KEEP UP WITH THE LOW GWP TRANSITION
A2L refrigerants – Isn’t it time to start transitioning?
The introduction of the F-gas European directive came into force in January 2015 and aims to limit the use of HFCs, to help reduce global warming. Refrigerants with a GWP (Global Warming Potential) higher than 2500 have been banned from January 2020 in new installations and others will have their availability limited by falling production quotas.
In the quest for alternative solutions, CO2 has become the preferred refrigerant in high capacity refrigeration installations thanks to its extra low GWP (1) and its good thermophysic properties.
However, for smaller systems, the choice is not as obvious. CO2 is of course an option, but other alternatives such as A2L refrigerants are available. A2L refrigerants are very attractive as they provide a similar technology than HFCs ; while having a lower GWP.
Having said that, A2L are an interesting solution enabling you to comply with the current <2500 GWP requirement and slowly getting ready for the next 2022 <150 GWP limitation.
But, what are A2L refrigerants exactly?
A2L refrigerants such as R1234yf; R454C; R455A… are non-toxic, slightly flammable refrigerants.
As mentioned, A2L are non-toxic, slightly flammable refrigerants. Slightly flammable means that they are harder to ignite and less capable of flame propagation than an A2 or A3 refrigerant.
The flammability level of a refrigerant depends on its physical properties such as:
- Flammability range
- Minimum ignition energy
- Burning rate
- Burning heat
A2L refrigerants are mostly HFO (Hydrofluoroolefins) but can also be HFC (hydrofluorocarbons), such as the R32 used in air conditioning. HFO refrigerants are commonly called “the 4th generation” of refrigerants.
A2L can also be pure refrigerants or blends, which affects their behaviour in the exchangers as well as their performances.
The EN378 is a European Standard dedicated to Refrigerating Systems and Heat Pumps. It thus applies to the entire system, and not only to some parts like the unit cooler or the condensing unit.
The design of a refrigeration system is mainly affected by the EN378 on 3 aspects: the allowed refrigerant charge, the installers’ expertise & material qualification, and the use of risk analysis.
The limitation of available refrigerant will vary depending the location of the refrigeration system, the type of application and its access, but also on the refrigerant used. In some cases, it is possible to increase the refrigerant charge by increasing safety measures.
2. Installers’ expertise & material qualification.
To ensure a safe installation & use of an A2L installation, installers should have general knowledge about flammable refrigerants: What are the different standards? What is mandatory? How should refrigerants be handled? Which personal protective equipment should be used? How should refrigerant leakage be prevented? Etc.
In order to use A2L refrigerants, the equipment needs to be validated for A2L refrigerants first. Retrofitting an existing A1 installation into an A2L installation is thus forbidden, unless a conformity assessment & risk analysis has been done.
3. Risk analysis
A risk analysis objective is to list the different types of risks that can be encountered and to rank how critical they could be. Corrective measures should be found to lower highly critical risks probability or severity. A risk analysis should take into account the entire refrigeration system as well as its environment over the product life cycle. If a risk cannot be removed despite corrective measures, information needs to be provided to the installer so that he can integrate it into his own risk analysis.
The slight flammability of A2L refrigerants should not be an obstacle in the reduction of our carbon footprint. We continuously work with our R&D department to understand & apply EN378 standards so that our customers receive safe and reliable products.
During our products risk analysis, to understand the impact of a refrigerant leak on a unit cooler, we did leaking numerical simulation as well as real life leak tests. Thanks to those tests, we were able to identify the needed safety requirements; such as the prohibition of use of some options, or requiring the addition of a gas sensor to protect electrical components from being exposed to potential flammable refrigerant.
In order to ensure the safety and robustness of its products, Friga-Bohn has submitted its risk analysis to INERIS (National Institute for the Industrial Environment and Risks).
This analysis is based on various tests, leak simulations as well as on the following documents:
- Use of A2L refrigerants – regulatory and normative aspects,
- Calculation of residual refrigerant quantities,
- Safety instructions for unit coolers,
- Release rate calculations,
- Unit coolers risk analysis.
INERIS has validated our documents, listed above, associated with the risk assessment of refrigeration chamber unit coolers using A2L refrigerants (R1234yf / R454C / R455A)*.
Friga-Bohn also provides technical and regulatory support to understand the impact of new refrigerants, the regulations and how they should be applied.
The first document relates to the EN378 regulation and sums up the main aspects our customers need to keep in mind. Regulations can be long and tricky to understand, so that document aims to assist our customers in understanding the key points
*National Institute for the Industrial Environment and Risks, Verneuil-en-Halatte: Ineris – 204587 –
2718771 – v2.021/07/2021.
The second document relates to our products and gives useful insights on our products’ compatibility with A2L refrigerants and how we can help installers with their risks analysis.
The third document concerns glide, as some A2L refrigerants have high glide values, and we have developed a tool to help understand the glide phenomenon and the best practices to apply.
What is there to remember?
Going for A2L does require some technical knowledge, so this is the reason why, if you’re considering transitioning to an A2L refrigerant, you should be looking for a good and sturdy solution, not a “quick and dirty” solution.
The Friga-Bohn MR; MH; 3C-A and NTA products are now compatible with the following A2L refrigerants: R1234yf; R454C; R455A for both positive and negative cooling applications.
Are you willing to be assisted?
Feel free to reach out to me for more info, or get in touch with our Friga-Bohn team to get a solution that fits your needs.
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