by Monica Gomez
The ozone layer is an incredible thing. It absorbs a large amount of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which would be very harmful if they were to hit Earth at full strength.
Unfortunately, some chemicals erode the ozone layer, leading to concerns over their impact on climate change. While HFCs do not contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer, they are still not environmentally friendly because these chemicals trap heat in the atmosphere in a way that worsens our current predicament.
As you may know, HFC is an acronym that stands for hydrofluorocarbon, a refrigerant commonly used in HVACR units. Chemical engineers created HFCs in the 1980s as a safer replacement for chlorofluorocarbons, which contain chlorine that can deplete the ozone layer. HFCs do not contain chlorine and are therefore safer for the environment, but HFCs do still contribute to global warming.
Now that you know about HFCs, here are three things you need to know about reducing them:
1. The U.S. Government Has Called for Action to Reduce HFCs
The United States government, HVACR industry leaders, manufacturers and retailers are seeking out greener ways to keep machinery cool while eventually eliminating HFC use altogether.
In September 2014, the White House announced a combination of executive actions and commitments from the private sector to reduce HFC emissions and greenhouse gases by the equivalent of 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2025. This would have the same effect as removing nearly 15 million cars from the road for 10 years.
The executive actions include updating regulations for vendors and service contractors, evaluating sustainable technologies in all federal buildings, and encouraging private sector investments in low-emission technology. The executive actions also call for greater investment in developing new technologies that support safer alternatives to HFCs.
2. Industries Are Committed to Reducing HFCs
Many HVACR companies have committed to a $5 billion investment over the next ten years in hopes of developing a viable coolant that would be an affordable and eco-friendly alternative to HFCs. The investment also covers the expense of designing and manufacturing new equipment capable of working with the new generation of eco-friendly coolants.
Nearly two-thirds of all HFC usage is associated with servicing old HVAC units, according to refrigerationschool.com. With this in mind, HVACR industry leaders are prioritizing the development of alternative coolants that service technicians can use to service old devices safely and effectively.
Manufacturers and retailers, as well, are realizing the importance of decreasing carbon emissions, and many are making a commitment to using green coolants and equipment. Coca-Cola decided to purchase only 100 percent HFC-free cold drink equipment. Target aims to eliminate HFC coolants in all their refrigerated warehouses and HVACR units, and has already begun investigating new refrigerants for their beverage machines. Other companies have joined the fight to reduce HFCs, including DuPont, Honeywell, Lapolla, and SEVO Systems.
3. What Homeowners and Business Leaders Can Do
Business and homes use HFCs and other refrigerants that emit fluorinated gases. Substituting refrigerants with alternative coolants and switching to technologies that do not emit these gases can reduce emissions.
Containment is one of the best ways to reduce HFCs. Homeowners and business leaders can reduce HFCs locally by scheduling regular inspections and maintenance on equipment, including refrigerators and air conditioners. Leaks are a major cause of HFC emission. In fact, 15 percent of leaks are responsible for 85 percent of refrigerant loss, according to the European Fluorocarbons Technical Committee. It is essential to use and maintain all cooling units according to manufacturer specifications. Homeowners and executives can also replace outdated equipment with newer, greener machines.
Together, individuals, business, and government leaders can reduce HFCs in a way that doesn’t contribute to climate change. No single entity can do it alone—
it will take a combination of government regulation, industry innovation, and individual participation to make Earth a better place.