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Safety update could unlock flammable refrigerant use

USA/UK: The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is calling for support for a revised safety standard to allow the greater use of flammable refrigerants in room air conditioners.

The environmental group argues that the new IEC 60335-2-40 safety standard proposed by an International Electrotechnical Commission working group is vital to maximising HFC emission reductions under the Kigali Amendment phase down. 

The changes would add greater complexity to the standard but with additional safety measures to allow greater use of A3 and A2L refrigerants in room air conditioning systems.

The upper charge limits are not being changed. For hydrocarbons for indoor appliances it is still around 1kg per circuit, but this limit has always required a very large room.

What is being changed is the amount that can be used in a standard size room. The current charge for an A3 flammable refrigerant like R290 for a standard split system in a 20m2 room with 2.2m ceiling height remains at 334g.

In a similar sized room, the new proposals would allow as much as 988g of R290 with a more robust design of system, increased airflow, leak detectors and safety shut-off valves.

For systems with A2L refrigerants and several indoor units, the current charge limits are already complex to take additional safety measures into account. The overall structure is not changed, but the allowed amount of A2L charge is increased. For instance, for an R32 system with a robust design serving three rooms with ceiling-mounted units, each room being 15m2 with a ceiling height of 2.2m, the current standard allows 2.5 kg of R32 if no additional safety measures are applied. With the new proposal this limit will be 7.5kg.

“The adoption of a revised safety standard to allow flammable refrigerants in room air-conditioning is vital for meeting climate targets and implementing agreements to phase down HFCs, such as the Kigali Amendment under the Montreal Protocol,” said EIA UK climate campaign leader Clare Perry.

“It is incredibly important for countries to support this proposal to unlock the full climate benefits of reducing HFCs and increasing energy efficiency in cooling,” added Christina Starr, senior climate policy analyst with EIA, and a member of the US standards technical panel for UL 60335-2-40.

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