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Flammable codes need to be addressed

Stephen Yurek: changes to the safety and building codes are key

ITALY: Changes to safety and building codes to allow the use of low GWP flammable refrigerants are seen as vital to achieve HFC phase-down targets.

Speaking in Milan at the 16th European Conference on the latest Technologies in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, Stephen Yurek, president of the US AHRI emphasised that significant changes are required to achieve phase-down programmes already implemented in Europe and being introduced in the US and elsewhere.

He spoke of the need to change safety and building codes to allow use of these more flammable and, potentially, more toxic refrigerants.

“Most of the people in this room understand where we are going as we transition,” he told the audience. “The people who write the building and safety codes aren’t here. There are the building inspectors, the fire marshalls, the insurance companies that we need to educate as well so that we can move forward in that process.”

Referring to comments made earlier in the conference by EPEE’s Andrea Voigt on the problems faced in Europe, he said: “I think what the EU is seeing in this study is that they have a plan for a phase-down but some of that can’t be implemented until we have the safety standards and building codes that allow the use of these refrigerants, so it is something we need to focus on.”

Earlier, Andrea Voigt, discussing European industry efforts to meet its HFC phase-out commitments said: “We absolutely have to have the right frameworks in place. We have to have the installers able to handle all these different types of refrigerants. We have to have the right standards and the right building codes to make this all happen.”

Whether in the US or Europe, currently the co-called “mildly flammable” A2L refrigerants are treated in the same way as highly flammable A3 refrigerants like propane and isobutane, with strict limits on charge sizes.

“In the US, we expect that it will not be until 2022 before all the safety and building codes can be changed to allow the use across all applications for flammable or slightly flammable refrigerants,” said Stephen Yurek. “Even though the EPA has approved the use of some of these, based upon any charges higher than 150g, it will be very difficult without those changed codes in place.”

He agreed with Andrea Voigt that education and training was key to implementing the new refrigerants and in reply to the question as to whether it made sense to train engineers if the codes were not in place, he said: “Training needs to be done in parallel because not only do we need to train these technicians on the new refrigerants and technology, many of them need to be trained on the current technology. And we really need to develop that expertise and professionalism so that once we do have more information on the alternatives and the technology, there is already a training programme in place.”

The conference held at the Politicnico di Milano was organised by Centro Studi Galileo and the Italian Association of Refrigeration Technicians, CSG.

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