Is a Haier AC better than Godrej
Propane split air conditioners
Small split air conditioning systems with an output of up to 5 kW have become the most widely used room air conditioning systems worldwide in the last decade and are therefore responsible for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions (abbreviated: GHG) from the refrigeration and air conditioning sector. The continued strong growth in demand for this type of air conditioning in many regions of the world means that the consumption of electricity, which is primarily generated by fossil fuels, is increasing. The effect on the climate is additionally increased by HCFC (R22) or HFC (R410A and R32) refrigerants.
Split systems have long been sold and installed in huge quantities not only in countries with constantly high ambient temperatures in arid and tropical regions, but also in this country split air conditioning units dominate the market among direct evaporation systems. In Germany alone, over 70% of the 157,000 room air conditioners sold were split units (JRAIA, 2018). In Europe, HFC R410A is currently the refrigerant used in most air conditioning systems. However, it is increasingly being replaced by the HFC R32, which was found in approximately 37% of all air conditioning systems last year . Both HFCs are harmful to the climate and therefore have no long-term future under the European F-Gas Regulation and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
Although energy-efficient alternatives with the climate-friendly refrigerant propane (R290, GWP = 3) have been produced and sold in China and India since 2013 and a model has already been awarded the Blue Angel eco-label, widespread introduction in Germany and Europe is still a long time coming.
Current standards regulate product safety, but existing restrictions prevent efficiency gains
The criteria for the safe operation of propane split air conditioning systems are regulated in the cross-product standard EN 378 and the standard EN IEC 60335-2-40 specific for air conditioning systems and heat pumps. In the context of these two standards, the charge limit due to the flammability of propane is a decisive requirement for ensuring product safety in split air conditioning systems with A3 refrigerants. Two major restrictions must be taken into account: 1 kg is the fundamentally maximum permissible filling quantity of direct evaporation systems such as mono-split systems; a function of the room area and, in some cases, the installation height of the device also determines the permissible propane filling quantity.
On the basis of these restrictions, the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) GmbH supported the Indian company Godrej & Boyce in the development of a propane split air conditioning unit. The project was supported by the Federal Environment Ministry. From 2011 to 2013, GIZ advised on the development of the prototype and the tooling of the production line. The filling quantity limits of EN IEC 60335-2-40 were used as a basis. As a result, the first 5 kW model held 360 g in the refrigeration circuit. The use of micro-channel heat exchangers made it possible to achieve a high degree of efficiency with low filling quantities. Then as now, the R290 split AC models from Godrej are among the most energy-efficient and climate-friendly models on the Indian market. Since then, Godrej has sold around 700,000 units, and the manufacturer is still not aware of any incidents due to the flammability of propane. According to the head of product development Klima Santosh Salian, further optimizations are constantly being worked on. A 7 kW R290 inverter model is due to hit the market soon, again the most efficient in its class.
Due to its excellent thermodynamic properties, propane offers a high energy efficiency potential, which is particularly evident through the amount in the refrigeration circuit and the size and design of the heat exchangers. The aim of the international working groups for the revision of the product-specific standard IEC 60335-2-40 should continue to be to develop measures for optimizing the fill quantity of room air conditioning systems that combine further efficiency gains and appropriate system safety.
The following technical measures to reduce risk, along with a higher filling quantity, are currently being discussed:
Improvement of the tightness of the system beyond the assumed standard practice
Optimization of the system housing for better distribution of the refrigerant
Installation of valves or other components to limit the amount of refrigerant released in the event of a leak.
Ensuring sufficient air throughput within the room to ensure that the leaked refrigerant does not collect on the floor and that the concentration remains below the lower flammability level.
Technician training - training content and programs apply
Godrej & Boyce relies exclusively on trained and registered technicians for the installation and maintenance of the propane air conditioning systems: “We train and certify air conditioning technicians ourselves and take full responsibility for this. In this way we ensure a well-functioning workforce on site, ”confirms Shakeel M. Jamadar, head of a specially created training program at Godrej & Boyce. With in-house training, the Indian company sets its own quality assurance standard. The German arm of the Chinese manufacturer Midea is also planning product-specific training courses as part of the introduction of the Blue Angel split air conditioning unit.
