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Environmental Impact of Refrigerants

When the going gets hot, the hot try to cool down. However, due to the use of refrigerants, cooling is a privilege that can have a negative impact on the environment. Refrigerants cause damage to the ozone layer and contribute to global warming, and while there have been some efforts to reduce the impact, a climate-friendly refrigerant is yet to be discovered.

Refrigerants and Climate Change

So, what’s the correlation between refrigerants and climate change? CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) were the first refrigerants to gain popularity, and they were present in everything from vehicles to air conditioners and refrigerators. However, CFCs contain chlorine, which directly causes ozone depletion.  CFCs have a long lifecycle, which allows them to accumulate in the atmosphere; upon interacting with sunlight, the molecules divide and release chlorine into the air. Chlorine in the atmosphere actively destroys oxygen, and that interaction results in the destruction of the ozone layer. While CFCs have been phased out, some older appliances still contain them, so it’s important to replace your appliances and ensure they’re properly recycled.

To reduce the damage done by CFCs, industries turned to HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) instead. While initial studies concluded that HFCs only destroy a negligible amount of ozone, recent discoveries show that this is not the case. HFCs may not break down ozone in the same way that CFCs do, but they do indirectly contribute to ozone depletion: HFC emissions increase the warming of the stratosphere, which speeds up the chemical reactions that destroy ozone molecules. So, even though they’re not as dangerous as CFCs, reducing HFC emissions would still decrease ozone change and improve environmental sustainability.

What’s Next?

There’s always room for improvement. In order to replace harmful refrigerants like CFCs and HFCs, Distributors DuPont and HoneyWell have turned to HFO (hydrofluoro olefin) as an alternative.

In the meantime, you can do your part by maintaining your appliances, replacing them when they’re outdated, and properly recycling them. Turn off your AC when you’re not home so you aren’t wasting energy, too.

At NITC, we develop, manage, and administer certification and testing programs for HVACR, medical gas, plumbing, pipefitting, fire protection and safety systems, and related industries. Call us at 877-457-6482 to find out more about what we do.