by Rick Kincel, Coburn Supply
Well it was bound to happen, if we wait long enough everything in this industry will change.
I have been blessed to have been around for many of these changes and have seen the industry make some great (and not so great) decisions.
Federal guidelines have Residential Refrigerants beginning the next potential change in 2023.
In the 50’s, R22 was introduced and by the 70’s there were only a few of the 500 series refrigerants still in service in the Deep South. R22 was the king!
R22 ran its course and was nixed because of its Ozone Depletion Potential ODP and the Montreal Protocol.
In the late 90’s Puron (R410a) was brought to the forefront as the replacement for R22 as it had a 0 ODP and was going to be the refrigerant of the future.
Changing politics and science then concluded that a bigger threat is the refrigerant’s Global Warming Potential GWP, and the race was on for that next replacement for residential and possibly commercial HVAC market.
It has recently been reported that Diakin companies in North America has given their choice of replacement refrigerant as being R32.
Carrier Corp has reported its North American choice to be R454B.
These are just the first two I have heard of but I believe the worst is yet to come with more OEM refrigerants being chosen.
This flies in the face of the “one residential refrigerant” we have been so used to over the last almost 70 years.
Many contractors I spoke with in the 80’s said that it was a good time to get out of the industry rather than learn a new refrigerant (R410a). If that didn’t do it, then this next round of (Insert Number Here) new refrigerants should do the trick.
Most every choice I have seen as a possible replacement has been an A2L lower
flammability choice. Do not freak out, these are not the A3 refrigerants like Propane or Butane, but a fire extinguisher may be required on all installs and many repairs. There is also discussion that manufacturers may be shipping equipment “dry” to reduce the expected increase in shipping costs.
R452B, R1234yf and R1234ze have been other refrigerant choices that have been bounced around but do not appear as the products that are rising to the top for the manufacturers of residential products.
No matter which way your manufacturer of equipment goes, that fact is that having to have multiple refrigerants on your truck for service calls seems unavoidable. Learning the quirks about the different glides, Superheat and Subcool changes as well as the Critical Discharge Temperature is going to be an important factor going forward.
A final piece for thought is this; Technician recording of refrigerants added or removed from equipment will come into play with new labeling on the equipment. Intrinsically Safe (IS) parts will now be required in the units such as enclosed contactors and switches that remove the electrical contacts from the potentially flammable environment. The tools of the trade such as gauges, recovery equipment, leak detectors, vacuum pumps, etc. will all have to be rated for these new Lower Flammability choices.
The discussions around these new Lower Flammability Refrigerants will begin soon in the supply houses and much of it will be negative and filled with disinformation. Please stay calm and stay informed because in the end “this too shall change.”