by Jill Kuklinksi, EIA Operations Associate
When a refrigerator breaks in a typical Washington D.C. office, the office manager’s biggest concern might be how long after sending out an all-staff email to wait until tossing the unclaimed yogurt containers and boxes of takeout. But here at EIA, when our fridge finally quit – albeit after a few attempts to give notice – I had a bigger concern. It wasn’t only the cost of a new refrigerator; it was the fact that we as an organization are explicitly devoted to mitigating emissions of super greenhouse gases – hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – commonly found in coolants used for refrigeration and air conditioning. Our commitment to a global phase-down of HFCs means it would be nothing short of hypocrisy not to obtain a climate-friendly fridge.
Sounds easy enough. This is America after all, the home of infinite consumer choice and possibility. A country where you can get just about anything you want with the click of a computer mouse. Obtaining a verifiably climate-friendly fridge – for your home or office – would be no problem in the U.K., Sweden, or even India. But here in the U.S.? Well, as I would come to find out, it’s not so easy.
First off, I had to know what exactly “climate-friendly refrigeration” was. So I consulted our Climate Policy Analyst, Christina Starr. Christina explained that we would want a fridge that is HFC-free. She got me started by mentioning that both GE and Bosch purportedly offered models using climate-friendly hydrocarbon refrigerants - either R-600a (isobutene) or R-290 (propane) - which both have a very low global warming potential (GWP) of below 5. HFCs have GWPs greater than 1000! Additionally, such refrigerators are typically much more energy efficient than HFC ones, making them an even better choice from a climate perspective.
I tried GE first and discovered that the company only offers one HFC-free fridge in its Monogram Collection, which would be a great option, but for its ‘slightly’ above non-profit-budget price tag of $7,000.