Refrigerants are used throughout the HVAC industry in a variety of equipment, and while they have performed an admirable service to the world by increasing human comfort and slowing the bacterial growth in food, most refrigerants have proved to have a negative effect on the environment since they contribute to global warming and ozone layer depletion.
Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and emissions from some refrigerants are contributors to global warming by absorbing infrared radiation and holding it in the atmosphere – the greenhouse effect.
Fluorocarbon refrigerant are colourless and odourless gases that are generally stable, non-flammable substances. Their molecular stability means they have a long life in the atmosphere. Fluorocarbons with chlorine have the potential to deplete the earth’s protective ozone layer and contribute to climate change.
Since the late 1980s, the law has required industry to deal responsibly with ozone-depleting gases. In response to the Montreal Protocol, contractors must recover the gases and wholesalers must accept them for safe reprocessing or destruction.
What is Global Warming Potential (GWP)
The Global Warming Potential of a refrigerant is measured by the amount of heat a gas will trap in the atmosphere over time, against a carbon dioxide benchmark. Carbon dioxide has a baseline GWP of 1, therefore a gas that has a GWP higher than 1, will trap more heat than CO2.
What is Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP)
The ODP of refrigerants is the measure of how much they cause the ozone layer to degrade, compared to trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11) which has a baseline ODP of 1.