The world of refrigerants is “cool” yet complex with an overwhelming amount of information out there to discomfort you more than an EPA regulator’s call. This can lead to a lot of uncertainty but worry not! The HVAC/R industry is forecasted to grow over 6% by 2023 with more attention being paid to regulation and the adaptation of technology to the diverse needs around the world. While this is exciting (and we’re excited about it), there may be some confusion amongst owners and technicians on how these changes will affect them. Well you lucked out, so read on as we explore this brave new world.
Climate change aside, rapid industrialization in developing economies around the world without widespread access to cooling technologies is happening. This is causing the global demand for refrigerant to continue to rise. What else is adding to this boom?
- increases in residential and commercial infrastructure development such as warehouses, department stores and malls
- increased access to water filtration and solar energy technologies
- expanding automotive industry with a growing demand for hydrogen fuel cells, lightweight and electric vehicles
While these worldwide growth patterns, seem out of touch with our daily life here in the US, they are not. India, China and Southeast Asia are growing rapidly and the Asia-Pacific market share of the global fluorochemicals market (a fancy way of saying how much refrigerant is bought) was 43% in 2017, but the US share remains thehighest per capita in the world and is growing at 5.5% just slightly behind the pan Asian growth rate of 6%..
DID YOU KNOW: 5.5% growth by 2023 translates to an industry worth more than $15 billion!
With so much changing so quickly, everything will change. Regulatory efforts are being made in places where government is not regulating refrigerants and insurance, industry associations and private companies are taking an active position. States like California are in tune with other international countries as they deploy requirements that force the transition to next generation refrigerants. HFCs are gradually being phased down globally, and the industry is working to transition to better, more advanced climate technology options. There seems to be confusion at a federal level here in the U.S., though, but not at the business level. We are leading with the world’s largest next gen refrigerant plant built by Chemours deep in the heart of Texas.
Environmental mandates do two things:
- drive sales
- force manufacturers to make hard decisions about when and what to stock
Mechanical changes do two things:
- will drive innovation to meet new needs
- require new codes to accommodate new refrigerants and a hidden issue – insulation
Regulations don’t restrain growth, they encourage it. California is adopting the change to new regulations and manufacturers will produce equipment to meet California's needs. This shift will force older equipment with older refrigerants to be moved to other states, keeping the more advanced technology in California and the less engaged states with older, antiquated technology. Be careful because buying older technology could help you become the owner of obsolete equipment; it's already happening with R-123!
Here is a buying pattern published by the Environmental Investigation Agency in a groundbreaking report they recently released (and check out our response to it here) related to refrigerant sales in California over a 5 year span. Notice the rapid drop in R-22 sales and the rise in all others. Now imagine this chart with reduced sales of R-404a in California. It represents another paradigm shift in sales, equipment and service needs.
-------------------------"So what does this all mean? "----------------------------
Building Owners - Let the Buyer Beware!
This shift represents the third time this industry has innovated in the past 25 years.
- First, we moved from CFCs like R-12 to HCFCs like R-22
- Then we moved from HCFCs like R-22 to new gasses like R-410
- Now, we are moving from R-410 to new gasses called HFOs
The manufacturers and chemical producers have 25 years’ experience and they have been planning for this for more than 10 years
There are more solutions tailored to meet the needs of a variety of end-users, product types, equipment requirements and budgets. Refrigerants with low- and reduced-GWP? Natural refrigerants? Ammonia? CO2? They’ve got ‘em all.
Sustainability will impact your decision here are a possible top
Consider the following when choosing a new system:
- The total cost of ownership like energy consumption, maintenance costs, new training, etc.
- What is the GWP of the refrigerant you are planning to buy? These values will fluctuate, so be aware of the needs for the future.
- Is it possible to convert your current equipment to work with the new refrigerant?
- Safety responsibilities and needs
Service Providers - Are You Ready?
There are not enough of you, and it’s hard to provide cost effective maintenance and be the consultant on the options your clients have to choose between. Just a few weeks ago, new regulations required you to: know when, what and where refrigerants go; and to keep adequate documentation with what you share with your clients. The invoice is no longer good enough! The cost of new refrigerants is very high and expensive to keep on your truck, but also flammable refrigerants will require attention too with different safety responsibilities.
Some key things to keep in mind:
- What is your company policy for advising on retrofits?
- Although there will be fewer refrigerants to choose, you will have more refrigerants on your truck, because you will need to carry 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation refrigerants
- Think safety and seek training at organizations like NASRC, RETA, ACCA and others
Saddle up because there’s an excitement throughout the industry over the opportunities to come. Don’t get caught by surprise! There’s enough of a runway for people to plan appropriately. Refrigerants like R-123 are a great example of how people invest in obsolete equipment and then blame the government for decades old regulations. Also take, for example, R-404. It won’t be in place in 15 years, sorry! You can expect to get 20 years out your equipment sure, but only 15 out of refrigerant. So beware! Understand the limits of your purchase.
Production is going to increase. The U.S. is primed to continue its leadership roll. This is our third transformation, remember? We got this, we just have to be united in our efforts. We get how busy you are a lot of the time, believe us. You need the tools to get insights so that you can make good long-term decisions. Guess what? We’ve got you covered. Click below for a FREE refrigerant reference guide for complete visibility for the next 7 years.
Trakref is a climate-conscious crowdsourced environmental management software specializing in compliance and performance. We are also a rules engine, meaning we evolve in real time with the changing regulations. Our whole reason for existing is to keep you compliant. With a mobile application for technicians to record on the go and a simple push-button cloud-based document pool for complete owner portability, we have experts on staff with over 25 years of experience in the industry. Let Trakref make your job easier and handle your HVAC/R systems, tracking and reporting needs with 100 percent compliance guaranteed!