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Sustainability > Key Activities 2012 > Environment: Practical Application of Next-Generation Refrigerant

Environment: Practical Application of Next-Generation Refrigerant World's First Adoption of R32, a Refrigerant With Low Global Warming Potential

Dialogue with Environmental and Air Conditioning Experts around the World

The refrigerant circulates inside the air conditioner and carries heat: it is, for all practical purposes, the "lifeblood" of the product. At the same time, it is also the cause of problems like ozone depletion and global warming. As the world's only company making both air conditioners and refrigerants, Daikin has adopted a new refrigerant for air conditioners, R32, that has just one-third the global warming potential of conventional refrigerants. To create greater understanding of the significance of this fact, we engaged in dialogue with environmental and air conditioning experts at numerous international conferences.

Background

Refrigerants Must Not Harm the Ozone Layer or Contribute to Global Warming

There is growing worldwide interest in finding a next-generation refrigerant that does not harm the ozone layer or contribute to global warming.

At one time, CFCs were used as air conditioner refrigerants, but the 1987 Montreal Protocol designated CFCs as substances that seriously deplete the ozone layer and therefore called for their total phasing out. HCFCs became substitutes for CFCs; however, even they were later added to the list of banned substances under the Montreal Protocol since HCFCs also deplete the ozone layer. All HCFC production must be completely phased out in industrialized countries by 2020 and in developing countries by 2030.

Industrialized countries are in the process of replacing HCFCs with HFCs, which do not harm the ozone layer but which do contribute to global warming. The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997, called for a reduction in HFC emissions.

Air Conditioner Refrigerants: Environmental Impact and Transition

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Newly Developing Countries in Urgent Quest for Next-Generation Refrigerants

HFCs such as R410A are the most commonly used refrigerants in industrialized countries. But developing countries are still using HCFCs because of the later date for their phasing out under the Montreal Protocol. These countries are thus still a source of these ozone-layer-depleting substances.

But starting in 2013, developing countries begin a schedule to reduce the amount of HCFCs used. Demand for air conditioners is rapidly increasing in these countries, and the amount of refrigerants is naturally expected to also increase. Because global warming will rise if developing countries follow industrialized countries in adopting R410A, there are increasing calls to bypass R410A and instead adopt a refrigerant with lower global warming impact. Industrialized countries are also aiming to reduce HFC emissions and like their developing country counterparts are on an intensifying quest for a next-generation refrigerant.

Decision on Next-Generation Refrigerants Must Consider All Factors, Not Just Environmental Performance

Being the only manufacturer in the world making both air conditioners and refrigerants, Daikin is going full speed ahead to realize the practical application of next-generation refrigerants.

A number of substances are being considered as a next-generation refrigerant: R32, a type of HFC with a relatively low GWP; HFO refrigerants, which have a low GWP; and natural substances such as CO2 and propane, which have refrigerating characteristics.

A refrigerant may have a low GWP, but if its production requires large amounts of energy, or if the air conditioner using it exhibits poor energy efficiency, then the result will be a greater contribution to global warming. There are also safety considerations: the lower a refrigerant's GWP, the higher its flammability tends to be. Furthermore, besides the high cost of a refrigerant, the high cost of making an air conditioner using that refrigerant will make the product more expensive to buy. This means fewer people will buy it. In short, a decision on which next-generation refrigerant to adopt must take into account all relevant factors, including its contribution to global warming, its safety, economic viability, and efficiency.

Similarly, the functions needed in a refrigerant vary depending on the size and type of the air conditioner it will be used in, so it's necessary to select the most suitable refrigerant for each particular application.

Characteristics Needed in a Next-Generation Refrigerant

Characteristics Needed in a Next-Generation Refrigerant

International conference on next-generation refrigerantsInternational conference on next-generation refrigerants

International Discussions for Next-Generation Refrigerants

In changing to a new refrigerant, there are numerous matters to be considered, such as standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), national regulations and standards, safety standards, installation and maintenance methods, refrigerant supply, and disposal of equipment. Choosing a refrigerant is not the work of one single company, but rather an exercise in international collaboration.

This is why Daikin takes part in discussions involving worldwide governments, regulatory organizations, industry groups, and air conditioner and refrigerant manufacturers. We also provide the information needed to make decisions on international rules and government policies, and when requested we provide information such as the results of tests.

By presenting information that is logical and objective from a perspective of what is best for society as a whole, we strive for dialogue that leads to the selection of the most appropriate refrigerant.

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