FETA offers perspective on mildly flammable refrigerants

FETA, R32, refrigerants
The vital role of mildly flammable refrigerants — John Smith.

With the on-going requirement for the use of HFC refrigerants with high GWPs (global warming potential) to be reduced in Europe, John Smith, president of the British Refrigeration Association is warning the industry that it has to come to terms with the use of mildly flammable refrigerants such as R32 — a single component refrigerant that is a component of the blend R410A and which has similar properties. R32 is not, however, a retrofit alternative for R410A. John Smith says, ‘The industry must face up to the need to make use of these mildly flammable fluids and understand the implications of their use.’

A2L is the classification given to mildly flammable refrigerants in the standards ISO 817 and EN 378. Such refrigerants are difficult to ignite and have a low burning velocity — not more than 10 cm/s. These standards give clear guidance on the use of such products in terms of location and charge size.

However, in the UK the Health & Safety Executive only recognises flammable and non-flammable — not mildly flammable. That means A2L refrigerants come within the scope of DSEAR (Dangerous Substances & Explosive Atmospheres Regulations of 2002) or ATEX (Atmospères Explosibles) in the rest of Europe.

John Smith also points out that transport and storage regulations in the UK only recognise flammable and non-flammable.

He points out that R32 (GWP of 675 ) is widely used as an alternative to R410A (GWP of 2088) in the Asia Pacific region.

HFOs, which have very low GWPs, are also mildly flammable; blends can be made non-flammable, but with a GWP penalty.

John Smith says, ‘Put simply, the F Gas regulations will not work without the introduction of A2L refrigerants, and the biggest challenge will be found in the air-conditioning sector, where there is no non-flammable alternative to R410A.

‘The industry needs clear guidance on the use of A2L refrigerants in the field. FETA recognises that this issue is pertinent to several associations and is interacting with other organisations, whilst also discussing the subject with the HSE in order to understand its viewpoint.’

As an aid to the industry, FETA is working on a set of guidance note to help the industry understand how and when to use the fluids, how to store them and how to transport them safely.

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