As environmental regulations change, HVAC equipment manufacturers are struggling to find refrigerants that are not only environmentally safe but perform well in a variety of applications and are generally safe for technicians. Most of us in the industry in the 2000s and 2010s; We have witnessed the transition from R22 to R410a and now with R22 being discontinued, the environmental agencies of the nations; It is trying to reduce further in refrigerants with high Global Warming Potential (GWP).
What are the alternatives in the coming years? What are places like Europe and Asia doing right now?
Puron Advance (R-454b)
In December 2018, Carrier announced the Puron Advance brand. As some of us will remember, Carrier was the company that pioneered the creation of the R410a by patenting the Puron name in the 1990s. Currently, there is little information about R-458b as the press release is the only source. What is known is that it has a GWP of 466, which can be significantly reduced from R410a’s rating of 2,088. This cooler is scheduled to be in Carrier’s product range from 2023.
The R32 is currently used by a number of manufacturers, primarily Daikin and LG. Most of us, even most of us who work in the field, are already somewhat familiar with R32, as it makes up half the composition of R410a. The difference is that R410a also includes R125 as a flame suppressant. R32 has similar working pressures as R410a but offers slightly more capacity. Also, due to the higher performance factor, less refrigerants are needed in the equipment to reach their rated capacity. Its GWP rating is 675.
The main “issue” with the alternatives listed here is the flammability aspect. Most of these low GWP refrigerants have a higher flammability classification, typically A2 or A2L, meaning moderately flammable. R410a is classified as non-flammable A1. Here in the United States, EPA has a SNAP (Significant New Alternatives Policy) program (https://www.epa.gov/snap/snap-regulations) that aims to further reduce emissions while keeping safety in mind. Therefore, some refrigerants with a good performance factor are limited in their applications. This includes the highly flammable (A3) propane (R290) and isobutane (R600a) refrigerants currently used in small refrigeration appliances.
Developed by Honeywell, this cooler is listed separately as its classification is A1. Also introduced in 2018, this refrigerant consists of R32 (49%), R125 (11.5%) and R1311 (39.5%). It has a similar performance factor to R410a. Compared to an R410a system charge, the equipment will need approximately 10-15% more refrigerant to meet current performance ratings. Honeywell is also considering retrofit applications in existing R410a systems. Its GWP rating is 733.
What does all this mean? As these refrigerants are beginning to be used in chillers it is helpful to know which refrigerants we can expect to see and how best to deal with them. Just as technicians will need to adjust their practices during the transition from R22 to R410a, those newer to the field will have to be scrupulous about understanding which refrigerant they are dealing with.