Interesting new low GWP alternative refrigerants, combined with an expected relaxation of charge limits on flammable refrigerants, suggest that the days of R410A being the commercial air conditioning refrigerant of choice could soon be numbered.
R410A has been the refrigerant of choice in Europe and elsewhere since first introduced in the mid-90s as a replacement for ozone-depleting R22. It is also now being introduced in some of the major world markets and the developing countries as R22 becomes more widely phased out under Montreal Protocol agreements. But what does the future hold for this gas?
Except for being effectively banned in new small single-split air conditioning systems from 2025 and in portables from 2020, R410A has been untouched by the latest European F-gas regulations. So, while the commercial refrigeration refrigerants R404A and R507, with their high GWPs of around 3300, will be no more in both Europe and the US in just a few years, R410A soldiers on. Or does it?
With such high GWPs, R404A and R507 were obvious targets for bans – but only because there are lower GWP alternatives already available. Such is also the case with R134a. In Europe and elsewhere, hydrocarbons have been used as the R134a alternative in domestic fridges for many years; likewise in small commercial plug-in fridges. And, despite some opposition in Germany, the HFO R1234yf is available to replace R134a in vehicle air conditioning systems. With so many options now available R134a has been targeted for phase-out in these applications in both Europe and the USA.
R134a has a GWP of 1430. R410A’s GWP is 2088, almost 50% more than R134a. So why no ban for R410A? The obvious most practical reason is that there is currently no available viable alternative for use in commercial air conditioning systems.
R32 is being promoted by Daikin and others for use in small splits and propane is also being considered in similar applications in some Far East markets. However, their flammability precludes their use under current national and international safety standards in all but the smaller systems.
Until now, as well, there has been no international standards recognition of the “mildly flammable” A2L category, apportioned by ASHRAE to refrigerants like R32. With new agreed revisions to standards, however, we will shortly see charge sizes being relaxed for the A2L gases, allowing charges up to as much as 60kg.
And there are more A2L blends under development which could challenge R32 as potential R410A replacements. It should be noted that all are expected to be classified as “mildly flammable” A2L.
Are we going going to see a new birth of refrigerant in the new future?…… It sure be will!