Primer

New Refrigerants, Less Global Warming

HFOs usher in a new era of refrigerants and foam insulation blowing agents with low global warming potential.

Foam insulation and energy-efficient cooling equipment may seem like disparate products, but they share a common ingredient—and problem. The hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) blowing agents and refrigerants used in these ubiquitous building components are powerful greenhouse gases that reduce the products’ positive environmental impact. Eliminating the use of HFCs is a priority, and a new generation of compounds, hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), with very low global warming potential (GWP), is now replacing them.

The first synthetic refrigerants and blowing agents, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorcarbons (HCFCs), were banned by the Montreal Protocol in the late 1980s, but this did not address their high GWPs or those of their HFC replacements. Various governments are now trying to correct this, and in 2014 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would limit the use of HFCs.

Published March 3, 2015