Refrigerants in heat pumps: propane as an ecological solution

Refrigerants in heat pumps: propane as an ecological solution

Many European countries are demonstrating that sustainability is becoming an increasingly important item on the agenda. Heat pumps have long been established as a sustainable heating solution, but current trends are focusing on improved enviromental.

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To protect our planet more effectively in the future, we need new and innovative approaches in all areas of our lives. Each one of us can contribute to a more sustainable use of the planet’s natural resources by making small changes, such as choosing the right heating system for our homes. When it comes to heating and climate technology, technical innovations and environmental protection have long gone hand in hand. As a result, companies that meet high standards in their use of technology – including Hoval – are already developing products that are set to comply with the environmental legislation of tomorrow.

A new item on the political agenda involves regulating climate-harming F-gas refrigerants. By 2030, refrigerants identified as having a high global warming potential will have been gradually phased out. Hoval is responding early to this new legal framework and has opted for the natural refrigerant R290 – propane – for its new Belaria pro heat pump. Natural refrigerants ensure that the new heating system will continue to meet the legal requirements in the long term. This makes heat pumps a reliable investment in the future – and they are also easy on the wallet. 

So why do heat pumps need refrigerants in the first place, and what exactly does the often-mentioned GWP value refer to in this context? 


Why do heat pumps need refrigerants?

Many people are aware of the use of refrigerants in air-conditioning units and refrigerators. However, the fact that they are also used in heating systems may come as a surprise – after all, heat pumps are meant to heat the home. Heat pumps require refrigerants because these substances are capable of transporting heat energy. Through evaporation at already very low temperatures and subsequent compression of the refrigerant, heat is extracted from the outside air and transferred to living spaces at the desired temperature. At present, many heat pumps use the widely available R410a refrigerant for this process. As things stand today, heat pumps with this refrigerant will still be able to be marketed for many years to come.

Classification of refrigerants using the GWP (Global Warming Potential) value

Different refrigerants with different classifications are used according to the requirements of the unit. As a rule, the designation starts with an R for “refrigerant”, followed by a combination of numbers that provides information about the molecular composition of the refrigerant. Furthermore, all types of refrigerants are labelled with a GWP value. GWP stands for Global Warming Potential and indicates the greenhouse potential compared to CO2. That is why people often talk about the CO2 equivalent in this context.

Propane – the natural, climate-friendly refrigerant

Propane is considered to be one of the most ecologically compatible refrigerants. It is a hydrocarbon and is known in the refrigeration industry as the natural refrigerant R290. Although propane is not a new development, as it has been used in a whole range of units over recent decades. its use as a refrigerant is on the rise again as a result of the current focus on climate protection. What sets propane apart is that it combines excellent thermodynamic properties with a low GWP value of just 3.

In other words, 1 kg of propane is equivalent to only 3 kg of CO2. Therefore, this refrigerant does not contribute directly to the greenhouse effect. Heating and climate technology companies, such as Hoval, are harnessing these properties to make heat pumps even more environmentally compatible and future-proof – as is the case with the Belaria pro, for example. After all, legal requirements for protecting the environment are set to become increasingly strict, long into the future.