Carl Dickinson looks at the background to the use of R32 refrigerant in air conditioning units.
If you work with air conditioning in any way, you may have heard about the new R32 refrigerant.
You may also wonder to yourself ‘why the new change? And why now?’
The UK air conditioning market moved to R410A refrigerant in 2006 as it offered higher efficiencies, achieved by operating at higher pressures and the introduction on inverter technology in DX split systems. It also replaced R22 refrigerant which was banned because of its potential to damage the ozone layer and the HFC R407C.
R410A though is a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) and partly responsible for the greenhouse effect on the Earth. In 1999 the Kyoto Protocol on global warming listed HFC refrigerants that were contributing to global warming.
This in turn led to the introduction in Europe of the F-Gas Regulations and at the start of January 2015, the next stage of the F-Gas laws was introduced which detailed the phase down of HFC refrigerant
It’s important to note here that this is a ‘phase down’ and not a ‘phase out’ – with the regulations now based on the tonnes of C02 equivalent of all refrigerants sold or traded in Europe.
Each refrigerant has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) with carbon used as the base. Carbon has a GWP of 1.
R410A has a GWP of 2,088 meaning that if one kilogram is released into the atmosphere it would have 2,088 times the harmful effect of one kilogram of carbon.
That is why we are now seeing a move to a new refrigerant – R32, which has a GWP of 675 (two thirds less than R410A). That is also why we have introduced new Mr Slim Power Inverter models at the same price as R410A ones, so that we can make the adoption of R32 as easy and as seamless as possible.
The decision by air conditioner manufacturers to transition to a new refrigerant is driven by many factors such as impact on the environment, energy efficiency, safety and cost effectiveness.
There is a diversity of low GWP refrigerants available to select from. These include HFC 32 (or R32), HFO 1234yf and HFO (hydrofluoro olefin) blends, Ammonia (R717), Propane (R290) and C02 (R744). Unfortunately, none of these candidates is a perfect refrigerant when assessed across the 4 key criteria of
- Safety and Economy
Each refrigerant has strong and weak points, which also vary depending on the type of target product. Many major air conditioning manufacturers have determined that R32 is the optimum choice for use in their products because it:
- Has a low GWP (675)
- Zero ozone depleting potential (ODP)
- Is ideal for the next generation of equipment
- Offers higher efficiency and longer pipe runs
- Is F-Gas phasedown compliant
- Requires less refrigerant volume per Kw
- Is affordable and readily available
R32 is a single component refrigerant, meaning it is easier to reuse and to recycle. It is also relatively inexpensive to produce, is easier to handle because it doesn’t separate and utilises familiar technology, keeping costs similar.
So, we are now seeing more air conditioning units introduced which use R32 as this will allow the industry to transition smoothly to a situation where we still get the performance and efficiencies needed for our buildings, using refrigerants and equipment that delivers a much lower GWP overall.
And before you start to worry about R32 equipment being ‘untried’ and ‘new’, it is worth pointing out that it has been used in Japan now for more than four years and there are already over 10 million units installed and operating.
So, R32 will actually be good for the industry because it will allow companies to continue providing comfortable places for us all to work, shop and relax in, whilst complying with the latest legislation and being able to enhance their own CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) with equipment using a refrigerant that minimises the effect on climate change.
What’s not to like?
After all it is a better solution for the money.
Carl Dickinson is product marketing manager for Mitsubishi Electric’s range of R32 air conditioning systems. For further information including useful videos and infographics visit www.timeforR32.co.uk