Why R32 refrigerant is the intelligent choice

Mitsubishi Electric, R32, split systems, VRF, air conditioning
The logical refrigerant for the future — Carl Dickinson.

Not only is the global-warming potential of R32 much lower than the refrigerants it is designed to replace, but a smaller charge is needed — two wins for the price of one refrigerant. Carl Dickinson of Mitsubishi Electric discusses why R32 is the logical fit for the HVAC industry.

Refrigerant R32 is a hot topic in the HVAC industry right now for its low GWP (global warming potential). The transition to a new refrigerant is driven by many factors such as the impact on the environment, energy efficiency, safety and cost effectiveness.

To help tackle the issue of global warming and greenhouse gases, new legislation was passed in 2014. This brought vital changes to the air-conditioning and refrigeration industries — from manufacturing through to installation and the end user.

The key objective of the 2014 EU F-Gas Regulations is to reduce and control fluorinated greenhouses gases (F-Gases) and emissions by 79% between 2015 and 2030. The overall intention is to cut the availability of hydro-fluoro-carbons (HFCs) with a high GWP.

The HVAC sector accounts for a large proportion of refrigerant usage throughout Europe and the UK, and a reduction in this area is crucial in helping the planet and in minimising the greenhouse effect. With F-Gases having a global warming effect up to 23 000 times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2), the mandatory regulations also strengthen the obligations on leak checks, repairs, recovery and training for installers.

HFCs with a high GWP will gradually be phased down or, in some circumstances, banned. Low-GWP refrigerants will be needed for the next generation of equipment. Manufacturers have responded to the changes in legislation by introducing new products with lower GWP refrigerants such as HFC32 (otherwise known as R32).

The European Union (EU) is restricting the availability of HFCs through a quota system policed by the Environment Agency in the UK. Only companies with EU quotas will be able to supply HFCs to the EU market.

Historically, F-Gas was measured in terms of the mass of fluid (in kg). However, following the legislation that came into force in 2015, this has since changed and is now measured as tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2-eq), which is the GWP of the refrigerant multiplied by how much is in a system.

The new F-Gas regulations and the new quota system means a significantly lower quantity of F-Gases with a high GWP will be available. In addition, the gases which have the highest CO2-eq are scheduled for an earlier and swifter phase down.

According to the HFC phase-down programme guidelines, the first major drop in market availability will start in 2018. This is the most significant reduction in the phase-down process and one that refrigeration and air-conditioning contractors and users should be prepared for in advance.

When deciding on a refrigerant, there are many factors to take into consideration, such as global-warming potential, ozone-depletion potential, energy efficiency, affordability and safety.

R32 has a very low GWP of 675 — just one third that of R410A (2088), making for an attractive proposition for the industry.

What’s more, R32 also has a zero-ozone depletion potential which meets the global Montreal Protocol agreements and the EU ozone-depleting regulations. It’s also practical, as it is a single component refrigerant which is easy to handle, reuse and recycle since it doesn’t fractionate.

Mitsubishi Electric, R32, split systems, VRF, air conditioning
Compared with R410A in these outdoor units, R32 has only a third of the GWP — and a smaller charge is required.

Significantly, R32 is a familiar product as it already makes up 50% of the existing R410A refrigerant found in many heat-pump systems. The volumetric capacity of R32 is about 20% higher than that of R410A, which means system refrigerant volumes are lower.

As the F-Gas regulation and phase-down starts to take effect, we are starting to see considerable price increases on refrigerants with a high GWP. Moving forward this will make R32 a more attractive proposition due to its low GWP.

In addition, R32 is both affordable and readily available, a fact which will be instrumental to the industry on 1 January 2025 when the F-Gas regulations will enforce that single split air-conditioning systems with less than a 3 kg charge, should contain a refrigerant with a GWP of less than 750.

R32 is the optimum choice — considering its superior energy efficiency, high thermal conductivity and low toxicity. The popularity of R32 is worldwide, with particularly high sales in Japan, Australia and India.

Mitsubishi Electric is making a green commitment by using R32 in its latest products. The M Series MSZ-LN is the inaugural product in the UK line-up to utilise R32 refrigerant.

Our range features a new line-up of wall-mounted air-conditioning units with a sophisticated, streamlined design which combines style and energy efficiency.

A larger range of R32 Mr Slim Power Inverters will also follow in the summer of 2017, expanding our R32 range and making the transition to a low GWP refrigerant easier.

Over the coming year, it is expected that there will be a rise in the number of R32 air-conditioning solutions available on the market. This should strengthen R32 as the logical choice for split air-conditioning systems, while both reducing the carbon footprint and fulfilling Government requirements.

Further information on R32 and the F-Gas phase down,including a useful infographic, can also be found on the dedicated website: Second link below.

Carl Dickinson is Product Marketing Manager for RAC and PAC with Mitsubishi Electric Living Environmental Systems.

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