The Australian landscape for heat pump equipment has largely been unrestricted in terms of the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of refrigerants. This status quo is set to undergo a dramatic shift. From 1 July 2024, the Australian government will prohibit the import and manufacture of small air conditioners with a GWP exceeding 750. This move aims to align with global efforts to minimise environmental impacts, especially given the pervasiveness of reverse cycle air conditioners (or heat pumps) in the country.
In 2022 alone, single split system sales were estimated at 1.32 million units. Moreover, the market witnessed a 14% growth in ducted systems, indicating a trend of heat pumps replacing gas appliances. Suppliers and contractors have also observed a decline of more than 30% in gas heater sales, particularly for new dwellings. This suggests a potential shift towards heat pumps over the next decade. Interestingly, split ducted systems are already making the transition to refrigerants with lower GWP, with HFC-32 accounting for over 50% of models sold in 2023. By 2030, this is projected to rise to 85%.
The market for commercial heat pumps, though complex, is also evolving. Dominant refrigerants like HFC-410A, HFC-134a, and HFC-32 currently constitute about 75% of the market. However, alternatives such as R744 (CO2) and HFO-1234ze are emerging as competitive lower-GWP solutions. The trajectory indicates a decline in HFCs like HFC-410A and HFC-134a by 2036, with the market likely to be dominated by R744, HFO blends, HFO-1234ze, and HC-290.
These regulatory and market shifts underscore Australia’s commitment to sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint. With the HFC phase-down initiated in 2018, the nation is pushing boundaries to align with the Montreal Protocol and establish a greener future.