On January 1, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) HFC Allowance Allocation and Trading program went into effect to reduce the production and importation of high-GWP HFCs by 85% over the next 15 years. This move will, in 2036 alone, prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to one out of every seven vehicles registered in the United States, according to the EPA.

This increased regulatory engagement, in tandem with technological innovations, has many in the HVACR industry feeling pressured to reconsider their existing equipment and operations. However, this period of extraordinary industry change presents an opportunity to make thoughtful business decisions that operators can feel good about long-term.

Low-GWP HFCs, HFOs, and HFC/HFO blends, also known as advanced climate technologies (ACTs), can help businesses make their operations more environmentally and economically sustainable, energy-efficient, safe, and affordable — all things they can feel good about.

In several critical ways, ACTs enable businesses to lower their direct and indirect emissions and environmental impact. To start, ACTs make it possible for operators to take advantage of existing systems, reducing environmental waste as well as cost. For the price of one new transcritical CO2 system, a retailer can convert approximately ten existing conventional systems to lower GWP alternatives, reducing direct emissions by an estimated 70%. This cost savings can, in turn, support a business’ other environmental objectives.

The fastest way to reduce emissions is to convert conventional systems running on legacy high-GWP refrigerants to operate on lower-GWP alternatives. ACTs enable businesses to reduce direct emissions quickly with a refrigerant change-out. Change-outs can be executed at any time, quickly, and with minimal business disruption.

The benefits of ACTs apply to new installations, too. An investment in new equipment powered by ACTs is a smart way to reduce long-term environmental impacts and operating costs while increasing safety.

ACTs also equip operators to reduce their stores’ energy consumption — and by extension — total system emissions. Total Equivalent Warming Impact (TEWI) and Life Cycle Climate Performance (LCCP) are well-established metrics that help operators gauge the total environmental impact of their system — both direct or “scope one” emissions (leaks) and indirect or “scope two” emissions (energy consumption). Historically, indirect emissions vary between 60% and 90% of total system emissions. Systems that run on ACTs consume less energy, resulting in a lower emissions period.

Energy savings aside, ACT-powered systems have the added benefit of being easier and more affordable than the complex systems required for so-called “natural” refrigerants. ACT-powered systems can be maintained without any of the challenges and hidden costs that are often associated with operating transcritical CO2 systems.

“By increasing the complexity of the refrigeration equipment, the system becomes more vulnerable to breakdowns. When one of the many controls or components inevitably fails, they are difficult and expensive to repair,” Paul Anderson, vice president of design and engineering for supermarket chain H-E-B, told globalFACT recently.

Finally, operators can feel good about the fact that ACTs make stores safer for customers, employees, and service technicians. With low toxicity and flammability, low-GWP HFCs and HFOs were developed to be much safer and provide operators peace of mind.

The industry remains committed to reducing high-GWP refrigerants through ongoing innovation and better solutions. Fortunately, operators have low-GWP options they can feel good about adopting. From sustainability to cost and safety, across the board ACTs are a sensible decision to stand behind across the board.