Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Stationary refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps: F-gas controls

Refrigeration and air conditioning

Stationary refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump (RAC) systems are one of the largest sources of fluorinated greenhouse gas (F-gas) emissions. F-gases commonly used in RAC systems are:

  • hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) - HFC 23, HFC 134a, HFC 152a
  • perfluorocarbons (PFCs) - PFC 218, R 218, Refrigerant 218.

Responsibility for F-gas obligations

Most of the key F-gas obligations lie with the operator. An operator is a person or business who has actual power over the technical functioning of the equipment. This includes:

  • free access to the system, eg supervising its components or functioning
  • control over the day-to-day running or function
  • powers, including financial, to decide on technical modifications, F-gas quantity modifications or have repairs carried out.

The owner of the equipment is usually the operator unless such functions have been transferred.

What you must do

Key F-gas obligations

If you operate RAC equipment containing F-gases, you must meet legal obligations.

Prevent leakage - where it is technically feasible and does not entail disproportionate cost, you must prevent leakage of F-gas refrigerants, and repair any discovered leaks as soon as possible.

Check leaks regularly - how often you are required to check (using certified personnel) depends on the type of system and the equipment charge CO2 equivalent of F-gas refrigerants used.

Leak testing frequencies

Equipment charge Frequency of leak checks Frequency of checks if leak detection fitted
<5 tonnes CO2 equivalent N/A N/A
5 to <10 tonnes CO2 equivalent If hermetically sealed N/A otherwise 12 months If hermetically sealed N/A Otherwise 24 months
10 - <50 tonnes CO2 equivalent 12 Months 24 Months
50 – 500 tonnes CO2 equivalent 6 months 12 months
> 500 tonnes CO2 equivalent 3 months 6 months

 

From 1 January 2017, equipment that contains less than 3 kg of f-gas (or if hermetically sealed contains less than 6kg of f-gas) will have to be leak tested if the equipment charge in tonnes CO2 equivalent is greater than 5 tonnes. There was previously a derogation from this requirement.

The system must be checked within a month after a leak has been repaired to ensure that the repair has been effective.

Install automatic leak detection systems

You must fit a leak detection system to equipment with a contained charge >  500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. This system must be checked every 6 months.

Maintain records

You must keep records on all systems containing F-gases including:

  • quantity and type of F-gas in the system
  •  a calculation of the equipment charge in terms of tonnes of its CO2 equivalent quantity of refrigerant recovered through servicing, maintenance and disposal
  • identity of business or personnel servicing or maintaining the system, and the dates and results of leak checks and leak detection system checks.

Recover gas

If F-gas refrigerant is removed from any system, it must be properly recovered by appropriately certified personnel during servicing and decommissioning. You must also ensure that all F-gases that are not recycled or reclaimed are disposed of correctly.

Label equipment

Refrigeration and air conditioning equipment must be correctly labelled. The label must be clearly visible, for example close to a service point. This will include:

  • that the equipment contains f-gases
  • which f-gas is contained
  • the charge size

From 1 January 2017 the label must also indicate:

  • the CO2 equivalent of the charge
  • the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of the f-gas contained

Get certified

Any personnel carrying out leak checking, gas recovery, installation, maintenance or servicing of equipment containing F-gas must be appropriately qualified.

GOV.UK: Qualifications required to work with equipment containing F-gas

The person physically taking delivery of F-gas containers does not need to be qualified unless they also perform installation, servicing or repair work.

Hold company certificates

Businesses that install, maintain or service the equipment must also hold the relevant company certification. The designated certification bodies in the UK are Refcom, Quidos and Bureau Veritas. To get a company certificate you must be able to show that your staff who perform the relevant work hold the correct F-gas qualification, you have the correct tools and procedures available and you have enough staff to cover the work you do.

GOV.UK: Certification for companies working on equipment containing F-gas

Submit reports

If your business produces, reclaims, imports or exports more than 1 tonne of F-gas per year you must complete a report and send it to the European Environment Agency and:

  • In Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency
  • In Scotland, Defra

Reporting to the European Environment Agency is done online

EC: F-gas reporting

Don't use non-refillable containers

Use of non-refillable containers for transporting and storing F-gases is banned. You must not place non-refillable containers on the market, except for those manufactured (filled with refrigerant) before 4 July 2007.

Alternatives to F-gases

You may wish to consider alternatives to F-gases. However, alternatives may also have restrictions on their use and you should consider the overall environmental impact (eg taking into account energy efficiency) and factors such as health and safety when making your choice. Commonly used alternative refrigerants include:

  • ammonia
  • carbon dioxide
  • hydrocarbons, eg butane and propane.

The phase down of F-gas will mean that progressively less will be available over coming years, starting with the F-gases with the highest GWP.

Further information

GOV.UK: F-gas: Guidance for users, producers and traders

Real Zero: minimising leaks from refrigeration systems

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Permits

NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms