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Time to transition to A2Ls

Peter Woods: “Low GWP A2Ls will become standard sooner rather than later”

UK: We’ve known for years that HFC refrigerants are on borrowed time, and that businesses involved in food production, distribution or retail will need to adopt new ways of working.

High global warming potential HFC refrigerants are a clear target, and their use is being gradually phased down under F-gas in the UK and Europe.

With this year’s further 18% reduction in the available European F-gas quota, Peter Woods, Wolseley Climate’s technical sales director for cooling and refrigeration, insists that the adoption of lower flammability A2L refrigerants and equipment can be made smoothly and cost-effectively. 

“Although the decision-making process might appear complex, plenty of support is available, either direct through your refrigerant supplier or original manufacturer. Low GWP A2Ls will become standard sooner rather than later, and we advise an early transition to achieve maximum benefit and reduced life-cycle costs.

“We must accept that HFC refrigerants as we know them are on borrowed time and it’s therefore prudent to start planning the transition now. The take-up of A2L refrigerants is necessary for both the commercial sector and food distribution. These sectors are highly dependent on high GWP refrigerants, but do not necessarily have the technical resources or budgets of larger industrial users who can opt for naturals. 

“There should be no immediate panic. Virgin HFC’s below 2500 GWP are available in the marketplace and recycled/reclaimed HFCs can be used until the end of 2029. But the simple economics of supply and demand will inevitably lead to reduced availability and rising costs sooner rather than later. 

“As a rule of thumb, retrofit of R404A to R448 or R449A is a potentially worthwhile option for existing sites where the expected lifespan of equipment is seven years or more. On the other hand, if the equipment is nearing the end of its service life, a more viable option is to invest in equipment that is specifically designed for the new low GWP refrigerants. Adopting A2Ls will give extended service life beyond 2030, together with enhanced energy performance, lower emissions and reduced maintenance, all resulting in lower lifecycle costs. Most critically of all, the gases for this new breed of equipment will be universally available and more competitively priced. 

“Owners of large multi compressor systems can opt for naturals, but owners of smaller packaged equipment and medium sized multi compressor equipment will be best served with low flammable refrigerants such as R454C, R455A and R1234yf. These refrigerants have properties similar to R404A and R134A but with GWPs below 148.”

More equipment and components for use with A2Ls are becoming available all the time and manufacturers and wholesalers will be giving guidance on maximum charge sizes. 

Wolseley Climate’s own Custom Build facility has already manufactured A2L-compliant multi compressor packs and is capable of bespoke designs using low flammable refrigerants

Under EN378 installing contractors are required to carry out a full risk assessment of the installation whether the gas used is in category A1, A2 or A3. Any potential risks need to be mitigated and the maximum safe charge size determined. 

“Installers must make themselves familiar with EN378 and be prepared to seek advice on charge limits and ventilation rates,” said Peter Woods. “Our engineers are familiar with maximum charge size restrictions.

“Low GWP A2Ls will become standard sooner rather than later, and we advise an early transition to achieve maximum benefit and reduced life-cycle costs.”

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