EU F-gas Consultation Forum: alternatives to fluorinated gases exist for single-split air conditioners

A document published by this forum underlines that it now seems possible to avoid the use of fluorinated gases in new small single split air conditioners by replacing them with propane, unless prohibition related to its flammability. 

The European Commission (EC) is in the process of reviewing the current EU F-gas Regulation No 517/2014 on fluorinated greenhouse gases (the “F-gas Regulation”).    

As an intergovernmental organisation, the IIR sent a contribution in September 2020 in response to the EC consultation “Fluorinated greenhouse gases – review of EU rules (2015-20)”. (1) 


The IIR is also involved in the F-gas Consultation Forum, whose role is to provide advice and expertise to the European Commission on the F-gas Regulation. The 4th meeting of this forum has been cancelled due to sanitary conditions but the reports to be presented at that meeting have recently been published on the forum’s website (2). 


These include the Briefing Paper “HFCs and HFC alternatives in split air conditioning systems”. This document has been published in the context of the procedure defined in article 21.4 of the F-gas Regulation, which requested the Commission to assess, by mid-2020, if “cost-effective, technically feasible, energy-efficient and reliable alternatives exist, which make the replacement of fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) possible in new small single split air conditioning systems”. 


The authors of the briefing paper conclude that “it seems technically possible to avoid F-gases today in new single split air conditioners with a cooling capacity below 7 kW by using the refrigerant R-290 (propane), unless where national legislation or codes prohibit its use, at good energy efficiency and at a very modest price increase that would likely disappear due to economies of scale if used at large scale. For single split systems > 7 kW it still appears necessary at this stage to use F-gases. In this case, the use of R32 is preferable to R410A, which has been the conventional refrigerant choice hitherto, because the GWP for R32 is 3 times lower and it is at least as energy- and cost-efficient as R410A. Thus, refrigerants with a GWP > 750 in new equipment are not anymore needed in small single split systems, unless in application areas where it is still prohibited to use a flammable refrigerant by building codes and other legislative requirements”. 


The authors also stress that “an assessment of the current EU market shows that the majority of single split systems sold in the EU no longer contain R410A. A large part of the market is hence already in compliance with the requirement to use refrigerants in small single splits with a GWP of less than 750 from 2025” which corresponds to the Prohibition 15 in Annex III of the F-gas Regulation.” Furthermore, taking into account that a number of new blends with low GWP are in the pipeline, it is likely that further alternatives will become market ready in the foreseeable future. A further significant reduction of GWP of the alternatives to e.g. below 150 may be possible in all small single split systems in the medium term. The market assessment also shows that several manufacturers/importers are already selling larger single-split A/C systems (with charge > 3 kg), multi-split systems and other types of A/C systems (e.g. VRF systems and chillers) that no longer use the traditional refrigerant R410A. Again, the dominant refrigerant is R32, but there are also applications are using R290 as well as HFO-based refrigerants. Given that many of these equipment types use higher charge sizes, making the use of flammable refrigerants more challenging, a complete phase-in of more climate-friendly refrigerants will take some time in these types of equipment, but significant progress is expected in the medium term.”