Heat pumps may cause dangerous water pollution, report warns

Posted: June 7, 2021 by oldbrew in Emissions, Energy, ozone, pollution, research


Domestic Air Source Heat Pump [image credit: UK Alternative Energy]

Forcing householders to replace gas boilers that release the harmless and vital trace gas CO2 with expensive heat pumps, to conform to curious and unproven climate-related ideas, may be an even worse plan than originally thought.
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Heat pumps are widely regarded as a silver bullet to the problem of decarbonising heating systems, but a new report from the German government suggests the refrigerants used in many units may have serious environmental impacts, particularly on water, says Renew Economy.

The findings do not spell doom for the heat pump revolution many climate activists want to see, but they would require a significant overhaul in the way many air conditioner and heat pump manufacturers build their systems.

The report, the result of a two year study by the German Environment Agency, concerns the use of halogenated refrigerants – known in the English speaking world as hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) – in air conditioners and heat pumps.

It concludes that their use is already adding significant amounts trifluoroacetate acid (TFA) to the atmosphere, contaminating rain and water supplies, and potentially causing health problems such as liver and kidney damage.

HFOs have increasingly been used as an alternative refrigerant to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are responsible for damaging the ozone layer; and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which have a high global warming potential. The use of both CFCs and HFCs has been banned or limited under the Montreal Protocol.

HFOs have low global warming potential and do not damage the ozone layer, making them a seemingly convenient alternative. But the new research warns growing use of HFOs in heat pumps and air conditioners would “add a large additional share to the amounts of TFA or trifluoroacetate in the atmosphere”. It finds TGA levels in Germany are already several times higher than they were 25 years ago.

“TFA or trifluoroacetate inputs into groundwater and drinking water can only be removed with considerable effort. Therefore, fluorinated refrigerants, foam blowing agents and aerosol propellants should be replaced by more sustainable solutions with halogen–free substances,” the report says.

The answer, the report argues, is to shift to “natural refrigerants” such as ammonia, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons such as propane or isobutane.

This is entirely doable, they say. Household refrigerators, for example, almost exclusively use isobutane. However, the use of HFOs is favoured by AC manufacturers.

Derek Harbison, energy efficiency consultant with Negawatt Projects, said the report had come as a “shock to the refrigeration world”, and should serve as a wake up call for manufacturers to start building systems with natural refrigerants.

Full article here.

  1. tallbloke says:

    “natural refrigerants” such as … carbon dioxide,


  2. saighdear says:

    Aye, … the Germans, …….. understandably they shold have concerns abot their drinkingwater … but historically they did drink weak beer because their Tap water was not so good: Beer being made with Spring water – now becoming an issue – they say. Heat Pumps? -10 to -20C when there’s no wind or solar power …. let alone efficiency of said pumps at that temps. and generally dryer air than in the UK… … Och Where’s that brick wall ?

  3. oldbrew says:

    When there’s too much heat…

  4. pochas94 says:

    I consider Global Warming a very expensive fashion industry.

  5. saighdear says:

    @Oldbrew…. whaddaya onaboot? OH ! 🙂 scroll down >>> = VERY GOOD
    Better no put fires out then, eh q;-)

  6. ivan says:

    I am still waiting for them to explain just how they are going to use these ground source heat pumps in cities or are the people in tower blocks expected to use air source heat pumps (reverse cycle air conditioners) for heating? Not a very good example of ‘saving the planet’, pumping all that hot air into the atmosphere.

  7. Stuart Brown says:

    And, of course, you’d want a Smart meter to go with that heat pump, sir? This made me chortle:

    “New research by Compare the Market suggests just one in six energy deals are available for households that currently use smart meters.

    The analysis found that smart meter owners not only have a very limited range of tariffs if they would like to switch energy suppliers but also the average tariff available is £18 more expensive a year.”

    Nothing stopping you choosing a tariff that is not aimed at Smart meters if you have one. Nothing forcing me to have a Smart meter either!

  8. Graeme No.3 says:

    What about going around in a circle and start using CFC again?
    No evidence that they have any great effect on the ozone layer over time.
    It would continue the usual ‘Green’ system of spinning around in ever decreasing circles.

  9. JB says:

    Here is some of what Paul V. Sheridan, president, Doctor Detroit Motorsports had to say about CFCs 25 yrs ago in SEMA News:

