The Australian federal government intends to implement restrictions on small air conditioning equipment with high global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant.
From July 1, 2024, Australia will ban the import and manufacture of small air conditioning equipment using refrigerant with a GWP over 750. This ban will apply to equipment with up to 2.6kg refrigerant charge (per the compliance/rating plate) for use in cooling, heating, or both heating and cooling, a stationary space, primarily for human comfort. Equipment covered will include portable and window/wall units and non-ducted split systems (single and multi-head).
The ban will not apply to similar air conditioning equipment that is ducted, for mobile applications such as caravans and boats, or to systems for use in electrical enclosures and computer rooms.
Existing equipment will not be affected. Equipment imported or manufactured before July 1, 2024 will be allowed to be sold after that date.
The move is not unexpected, coming after a consultation with industry in 2021 on a proposed ban. Such a measure would cut off the “tail” of small AC units using R410A (GWP of 2,088 by the government’s measures), which have already mostly transitioned to R32 (GWP of 675).
The Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek has asked the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) to develop and consult on options to speed up the transition away from hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment and other uses, to support the HFC phase-down and deliver additional emissions reduction under the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Program.
According to the government, the first priority will be consultation on options for increasing the rate of transition to lower-GWP refrigerants in commercial refrigeration equipment. Industry has repeatedly flagged concerns with the continued use of R404A (GWP 3,922) in small commercial applications.