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‘Prepare for new ways of working’ as F-Gas refrigeration regs come to pass

Speakers at RAC’s F-Gas Question Time warn that for cooling industry ‘it can no longer be business as usual’

The passing into law of the F-Gas regulations on May 20 will usher in a new generation of low-GWP refrigerants, and the industry needs to move quickly to ensure it is ready for the consequences.

At the same time, customers need to be prepared for rises in prices amongst today’s most popular refrigerants as supply and demand issues bite. That was the message from speakers at RAC’s F-Gas Question Time yesterday, as a panel of experts sought to set out the challenges of the newly revised regulations.

John Ormerod, md of refrigerant distributor A-Gas Uk said: “It can no longer be busines as usual.

The industry will have to move quickly and get used to working outside its comfort zone. It will mean coming to terms with flammability, with higher pressures, with increased scrutiny and reporting requirements; and there are likely to be potential price shocks and instability as supply and demand issues come into play.”

The publication of the F-Gas Regulation in the Official Journal of the European Union marks the passage of the regs into law, and the focus now moves onto to how the regs will be implemented.

The law officially applies from January 1, and although many of the restrictions, bans and changes in practice don’t come into force until 2020, speakers at the Question Time stressed that the planning and general educational process needs to start early.

The major change for the industry will be the move toward lower-GWP gases, which will be controlled by a range of bans, notably the ban on servicing large systems with refrigerants over 2500 GWP, which takes effect from 2020.

But Consultant Ray Gluckman warned that it was wiser to move away from the high-GWP refrigerants, particularly R404A, sooner rather than later: “You have got to tell customers not to look at new R404A equipment. Check if you are affected by the service ban and make plans for early actions.

I am very worried that in 2018 the shape of the phasedown will create real supply issues for R404A, so I would urge that service ban actions are actually taken by 2018, not 2020.”  

 Another of the key changes is the move from measurement of refrigerant in kilogrammes to CO2 equivalent in order to help the industry move away from the high GWPs. Mr Gluckman cautioned: “People in the industry won’t struggle with GWP-weighting, but most other people will, and that means the customers.”

Graham Fox of AREA revealed that the contractors’ body was developing an App for installers, which will allow them to make the conversions.

But the experts also warned that there were a number of crucial details that still need to be clarified.

Mike Nankivell, chair of ACRIB’s F-Gas Implementation Group listed some 15 areas of clarification that the Group was seeking from the EC and from the UK’s agency, Defra. The thresholds for leak detection and new labelling requirements are two of the key areas, he said.

There is also concern about whether the new thresholds will bring smaller systems into a tighter leak detection regime, making things more complicated for convenience stores.

All refrigerants, products and systems need to be relabelled with the new CO2 equivalent volumes from 2017, but at this stage the precise requirements are not known, he said.

He said: “Labelling is an area of concern for manufacturers and possibly for installers. Most current labels are sort of ok, but from 2017 they will all need to change”

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