Low-GWP refrigerants becoming major priority for companies

Low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants are growing in priority as companies look to become more efficient, economical and sustainable.

By Chris Vavra October 3, 2023
Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

HVAC insights

  • Daikin is prioritizing the transition to low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants, particularly R-32, which offers significant environmental benefits and up to 10% reduced electricity consumption compared to R-22.
  • The HVAC industry, prompted by the AIM Act of 2020 and impending EPA regulations, is undergoing substantial changes, with a focus on greener, more sustainable operations. Consulting engineers are playing a pivotal role in shaping these industry standards.

The Daikin Group Sales Meeting (DGSM) in San Antonio emphasized several themes throughout the two-day event for personnel. From a business standpoint, the focus is on getting their footing back after having supply chain and shipping struggles in 2021 and 2022. It was a common lament for many companies throughout, but one the company is looking to correct for the future.

That future will be quite busy with the company rolling out several new cooling, variable refrigerant volume (VRV) and smart technologies to make operations smarter and more sustainable.

At the heart of it all is the company emphasizing low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants. In particular, they are shifting toward R-32 refrigerant, which will be taking the place of R-410A. R-32 efficiently conveys heat, it can reduce electricity consumption up to approximately 10% compared to that of air conditioners using refrigerant R-22. It also has a global warming potential (GWP) that is one-third lower and is remarkable for its low environmental impact.

Phillip Johnston, GM, environmental business, development center, Daikin Applied, Low-GWP refrigerants, said this is following the consumer and global demand.

“Europe started transitioning to R-32 a few years ago. Other countries such as Japan, India and Australia started as early as 2012 so we have positive experiences to draw on,” he said. “If they can do it, so can we.”

Johnston said they’ve also been able to learn from what Europe and Asia have done and applied those lessons to making the transition a smoother one in North America, which has become Daikin’s largest market overall.

Phillip Johnston, GM, environmental business, development center, Daikin Applied, Low-GWP refrigerants, discussed how R-32 refrigerants are changing and being shaped by global demand for more efficient and environmentally-safe products.

Phillip Johnston, GM, environmental business, development center, Daikin Applied, Low-GWP refrigerants, discussed how R-32 refrigerants are changing and being shaped by global demand for more efficient and environmentally-safe products. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

For Wade Williams, a principal at Clark Nexsen, they’re seeing first-hand how the priority change is affecting things. “Refrigerant change is affecting every manufacturer. R-12 and R-22 got phased out. This phase out and moving toward R-32 seems to be more impactful,” he said. “It seems to me everyone is attacking this in a slightly different way.”

The main thing is they have to attack. With the AIM Act’s passing in 2020, companies and states have to start moving and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is writing regulations that will have a major impact on the HVAC industry as deadlines as early as 2024 (depending on the state) near.

“Those deadlines are driving boatloads of activity across the industry,” Johnston said. “Building codes, safety standards… there’s a lot happening.”

These changes, Johnston said, also coincide with what the public and businesses want. They want to play their part in greener, more sustainable operations.

“Climate change is going to be the primary focus in our industry for the next 15 years,” Johnston said, adding it makes good economic sense for companies to be making these investments and to be net zero by 2050.

“It’s a very exciting time and consulting engineers are already helping steer this because they’re the ones who are members of the associations writing the guidelines that eventually become the standards,” Johnston said.


Author Bio: Chris Vavra is senior editor for WTWH Media LLC.