Will we have to change the air conditioners in 5 years because Europe wants it from us?

For several weeks now, news has been circulating in the media and social networks that in the coming years, some say by 2028, 80 percent of the air conditioners currently installed in homes, offices or shops will need to be replaced. Italy. The news, driven by a note from Confindustria (but no guesswork), is linked to the currently debated reform of the regulation on fluorinated gases, also known as F-gases. These are the gases used in air conditioners, but they are not the only ones: The European Commission has proposed accelerating the reductions already envisioned in previous regulations, as they are counted among the main causes of global warming. For the industry, or at least for much of it, this tightening is not only hard for consumers, who will have to change their factories over the next few years, but also the environment itself. Who is right?

What are F-gases

Let’s start with F-gases: it has been established for decades among scientists that these gases pose a serious problem for the planet: their contribution to global warming is thought to be 24,000 more than CO2 emissions, writes Euractiv. After all, the first European laws to reduce their use date back to the 2000s: so the industry has known for some time that F-gases will sooner or later be limited to at least minimal use, if not completely eliminated. And it is no coincidence that for several years there have been air conditioners on the market that can operate without these gases.

The most recent changes to EU rules on F-gases date back to 2014 and made it possible to reduce its emissions by “37% in metric tons and 47% in tonnes of CO2 equivalent” over the next five years. The European Commission writes the same thing. Decision to accelerate tightening in 2022: Brussels proposes that in 2024-2026 the amount of F-gas in the EU market should equal 23.5% of the volume in 2015, before falling sharply to 10% for the period 2027. -2029. In their place, the European manager draws up a list of alternatives, such as natural refrigerants.

Confindustria alarm

According to Confindustria, this tightening means that most equipment using F-gases will have to undergo a technological upgrade, resulting in a sharp increase in production costs (and prices for consumers): “For products such as systems for domestic and professional use, heat insulation and process equipment for catering and hospitality,” reads the note from Confindustria last April, “there are still no alternative technologies available and accessible (for cost, safety and energy efficiency)”. Also, “for products such as air conditioning systems for transport vehicles and refrigeration units for temperature-controlled transport, such bans are unsustainable” because they would require profound engineering changes to such vehicles.

Starting from the location of Confindustria, various Italian media argued that the new regulation could lead to the replacement of 80% of the air conditioners already installed in our country by 2028. In reality, things are not quite like that. First of all, the regulation does not oblige consumers to replace air conditioners that are in use and have an average service life of 10 to 15 years. If anything, the problem may arise when an air conditioner fails making it necessary to regas the unit. In this case, if the air conditioner is an older model that runs on F-gas only, it will need to be replaced. But there are air conditioners on the market (and therefore in Italian homes), in which, as we have already mentioned, for some time it is possible to replace fluorinated gases with alternative refrigerants.

heat pumps

It’s no coincidence that Europe’s mighty refrigerant lobby, EPEE, which includes non-EU giants like Samsung, Daikin and Gree, is using less fussy tones about the future of air conditioners. On the contrary, the alarm Epee points out concerns heat pumps. These heating systems are cited by the EU Commission itself as a boon for tackling emissions in the construction sector: heat pumps do not need fossil gas, as they run mainly on electricity, and Brussels wants to gradually replace the boilers currently in use with this technology. The first target is to install 10 million heat pumps in the EU by 2027. Some European countries, such as Germany, are already considering banning the sale of gas boilers to ease the transition.

But there is a major problem, explains EPEE: The vast majority of existing heat pumps (especially the cheaper ones) are designed to use F-gases. With the Commission’s push, the risk is to jeopardize the market success of this technology and thus prevent the gradual replacement of fossil boilers. In essence, eliminating F-gases at an accelerated rate to reduce the greenhouse effect, the end result will be to continue to have more harmful emissions and therefore more global warming.

Is it good for the European industry?

The thesis seems to have made its way among EU governments and in the European Parliament, which responded to the Commission’s proposal by proposing a less stringent F-gas trajectory and introducing some exemptions. But these changes didn’t quite satisfy Eppe: “We’re still worried”.

However, not everyone in the refrigeration industry views the EU regulation reform so negatively: Since the majority of F-gases and components containing them are imported from abroad (first China, but also the USA and Japan), the new regulations are intended to reduce dependency on these markets and encourage domestic production. It could be an opportunity. “Many European companies are already at the forefront of this development and will benefit from it,” said Bas Eickhout, Dutch Member of the European Parliament of the Greens. “German companies such as Viessmann or Siemens Energy offer fluorinated gas-free alternatives for heat pumps,” says Peter Liese, German MP for EPP.

Source: Today IT