Manufacture of room air conditioners using hydrocarbons as a replacement for halogenated refrigerants

Project description

Title: Manufacture of room air conditioners using hydrocarbons as a replacement for halogenated refrigerants in China
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), Foreign Economic Cooperation Office (FECO)
Overall term: 2008 to 2013


Fluorinated refrigerants (F-gases, HCFCs) in air-conditioning units are a major contributory factor to greenhouse gas emissions. In China, some 260 million tonnes CO2 equivalent are used each year to fill air conditioning units. They are a principal source of HCFC emissions. Under the conditions of the Montreal Protocol, China has agreed to the gradual phase-out of HCFCs. Hydrocarbon gases such as propane (technical name R-290) offer an innovative alternative to fluorinated refrigerants. The project provides a strategic opportunity to mitigate on a sustainable basis the extreme impact on the climate caused by fluorinated refrigerants.


One Chinese manufacturer is using the natural hydrocarbon gas propane as a refrigerant on its production line for room air conditioners. The experiences are shared with other companies in the sector and are supporting the global dissemination of the technology.


The demonstration project is being used to operate a production line for room air conditioners on a trial basis using environmentally-friendly hydrocarbons, and to identify the conditions needed for a successful launch of climate-friendly models onto the market. These models are adapted to meet the European safety and energy efficiency criteria for hydrocarbon technology.

In order to guarantee that the air conditioning units are maintained in a responsible manner and that flammable refrigerants are handled securely, training courses are provided for production and service technicians. To this end, teaching and information materials for technicians on the maintenance of air conditioners using hydrocarbon technology are prepared. This reduces the risk of accidents occurring with the still unfamiliar, flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants.

Results achieved so far

The production line for room air conditioners has been installed at the company GREE and inspected by TÜV SÜD, a German technical services organisation. Prototypes using hydrocarbon refrigerants (propane, R-290) have been developed and awarded the CE marking and certification by the VDE (Verband der Elektrotechnik Elektronik Informationstechnik e.V.), the German Association for Electrical, Electronic and Information Technologies. The project was presented to an international audience at a number of Meetings of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol. Technicians from GREE attended training courses on safe hardware maintenance held in Germany. A service manual is available for technicians. In July 2011, Vice Minister Mr Li Guanjie from the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection officially inspected and approved the production line at GREE in a formal ceremony.

Other Chinese manufacturers have shown major interest in the technology. Following the award of additional support for the project, the companies Haier and TCL were equipped with modern filling stations for the flammable refrigerants in accordance with the European safety standard. This measure is designed to generate competition among manufacturers and improve the level of service to a market which will develop over the medium term.

In an effort to meet its climate protection targets under the Montreal Protocol, the government of the Maldives plans to switch over all of its air conditioning units to ozone-friendly and climate-friendly models. At the start of this programme, GREE installed around 100 units and these were demonstrated to the participating ozone officers from Asia at a network meeting of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in April 2011.

Chinese and British television have reported on the environmentally-friendly hydrocarbon air conditioning units at GREE. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has also had a further Implementation Demonstration Project approved under the Montreal Protocol for the company Midea.

Under the Montreal Protocol, China has received approval for a plan to convert 18 product lines in the air conditioning unit sector. The country is being awarded a grant of USD 75 million to use R-290. Without the demonstration project conducted with GREE, this far-reaching decision would not have been taken.

To date, it has not yet been possible to market the units in China since it was first necessary to introduce a security standard. This standard has now been established with the involvement of air conditioning manufacturers as well as the Chinese Household Electrical Appliances Association (CHEAA), an industry association. The framework for this was provided by a project supporting the Chinese Government in the regulation and introduction of standards for the use of natural refrigerants in refrigeration and air conditioning units, which GIZ has been commissioned to carry out by Germany’s Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). The safety standard came into force in May 2013 and manufacturers must now have their production facilities and air conditioning units certified by the China Quality Certification Centre (CQC).