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Halon and FM-200, part two

A reader wrote in and pointed out that comparing the two technologies seemed strange, "one is almost legislated out of existence and the other is suspect." See how our expert responded.

How could you compare Halon and FM2000. One is almost legislated out of existence and FM2000 is suspect. I believe there are alternatives, i.e. 3M's NOVEC 1230?

First, it is important to recognize that FM-200 (FM2000 is probably a typo) and other halon alternatives do NOT fit into the same chemical category as Halon. Halon compounds consist of either chlorine or bromine, both of which are known ozone depleting contributors, which is why manufacture, and in many cases globally, installed systems of halon are completely banned. FM-200 and other halon alteratives do NOT contribute to O-Zone depletion.

Another environmental topic that does garner some attention is Global Warming Potential, or GWP. GWP is not nearly as well known nor are the politics well agreed upon, as is ODP. There are currently very few countries in the world with any sort of legislation relating to GWP (Switzerland and a few of the Scandinavian countries being the exception). While the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 does contain verbiage relating to GWP, it is important to realize the following:

1. FM-200 and other Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC's) are mentioned, but are not regulated by production, only emissions. Fire protection has long been agreed to be a non-emissive use of these compounds. Thus, regulation of HFC's for fire protection is virtually meaningless with respect to Kyoto Protocol verbiage.

2. The US has not, and will likely not in the near future sign the Kyoto Protocol.

3. Even in European countries who have signed the Kyoto Protocol and are enacting legislation to adhere to it, the stance that fire protection is a non-emissive use of these agents is generally agreed upon, and thus not subject to any meaningful restrictions.

It is highly unlikely that FM-200 or other HFC halon alternatives will be subjected to similar sort of restrictions as halon is currently. All political and legislative evidence points to the contrary. HFC's are a welcome alternative to a family of known ozone depleting compounds, Halons.

You mention another alterative, Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid. Novec is a relatively new halon alternative and while it is a fluorine based compound it is not an HFC. The chemical structure and behavior is different from HFC's. One of the benefits of this is that it has both zero ODP and a very small, practically zero GWP. In projects or companies where environmental criteria are very important, Novec 1230 may be worth investigating.

However, it is important to stress that both FM-200 (and other available HFC's) as well as Novec 1230 provide a responsible, environmental approach to halon alternative systems. In fact, when considering a third party environmental evaluation for buildings (the LEED system through USGBC) both FM-200 and Novec provide credits toward certification.

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