Understanding F-Gases - Viva Training Academy

Fluorinated gases are also referred to as F-gases. These are man-made, and are used in different industrial applications. F-gases are potent greenhouse gases that have a global warming result that is 23,000 times more than that of Carbon dioxide (CO2). As part of its policy in fighting climate change, the European Union is taking regulatory measures to control F-gases.

On January 1st, 2015, bans on using refrigerants and phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in specific sectors of new equipment were implemented. F-gases emissions in the European Union were almost twice as much from 1990-2014, compared to the emissions of every other greenhouse gas that were reduced. The European Union came up with legislation for fluorinated gases, and the emissions have been going down since 2015. The European Union F-gas regulations 2014 intends to attain an 80% cut in emissions across the European Union from HFCs by 2030 based on the 2015 levels.

Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs) are the other two fluorinated gas groups. These can stay in the atmosphere for over a thousand years. On the other hand, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are relatively short-lived but are the most pertinent fluorinated gas group from the perspective of climate.

The Use of F-Gases

F-gases can be used in multiple types of appliances and products. As mentioned earlier, these gases are usually employed as a replacement for ozone-depleting substances. Listed below are the uses of F-gases.

  • Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) is usually employed as an insulating gas during the production of aluminium and magnesium, and high voltage switchgear.
  • Perfluorocarbons are mainly used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry and electronics sector. Back in the day, perfluorocarbons were utilised in fire extinguishers, and they may still be based on some conventional fire protection systems.
  • Hydrofluorocarbons are used in multiple applications and sectors such as heat pump equipment, air-conditioning, and refrigerants in refrigeration. Usually, these are some of the biggest sources of F-gas emissions.

F-Gas Regulations

Generally, the main aim of the F-Gas regulation is to contain and bring down emissions through the use of responsible refrigeration. Some of the F-Gas regulations include:

  • Specific products and equipment containing f-gas should be labelled.
  • Production, export, and import data should be reported within the European Union.
  • Companies and technical personnel working with F-gases need to be trained and certified.
  • F-gases should be recovered from any equipment or products reaching their end life.
  • F-gases should be better contained in their applications.

How the F-Gas Regulations Affect You

Effective January 1st, 2020, the F-gas regulations directly affect and put legal obligations on individuals using commercial refrigeration, companies, and air conditioning equipment. As mentioned earlier, F-gases are used as ozone-depleting matter substitutes.

Most, if not all, heat pump systems, air conditioning, and refrigeration have regulated gases as their refrigerants. It is a criminal offense to let F-gases into the atmosphere. The F-gas regulations put in place will affect multiple products that are in use in building services. Listed below are some of the products that are banned,

  • Air conditioning systems that are single split and contain less than 3kg of F-gases and have a 750 global warming potential (GWP) or more will be banned starting January 1st, 2025.
  • Freezers or refrigerators that are commercially used and contain HFCs with a 2500 global warming potential or higher are banned effective January 1st, 2020. Those that have HFCs with a 15o global warming potential or more are to be banned starting January 1st, 2022.
  • Central refrigeration systems that are commercially used with a 40Kw capacity or more and use F-gases with a 150 global warming potential or more will be banned starting January 1st, 2022.
  • Any air conditioning appliance that is moveable and contains HFCs with a 150 global warming potential or more are banned effective January 1st, 2020.
  • Refrigeration equipment that is stationery and runs on HFCs with a 2500 global warming potential or more is banned effective January 1st, 2020.

The gradual reduction of F-gases will take place using a quota system. The environment agency in the United Kingdom will police this. The quotas baseline was determined from the average HFCs sales that were made between 2009 and 2012, which equated to 183 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually.

The most significant reduction happened between 2017 and 2018.

How to Know if the F-Gases Regulations Affect You

If you are still unsure if the F-gas regulations affect you, make sure you check your refrigeration equipment. All air conditioning and refrigeration equipment usually have an information plate affixed to them. You will find this plate on the main plant of refrigeration equipment and the outdoor condensing unit of your air conditioning system. Usually, in refrigerants, lookout for numbers referenced with “R” such as R407f, R407c, R407a, R404a, R410a.

The Information Label

Your information label should include things like the amount of F-gas used by your refrigeration equipment, the carbon dioxide equivalent of the F-gas, and the F-gas’ global warming potential. Once you have read this label, the F-gas regulation may directly affect you if the F-gas has a 2500 global warming potential.

The carbon dioxide equivalent is greater than 40 tonnes of carbon dioxide. It would be best to contact your manufacturer or your service engineer if you do not find the information label of your equipment. It is also worth noting that there is equipment exempted from the F-gas ban. This includes any equipment that is used to cool products that are below -50 degrees Celsius and any equipment that is used for military purposes.

Banned F-gases and What It Means

Any F-gases with a powerful global warming effect of 2500 plus are banned, except if they have been reclaimed or recycled from old equipment. Suppose your refrigeration equipment is affected. When it requires a coolant top-up, your service engineer can only use F-gases that are not banned.

