24 June 2021
Climalife UK head of sales, Dave Richards, looks at leak detection and its vital part in achieving the UK 2050 net zero targets.
F-Gas regulations plan for a 79 per cent decrease in total CO2 equivalents (tCO2e) for HFCs placed on the market by 2030, with a further slight reduction to achieve the Kigali Amendment goal 2036. The overall aim is to reduce and contain refrigerant emissions by taking every step to adopt responsible refrigeration practises.
A leaking system costs money and will go on costing money until the leak is fixed. Fixed leak detectors ensure a leak is identified quickly and also helps the equipment owner remain legally compliant with F-Gas legislation.
Leak detection and prompt action following a leak being detected can help maintain the optimum system efficiency, avoiding an increase in energy consumption, reducing the amount of refrigerant lost to the environment and the amount needed to restore a system to the correct level.
Reducing emissions of global warming gases is a key aim of the F-Gas legislation. The requirement for leak detection, inspection and leak check frequency depends on the total CO2 equivalent tonnes (tCO2e) charge of the equipment. It is mandatory under the F-Gas regulation (EU517/2014) for systems with a refrigerant charge of 500 tCO2e or more to be equipped with fixed leak detectors. F-Gas compliance also requires regular refrigerant leak checks and immediate repairs should any leaks be found.
In addition to industry-specific legislation, the UK Government is looking for net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Managing refrigerant usage and minimising leaks is key to the industry playing their part to achieve this target.
Owners and operators of the system have the overall responsibility for the legislation, and therefore they are responsible for:
- Preventing refrigerant leakage
- Ensuring that leak checks are carried out
- Repairing any leaks as soon as possible
- Arranging proper refrigerant recovery
- Maintaining records of any refrigerant losses, additions and servicing
Detect leaks early to reduce refrigerant loss
When it comes to F-Gas compliance, detecting a refrigerant leak early means that the leak can be fixed as swiftly as possible. This also means that the leak cannot grow into a large-scale loss, and the equipment can continue operating with little to no downtime. From a financial perspective, the cost to replace the lost refrigerant is significantly reduced by early leak detection, minimising any potential damage to the environment. A simple leak detection system can save over half of the potentially lost refrigerant from a system.
With some refrigerant costs starting to rise again this year and many systems holding thousands of pounds in value of refrigerant, it is easy to see why an early warning leak detection system is such a good idea.
It is essential to ensure the right leak detection equipment is selected. The leak detection system needs to withstand heavy usage and keep up to date with changes in refrigerant technologies.
Leak detection systems may seem like an unwanted expense initially, especially when budgets are tight. However, any refrigerant leaks detected and resolved sooner rather than later will have financial benefits that should more than offset the initial equipment outlay. It is also important to consider that when any refrigerant prices rise, the cost of resolving any leaks will increase too.
The impact of refrigerant leaks are:
- Environmental impact
- Cost of replacing lost refrigerant
- Safety compliance
- Cost of product or service loss
- Increased energy consumption
One of the most significant F-Gas objectives was to reduce F-Gas usage and prevent leaks. This continues to be an essential part of the process, and there are some excellent tools available to help identify leaks before they become a costly problem.
Low-level refrigerant leak detection
Finding leaks, especially low-level leaks that can accumulate over time, can often be difficult as they can be hard to locate. Several factors can influence this, such as airflow, refrigerant density, equipment location, the type and nature of refrigerant equipment.
Airflow and refrigerant density
Low-level refrigerant leaks often go undetected over time and are only identified when the refrigeration equipment fails through a loss in refrigerant charge. If the low-level refrigerant leak were situated in a sealed area such as a walk-in freezer or cold store, the refrigerant would build up over time and cause an alarm notification. Similarly, a higher-level leak that is diluted in large volumes of air or is acted on by airflow will often go undetected at low levels.
Minimum Detectable Level
In general, an aspirated infrared fixed leak detection system is most effective for detecting low levels of refrigerant leaks. Aspirated systems provide monitoring with the lowest comparable Minimum Detectable Level (MDL) and provide the highest accuracy down to 1 ppm. An aspirated system is cost-effective for monitoring larger areas, as the system draws samples from different locations around the site to a single gas detection unit. What’s more, aspirated systems can be connected to the automated alarm and notification systems so even low-level leaks can be addressed quickly and effectively.
Many different factors in our industry will help influence the success of the UK 2050 net zero targets. It is important that every one of those factors, which includes leak detection, is considered when installing and maintaining a system. As an industry, we must do all we can to play our part in finding ways to meet this target and continue to meet the F-Gas phase down steps.
Selecting the best solution for your business or application may seem daunting. Still, the expert team at Climalife in the UK, working in partnership with Bacharach, can advise you on leak detection solutions by providing tailored guidance on the location of equipment, type and number of sensors to use. This will start you on the journey to achieving environmental excellence and saving money by stopping refrigerant leakage and maintaining optimum energy efficiency.
What are the key factors for responsible refrigeration and easing quota pressure?
• Using low GWP refrigerants
• Quota free refrigerants
• Using products from a renewable source where possible
• System cleaning and maintenance
• Good system lubrication
• Leak detection equipment and procedures for checks in place