BELGIUM: AREA has warned that failing to ensure that only competent contractors can work with alternative refrigerants risks widespread safety hazards and inefficient equipment.
In its recently published position statement on the F-gas revision proposals, the European air conditioning and refrigeration contractors group, calls for alternative refrigerants, most of which, it says, are also greenhouse gases, to be properly regulated.
AREA argues that despite the regulation’s success, the revision proposals substantially toughens the phase-down scheme and the placing on the market prohibitions – with the stated goal of further accelerating the take-up of alternatives, and in particular “natural” refrigerants.
“Yet, the proposal ignores the actual ability of the RACHP contracting sector to cope with such a surge,” AREA’s statement says. “More worryingly, it fails to ensure that equipment working with alternative refrigerants can only be handled by competent contractors, thereby leaving the door wide open to widespread safety hazards and energy inefficient equipment.”
It also adds that the timing needs to be aligned with market and technological realities and that equipment obsolescence should not be unduly forced.
AREA accepts that whilst the proposal seeks the inclusion of alternative refrigerants in training and certification schemes, it does not mandate the installation and maintenance of RACHP equipment with alternative refrigerants by certified installers only, as is the case now with HFCs.
“Concretely, this means that anybody can install RACHP equipment running with hydrocarbons (flammable) or with CO2 (high pressures),” AREA says. “Correlated with the fact that the new phase-down and bans will push the use of hydrocarbons for small air conditioning and heat pump solutions in households, the proposal generates unnecessary safety (potential accidents) and environmental (lower energy efficiency) risks,” it adds.
For the same safety reasons, AREA advocates for the current leak checking requirements of the F-gas regulations be extended to alternative refrigerants and, likewise, the existing requirements on the sale of fluorinated greenhouse gases, whether in bulk or pre-charged in non-hermetically sealed equipment.
AREA maintains that the new stricter phase-down will pose enormous challenges for the entire heating and cooling industry, threatening the roll-out of heat pumps and creating a scarcity in refrigerant to service existing equipment from 2027 onwards.
In addition AREA insists that “hundreds of thousands” of engineers will need to be trained to safely handle highly flammable refrigerants, something which will be unachievable in time unless there is concerted action from EU and national authorities to alleviate the shortage of both training facilities and trainers across Europe.
The full position statement can be found here.
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