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The bigger picture

Dan Radford of Parasense warns that simply complying with the letter of the law misses out on potential savings

F-gas regulations are supposed to help our industry manage and contain the substances it uses and support environmental initiatives. As an industry we have known about the regulations for a number of years now, so have they achieved what they set out to do? Undoubtedly. The use of F-gases is now more tightly regulated and companies have very strict guidelines to follow whether they handle, recover, supply, install, manufacture or own equipment containing HFC refrigerants. The stringent reporting requirements demanded by the EU will make avoiding the regulations a risky enterprise.

That’s the good side, but there is a downside. It’s quite simply that the regulations focused efforts on a single type of gas and mask more overarching concerns. The fact is that many of the gases used in rac systems are equally as harmful to the environment as the HFCs regulated by the F-gas laws. In short, it means that companies have focused their efforts on complying with the intricacies of the F-gas regulations rather than looking at the bigger picture. Instead they should be considering how they can adapt their refrigerant management strategies to be more generally environmentally responsible.

A refrigerant management system offers a multitude of benefits both in terms of meeting legislative requirements and improving environmental responsibility. It encompasses leak detection, refrigerant usage tracking and effective performance and legislative reporting. One of the interesting conclusions from the recent somewhat controversial study by the environmental investigation agency was that every year supermarkets release refrigerant gases into the atmosphere with equivalent emissions of someone flying from New York to London 2.5 million times.  This is an astounding statistic at the best of times, but with a good detection system leaks of this nature could be avoided or at the very least, drastically reduced. 

An effective and well designed refrigerant management system will help you keep down costs in at least three different areas: firstly the cost of replacing refrigerant. A leak in the system means money needs to be spent topping the system up (plus the cost in production or trading downtime); secondly, the energy costs soar when running an inefficient or leaking system. Evidence exists to show that a 15 per cent drop in refrigerant charge can lead to a 100 per cent increase in energy; thirdly, the potential loss of stock and therefore profits.

In short, having a system that can tell you where a leak is as soon as it happens has the potential to save a considerable amount of money.

Of course, such a system will also help you feel more secure in your efforts towards protecting the environment by minimising the effects of leaks when they do happen. As a by-products it will also ensure you comply with F-gas regulations and others including EN:378.

Environmental legislation certainly has its place in regulating our industry. However, businesses need to be careful that they don’t become slaves to meeting the requirements. A good leak detection system will help you to comply with the regulations, yes. But it will also minimise the effects your rac systems have on the environment and save you considerable time and money.