HFC Refrigerants in Heat Pumps: Regulatory Update & Emissions Analysis


The need to electrify our built environment by integrating Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) and Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) systems is clear. Most ASHPs and VRF systems in the US use R-410A, a well-known class A1 HFC refrigerant. Previous NESEA sessions by JS Rancourt have discussed HFC refrigerants, including at Building Energy Boston 2020 (click here to view this presentation, and to gain an understanding of the chemistry, safety, codes and standards around HFC refrigerants).

This presentation will build on previous presentations, digging deeper into regulatory updates around potential HFC phase-downs in the U.S. The inclusion of the AIM act in the COVID relief legislation passed by Congress on Dec 21, 2020 provided the EPA with authority to start planning a Federal level phase down of HFCs, to align the U.S. with the global Kigali amendment. Though the EPA has until the end of the year to provide direction, the language in the AIM act, as well as precedence from existing State level regulations, allows for some predictions to be made. The evolution of ASHRAE and UL standards affecting ASHPs and VRF will also be discussed, including what has changed so far to help introduce lower GWP refrigerants, and what changes are still necessary.

JS will also share some recent research work evaluating the life cycle emissions of buildings, and the importance of estimating refrigerant emissions versus other contributors such as embodied carbon, and operating emissions from heating, cooling, ventilation and domestic hot water. Having a holistic understanding of a building’s lifetime climate impact, or at least between now and 2050, is key to making the right design and technology decisions for new construction and retrofit projects today.

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Session Speaker(s): 

Event Time: 

Friday, May 7, 2021 - 8:00am to 9:00am

Room / Location:

Experience Level: 

2 (some prior experience/knowledge helpful)

CEU Information: 

BPI 1.0 hour
4.5 credit-hour packets available from PHIUS, RESNET, and Mass. CSL

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the safety and regulator challenges in transitioning ASHPs and VRF to lower GWP refrigerants
  • Reasonably predict the impacts of the AIM act on ASHPs and VRF, and which direction the EPA may take
  • Understand how to compare the predicted lifetime emissions impact of different contributors in buildings
  • Select and design systems based on refrigerant type, forthcoming regulations, and desire to reduce emissions and carbon impact.

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