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Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), as the name suggests, are compounds containing hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon. They are used for residential and commercial heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) as refrigerants, by firefighters as a fire suppressant, and in aerosols as propellants.

HFCs are also greenhouse gases often described in terms of their Global Warming Potential (GWP), which is the tendency of a substance to persist in the environment while absorbing energy and, thus, retain higher energy and temperatures in the atmosphere. GWP ratings for substances and material that contribute to the potential of global warming are developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations body responsible for assessing the science related to climate change. GWP uses the same scale to evaluate all substances and materials, making comparisons of direct emissions of refrigerants easy.

However, GWP is only one refrigerant property and not the only measure of a refrigerant’s environmental impact when employed in HVAC systems. To estimate the total emissions-related effects of a refrigerant’s use in HVAC systems, environmental researchers often employ a methodology known as Life Cycle Climate Performance (LCCP) modeling. LCCP modeling estimates the total direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions over an HVAC’s system’s lifetime, from manufacturing to disposal and recycling. Put differently, an LCCP analysis considers a refrigerant’s physical properties and thermodynamic performance as well as the impacts of that refrigerant’s use in an HVAC system to estimate total CO2 equivalent emissions over that HVAC system’s lifetime.

R-32’s properties can help HVAC engineers design systems that have a lower greenhouse-gas-emissions impact than R-410A. R-32 has greater latent heat capacity than R-410A, which means that R-32 systems could be designed to achieve the same capacity performance by circulating less refrigerant at a lower flow rate through the compressor. And a lower charge of R-32 refrigerant in comparison to R-410A allows HVAC engineers the opportunity to design smaller compressors and coils. These characteristics of R-32 help give engineers the tools they need to design R-32 systems with energy savings and a reduction in the material used. And these indirect benefits can have a significant impact on the environment that are not accounted for in a GWP rating alone.


Excerpted from: “Reducing the Environmental Impact of HVAC Systems by Using R-32 Refrigerant” (2020)
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Author: Anuj Mistry, Manager Technical Services, Daikin US Corporation.