Our lives are quite dependent on cooling or freezing systems, especially when we are living in this warm and humid climate. We may think that it is just a part of our life, for example, a car must come with an air-conditioner, an office with a cooling atmosphere, and also a home with a refrigerator and freezer. In fact, even our computer needs a cooling system too! Therefore, cooling systems are very important, but take note that it also has hidden hazards that will impact our planet!
There are a few types of refrigerants found in our market nowadays. Do you know what are the refrigerants being used in your refrigerator or cooling system at home?
Type of refrigerants and why?
Early traditional cooling systems that made ice used a fluid contained within the system to make the cold are called refrigerants. These early coolants or refrigerants were materials like ammonia, sulfur dioxide or carbon dioxide. These coolants or refrigerants were not so easy to handle or use.
Then, the need for mechanical refrigeration systems rose. During the 60s, synthetic CFC refrigerants like Chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs were developed to replace natural refrigerants. Due to demand, they were massively produced. But during the 80s, CFC refrigerants were found to deplete our ozone layer and were banned. It is soon replaced by synthetic HydroFluoroCarbons (HFC) refrigerants.
Unfortunately, even though HFC refrigerants do not deplete the ozone layer, they are now found to impact global warming due to their properties. Therefore, HFC refrigerants are now being “phased-down” and eventually not available. So, new refrigerants are needed to replace it.
While no perfect refrigerants exist yet, new organic refrigerants called HydroFluoroOleofins (HFO) with low GWP are becoming available to replace HFC refrigerants. Meanwhile, traditional natural refrigerants like ammonia, carbon-dioxide and some hydrocarbons like isobutane and propane are also available and continue to be used as well.
Be a Responsible User
When refrigerants are sealed inside the system, it poses no harm to the environment. It is only harmful when the refrigerants are vented from equipment such as when it leaks, being serviced or when old equipment is dismantled or disposed of, these refrigerants are vented off and pollutes.
New refrigerants are now becoming available that do not deplete the ozone layer or impact global warming. These refrigerants are either the traditional natural refrigerants or the new HFO refrigerants. These refrigerants decompose within days when released into the atmosphere and will leave no major impact on our planet. However, each refrigerant type has its own properties and hazards, so talk to your system specialist about your needs before making your purchase.
In a conclusion, do take note that cooling and freezing systems are power guzzlers and often consume more than 70% of your power bills. When it gets hot, we tend to buy more air-conditioners that really adds on to the problem. Have you ever wondered where will the old unit going to be sent to and what happens to it after that? This is a question that we need to think about as most of the pollution happens in the landfill after we discard what we called as “the trash”.
So be a smart consumer and responsible user, understand your cooling system and make the right choice for a better environment.
Original article by Mr. Chew Soon Jin