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23 June 2016

R32: the coolest way to comply

A-Gas Managing Director John Ormerod with ten top tips on how you should work with the low GWP refrigerant R32

1 Know why you should make the switch.

R32 will become a big part of the future in air conditioning especially for split systems. Under F-Gas small split systems containing high GWP gases (above 750) will be banned from 2025. R32 is a single component, zero ODP gas with a GWP of 675, significantly less than R410A, which has a GWP of more than 2000. Air conditioning manufacturers are planning for this and that’s why systems running on R32 are already available.

2 Understand why R32 is a good choice.

With excellent thermal properties, R32 is a good choice to replace R410A in small air conditioners.  The cooling capacity is higher and the equipment used has a smaller footprint. High volumetric capacity means that you need less gas in a system to achieve the same cooling results you would expect from R410A. From an end user perspective this makes R32 more efficient and more attractive to use.

3 Get ready for mild flammability.

Recognise that R32 is slightly different to the refrigerants that you have used down the years. It introduces the concept of mild flammability. Flammable refrigerants, like propane, are already available on the market and are often used in cabinets with small charge sizes.  

R32 has less flammability than propane but will still be covered by the same European regulation, EN378, which relates to charge sizes.

4 Know your EN378

When EN378 was written it did not make a distinction between mildly flammable refrigerants like R32 and refrigerants with higher flammability like propane. This regulation is under review and it is likely that there will be a new version published later this year which will add clarity to the use of R32 and other mildly flammable refrigerants. In practical terms flammability is a complicated topic and this is why EN378 is being updated to reflect the changes in the gases available to ensure they can be used in a safe manner.

5 Remember the van

From a transport perspective transporting mildly flammable refrigerants like R32 is no different to moving Isobutane or Propane. Engineers are used to carrying flammables in their vans already and should be well versed in the requirements of ADR and the transport of dangerous goods. General good practice is required and you should ensure that no cylinders are connected to manifolds or equipment while on the road.

6 Handle the pressure

R32 pressures are only slightly higher than R410A and I suspect that engineers would probably not see the difference given the precision of gauges. My understanding is that air conditioning manufacturers are making the same size connections in thread form as they use for R410A which means the hoses and gauges will be compatible.

 7 Get the right equipment

It is important to ensure you have the best equipment in the workplace. There are a number of tool manufacturers who have kit that is ready to use with R32, including recovery units. Talk to your supplier or wholesaler to ensure you get the equipment that most suits your needs.

8 Attend the industry events

A-Gas and a number of industry bodies, OEM’s and equipment suppliers have joined forces to raise the profile of R32 by holding a series of breakfast briefings. Ensure you attend such events to improve your understanding and speak to the industry experts directly.  For more information contact A-Gas on 01275 376600. 

9 Understand and manage risks

Provided engineers and end-users follow best practice and adequately assess the risks around mild flammability, then R32 can be handled safely. In fact, if you are already familiar with using refrigerants like Isobutane and Propane then this should not present a problem. If you are in doubt the Dangerous Substances & Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) are there to advise you.

10 Stay in the know

It’s never been more important to keep up with what’s happening about R32 through the media – online and in print. Trade associations, manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers can also help. So keep your eyes and ears open. Another great way of finding out more information on R32 is to listen to the ACR Journal Are You Ready for R32 webinar.