Sneak peek: Cold Hard Facts update

An updated version of Cold Hard Facts 3 is on the way and should be ready in mid-2019. It will include 2017 and 2018 data, and will identify key developments and emerging trends in the Australian HVAC&R industry.

Once again the Department of the Environment and Energy has employed The Expert Group to produce the report.

Cold Hard Facts is widely recognised as the most comprehensive inventory available of the Australian HVAC&R sector. Cold Hard Facts 3 was published in November last year, following earlier versions in 2007 and 2013, so most people expected a lengthy wait before the next instalment.

This year’s release is a data update rather than a full Cold Hard Facts report. It will update details of the installed equipment base, refrigerant types, refrigerant bank and direct greenhouse gas emissions from various equipment segments and trends in equipment and refrigerants.

And although the work is still under way, some key trends have already emerged.

The rise of HFC-32

In split systems, the transition to HFC-32 has been rapid. Cold Hard Facts 3 reported more than 40 per cent (by quantity) of pre-charged equipment imported with a charge of more than 800g and less than 2,600g in 2016. The 2017 and 2018 numbers are still to be analysed and confirmed, but penetration is expected to be above 70 per cent.

There are also moves with HFC-32 on ducted units in Australia.

The proportion of product registered on the GEMS web site is significant, with more than 450 models currently on the market. The complete transition of small AC is expected to take around five years from start to greater than 95 per cent penetration – similar to the timeframe for industry to transition from HCFC-22 to HFC-410A.

Hydrocarbons in smaller units

For domestic refrigerators, the transition to hydrocarbons is virtually complete. Around a million refrigerators with an average charge of 55g of hydrocarbon refrigerant are imported and sold each year.

Hydrocarbons are also becoming more common in small commercial refrigeration – one- and two-door refrigeration display cases and storage cabinets are rapidly transitioning, driven by European designs. Charges are less than 150g and annual sales are in the tens of thousands.

In stationary air conditioning, however, hydrocarbons still have little to no penetration – less than 0.01 per cent. In portable air conditioning, it is used more frequently.

Fluorocarbons of the future

At this stage the HFO blends that are being imported are not A2L (mildly flammable) refrigerant. They are A1 (non-flammable) such as HFC-448A, 449A, 452A, 450A and 513A.

There is talk about companies in Europe considering R466A – Honeywell’s new non-flammable replacement for R410A – but that appears to be a way off in Australia.

The report will be made publicly available. The industry will be able to use for its own purposes and will once again help communicate the scale and importance of the refrigeration and air conditioning industry to a wider public audience.

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