Heating the Community Centre with Cleaner Air

Residents in Zhaofeng District, Tianjin are taking handicrafts class at the heated centre.

Together with approximately 9,000 residents, Zhang Shaocheng lives in Zhaofeng, an old district in Tianjiang. In the past during the smoggy winters, they had to bear the repugnant smell of diesel fumes and lived in constant fear of a potential boiler explosion.

As the head of Zhaofeng Resident Committee, Zhang works in the three-storey resident committee building, which covers 800 square meters of land and is the hub for all the residents in this district to gather together for group activities and social support.

The Zhaofeng community centre, like most other buildings in northern Chinese cities, used a diesel boiler and furnace for central heating. A diesel furnace, as well as a boiler tank, were placed in a small room adjacent to the resident committee building. Not only did the boiler produce greenhouse gases around the neighbourhood, it was a serious safety hazard for the residents. Furthermore, diesel furnaces are one of the main contributing causes of the notorious smog in Northern China.

Last winter, Zhang could finally avoid the unpleasant smell of diesel and the potential danger of a fuel tank explosion in the neighbourhood, thanks to a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) initiative, which installed an environmental-friendly heat pump at the community centre.  


  • The project contributed to China’s compliance with the 2013 and 2015 control targets for Annex-C, Group-I substances (HCFCs) under the Montreal Protocol.
  • The 10 pilot projects under the 2010 UNDP-FECO Sector Plan for HCFC Phase-out in the Industrial and Commercial Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (ICR) Sector Project could reduce about 7.66 million tons of CO2-equivalent emissions.
  • The successful implementation of heat pump refrigerators has helped revise the standards GB9237 for R32 refrigerators in China.

Heat pumps are a safe option for central heating with zero emissions. The refrigerant in the electrical device extracts energy from either the air, soil, or waste water, and converts it into thermal energy that is used to heat up the room.  The $ 1.37 million Montreal Protocol funded project is aimed at promoting the use of R32 refrigerant heat pumps, an environmental-friendly heat pump, without the Ozone-Depleting Substance (ODS) HCFC and zero greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions.

Together with the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office of Ministry of Environmental Protection (FECO/MEP), UNDP helped expand the green heat pump technology to 10 pilot areas such as hotels, college dorms and rural residential buildings.

The initiative is part of a five-year project - Sector Plan for HCFC Phase-out in the Industrial and Commercial Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (ICR) Sector in China, launced in 2010. The project seeks to sustainably reduce 465 Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) tonnes of hydro chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) consumption in the ICR Sector through technology transfer investments, policies and regulations improvements, providing technical assistance, training, coordination and monitoring among key stakeholders.

After switching to the heat pump, the community centre has become warmer, with the room temperature being constant at 25 degrees. At the same time, energy bills have significantly reduced. “Before I had to spend 15,000 RMB every month on one tank of diesel and I had to hire two people to look after the heating system due to safety hazards,” said Zhang Shaocheng. “Now I just need to pay 5,000 RMB in electricity bills every month which amounts to only one-third of what I used to pay.”

An estimated 55,000 RMB could be saved annually for the community centre to spend on other activities. “We have organized more activities such as baking courses, paper cutting programs, and skills trainings for the disabled, all of which have been well-received by the neighbours,” Zhang added.

The successful implementation of heat pump refrigerators has also driven the revision of product standard in the industrial and commercial refrigeration sector. Standard GB9237 was prohibiting products with some flammable HCFC alternatives, such as R32, from entering into the market. With the successful demonstration of R32 heat pumps through the project, the standard was revised and equipment with ODS-free Refrigerants can enter into the market, which will further promote the nationwide adoption of the clean technology.

What’s more, the project contributed to China’s compliance with the 2013 and 2015 control targets for Annex-C, Group-I substances (HCFCs) under the Montreal Protocol. It is estimated that by the end of 2015, the project would also directly contribute to CO2-equivalent annual emission reductions of about 7.66 million tonnes.

The Zhaofeng community’s experience has promoted the use of heat pump technology, and boosts scaling up efforts for nationwide adoption. The Tianjin Municipal Government has planned to install air-source heat pumps in two livestock and poultry farms, which will expand the demonstration project and with implementation planned in 2016. Furthermore, the city plans to introduce heat pumps to residents in rural areas at a later stage.

 A heat pump using the R32 refrigerant was installed in the Zhaofeng community centre.

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