly (GWP of just 3) and cost-efficient alternative ideal for compact equipment, and it has a good operating range. However, due to its flammable characteristics, legislative restrictions are in place meaning charge levels over 150g need special action and restrict its usage, so its use will mainly be for smaller systems with charge levels below 150g.

R454C is a new versatile and durable refrigerant ideally suited for a broad temperature range, and due to its low flammability it is suitable for hire and fleet equipment subjected to frequent transportation to and from different sites. It is ideally suited for medium-pressure applications and compatible compressors are already available on the market now.

The Dantherm Group has decided to move to R290 and R454C depending on dehumidifier specifications.

How do I know which products use the new refrigerants?

From 1 January 2020, all new portable dehumidifiers sold within the EU are required to use refrigerants with a GWP below 150.

With Dantherm units, just look for the new environment label – it indicates that the unit you’re looking at contains the new refrigerants.