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Johnson Controls moves to R454B

USA: Johnson Controls has selected the lower GWP A2L refrigerant R454B to replace R410A in its ducted residential and commercial unitary products as well as air-cooled scroll chillers.

The decision was said to have been made after Johnson Controls evaluated several low GWP alternatives on a variety of performance and market metrics, such as safety, capacity, efficiency, reliability, availability and longevity. 

Johnson Controls said it determined R454B to be the best-in-class replacement refrigerant – a decision echoed by other leading HVAC manufacturers who have switched to this refrigerant or are offering it as an option.

R454B is an A2L lower flammability refrigerant, a blend of R32 and R1234yf with a GWP of 466.

Systems using the new refrigerant will be available for Johnson Controls, York, Luxaire, Coleman, Champion, TempMaster, Fraser-Johnston, Guardian, Evcon and Quantech brands in North America, as well as specific international markets where codes are in alignment.

Clear decision

This decision was made as the US industry prepares to phase out high GWP refrigerants under the recently passed American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act.

“Utilising R454B was a clear decision, but one that took years of in-depth research, testing and evaluation,” said Chris Forth, Johnson Controls’ executive director of regulatory, codes and environmental affairs. “This decision maximises environmental benefits, which will help to avoid, if not completely avert, a second, near-term transition for the unitary sector. As the AIM Act phase-down schedule progresses, higher-GWP fluids such as R32, while viable today, have the potential to be eliminated as an option due to their high GWP values. Johnson Controls will continue to evaluate lower-GWP alternatives for future possibilities,” he added.

In addition to reducing environmental impact, Johnson Controls insists that R454B is more compatible with existing R410A equipment designs, requires less or similar refrigerant charge and can reduce the energy use of HVAC systems and improve system efficiency. Some manufacturers have quoted efficiency gains of 1-5% with this refrigerant.

Smoother transition

Johnson Controls adds the the refrigerants’s similar operating characteristics with R410A will make for a smoother transition for distributors, wholesalers and contractors.

“It’s important to note that these pending mandates from the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) would only apply to the sale of new residential and commercial unitary equipment as well as air-cooled scroll chillers. As the pending regulations stipulate a specific manufacturing cutoff date of January 1, 2025, for residential and light commercial unitary products and January 1, 2024, for air-cooled scroll chillers, existing R410A equipment built prior to that date can be sold and installed indefinitely,” said Forth. “EPA and CARB are scheduled to begin their formal rule-making processes this year, which will determine how long of a servicing period will be granted for R410A equipment currently in service.”

Taking into account the flammability of R454B, Johnson Controls said it is committed to ensuring the safe transition to the new refrigerant by providing in-depth training for its contractors and technicians prior to the pending refrigerant transition dates. 

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