Propane R 290 as a refrigerant in heat pumps, and applicable legal regulations


Observing the heat pump industry in recent years, we can confidently say that more and more people are becoming convinced of this form of heating. This happens, inter alia, because we are eager to build houses of a small size, without cellars, and therefore also a place for a central heating boiler. and fuel for it.

In addition, the use of the heat pump does not require a gas connection or the construction of a chimney. The ecological awareness of Poles is also growing, and various types of subsidy and loan programs from European funds support investments that will contribute to reducing low emissions. The dissemination of heat pumps largely contributes to the reduction of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, but the accidental release of the refrigerant they use during their operation has a negative impact on the environment, therefore a number of legal regulations have been introduced to reduce the risk in this regard..

Refrigerants used in heat pumps

Heat pump to keep it running is filled with a thermodynamic medium that enables heat transfer. It extracts heat by boiling at low pressure, and then releases it, condensing at a higher temperature and pressure. This process is repeated in a closed loop.

Currently, freons, which are hydrocarbons containing chlorine atoms in their molecule, are no longer used as refrigerants because their impact on the environment was very negative. If released into the atmosphere, the chlorine atoms they contained destroyed the natural ozone molecules, creating an ozone hole. Instead, F-gases are used, which are refrigerants that contain fluorine instead of chlorine. If released into the atmosphere, they do not destroy the ozone layer, but have a huge impact on the greenhouse effect.

Due to increasingly stringent legal regulations restricting the use of fluorinated gases as a cooling agent, such as R134a, R404A, R407C, R410A, R417A and R419A, more and more heat pump manufacturers rely on a natural refrigerant such as Propane R290. It is a colorless and odorless organic compound belonging to the group of saturated hydrocarbons. It has excellent thermodynamic properties, thanks to which it is characterized by high efficiency. This means that with the same operating parameters, the devices can achieve up to 20% higher efficiency than if a different factor were used in them. It does not destroy the ozone layer of the atmosphere, and its influence on the greenhouse effect is negligible.

Legal regulations restricting the use of F-gases as refrigerants

The Act of 12 July 2017 amending the Act on substances that deplete the ozone layer and on certain fluorinated greenhouse gases adjusts Polish law to the requirements of EU Regulation 517/2014. This amendment has a significant impact on the situation on the heat pump market.

All regulations introduced by the so-called the F-Gas Act, are aimed at reducing CO2 emissions to the atmosphere and substances that destroy its ozone layer. To make it easier to compare the environmental impact of different refrigerants, the universal GWP index has been introduced. It describes the degree of greenhouse effect generation by a kilogram of a factor in relation to a kilogram of CO2. For example, the WSE for R404A is 3992. This means that 1 kg of this substance is released into the atmosphere, creating a greenhouse effect equal to almost 4 tons of CO2. For comparison, for R290 propane GPW is 3. The relevant regulations introduce a schedule for decommissioning of refrigerants that are fluorinated gases, including: R134a, R404A, R407C, R410A, R417A and R419A. This means that heat pumps containing these factors will also be phased out, making their further service impossible. In addition, depending on the parameters, some heat pumps containing environmentally hazardous factors are subject to mandatory registration in the Central Register of Operators and mandatory paid inspections. Their frequency depends on the CO2 equivalent of the amount of agent in the system.

The amendment of Polish regulations in line with EU regulation 517/2024 increases the frequency of mandatory inspections of heat pumps. Since its introduction, how often the tightness of the system should be checked depends not so far on the amount of refrigerant used, but, as already mentioned, on its CO2 equivalent. Systems containing 5 to 50 tonnes of CO2 equivalent refrigerant shall be inspected at least once a year, unless equipped with automatic leak detection systems. The exception is devices with an equivalent of less than 10 tons, which are marked as hermetically tight, then they are not subject to mandatory inspections. Equipment with a capacity of 50 to 500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent must be checked every 6 months, unless they have a leak detection system installed. If, on the other hand, the heat pump uses the amount of the refrigerant, the equivalent of which exceeds 500 tons of CO2, then its inspection is necessary every 3 months, unless it has a leak detection system installed, then it is enough to check it every 6 months. The change in the method of qualifying individual heat pumps for inspection has resulted in the fact that the obligation to perform them within the set deadlines will also apply to devices with a small amount of refrigerant in the system, which have not been subject to it so far. The increased number of payable checks required significantly increases the operating costs of a heat pump that uses fluorinated gas as a refrigerant.

The F-Gas Act also introduces the obligation to register heat pumps containing fluorinated gases in the Central Register of Operators The device card inserted in the CRO should contain information such as installation of the heat pump, its repair, service, leak test, refrigerant recovery or repair of leaks. Avoidance of these obligations by the owner of the installation may result in high fines ranging from several hundred to even several thousand zlotys.

Pompy ciepła Lazar, a obowiązujące normy prawne

Due to more and more stringent legal regulations limiting the use of fluorinated gases as a cooling agent, such as: R134a, R404A, R407C, R410A, R417A and R419A, Heat pumps using propane R290 as a coolant. It is a colorless and odorless organic compound belonging to the group of saturated hydrocarbons. It is characterized by high efficiency, which means that with the same operating parameters, the devices can achieve up to 20% higher efficiency than if another factor was used in them. When it is released into the atmosphere, it does not destroy the ozone layer of the atmosphere, and its impact on the greenhouse effect is negligible, therefore we use this coolant in our heat pumps.

When choosing a heat pump with R290 propane as a coolant, you do not need to perform mandatory paid checks provided for in the F-Gas Act. There is also no need to register it in the Central Register of Operators or its installation by a specialist with F-gas qualifications. This significantly reduces the costs of installing and operating the heat pump. Therefore, before we decide to buy a heat pump, it is worth checking what refrigerant it contains. It may turn out that due to the need for frequent inspections, the costs of its operation will be higher or that after the decommissioning of a given fluorinated gas, its service may become impossible.

Modern heating devices HKS Lazar

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