A decision to expand F-Gas Regulation to include higher flammability refrigerants would be a major step in addressing concerns about the safe use of such products in split systems, according to BESA.
The trade body’s recent two-day conference has heard how the EU’s flagship environmental legislation could be an important tool to ensure stricter conditions on the sale and handling of propane systems.
BESA head of technical Graham Fox noted that the association’s RACHP Group and European cooling body AREA were among organisations to express safety concerns around recent proposals to make use of highly flammable refrigerant in small split air conditioning systems.
Mr Fox said that with F-Gas Regulation undergoing a major review by the European commission, extending the scope of the regulation could be an important step to tackle safety issues around expanding the applications for gas with higher levels of flammability in cooling systems.
He said, “The problem is obviously that these units don’t come under the remit of the F-Gas regulation because they are not using fluorinated greenhouse gas.”
Mr Fox added that BESA was concerned that systems designed specifically for lower GWP, higher flammability refrigerant were being incorrectly marketed and sold as technologies that do not require specific qualifications and technical competence for installation.
He said, “That is obviously something we are fighting quite hard against and various industry sectors are fighting against that too.”
Mr Fox noted that proposals to expand the scope of F-Gas regulation was currently on the agenda to include these higher flammability products that would then introduce stricter controls on the supply chain for propane systems.
He said, “All that would come into play and we can control who is actually buying and therefore installing these systems.”
Mr Fox was speaking during a conference session looking at refrigeration and air conditioning and major upcoming challenges facing the industry, It focused both on an ongoing review of F-Gas regulation and how it might be affected with regards to the UK’s future outside of the EU.
The event also heard from Mitsubishi Electric, which noted that the current F-Gas phasedown scheduled had seen significant changes in the market for split air conditioning and refrigeration system markets.
The company estimated that around 90 per cent of the split market in the UK making was now making use of the lower GWP refrigerant R32 – defined as a lower flammability product - as a result of a widespread move away from products such as R410A.
Mark Grayston, product marketing manager at Mitsubishi Electric Living Environmental Systems UK, said that these market changes had been driven by the previous cut in quota that came into effect from January 2018. He noted that the phasedown had seen some surges in price for refrigerant in the months that both preceded and followed changes in the quota.
Mr Grayston said that an upcoming further quota reduction in F-Gas products coming into effect from January 2021 had not led to similar shift in refrigerant costs at present. However, he said that the further quota reductions, coupled with the simultaneous end of the UK’s Brexit transition period could have an impact on product availability.
The session noted that the UK remains a party to F-Gas Regulation having agreed its own national quota for after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.
One major point of ongoing concern was identified around the complexities of how the regulation would apply differently between the mainland UK and Northern Ireland.
Mr Grayston said that there would be differences in approach to F-Gas enforcement between operations in England, Scotland and Wales compared to Northern Ireland. This would require the effective tracking of the physical movement of refrigerant along with clear reporting and recording on both sides of the Irish Sea.
He said, “That’s causing challenges and difficulties.”
An ongoing lack of clear detail on the exact trade and regulatory relationship that the UK will have with the EU in less than two months was identified by Mr Grayston as a longstanding concern about how businesses such as the HVACR sector can plan and invest for upcoming changes to how their business operates.