    Unanswered Questions: When I began studying the theory that CFCs were affecting the ozone layer, I found less and less, not more, credibility. This trend continues at an accelerating pace. A review should include these questions:
    1. The Rowland/Molina theory. seeks to convince you that ,;, chlorine from CFCs is responsible
    for “destruction of the ozone layer.” If this is true, why did Mother Nature evolve oceans that emit an average of 600 million tons per year, 80,000 times the chlorine theoretically supplied by CFCs?
    What about volcanoes such as Mount Erebus which emits an average of 1,000 tons of chlorine
    each day? When Mount Pinatubo recently erupted, 10 million tons of chlorine was ejected. Chlorine from this planet’s 6,500 volcanoes has been deposited directly into the stratosphere for billions of
    years! Why weren’t natural sources even mentioned in the theory?
    2. Why are the major chemical companies pushing for a ban of CFCs? What is the status of the international patent rights to CFC production? Is it merely a coincidence that the scheduled ban of CFCs coincides with the expiration of the patents? Is it coincidence that the companies that are shoving this ban down your throat are the very same companies that hold the “approved” patents? Is it coincidence that these bureaucrats are also major stockholders of media mouthpieces such as Time? Is there any correlation between the business plans of selected chemical companies, and the
    subsequent emergence and widespread media promotion of this theory?
    3. Gordon Dobson, the father of atmospheric science, discovered seasonal fluctuation of the Antarctic ozone layer in 1956. Why is this natural phenomenon never discussed?
    What is the implication given that CFCs were not widely used when Dobson made his historic observations? What is the significance of the Scandinavian claim that their research on ozone-layer fluctuations dates back to 1925…when CFCs had not yet been invented!
    4. If the ozone layer is being “depleted,” why has the ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth’s surface been declining for the last 50 years?

    R12 was the best refrigerant ever for being safe, cheap, and efficient. Last year I received my final class-action payout for my ammonia cycle RV fridge. Apparently even in this century there are still problems with corrosion and the coolant is highly flammable. Some day my RV fridge will rust far enough to start leaking. Its a built it, which means a major rework to the trailer. Every coolant I’ve read about since R12 fell into “disfavor” has had sever problems, both in efficiency and destructiveness.

    This is the BS that set the stage for Climate Mania.

  10. hunterson7 says:

    In pursuit of solving a delusion, “net zero”, the climate culture is eventually going to do some real harm…
    Great catch on the article, thanks.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    I put up a hoard of articles, some years back, looking at ozone patterns at the poles. FWIW, you get two patches of “hole” that move around a LOT faster than the air can move, that look a whole lot like the landing point of Birkeland Currents. They vary, day by day, along with solar activity more than with any change of weather.

    So tell me how a gas that supposedly takes 50 years to change concentrations up high in the atmosphere manages to change effects by the hour? Eh?

    FWIW, one of my cars is currently using a propane / butane mix. I got the car a couple of years ago as a “fixer upper” and it still had R-12 fittings on the AC. Not interested in a few $Hundred conversion to R134a (that is currently on the chopping block as an HFC) and no R-12 still around, I used my old Gauge Set to refill it with an R-12 drop in replacement. About 15% propane and 85% butane. This is approximating iso-butane, that is a direct match.

    Why is it a match? Because R-12 was originally designed to replace the common earlier iso-butane in those uses. Also R-22 was designed to replace propane used in larger refrigerators.

    Am I worried about a flammable refrigerant? Nope. Not with 18 gallons of gasoline already in place. I don’t smoke, and the gas has an “odorant” in it anyway, so IF there’s ever a leak, I’ll know it. In any crash that compromises the AC system, that gas will be the least of my worries.

    I’m currently debating the fate of another car. It has a 134a conversion on it, but California now has an utterly STUPID $10 deposit on a $5 can of R-134a AND a unique valve that re-closes after you put the stuff in the car. (So you need a “special” adapter…) The idea being to recycle the gas left in the can from partial use. Does ANYONE just put in part of a can? Not that I’ve seen / done. So you get to do 2 runs to the store (one to buy, the other to get your $10 back) and the notion of having a can “on hand” in the garage is a loser now too. All so they can discover that they are getting a ton of empty cans and no gas to “recycle”. So I’m considering just putting the same iso-butane analog mix in that car, too.

    Usually when I go on runs “out of State”, I pick up a bunch of R-134a cans at about $4 each from Walmart and that carries me for a year+. I may just need to do that again…

    Oh, side note: R-134a needs an ester based oil instead of mineral oil, otherwise it will react with the oil and release corrosive stuff in the AC system. IF converting to propane/butane, be sure the R-134a is fully purged or it has the same risk of reacting with the gas. Either suck it down to a vacuum or do a couple of “add gas / vent” cycles to make sure it is flushed out. Since a single can of cooking butane costs me $2.50 at the grocery store (for those Asian Style single burner stoves… ) it is cheaper to put one in, drain it, and then use another to fill; then to deal with R-134a in California. For the propane I just used an old torch valve and replaced the fitting on the end.

    On systems that have a leak, I suppose you could just fill and let it leak out a time or two, then fix the leak 😉

  12. pochas94 says:

    Where are they going to get all the electric power to run those heat pumps and charge those automotive batteries on a cold winter’s night? Oh I remember! Windmills and photocells.

  13. gbaikie says:

    –pochas94 says:
    June 7, 2021 at 11:36 am
    I consider Global Warming a very expensive fashion industry.–
    That interesting.
    Fashion industry does not make people look any better.
    I have wondering how people in live modern world and not understanding science and technology.
    But due to this deficiency they talk about global warming- it could make them feel they
    know something about science. But point is they can get involved- same sense they get involved
    with fashion {while lacking any fashion sense}.

  14. Doonhamer says:

    Don’t worry about the water. With every house desperately trying to get every calorie out of the subsoil it will be frozen hard.
    Worry about the ground heaving up and cracking your walls.
    Looking on the bright side though, you will not be bothered by moles. Or their food.

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