Suppose your refrigeration equipment uses F-gas below the threshold. The freezers or fridges will be topped up as usual. But if they contain an F-gas that has an extreme global warming effect, which means you are affected, you can do the following.

  • Consider buying new equipment that is not affected by the ban on F-gases.
  • Upgrade your equipment so it can use F-gases that are not harmful to the environment.
  • If your equipment allows it, top it up with an F-gas that is less harmful.
  • Top up your equipment with a similar type of F-gas that is reclaimed or recycled. Although, over time, their supply will decrease.

It is worth noting that you do not necessarily have to buy new equipment. It would be best to find out if that ban affects you or not before you decide to buy new equipment.

The Worst Refrigerant Gases

Listed below are some of the common hydrofluorocarbons and their global warming potential. It is worth noting that refrigerants with a high global warming potential will be reduced in their availability before they are completely banned.

  • R404A has a 3922 global warming potential
  • R410A has a 2088 global warming potential
  • R407C has an 1824 global warming potential
  • R32 has a 675 global warming potential

The Alternatives of Harmful F-Gases

As mentioned earlier, F-gases hugely affect the climate. However, they are still used as propellants or coolants in foams, refrigerators, insulation materials, and air conditioning units. Usually, the substances determine the greenhouse effect, which often ranges from 100 to 24000 higher than that of carbon dioxide. To reduce the emissions from these substances, you have to target the replacement of F-gases. This can be done by switching to alternative technologies or using an environmentally friendly alternative.

Worldwide, the air conditioning and refrigeration sector represent considerable market growth. Their relevance for the climate policy continually grows due to the significant rise in air conditioning and refrigeration units used in developing and emerging countries. The climate damage is not caused by the mere result of the direct F-gases emissions from leaks. Carbon dioxide emissions are also indirectly produced through the energy consumption of these air conditioning and refrigeration units.

International law demands a reduction in the emission of fluorinated greenhouse gases. Since F-gases are anthropogenic, they can be replaced by naturally existing coolants such as carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, and ammonia gases.

IKI supports climate-friendly technologies. Their projects promote cooling technologies that are climate-friendly and use natural coolants that are environmentally friendly worldwide. The general goal is to establish natural coolants being used on an international basis and energy-efficient air conditioning and cooling units powered by renewable energy. Achieving these goals demands support from policy frameworks, meaningful data, knowledge transfer, accessing suitable financing options, and international standards.

The Person Responsible

Usually, the primary responsibilities are the obligations of the operator, often defined as “the legal or natural individual exercising actual power over the technical functioning of the systems and equipment.” You must note that the responsibility lies in the individual who uses the equipment, which is never necessarily the owner, more so in cases where a business has various sites being run by managers or a leased building.

Your Responsibilities

If you are the owner of the equipment, it would be best to,

Use Technicians Who Are Trained

The first, and most vital responsibility should be ensuring that the company you are hiring to work on your air condition and refrigeration equipment is F-gas registered. Whether they will be disposing of, maintaining, doing a leak test, or an installation, they must be registered. Since the initial Ozone Depleting Substances Regulations (1994), there has been an increase in the competence standards. The standards demand that both companies and refrigeration technicians be qualified before operating machinery or equipment that contains F-gases.


The label on the system must have at least the quantity and type of F-gas in the equipment or container.

Keep Records

Any operator who has a stationary system that contains the equivalent of 5 or more carbon dioxide tonnes of F-gases must keep records in the form of an onsite F-gas log. This should include the results and dates of a leakage check, the identification of a technician or company carrying on servicing, and the type and quantity of the F-gases recovered, added, or installed.

Do a Leak Test

If you are an operator of any equipment that contains a fluorinated greenhouse gas, you have to ensure that your equipment is checked for leaks under the listed requirements.

  • If it has five carbon dioxide tonnes, it should be checked every one or two years and should have a leak detection installed.
  • If it has 50 carbon dioxide tonnes, it should be checked every six months or one year, and it should have a leak detection installed.
  • If it has 500 carbon dioxide tonnes, it should be checked every three months or six months, and it should have a leak detection system installed.

The carbon dioxide tonnage equivalent of your refrigerant can be calculated by multiplying the mass of the F-gas (in tonnes) by the global warming potential of the F-gas.

If we reduced the need for cooling and instead considered non-refrigerating or hybrid cooling systems, it would help significantly. It would also be best to use refrigerants that have a lower global warming potential.

As of January 1st, 2020, any air conditioning or refrigeration system being serviced or maintained needs to have its system charge size checked and the right servicing or product regime performed. Suppose the regulations are ignored, and your company is found guilty for not complying with the regulations put in place. The maximum civil penalty is one hundred thousand pounds for this offense. Therefore, it would be best for your company to find a way of actively accelerating the transition to at least a medium or low global warming potential refrigerant replacement.

Remember that you must install a leak detection system to your refrigerant if it has more than 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or have it checked every six months. Therefore, a 5kWsplit system with an R410A refrigerant will need to have a leak detection system installed.


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