Refrigerant gases are those used in climate control in commercial and business facilities such as warehouses, stores and office buildings. The refrigerants used in commercial heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) or regular air conditioning (AC) units include hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs), chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) and perfluorocarbon (PFC). HCFCs are used instead of CFCs which are known to destroy the ozone layer of the atmosphere. HFCs do not have any of the organic chemicals chlorine or bromine, but they still do have a possibility of causing ozone depletion. Refrigerants have been around for many years. Refrigerants are pressurized to condensed them which in turn reduces air temperature. Refrigerants are able to extract heat out of the air and moderate the internal temperatures through the repetitive evaporating and condensing of the refrigerants.http://www.bluonenergy.com/epa-bluon-snap/
In the 1970s, scientists discovered that certain refrigerants such as Freon and many others in the HCFC category could cause spontaneous, chemical reactions and destroy the delicate ozone layer protecting Earth´s atmosphere. Developments in mandatory refrigerant usage and new regulations were passed to restrict the methods of manufacturing and the ways that refrigerants could be used in common AC or HVAC systems. Refrigerants can not be purposefully vented or let to escape into the atmosphere.
Scientists know that refrigerants contribute to global warming since they have a very high global warming potential (GWP). GWP is a ratio developed to determine which chemical substances and refrigerant gases released into the atmosphere create more warming. These gases are considered Greenhouse Gases (GHGs). The most common greenhouse gas (GHG) talked about the most often is carbon dioxide (CO2) or just carbon for short. Little to many people know, there are many other substances such as many of the refrigerant gases that are used in many AC or HVAC systems that also contribute to Global Warming. Because these are not naturally occurring and the amounts vented are very high, damage to the ozone layer happens as these fluorinated gases degrade into different chemical compounds. How do HCFC refrigerants like R-22 harm the Earth’s Ozone layer.
When refrigerants escape and drift up into the atmosphere, they go through chemical changes which react to the ultraviolet (UV) sunlight. This disintegrates the CFC molecules and rids the molecule of its chlorine atom. The released chlorine atom the reacts with the ozone (O3) chemical in the upper atmosphere. The chlorine atom causes a chemical reaction that changes oxygen (O3) to oxygen (O2). The reduced oxygen molecule is not as efficient as ozone at filtering out ultra violet radiation. This allows the strong and dangerous ultraviolet (UV) radiation to come through the atmospheric layers and down to the earth. For this reason as well as the greenhouse warming caused by some refrigerant gases, it is important that refrigerant gases are contained and not allowed to escape into the atmosphere.
Regulators like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitor manufacturing plants and commercial or industrial buildings and the related AC or HVAC systems they contain to make sure the refrigerant gases are not escaping into the atmosphere. Many systems, especially those over 2,000 pounds of refrigerant, are equipped with a gas monitors and auto detection technology to assure the accuracy of the system and its integrity to contain the refrigerants.