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01 February 2016

Ten steps to F-Gas best practice

A-Gas Managing Director John Ormerod with his 10 top tips on how to manage the F-Gas Regulations.

 

1 Face up to the R404A challenge

The refrigerant quota phasedown under F-Gas is going to put considerable pressure on the supply chain. R404A is the most widely used refrigerant in commercial refrigeration and has the highest GWP. Observers in the industry, including independent commentators, say that supplies of R404A are going to be a problem. Everyone agrees that by 2018 there won’t be sufficient R404A around to service current needs. There will be shortages and the industry needs to start moving away from R404A very quickly.

2 Go for low GWP options

In the context of R404A there is a raft of options depending on how far down the GWP curve customers want to go. R407F (Genetron® Performax LT™) and R407A are two medium GWP alternatives which are currently available, cost effective, and in many cases, energy efficient. There are also newer generation refrigerants with a lower GWP like Solstice® N40 (R-448A) and Opteon® XP40 (R-449A) that offer additional benefits in terms of lower discharge temperatures. These low GWP options are already with us and offer customers the chance to make the switch from R404A now.

3 Understand CO2 equivalents

The F-Gas Regulations are based upon working to Carbon Dioxide equivalents and if you don’t understand how this works achieving best practice won’t be possible. The calculation involves measuring the refrigerant in kilograms and then multiplying this by the GWP. Gas-Trak Online™ (GTO™) from A-Gas, a handy app which will calculate CO2 equivalents, is among the online tools which allows you to do these sums simply and efficiently.

4 Up your leak detection regime

Most refrigerant supplied to the industry is for servicing systems and the reason they have to be topped up regularly is because they leak. Driving down leakage rates is a key part of managing refrigerant use under the F-Gas Regulations. It is well worth putting a lot of effort into doing so if you want to achieve F-Gas best practice. Gone are the days of using soapy water and waiting for bubbles to form. Advanced leak detection methods are now a popular choice, with many engineers using trace gas methods such as hydrogen or helium mixtures.

5 Use the right tools for the job

The trend as we move away from high GWP refrigerants suggests that the further down the line we go with this, the more we will switch to flammable and mildly flammable refrigerants like R32. Currently, this takes the industry out of its comfort zone. Flammable refrigerants need to be handled with care and the correct flame-proof equipment has to be used to allow you to manage the risks associated with these gases. 

6 Improve cylinder tracking

All refrigerant suppliers are levying charges on cylinders, especially on those described as slow moving. This can end up costing end users a fortune if they have lost track of where they have left them. GTO from A-Gas has a cylinder-tracking tool designed to make this job easier. Free to download on smartphones and tablets, it comes complete with a number of valuable features to help users locate their cylinders.

7 Cut down on paperwork

The F-Gas Regulations put the onus on users to record the amount of refrigerant they put in and take out of a system. Historically this has been completed on paper but now there are tools available that allow the task to be handled online in a quicker and more efficient way. GTO provides accurate online reports, 24/7. In turn this removes the burden of endless filing and the risk of losing paper copies. We live in a digital world and online tools are there to make the job easier – we should use them.

8 Think lifecycle management

Refrigerant recovery has been a legal requirement within the industry for some time.  Any refrigerant that is recovered needs to be kept within the industry and not released into the atmosphere. We can then recycle it, make it available on the market again and in turn relieve any shortages.

9 Produce top quality joints

Most piping used in the industry is copper and high quality brazing is needed to ensure you have strong, well-penetrated joints. To achieve this you have to have adequate heat input when you are applying the filler material. There are a range of products on the market and they vary as to the amount of heat they offer. Oxygen and acetylene when used together provide a flame temperature of 3500°C. This is significantly hotter than propane and propylene. If you are on a site where it is slightly windy or slightly cold, or the pipe sizes are larger, it can be difficult to get the heat required. High temperatures are key to achieving top quality brazing, so only use the best products. This will ensure strong, leak-free joints that are less likely to break and cause equipment breakdown.

10 Keep up to date

The industry has faced considerable change over the past 25 years. This will continue to happen as the F-Gas Regulations have a greater impact on our working lives. So it’s never been more important to keep up with what’s happening through the media online and in print. Trade associations, manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers also have a role to play here. So keep your eyes and ears open – or you may miss something which could have a major impact on what you do and how you do it.