Earth Day 2023: How Refrigerant Choice Affects Climate Change and What You Should Know to Be Green

It is surprising to many people that refrigerants are a vital tool in taking climate action.

Climate change is occurring at an alarming rate, with many broad-reaching impacts on human health, the economy, and the stability of the natural environment. Increased emissions of greenhouse gases that trap heat and block it from escaping the atmosphere drive significant global disruption to climate systems.

The role refrigerants play in a company’s sustainability goals and strategies to reduce energy costs have elevated the need for facility and business managers to discuss refrigerants.

As we celebrate Earth Day, it’s important that we focus on the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement designed to phase out the production and consumption of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Since being signed in 1987 and enacted in 1989, countries have been phasing out most ozone-damaging chemicals, helping to protect the Earth’s protective shield. According to a United Nations-backed report, the Earth’s protective ozone layer is healing. The information has confirmed that the phase-out of nearly 99% of banned ozone-depleting substances, in accordance with the Montreal Protocol, led to the ozone layer’s recovery.

Although we have and are taking steps towards a cleaner and greener environment, chemicals are still causing holes in the Earth’s ozone layer at an alarming rate. For example, human-made chlorofluorocarbons have reached record levels despite this international ban, boosting climate-changing emissions. This rise is surprising since the production and consumption of the chemicals were banned entirely in 2010. But, while CFCs are supposed to be virtually nonexistent in products that used to contain them, companies are still technically allowed to use them in the process of manufacturing alternatives. This is the case for three of the five CFCs that have become more prevalent since 2010 (CFC-113a, CFC-114a, and CFC-115). These are used to make hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, that replace CFCs in air conditioning, refrigerators, and fire extinguishers. Unfortunately, these HFCs are problematic when they leak from appliances.

Facilities should consider the following when it comes to upgrading or replacing their HVACR system:

Regulatory phasedowns. The availability of HFC-based systems will increase, and the availability of refrigerants to service alternative equipment will decrease.

 Corporate responsibility mission. Your commitment to the health and sustainability of the planet should be reflected in your choice of refrigerant charging your HVACR system.

Customers and clients. You want your customers and clients, both current and potential ones, to feel comfortable, safe, and “green and clean.”

Age of your current system. Older HVACR systems have a more significant potential for refrigeration leaks, which in the case of sulfur dioxide or ammonia, can pose fatal health risks.

A healthy planet is not an option — it is a necessity.