Air-conditioning 2019

The main categories for air-conditioning in the EU are:

  • Moveable (portable) hermetically sealed units
  • Split systemsMulti-split systems and VRF systems (Variable Refrigerant Flow)
  • Chillers (central plant with secondary chilled water system)

Air-conditioning is used for human comfort (domestic and commercial), in keeping hygienic conditions in hospitals, retirement homes and public buildings and ensuring controlled conditions for sophisticated computer systems (data centres). Reversible air-conditioning systems combine heating and cooling in the same system (see also the heat pumps applications section). A large number of installed split or multi-split or VRF are reversible and operate as heat pumps when required. The issues associated with safety, refrigerant and construction are comparable to air-conditioners.

The safety (low toxicity and/or mild- or non-flammability) and performance properties of HFC, HFO, and HCFO refrigerants make them particularly suitable for use in air-conditioning systems, particularly where charge size and location exclude other options.
At present, HFC-410A is the most widely used refrigerant for split, multi-split and VRF systems as it is non-flammable, has high volumetric capacity and good efficiency. HFC-32, a A2L mildly flammable refrigerant is now being used in all these applications in some new equipment in the EU. Compared to HFC-410A, HFC-32 offers a reduction of GWP (F-Gas Regulation AR4 value 675 reduced from 2088), a reduction in refrigerant charge and energy efficiency improvement all contributing to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. In Japan from 2014 100% of residential split air conditioner production was switched to HFC-32. HFC/HFO A2L blends such as R-454B and R-452B are being considered as HFC-410A alternatives for some air-conditioning sectors. For North American ducted systems one company has selected R-454B with a GWP of 466. A non-flammable HFC/HFO based blend (R-466A provisional ASHRAE designation) containing CF3I to achieve non-flammability and with a GWP of 733 is being evaluated as an alternative to HFC-410A for performance and long-term reliability and stability.
Chillers use a secondary chilled water system and are available in a wide range of equipment technologies from small systems (for example using scroll or rotary compressors) to larger systems using screw or centrifugal compressors. For small and screw compressor chillers HFC-410A and HFC-134a are widely used. HFC-32 is being used in smaller scroll chillers as an alternative to HFC-410A. R-513A, a non-flammable lower GWP HFC/HFO alternative for HFC-134a has been approved for use in screw and centrifugal compressors. HFO-1234ze(E) is being used in screw compressor systems as an alternative to HFC-134a. Large centrifugal compressors use single component refrigerants or azeotropes and are designed specifically for the refrigerant properties. HFC-134a is most widely used at present, but HFO-1234ze(E) and HCFO-1233zd(E) and HFO based R-514A refrigerants are now being increasingly installed as they offer very low GWPs, improved energy efficiency, and low or non-flammability.


In domestic dwellings, air-conditioning equipment typically consists of direct units, and may be portable units (rolled from room to room, with a flexible pipe to discharge heat eg through a window), or small split units through to multi-split systems for whole dwellings. Smaller commercial offices and retail buildings can have very sophisticated Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) systems which can change refrigerant flow to each indoor unit in response to the system demand. In addition, VRF systems can be configured to have cooling or heating functionality for each indoor unit independently allowing simultaneous cooling and heating for different indoor areas, in response to requirements such as occupancy and heat load from equipment or sunlight, and shade. VRF systems allow for heat recovery and are very efficient.
Chillers use a secondary chilled water system and are used in a wide range of sectors, particularly for large buildings, building complexes, data centres and district cooling systems. Data centres are becoming increasingly important and widely installed. Large data centres use massive amounts of energy to process and store data. Similar quantities of energy can be required for cooling to maintain the required data operating temperature. (see separate applications page for further information). District heating and cooling can significantly improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption compared to alternative heating and cooling approaches (see separate applications page for further information). Chillers are designed for high reliability and a long service life and may stay in service for up to 40 years depending on the compressor type. Refrigerant emissions are significantly lower today for newly installed chillers compared to systems installed 10 or 20 years ago. Already the global warming impact for a chiller is dominated by the energy use with the contribution due to emissions of HFC refrigerant being about 1 to 3%. The use of lower GWP refrigerants, in particular very low GWP HFOs and HCFOs reduces this considerably to much less than 0.1% of the global warming emissions. In addition, the focus on energy consumption is driven by the EU ecodesign regulation for air heating and cooling products (EU) 2016/2281 which sets minimum efficiencies for chillers.

References
2018 AFCE Final Report Energy Efficient State of the Art of Available Low-GWP Refrigerants and Systems. This report can be downloaded from the AFCE (Alliance Froid Climatisation Environnement) website at http://www.afce.asso.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Final-rapport-energy-efficiency-GWP-2018.pdf
UNEP June 2016 Report of the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel Volume 1 Progress Report
UNEP 2014 Report of the Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heat Pumps Technical Options Committee 2014 Assessment
UNEP June 2016 Report of the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel Volume 1 Progress Report

 

F-Gas Regulation 517/2014 has two use bans that apply to the air-conditioning sector:

• Movable room air-conditioning equipment (hermetically sealed equipment which is movable between rooms by the end user) that contain HFCs with GWP of 150 or more: 1 January 2020.
• Single split air-conditioning systems containing less than 3 kg of fluorinated greenhouse gases, that contain, or whose functioning relies upon, fluorinated greenhouse gases with GWP of 750 or more: 1 January 2025.

Air-conditioning is used for human comfort (domestic and commercial), in keeping hygienic conditions in hospitals, retirement homes and public buildings and ensuring controlled conditions for sophisticated computer systems (data centres). Reversible air-conditioning systems combine heating and cooling in the same system (see also the heat pumps applications section). A large number of installed split or multi-split or VRF are reversible and operate as heat pumps when required. The issues associated with safety, refrigerant and construction are comparable to air-conditioners.

 

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