Sustainability and refrigerant fluids
Understand why CFCs and HCFCs are being banned from the market and what their substitutes should be.
For almost 50 years CFCs have been used in refrigeration. Until scientists discovered in the 1970s that these fluids, like Freon, provoke damage to the ozone layer, which acts as a “sun filter” protecting the earth. From this point on the need to interrupt their use and find substitutes started being discussed. In 1987, the Montreal Protocol established the rules and deadlines for gradually phasing out CFC production and consumption worldwide, with very positive results. For also containing chlorine – that attacks the ozone layer – HCFCs (such as R22) were later included in the Protocol and there is an ongoing process that will lead to its full elimination in 2040. The alternatives found for replacing CFCs and HCFCs have virtually no effect on the ozone layer. The problem seemed to be solved, but then the need to assess the impact of these substances on the global warming and climate change process came into the picture. Thus, HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), such as R134a, which seemed like a great solution and already had widespread use, began to have their benefits questioned, since they have high global warming potential. This means that, when released into the atmosphere, either by changing compressors or in leaks, end up promoting heat retention in the atmosphere, while causing no harm to the ozone layer. HFCs have lost ground in the market today and the clearest trend is the increased use of natural refrigerants, whose environmental impact is reduced: there’s virtually no attack on the ozone layer and they have almost no influence on global warming. Examples of natural refrigerants include hydrocarbons such as isobutane (R600a) and propane (R290), ammonia and carbon dioxide (CO2). Due to its favorable characteristics from the environmental and financial standpoint (yes, they are more efficient than R404A, for example, with savings on electricity bills), isobutane and propane have been used on a large scale in Europe and in Asia for many years. Therefore they represent an already tried and tested solution, merely requiring special attention in equipment repair and in safety aspects, since they are flammable. In Brazil, their use is growing in domestic (R600a) and commercial (R290) refrigeration. Learn more about Embraco’s compressor line for hydrocarbons in www.embraco.com/catalog