Recognising concerns over the global warming potential of HFCs, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) says the industry is already well on the way to transitioning away from the use of HFCs in foam insulation by 2020.
AHAM recognises that a transition to the emerging flammable alternatives will require a cooperative effort from manufacturers, refrigerant suppliers and the safety standards bodies in the US and Canada, as well as the relevant federal safety, environmental and energy agencies in both countries.
“Regardless of the next-generation refrigerant chosen by appliance manufacturers, products must still adhere to stringent energy efficiency requirements, be compatible with product components, be safe for consumers and manufacturing workers and be functional and cost effective,” said AHAM president and CEO Joe McGuire.
“That is why the industry has projected that with everyone’s full cooperation, 2024 is the earliest possible transition date. The timetable is longer for room air conditioning products given the added work needed to address viable alternatives and building codes for multi-housing units,” McGuire added.
While the primary alternative to HFCs in refrigerators and freezers, isobutane, is used widely around the world and has a very low global warming potential, AHAM says its use in the US and Canada will require manufacturers to make technically challenging adjustments to products and factories to ensure that refrigerators continue to meet more stringent safety standards than those in other parts of the world.
Current safety standards in the US and Canada place stricter limits on the amount of flammable refrigerants that can be used in a refrigerator. AHAM argues that the technical changes required to keep these products functioning properly under the constraints of those standards could add significant costs to the bulk of refrigerators on the market.
AHAM is calling on the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission as well as counterpart agencies in Canada to support its voluntary efforts through further evaluation of alternatives to HFCs and protective, justified updates to safety standards to facilitate the use of HFC alternatives.