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Globally, nations are trying hard to replace CFCs and HCFCs with eco-friendly coolants. CFC and HCFC are responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer and global warming. Heating and cooling systems that still use these greenhouse gases violate the Kyoto- and Montreal protocols.

Geothermal heat pumps are being explored as a natural alternative. Zeotropic mixtures, azeotropic mixtures, and natural refrigerants are being tested for their efficacy and efficiency. These materials are also likely to be much more environment friendly.

According to Mostafa Mafi, one of the researchers involved in looking up alternatives to CFCs and HCFCs “The big challenge for the coming years in the HVAC and refrigeration industry is to establish natural refrigerant technology to substitute CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs refrigerants, a solution to reduce energy consumption in heat pumps is using the earth as a renewable heat source/sink to both increase efficiency and create a diversity of energy sources.”

Refrigerants are substances that can be used in the refrigeration cycle of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment because of their thermodynamic properties.

Natural refrigerants are climate friendly. These do not deplete the ozone layer and contribute meagerly to global warming. These do not persist in the atmosphere or water. They degrade over time because of biological, geological, and chemical actions that occur naturally. Naturally occurring refrigerants include CO2, ammonia, water, and hydrocarbons that include propane and propene. Isobutane and ammonia are commonly used natural refrigerants. These refrigerants are easy to manufacture and not costly. Both availability and cost are not a detriment to using natural coolants because these chemicals are already being produced for other applications. These coolants are safer and easier to recycle and dispose after use as compared to CFCs and HCFCs.

Proper safety measures need to be in place when using natural refrigerants. Ammonia, for example, is corrosive, toxic, and flammable. Precautions, such as using the right materials and containers, and imparting the right training to staff can mitigate risks associated with handling flammable refrigerants.

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