Digital Trends is reporting a new proposal from the U.S. government to phase out all hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as a refrigerant in air conditioning units.
Multiple studies have shown that air conditioning systems are among the biggest contributors to global warming in the U.S. The gasses used in most air conditioners is known to be particularly harmful to the environment. The U.S. proposed phase out of these gasses would target developed countries by 2019 and developing countries by 2021.
Although the operation of air conditioning units consumes a great deal of energy resulting in CO2 emissions from power generation. It’s the HFCs that are used as the refrigerant that is being targeted. Air conditioning units are designed to prevent the leaking of HFCs into the atmosphere, but if they do get out it’s bad news as HFCs trap a great deal more heat inside the atmosphere than other greenhouse gases like CO2.
HFCs are indeed better than chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were previously used until the 1990s and largely attributed to ozone deterioration. Since HFCs were introduced in the 1990s there has been a trend of leaks occurring during the manufacturing process or when units are improperly disposed of.
The solution? The U.S. wants to roll out international adoption of alternatives like hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) which break down more rapidly in the atmosphere (per NYTimes). The theory is that if they do leak, they won’t cause near the same amount of damage.
The U.S. proposal calls for all developed countries to start shifting manufacturing over to replacements for HFCs by 2019. Developed countries would have until 2021 to phase in the new standard.
Even with this shift, environmental agencies suggest that it may be more economical for manufacturers to switch to newer, more expensive compounds.
For homeowners, the end result could mean more expensive air conditioning units in the near future, including the proper disposal of the old units. An offset comes from greater energy efficiency from the new units over time.