Project aims to transform HVAC-R sector

12th February 2021 By: Khutso Maphatsoe - journalist

The Bavarian State Ministry of the Environment and Consumer Protection, together with the Bavarian Environment Agency, has entered into bilateral cooperation with the Western Cape government in what is known as the refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) partnership project.

The project being implemented aims to transform the province’s heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC-R) sector by making its RAC more climate-friendly.

The project will be implemented in cooperation with Proklima – a programme of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, along with the South African Institute of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (Sairac) and the South African Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Contractors Association, explains Sairac national treasurer Grant Laidlaw.

The objective is to distribute comprehensive knowledge about and develop capacity for the operation and maintenance of cooling technology using natural refrigerants, Laidlaw explains.

The focus of the training is on the application of propane (R290) and CO2 (R744) in commercial refrigeration systems, while ammonia (R717) is also briefly addressed.

R290 is a hydrocarbon and, although flammable, is an efficient refrigerant that has a low global warming potential (GWP), while R744 is environment-friendly, having zero ozone depletion potential and minimal GWP.

Ammonia (R717) is the refrigerant-grade ammonia (NH3), used in low- and medium- temperature refrigeration. It is a colourless, pungent and highly toxic gas, but a very efficient refrigerant with zero GWP.

Meanwhile, Laidlaw notes that the HVAC-R sector is responsible for a significant amount of global greenhouse-gas emissions that are caused by low levels of energy-efficient cooling equipment and high leakage rates of refrigerant gases with GWP.

“Only highly energy efficient appliances with natural refrigerants will be sustainable in the long term with regard to GWP,” he says.

Laidlaw, representing Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Academy, is also involved in another project in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries to put a national training programme in place for hydrocarbons.

The first phase of this project will be to train a minimum of 400 informal refrigeration technicians in aspects including the Montreal Protocol and the impact thereof, basic servicing procedures and all aspects of the safe handling of refrigerants.

This project includes the registration of the safe handling of refrigerants as a national skills programme.

The training will focus predominantly on R290 to address the resistance to change in terms of natural refrigerants and deal with the industry’s lack of knowledge regarding this.