08 March 2016

How R32 will make a difference

A-Gas Managing Director John Ormerod on why this low GWP refrigerant is making its mark in the industry


There’s been much talk recently about the rise of R32 as a practical alternative to R410A in air conditioning equipment. With its low GWP (Global Warming Potential), this emerging HFC refrigerant is the focus of discussion among sections of the industry.

R32 is already available from A-Gas through our wholesale partners in a variety of cylinder sizes and from a practical perspective it is a good replacement for R410A, a high GWP gas, which is affected under the F-Gas Regulations.

From 2025 any gas with a GWP higher than 750 will be off limits in low-charge split air conditioning systems and this is where R32 will make an impact. 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.

The cooling capacity of R32 is higher and there are considerable efficiency gains to be made from making the switch. A further bonus is that the equipment used needs a smaller footprint. R32 has an ASHRAE classification of A2L and is considered mildly flammable. Ironically, R410A is a mixture of R32 and R125 with the R125 suppressing R32's flammability.

It’s early days for R32 and that’s because there’s still not a huge amount of air conditioning equipment able to use it. Some manufacturers have begun to supply equipment which is R32 ready but this is still limited in scope and it is fair to say that it is still mainly R410A-based kit which is today’s preferred option.

If there is a downside to R32, it is the A2L limited flammability, and in the short term this could hinder it’s application. We certainly need clarity with the finalisation of EN378 before we can understand if VRF systems are suitable for R32 because of the quantities of the gas needed. Ultimately there is going to be a limit to the size of R32 equipment and this will be governed by the updated version of the European standard which is expected to be published this year.

R32 has always been viewed as an effective refrigerant with good environmental properties but this has been tempered by concerns about its mild flammability. However, as the influence of the F-Gas Regulations has grown, R32 has become a talked about refrigerant in todays’ HVAC industry.

Regulation, historically, has been very black and white on flammability ­– highly flammable or not with nothing in between – but these mildly flammable A2L refrigerants fall into a grey area.

Engineers need to be more aware of how to safely handle the refrigerant and ensure that they have the right tools for the job. The industry has certainly got to get its head around the fact that the current recovery units and vacuum pumps aren’t going to be appropriate.

Manifolds and hoses for R32 are already on the market – and there are recovery units and dedicated recovery cylinders available off the shelf for use with flammable products.

New recovery units, different gauges and potentially R32-friendly hoses will dominate the thoughts of engineers but for most installers switching to R32 should be a fairly straightforward transition. Talk to your equipment suppliers for advice on this.

I can see R32 being a significant player in the years to come. Air conditioning manufacturers are clearly ahead of the regulations by starting to offer R32-friendly equipment now and I have no doubts that by 2025 the industry will have caught up.

To make it easier to recognise R32, A-Gas and equipment supplier JAVAC have joined forces to raise the profile of the refrigerant and its related tools. All cylinders containing R32 supplied by A-Gas and its wholesalers, together with R32 tools and equipment from JAVAC, now carry a specially-designed R32 label. It is hoped that the rest of the industry will follow suit and adopt the label for all R32 products to make them easier to spot in the wholesale network.

To highlight how the industry is changing, A-Gas will also be joining equipment suppliers Fujitsu and JAVAC to answers questions on R32 in a FREE webinar hosted by ACR Journal. The webinar takes place on Thursday March 17 (2.30pm) and is the ideal platform to learn about R32 and get advice on the equipment needed and installation practices. It’s open to everyone, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to find out more about this up and coming refrigerant.