If you look to Germany, the conditions are even more favorable: courses and seminars on the subject of natural refrigerants (especially propane as a refrigerant) are offered at all of the guilds' schools. Dealing with A2L and A3 refrigerants has become an integral part of both the training plans for mechatronics technicians for refrigeration technology and the master craftsman's training. Meinolf Gringel, independent expert for refrigeration technology, confirms that the installation of an R290 air conditioning system does not differ from a device with a conventional HFC refrigerant (e.g. R410A, R134a etc.) from a technical point of view. The decisive factor is "the conscientious implementation of the safety measures."
The necessary training documents for safe installation and maintenance are available in Germany and some of them are also adopted internationally. GIZ Proklima is advising emerging and developing countries on these adjustments. In addition to the expanded curricula, the countries are supported in officially certifying and registering the trained technicians. The three-step process of qualification, certification and registration makes it possible to get an overview of the national level of training for refrigeration technicians and to find specialists for the installation and maintenance of climate-friendly devices.
The West African country has set itself the goal of converting the market for split air conditioning systems to propane as far as possible by 2030. In this way, around 7.86 megatons of CO2-eq should be saved by 2030. Funded by the Federal Environment Ministry, GIZ is supporting the Ghanaian environmental authority with this ambitious goal. In the first step, almost 400 Chinese R290 split air conditioning systems were launched on the market and used in a wide variety of application areas. In addition, refrigeration technicians were trained in the safe use of the devices in cooperation with Midea. For the director of the climate and ozone protection department Emmanuel Osae Quansah, the switch to climate-friendly cooling is "one of the key measures to achieve the national climate targets". Similar projects with pilot systems and technician training courses were carried out in Costa Rica, the Caribbean island state Grenada, the Philippines and India. The aim of all projects is to make the use of natural refrigerants better known and to sensitize and train the necessary specialist staff.
Increasing demand, but lack of supply
With the introduction of the Blue Angel for room air conditioners, there is an increasing demand for HFC-free air conditioning systems. Both GIZ and the Federal Environment Agency are receiving more and more inquiries about R290 split air conditioning units. One of the questions comes from Monika Witt, managing partner of Th. Witt Kältemaschinen from Aachen. She would like to equip her office and business premises with R290 split air conditioning systems. According to Ms. Witt, the safety risks posed by flammability are easily manageable: "Therefore, we can only consider an air conditioning system with natural refrigerants."
While the market share of mobile R290 air conditioners in Germany and Europe continues to grow, HFC-free split air conditioners are still not available. Ms. Witt suspects that this is also due to the lobbying work of the suppliers of synthetic refrigerants who want to consistently prevent the use of R290. However, she is certain “that the R290 will quickly establish itself when the first devices with CE certification are offered on the market. We saw that with refrigerators: at first, the isobutane (R600a) used, which belongs to the same group as propane, was presented as unacceptably dangerous by the synthetic refrigerant lobbyists, but the benefits have caught on and today almost all refrigerators around the world are used operated with isobutane. In addition, propane is now widespread in private households in the form of grills and outdoor heaters - and with significantly larger fill quantities than required for split air conditioning units. "
There is also increasing interest in climate-friendly HFC alternatives in split air conditioning systems in other parts of Europe. The Colruyt Group is one of the largest retailers in Belgium with around 29,000 employees and over 500 shops. The supermarket chain has been using 100% natural refrigerants since 2014 in order to credibly pursue its sustainability strategy. As the lead project engineer, Collin Bootsveld is responsible for converting the cooling systems. For him, natural refrigerants are “the only realistic long-term solution.” In all installed devices, they could serve their purpose as well or even better than their synthetic counterparts. He is convinced that R290 will become the dominant technology for cooling and heating in small offices and apartments in split air conditioning systems thanks to their high energy efficiency and medium to long-term cost advantages. The only thing left to do is to create the right offer: “The demand is there. My friends, colleagues and our management understand the logic and the advantages. "
Although everything seems to have been set on the demand side, R290 split air conditioners are neither available online nor from specialist dealers. With more than 70%, China has the largest production capacities for split air conditioning systems. To date, however, the climate-friendly alternatives have only been sold on the domestic market. In 2018, the China Household and Electrical Appliances Association asked the Chinese split air conditioning manufacturers to sell 160,000 units within twelve months, Midea currently leads sales with around 92,000 units. However, reluctance to enter the European market is still evident. After the R290 monosplit air conditioning unit, certified with the Blue Angel, was presented to the public at the “Mostra Convegno Expocomfort” air conditioning trade fair in Milan in March 2018, the European market launch promised for the same year is still pending. This year the market launch has been postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19.
