The introduction of new F-Gas regulations impacting the use and maintenance of refrigeration equipment at the start of this year was accompanied by much fanfare. But several months on, how well is your business complying with what’s expected of it, asks Foster McKenzie, service director at ACE Refrigeration.
Hot on the heels of R22 Replacement, changes to F-Gas regulations came into effect in January 2015 after years of consultation and negotiation across Europe. Catering engineers now have a legal requirement to adapt to the new rules, especially when it comes to testing.
But six months after the new regulations came into effect, do you know the new threshold limits? Or how often your equipment has to be tested?Just to recap on developments, fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) are a family of chemicals that contain fluorine. Most F-gases are very powerful greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming if emitted into the atmosphere. HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) are common F-gases found in air conditioning and refrigeration systems.
The central element of these revised regulations is part of the phase-down of HFC refrigerants with a global warming potential (GWP) greater than 2,500, with a complete ban on new equipment using these refrigerants effective from 2020.
However, recycled and reclaimed HFCs with greater than 2,500 GWP will still be allowed for servicing existing plants until 2030. The previous classification confirming leak detection quantity per year based on refrigerant charge thresholds have now been replaced by a system based on carbon emissions per year.
There are a few simple steps that can help you stay compliant with the revised F-Gas regulations, either as part of service and maintenance contracts, or by installing fixed leak detection units to your refrigeration plant.
All systems with a CO2 equivalent greater than 500 tonnes must have a fixed leak detection system installed. But for any system with fixed leak detection installed, the quantity of leak tests required is reduced by 50%.
So do these changes affect you? Well it depends on what refrigerants your current plant operates with, and how much you are using. Different refrigerants have differing thresholds based on the carbon emissions. The table opposite details the comparative refrigerant charge for the refrigerant type based on the new rules.
A 15% loss of refrigerant can equate to a 50% drop in operating efficiency. F-Gas leak checks and the legal requirement for leaks and any consequent repairs to be recorded in a maintenance log will help to reduce such efficiency losses, energy costs, refrigerant gas consumption and potential stock loss.
Under the F-Gas regulations, system and equipment operators have an obligation to prevent leaks. If you operate stationary refrigeration and air conditioning systems, you must prevent any leaks or take action to remedy the situation immediately.
There is now a legal requirement to have all refrigerant leaks repaired, regardless of cost or technical implications, and you risk a fine of up to £5,000 for non-compliance. Records will also need to be maintained for all equipment with a refrigerant charge of 5 tonnes CO2 equivalent and kept for five years.
This is the responsibility of the owner of the equipment. It’s hoped these new regs will strengthen existing measures and introduce a number of far-reaching changes. The aim is to cut F-gas emissions across Europe by two thirds compared to 2014 levels.
F-Gas: What you need to know
- CO2 thresholds are now used instead of quantity of refrigerant.
- Leak detection systems to be included as part of a maintenance regime.
- Operator and contractor must keep copies of F-Gas records for five years.
- High GWP refrigerants to be phased down from 2020.
- Medium GWP refrigerants to be phased down from 2022.
- All systems with a CO2 equivalent greater than 500 tonnes must have a fixed leak detection system installed.
Foster McKenzie is service director at ACE Refrigeration, a specialist in commercial refrigeration. www.acerefrigeration.co.uk