Industry refrigerant guidance outlines system efficiency and safety challenges
April 29, 2022
Free refrigerant guidance jointly published by building engineering trade bodies looks at the safety and energy efficiency requirements of changing environmental legislation.
Guidance on the growing variety of refrigerants available for cooling and heat pump systems in the push to decarbonise buildings has been jointly published by industry bodies BSRIA and BESA.
The ‘Refrigerants in Building Services (TG 21/2022)’ guide is a free to download document. It looks at the changing legislative and technical requirements for using refrigerant with lower greenhouse gas emissions.
One particular challenge posed by these refrigerants is ensuring the wider RACHP sector has the right skills and awareness to handle lower GWP gas. These are products that introduce some aspect of flammability, toxicity or higher pressure in their handling requirements.
BESA and BSRIA have said the joint guidance looks at some of the main considerations facing building service designers and engineers from using these refrigerants, as well as the direction of further potential restrictions in the future.
Among the paper’s main topics are the requirements of current environmental and safety legislation that is impacting refrigerant choice, as well as what future changes to these laws might look like.
System efficiency rethink
The paper also considers the issue of system efficiency and how this can be affected when switching to alternative refrigerants that are an important focus of European F-Gas regulations. Trade groups and experts are increasingly arguing that system efficiency should be given just as significant consideration alongside the choice of refrigerant when planning and designing cooling solutions.
The technology and components being used in a system are seen as being of equal importance in the guidance to the operational efficiency of a system as the type of refrigerant used as a heat exchange fluid.
The guidance stated, “It is crucial that the building designer does not specify the use of refrigerant based only on one criterion. For example, choosing equipment today solely on the GWP of the refrigerant used without taking into account the overall energy efficiency of the system may result in higher energy consumption.
The guidance added that failure to consider these different factors together could make it difficult to ensure a solution complies with Part L of the Building Regulations in England or equivalent requirements for devolved authorities.
It said, “Energy consumption, lifecycle cost and total equivalent warming impact (TEWI) of the system are paramount. The system should be designed to take maximum advantage of natural or low-cost energy sources. This should include free cooling and heat recovery.”
The guide also carries an overview of commonly used refrigerants now on the market and their applications in a range of technologies such as split systems, VRF/VRV solutions and heat pumps.
The guidance has been published the same month that the European Commission has outlined a number of proposals to reform the F-Gas regulations that would see much stricter refrigerant phase out targets if approved.
Trade associations and industry bodies representing parts of the European cooling sector have asked for a rethink of the proposals. These calls are based on the argument that the proposals could risk undermining the current efforts to move the industry towards lower GWP refrigerant and to embrace heat pumps in greater numbers.
Graeme Fox, BESA’s technical director and author of the report, said that the release of the new guidance with BSRIA was timely for the scale of the change facing the sector.
He said, “There is so much change going on in the industry and there is a danger that people will be bamboozled by all the current and proposed legislative changes. If people are confused, they can end up simply ignoring their obligations with extremely unfortunate consequences.”
Mr Fox added that a major focus of the guide was focused on the importance of ongoing skills training and awareness among those designing systems and handling refrigerant.