What Happens to a Heat Pump When It Dies?

In the pursuit of global sustainability, heat pumps and heat pump hot water systems have become synonymous with all-electric, environmentally sustainable living in Victoria.

However, it might surprise you to learn that the story of your heat pump doesn’t conclude when the unit reaches the end of its operational lifespan. Disposing of heat pumps, especially cheaper models laden with harmful refrigerant gases, unveils a hidden environmental cost that demands our immediate attention.

In this article, we’ll navigate the complexities of heat pump disposal in Victoria, shedding light on both company and individual legal obligations, the surge in heat pump sales, the problems with cheaper heat pumps, and the impending ban on systems with a high Global Warming Potential (GWP).

As we traverse through the HVAC landscape in Victoria, we’ll also take a look at our country’s readiness for the impending end-of-life challenges and the subsequent transition towards greener solutions for homeowners everywhere.

Let’s get started with the basics.

What is refrigerant in a heat pump?

Within a heat pump, the refrigerant gas within the system plays a pivotal role in the process of heating and cooling. Refrigerant is a gaseous substance that courses through the heat pump system, engaging in a continuous cycle of evaporation and condensation that facilitates the transfer of heat throughout the system and into your home.

Originating from an external source, like the outside, ambient air (air source heat pump) or the ground (ground source heat pump), the refrigerant gas absorbs heat and releases it into the area to be warmed (or cooled).

This refrigerant cycle in a heat pump unfolds in four key stages:

  • Evaporation: Taking place in the evaporator coil, the refrigerant absorbs heat from its surroundings, prompting it to transition from a liquid to a low-pressure gas.
  • Compression: The compressor enters the scene, pressurising the low-pressure gas and converting it into a high-pressure, high-temperature gas. This elevation in energy and temperature is fundamental to the refrigerant’s function.
  • Condensation: The now-hot, pressurised gas travels to the condenser coil, where it releases heat to the indoor environment or a water supply. This action causes the refrigerant to condense back into a liquid state.
  • Expansion: Progressing through an expansion valve, the liquid refrigerant experiences a reduction in both pressure and temperature, priming it for the subsequent cycle of evaporation.

Note that the selection of refrigerant is of paramount importance. This is due to the environmental repercussions of both the heat pump “in-use” as well as when it’s disposed of at end-of-life.

Certain refrigerants, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), carry a high Global Warming Potential (GWP) – known contributors to climate change. Consequently, there is a growing emphasis in Victoria on opting for environmentally friendly refrigerants with lower GWPs to mitigate the environmental impact associated with cheap and environmentally harmful heat pump systems.

What happens to a heat pump after it stops working?

There’s no doubt that heat pumps and heat pump hot water heaters have become a popular choice for the eco-conscious homeowner in Victoria. But what happens when these units reach the end of their lifecycle?

Replacing a conventional water heater in the state of Victoria involves a fairly straightforward process of scrapping old tanks and crushing them, often for recycling (depending on the availability of particular initiatives in your area). However, heat pumps present a unique challenge.

Comprising a storage cylinder and a refrigeration unit, the latter cannot be casually dumped due to its refrigerant gas content. The complexities of heat pump recycling in Australia demand a closer look at responsible disposal methods – especially given that the crushing of these units necessitates the release of often-harmful refrigerant gases – particularly so if you’re choosing a cheaper heat pump model.

Is recovering the refrigerant gas from a heat pump a legal obligation?

With legal obligations under the ARCTick license scheme, the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) does insist on the recovery of refrigerant gas from heat pump systems.

Failure to comply not only violates environmental regulations but can lead to substantial penalties. Understanding the legal landscape is crucial for both plumbers and consumers just like you.

Of course, if a heat pump is disposed of improperly, the release of these gases contributes to the breakdown in our precious ecosystem – not the kind of result you’re looking for if opting for what you think is an eco-friendly heating/cooling solution in the first place!

What are the consequences of the surge in cheap heat pump sales in Victoria?

Unsurprisingly, the country’s growing embrace of heat pump technology during the current boom comes with environmental consequences.

The surge in sales, projected to continue into the mid-2030s, raises concerns about the additional use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and their impact on the environment.

Also unsurprisingly, it’s high time for both businesses and consumers alike to examine the sustainability potential of our all-important heating and cooling choices.

Despite the increasing popularity of heat pumps, Australia lacks a comprehensive legislative, “check and balances” approach to the end-of-life disposal and recycling of heating and cooling equipment. This oversight poses a significant risk as the market evolves.

What else is happening around the challenge of Global Warming Potential (GWP) in Victoria?

Amidst these significant challenges, there’s a positive shift in the HVAC landscape more broadly.

Great news – the transition from high Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerants to more environmentally friendly alternatives is underway. The impending ban on small air conditioners with a GWP over 750 from July 2024 signals a crucial turning point in the adoption of greener HVAC solutions – and there’s lots you can do to support it.

What should I look for when choosing a heat pump in Victoria?

Choosing a heat pump with a low Global Warming Potential (GWP) here in Victoria involves considering several key factors to ensure you make an environmentally responsible decision:

  • Research refrigerant options: Familiarise yourself with different refrigerants used in heat pumps. Look for alternatives with lower GWPs. Commonly used low-GWP refrigerants include HFOs (hydrofluoroolefins) and natural refrigerants like R-32 and R-290 (propane).
  • Understand GWP ratings: GWP is a measure of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere over a specific time period (usually 100 years) compared to carbon dioxide. Lower GWP values indicate a smaller impact on global warming. Check the GWP rating of the refrigerant used in the heat pump. Aim for refrigerants with GWPs significantly lower than those of traditional options.
  • Consult manufacturer guides: Review product specifications provided by heat pump manufacturers.Manufacturers often highlight the refrigerants used and their GWP values in product literature or on their websites.
  • Consider regulatory compliance: Be aware of local and international regulations governing refrigerants in heat pumps. Some countries have restrictions or phase-out plans for high-GWP refrigerants.Ensure that the heat pump you choose complies with current and future environmental regulations.
  • Explore energy efficiency: Opt for an energy-efficient heat pump. While GWP is crucial, the overall energy efficiency of the system also contributes to its environmental impact. Look for heat pumps with high Seasonal Coefficient of Performance (SCOP) or Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) ratings.
  • Check certifications of your heat pump: Look for certification labels from reputable environmental organisations or regulatory bodies.
  • Seek professional advice: Consult with HVAC professionals or experts in the field, such as our team at G Store. HVAC professionals can provide insights into the performance, efficiency, and environmental impact of different heat pump models and help you with heat pump rebates available in Victoria!
  • Consider long-term impact: Assess the long-term environmental impact of the heat pump. Consider factors like the expected lifespan of the unit and the ease of recycling or disposing of the system at the end of its life.

What’s next for heat pumps in Victoria?

As you can see, the commercial heat pump market in Victoria presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities. As lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) solutions gain traction, understanding the dynamics of this transition becomes crucial.

Researching insights into refrigerant choices and important heat pump technology shifts can help provide you with a roadmap for navigating towards sustainable commercial heat pumps.

Wrapping up

Have you been searching for info on the best heat pumps for sale in Victoria plus the brands and models we stock and recommend here at G Store?

Visit our Learning Centre’s collection of heat pump articles and guides today, check out our range of heat pumps online, or give our award-winning G Store team a call today on 1300 137 567 for free, generous advice regarding all of your questions.

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