Identifying The Adverse Environmental Impact Of Refrigerant Properties

Identifying The Adverse Environmental Impact Of Refrigerant Properties

There are over 100 types of refrigerants, aside from water, which are used in many applications and processes in various types of industries. Refrigerant properties are primarily very useful in the cooling and refrigeration processes. However, refrigerant properties like HCFCs and CFCs can severely damage the environment as it depletes the ozone layer.

In designing any air conditioning, cooling or refrigeration system, four refrigerant properties are usually considered. Cost effectiveness and operational efficiency are high on the list, along with low toxicity and flammability. There are industry standards and tests to document efficiency and safety levels for these factors.

Refrigerant properties are of particular concern to environmental government agencies worldwide because some of the chemical substances used in certain types of refrigerants lead to ozone depletion or have a high global warming potential. Major global treaties which imply regulation refrigerant emissions from systems include the Montreal Protocol and the Clean Air Act.

Some of the refrigerant properties which cause harmful effects to the environment include chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons. The gases remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, thus depleting the ozone layer that protects the earth from the suns harmful rays. If no serious action will be taken, climate change results from increased global warming due to greenhouse gases.

There are various classes of refrigerant properties. Refrigerants with toxicity levels below 400ppm are Class B, while those without toxicity levels below or equal to 400ppm in volume are Class A. In addition, numerical designations, ranging from Class 1 to Class 3, indicate flame propagation, with Class 3 being refrigerants that are highly flammable.

Among the refrigerant properties being considered to replace chemicals that are harmful to the environment include ammonia, carbon dioxide, propane and HFC32. However, these alternatives bring additional concerns. Ammonia is considered the preferred refrigerant because there are no global warming concerns. Since it is toxic and combustible, its use is best for certain controlled applications, such as commercial or large facility use.

While carbon dioxide has no safety concerns, the need to use more electricity would negate any global warming reduction. Propane, under consideration as an alternative in refrigerators, is risky because it is very combustible. HFC32 is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon that is efficient and has no global warming impact. However, it could be combustible under certain conditions, so additional safety measures are needed.

Tracking and reporting of refrigerant properties are required under global government treaties to gain a better understanding of how extensive the use of harmful refrigerants are and to measure the amount of dangerous substances released into the air during a refrigerant leak. This will enable scientists to better formulate the extent and impact of global warming and ozone depletion in coming years and devise additional prevention methods.