Now more than ever, HVACR operators are looking to cut costs without cutting corners. In An Expert’s Take on So-Called “Naturals”, refrigeration expert Dr. Richard Powell highlights how to reduce environmental impact without pricey refrigerant replacements. Here’s a look at what he had to say: 

An Expert’s Take on So-Called “Naturals”

globalFACT: Are there ways to minimize environmental impact besides switching to a different refrigerant?  

Dr. Powell: Equipment manufacturers have progressively improved the performance and reliability of their products. Operating lifetimes of 20 to 30 years are common, especially for larger installations. The premature scrapping of HFC containing equipment, which is in good working order, merely to install a “natural” refrigerant unit makes neither good environmental nor economic sense. Disposing of, or even recycling, defunct equipment consumes valuable resources.


Governments world-wide are forcing the phase-down of higher GWP refrigerants by progressively introducing more severe regulations or GWP-based taxes. But this does not mean existing equipment needs to be junked. Refrigerant manufacturers have responded by developing lower GWP refrigerants, typically blends containing HFOs, that can be safely retrofitted into existing machines without loss in performance. This allows an orderly move to low GWP refrigerants, notably the HFOs, as equipment reaches the end of its working life. 

“Natural” refrigerants cannot be retrofitted into equipment designed for nonflammable, low toxicity HFCs because of their intrinsic hazards.