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The new F-Gas is here. Don’t panic. Don’t do nothing

Want a quiet life after R22? Think again – it’s time to embrace a new way of working.

Welcome to year zero. The waiting is over and the F-Gas regulation has passed into law and life as we know it changes for ever.Over-dramatic? Well, it will be a dramatic shift for everyone in the industry who thus far have somehow managed to avoid all the noise from the supermarkets about the need to move away from HFCs

These regs were specifically designed to see off the traditional portfolio that a generation of engineers has grown up with. Anyone hoping for a quiet life after losing R22 is in for a bit of a shock.

Don’t just listen to me, listen to the experts. Those who were at our F-Gas Question Time (see p4 RAC June) were in no doubt these regs will drive the industry towards lower-GWP refrigerant, and among other things that will mean getting to grips with mildly flammable refrigerants such as R32 and the forthcoming HFO blends.

Now the good news is that the likes of Daikin are in no doubt that working with R32 is actually pretty straightforward – the point was well made that we happily work with half-R32 blends in the shape of R410A.

There will be some changes in practice and some equipment will be different, but it is nothing to fear. Daikin has made a cast-iron commitment that it will not be launching units in the UK until the installers have been properly trained and their questions answered.

The bad news, I guess, is that the industry can’t afford to sit back and see how it pans out – we can’t just assume that because bans and the like don’t kick in until 2020 that there is plenty of time.

Because the other point that the Question Time experts were clear about was that ‘business as usual’ is not an option. Planning has got to start in earnest because supply and demand is going to play a part in the coming years as the phase-down takes effect in Europe.

Lower HFC production means inevitably higher prices and potentially at pinch points, availability problems with the gases. The way the regs are weighted against high-GWP means that the days of R404A, will inevitably be numbered – yes, even that currently cheap and plentiful gas will become a valuable commodity.

It is going to need a lot of dialogue with customers – particularly for instance if they are one of the owners of smaller retail systems that will now need to adopt new leak inspection regimes.

I think a key issue will be getting the customers to understand and embrace lower-GWP refrigerants, not least the cost implications.

I hope the industry will have learned valuable lessons from the R22-phaseout experience – some end-users are now talking about having to mothball R22 systems because they have not realised the finality of the phaseout in six month’s time.

The message from our Question Time was there remains a lot to sort out, so it is vital that the industry receives good clear guidance. It goes without saying that we at RAC will be looking to help the cooling industry in this.

Readers' comments (2)

  • A phase down led by price rises with simply mean that those with deeper pockets will be able to continue to obtain the stuff for a long while yet.
    The lack of enforcement has made a mockery of the F-Gas version 1 and looks set to do the same with the latest version. Sure, at some distant point in the future even those prepared to pay the higher prices will eventually run out as the gas has been leaked from their systems. But that is a long way off yet.

    The present system relies on whistle blowing from the very contractors and suppliers being paid to put the refrigerant in. It takes a bold person to snitch on their paying customer. Especially when that will probably not really result in any punishment.

    As for the real lesson to be learned from R22, that surely must be that there has been a lack of successful communication to certain sections of this industry and to many end-users. There are still many out there blissfully unaware of the consequences and risks involved in operating plants containing R22. It is not through lack of trying by the likes of RAC Mag who have broadcast this at every opportunity for several years, but still the message has not reached large numbers of people. The real lesson we need to learn is why that is. Otherwise we will be in exactly the same position with F-Gas

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  • Scot Forshaw

    Actually, my experience over the last 5 years in relation to the R22 phaseout is that many of our customers have been actively speaking to clients with R22 units about the impending phaseout and with few exceptions the response was either "Wait until it breaks" or "We have no money to replace it".

    I am worried by the lack of enforcements taking place and that it seems to be the ACR service companies who are picking up the bill for implementation and compliance as customers do not want to see increased service costs.

    If you are a small ACR service company (and am many of our clients are) you can ill afford to loose contracts as it is, without passing on the cost of F-Gas compliance and tracking, training and the like.

    It seems to me that whilst Green Deal and other more in focus schemes are having billions thrown at them, the poor ACR industry is paying the price of ever changing and ever tightening EU F-Gas legislation.

    When I wrote to government in 2012 about the idea of helping ACR companies with grants to implement new F-Gas tracking and recording systems, the answer was "No grants for EU legislation".

    As long as this attitude continues, F-Gas will always be a disaster purchase the likes of life insurance. No one wants it, and no one really wants to pay for it.

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