California ‘Likely’ to Limit GWP for Heat Pump Water Heaters

According to CARB, the electrification of buildings will increase the demand for heat pumps, which are currently based on HFCs.

Future regulations in California will “likely” include new GWP limits for heat pumps used to heat drinking water, pools and spas, and tumble dryers. In addition, the upcoming 750 GWP ceiling for heat pumps for space heating (and air conditioning) is unlikely to be “tenable” in the future and would be lowered.

The reason for these possible movements? California’s plans to decarbonise its building stock by removing natural gas and propane and switching to electricity only (which will eventually come from renewable energy sources). The electrification of buildings will mean an increased need for heat pumps. These units, including the current space heating systems, are still mainly F-gas based and so normal operation would result in increased HFC emissions from this sector.

These messages were shared by Glenn Gallagher, Air Pollution Specialist for the California Air Resources Board (CARB), speaking at the ATMOsphere America conference held online Nov. 3rd. ATMOsphere America was organized by ATMOsphere (formerly shecco), the publisher of this website.

As California moves toward electrification, all new device sales should be “fossil fuel free” by 2030, Gallagher said. With regard to water heaters, for example, “full electric resistance heating is not very efficient so we believe heat pumps will be the way to go,” said Gallagher, adding, “We want these heat pumps to have a very low GWP heat transfer fluid.”

In response to a question from the ATMOsphere America audience, Gallagher said California’s electrification program could make it the “Heat Pump Capital of the World.”

In 2019, heat pumps used for water heating, tumble dryers, and pools / spas accounted for 1% of HFC emissions, but that would increase to 7% in 2030 under current regulations, Gallager said. HFC emissions from space heating / air conditioning would increase from 28% to 37%.

“We are very concerned about other types of heat pumps,” said Gallagher, adding that these heat pumps and air conditioners will most likely be “the greatest challenge” in reducing the additional HFC emissions required to reach California’s Climate goals are needed.

California is also concerned about the collection and recycling of the HFCs used in the installed base of HVAC&R equipment and may improve regulations for this segment.

Right now, HFCs only make up about 5% of total California greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s a “stubborn” 5%, and that number will rise as other sources decrease, meaning that “even with the reductions we make in the Books have “today we need additional cuts,” said Gallagher.

New regs are not enough

Last year California approved bans on refrigerants with GWP greater than 150 for new refrigeration systems with more than 50 pounds of refrigerant and refrigerants with GWP greater than 750 for air conditioning systems. The 150 refrigeration ban will come into force in 2022; the 750 limit for AC / space heating will be phased in between 2023 and 2026. However, these limits could be further lowered over time, Gallagher explained.

“Is the [750 GWP cap] durable in the future? Probably not, ”said Gallagher. In addition, future regulations “are likely to include new GWP limits for heat pumps used for purposes other than room conditioning,” he said.

He warned that these “are not promises set in stone”.

However, since California wants heat pumps to use ultra-low GWP refrigerants, that would “very likely” include CO2 (R744) and hydrocarbons, Gallagher said. Currently in the US, CO2 heat pump water heaters are available for residential and commercial installations from ECO2 Systems and for commercial installations from Mitsubishi and Lync.

Due to legal regulations, it is not currently known in the USA that propane heat pumps (R290) are used, but an R290 heat pump water heater for domestic use is available from the Chinese manufacturer PHNIX, while a heat pump / air conditioner for air conditioning is available from the German manufacturer Viessmann for large residential buildings, districts, trade and industry.

Gallagher stressed California is trying to be technology neutral, which means that both natural refrigerants and HFOs are acceptable in the current plans. “We take a wait and see approach to HFOs; they’re allowed under all federal law, and California won’t go ahead on this point and be completely different – unless it is shown to us that HFOs are going to be environmentally unacceptable, ”he said. Researchers and others have recently warned of possible future harm from HFO-1234yf.

California works with both stick and carrot actions. The stick contains the introduced GWP limit values ​​and regulations for improved recovery, recovery and reuse of refrigerants. Carrots have incentives, but paying for that kind of motivation is not easy to come by, explained Gallagher. Because of this, CARB is hoping to partner with some California-based electric utilities that have deep pockets and what is known as a public goods fund to incentivize the installation of low GWP equipment, including modernizations.

California has an executive order that says the state will be carbon neutral or net zero by 2045. However, the state has thought of shortening this deadline to 2035. “Because climate change is real, and we have terrible problems with fires and droughts in California,” Gallagher said.

“We take a wait and see approach to HFOs; they are allowed under all federal law, and California will go no further on this point and be completely different – unless it is shown to us that HFOs will be environmentally unacceptable. ”- Glenn Gallagher, CARB

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