30 May 2005

NATURAL REFRIGERANTS CONTRA HFC – RISKS AND BENEFITS


Natural refrigerants have been reintroduced during the last decades as substitutes for HCFCs and
CFCs.
In the small household apparatus sector, the use of HC (R600) is widely spread. There is also an IEC
standard for a charge of maximum 150g.
In the heat pump sector, many producers have used HC (R290), primarily as a substitute for R22, and
mainly for ecological reasons. HCs as R290 are considered natural refrigerants with minimal impact on
the environment.
There are two barriers to the use of HCs as refrigerants:
• low availability of components approved for flammable refrigerants
• lack of legislation concerning the use of flammable refrigerants
The heat pump equipment business has resisted the reintroduction of flammable refrigerants. There
are technical, commercial, and legal barriers. The experience from Europe’s biggest heat pump market,
excluding air-to-air heat pumps, is that flammable refrigerants have posed no risk.
Today, except for HCs, HFCs, are the only practical choice for small- and medium-sized heat pumps.
But in the long run it is very doubtful whether HFCs will survive.