Time for an R32 debate


04 April 2017
Ben Bartle-Ross of Mitsubishi Electric
These columns allow me to focus on things that I think are important for the industry – and that I come across when meeting engineers on the training courses I run.

So, it is always great to get a comment, which at least shows that someone, somewhere is reading the column.
In my last post, 32 reasons to get ready for change, I focused on the fact that the Aircon industry is dealing with R32 refrigerant that is starting to appear in new models.
And I got a comment on the ACR Journal website from a George Haydock, questioning the dangers of R32, which I thought deserved a direct response as I’ve always said that we can only really learn and move forward if we engage in dialogue.

Firstly, Mr Haydock states that R32 is to be phased out, which is not quite the situation. I’m also a little confused as to how he achieves a 20-year GWP for R32 of 2,330.

The simple facts are that R32 (which already makes up half of R410A) has a much lower GWP (675) than R410A (2,088). These are the figures stated in the F-Gas Regulations.

The whole of F-Gas, which effectively polices the change in refrigerants, also refers to the changes as a ‘phase down’ rather than a phase out. 

The reason for this is that whilst we as an industry have to play our part in tackling the effects of climate change, we have to find a way to do this which minimises the cost to the businesses using equipment and does not compromise on the high levels of efficiency and performance available with modern VRF systems.

So, whilst we will see a move to refrigerants with lower GWPs, this has to be a gradual process – a case of evolution NOT revolution.

Finally, Mr Haydock highlights how toxic R32 could be if it is allowed to decompose and produce Hydrogen Fluoride. 
Whilst he is quite right, the amount of decomposed R32 that would be needed to produce even one gram is so significant that this will simply not happen in everyday usage.  

And this brings me to my parting thought about all of this – modern life is dangerous and all refrigerants can be harmful if handled incorrectly – even water can be hazardous if you consume too much! 

This is exactly why manufacturers offer comprehensive training on how to install, commission and maintain equipment using refrigerants.

This is also why we strongly advocate adherence to F-Gas, so that competent engineers are the only ones who go anywhere near refrigerants.

Happy to have further feedback and dialogue though, if you have another point of view.
Ben Bartle-Ross is a trainer at Mitsubishi Electric.  If you have any comments on this column or any other training issue contact him by email: [email protected]
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