The manufacture of R290 split air conditioning systems is certainly associated with higher costs at the beginning, but ultimately the profitable sale should be realized through economies of scale at the latest. A similar development was observed for R32. There is growing pressure on industry to come up with a future-proof alternative to HFCs for the direct-expanding room air conditioning segment. The Daikin company is now aware that R32 can only be another interim solution. According to CEO Masanori Togawa, the company is working on an R32 successor with a global warming gas potential of 10, similar to R32, the refrigerant should be classified in the A2L (“mildly flammable”) classification. In terms of climate impact, this would be a serious alternative to propane. It remains to be seen whether the HFC refrigerant is actually a sustainable solution.
Government funding as an impulse for manufacturers and dealers?
There are various approaches on the part of the state to facilitate the market launch of climate-friendly split air conditioning units. In cooperation with the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and a jury of experts, the Öko-Institut has defined criteria that enable devices to be labeled with the “Blue Angel” environmental label.
Devices that have been awarded the “Blue Angel” are more environmentally friendly than comparable, conventional equipment. The entire life cycle is considered in the assessment. The eco-label, which has existed for more than 40 years, has a level of awareness of over 90% in Germany and offers a clear orientation for environmentally conscious shopping - also for room air conditioners. Split air conditioning units with the “Blue Angel” are more energy efficient (SEER of at least 7) than comparable systems, do not contain any halogen-containing refrigerants, and must be easy to clean and quiet in operation, both inside and outside. According to Dr. Daniel de Graaf (UBA) would have room air conditioners that have been awarded the Blue Angel, a "significant sales advantage." Nevertheless, so far only very few manufacturers have such a device in their portfolio. But why is there hesitation? “If a manufacturer takes the risk and launches it, it will be under close scrutiny from the competition. If something should happen then, it would be a huge damage to the image. In our opinion, R32 is not the solution, ”said Dr. Daniel de Graaf, Federal Environment Agency.
Another possibility is financial incentives from the state. For example, a discount system on the purchase of propane air conditioners would be conceivable. Chinese manufacturers told GIZ Proklima that such programs would greatly facilitate market introduction in Germany. From a German point of view, however, there are considerable reservations. "The German market for split ACs is not very large in European comparison, and there are no German manufacturers," says de Graaf (UBA). "The Federal Government believes that there is little motivation to promote a pure import market with financial incentives." Nevertheless, natural refrigerants such as propane are the right way to go in the long term. De Graaf receives more and more inquiries from citizens about the availability of propane-based devices, especially in the summer months, which he usually has to modest negatively. Interim solutions like R32 are not the solution.
In summary: favorable factors for a successful market launch
The requirements of the Montreal Protocol and its expansions last decided in Kigali (2016) as well as the F-gas regulation in the EU make a worldwide, step-by-step changeover to natural refrigerants inevitable. With their lion's share of global GHG emissions, split air conditioning systems play a key role in climate protection in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector. With R290 there is a sustainable solution that has already proven itself in the Indian market. According to an EU study, the biggest obstacle is not the change in technology or investment costs, but a lack of information . In order to facilitate market entry, more awareness-raising work must be carried out - both for manufacturers and consumers. The “Blue Angel” environmental label is a first step in the right direction in Germany. In addition, greater emphasis must be placed on training the relevant specialists.
 BSRIA (2020). BSRIA’s view on refrigerant trends in AC and Heat Pump segments. Available at: https://www.bsria.com/uk/news/article/bsrias_view_on_refrigerant_trends_in_ac_and_heat_pump_segments
 Life front (2018). Impact of standards on hydrocarbon refrigerants in Europe. Market research report
GIZ Proklima has summarized further information on the topic and experience with the use of R290 split ACs in emerging and developing countries in a guide (free request via: currently only available in English).
The German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) advises selected developing and emerging countries within the “Proklima” project cluster on establishing standards for the introduction of natural refrigerants. In addition, pilot studies are carried out with propane air conditioning units and technicians are trained in installation, maintenance, repair and professional recycling.
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