Prodded by companies as diverse as Ben and Jerry’s, General Electric, A.S. Trust & Holdings, and True Manufacturing, the EPA has approved three alternative refrigerants to replace hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in commercial and household freezers through its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program.
The EPA ruling has legalized the use of hydrocarbons propane, isobutane, and a chemical known as R-441A (a hydrocarbon blend also known as HCR188C) as refrigerants to replace chlorofluorocarbon CFC-12 and hydrochlorofluorocarbon HCFC-22 in household refrigerators, freezers, combination refrigerator-freezers, and commercial stand-alone units.
According to the EPA, replacing older refrigerants will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 600,000 metric tons by 2020, and it is the first time that hydrocarbon substitutes will widely used in the U.S.
Under the Clean Air Act, the SNAP program evaluates substitute chemicals and technologies for ozone-depleting substances (ODS).
Part of the challenge to eliminating use of ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) has been the high global warming potential of some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used as substitutes, despite their zero ozone depletion potential.
A recent study from the UN Environment Programme finds that the increase in HFC emissions is projected to offset much of the climate benefit achieved by the earlier reduction in the emissions of ozone depleting substances.
The EPA classifies hydrocarbons as substances with zero ozone depletion potential, and also a low global warming potential.
Photo: Ben & Jerry’s