To avoid use and emissions of both hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), a variety of climate-friendly, energy efficient, safe and proven alternatives are available today. In fact, for most applications where HFCs and HCFCs are still used in the world, more climate friendly alternatives could potentially be used.  However, due to different thermodynamic and safety properties of the alternatives, there is no „one size fits all“ solution. The suitability of a certain alternative must be considered separately for each category of product and equipment and in some cases also taking into account the level of ambient temperature at the location where the product and equipment is being used.

The climate impacts of a substance is commonly expressed as the global warming potential (GWP); the lower the GWP, the more climate-friendly. The GWP values of the various HFCs or HCFCs are generally in the thousands. Conversely, GWPs of climate-friendly alternatives are much lower. The most commonly used alternatives to HFCs and HCFCs and their characteristics are listed in the table below.

 

Alternative Global Warming Potential (GWP) Properties to be addressed Commercial availability
Hydrocarbons 3-5 Flammable Immediate
CO2 (R744) 1 High pressure Immediate
Ammonia (NH3, R717) 1 Toxic Immediate
Water (R718) 1 No risks Immediate

When seeking alternatives to HFCs and HCFCs in specific applications, it is the total greenhouse gas emissions linked to the use that counts. Hence, suitable climate-friendly alternatives must show sufficiently high energy efficiency so that the reduction in direct emissions from the alternatives to HFCs and HCFCs is not offset by higher indirect emissions from energy use
Today most of the HFCs are used in refrigeration and air conditioning (AC) equipment. In developing countries (Article 5 countries under the Montreal Protocol), R22 (an HCFC) is still the most important refrigerant currently used in this sector. In those countries, demand for refrigerants is expected to increase significantly in the short and medium term, to satisfy expected growth in the use of AC and supermarket refrigeration, in particular. (source: ec.europe.eu)