Hvacr industry's challenge: Global warming

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN — Having triumphed over rising energy conservation standards in the 1970s and the demise of ozone-depleting refrigerants in the 80s, the hvacr industry appears capable of dealing with the newest challenge of global warming.

That was a message brought to attendees at the three-fold compressor, refrigeration, and working fluids conferences here at Purdue University by ASHRAE president James Wolf.

During an address at the closing banquet after a week of paper presentations, Wolf labeled energy conservation, ozone-depletion potential (ODP), and global warming potential (GWP) as “three events that have changed the course of our industry.”

The current state of global warming focuses on six “suspects”: HFCs (which the U.S. hvacr industry has embraced as long-term alternatives to CFCs and HCFCs), carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

“We don’t know if the six suspects cause global warming,” said Wolf. “But they are released in great quantities.”

The key, Wolf said, is making sure the six suspects continue to be lumped together, so should there be enforcement of a reduction in global warming gases, it can be done in a more balanced way, including the buying and selling of credits.

That message is clouded somewhat by pressure from some European sectors to isolate HFCs and force their total phaseout overseas.

Also, carbon dioxide turned out to be a high-profile possible refrigerant during the Purdue proceedings, from those who want to capture it from non-hvacr sources for use in air conditioning and refrigeration systems.

But Wolf’s main message for the industry was, “Start thinking ‘green’ holistically.”

Value vs. first cost

He urged that buildings be designed and constructed “based on value vs. first cost. Come up with the best equipment regardless of refrigerant; don’t do something crazy, use the best technology that is cost effective.

“The idea is, ‘design them right, install them right, operate them right.’” But, he added, that is sometimes not the case. “Building equipment is not often run the way it was designed.”

He encouraged the involvement of the audience of researchers and scientists.

Noting the depth of the research papers presented throughout the week, Wolf said, “You are the visionaries of the future. Ask yourself, ‘Where will the quality of life be without me? Without my colleagues? Without all of us?’”

Publication date: 08/21/2000

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