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R410A refrigerant substitute

About midway through the 2020s, the current phase of the EPA’s plan is phasing out hydrochlorofluorocarbons or HCFCs. They will no longer be manufactured or imported, and current stocks should be recycled or reclaimed.

The quest for R-410A replacements is underway, with R-32 a proposed alternative. However, how viable is it? Let’s explore.

What is R-32?

R-32, a difluoromethylene (or difluoromethane) is also known as HFC-32 methylene fluoride. It’s an organic dihalogenoalkane compound that’s semi-water soluble. In ambient conditions, R-32 has no color, and it’s considered very thermally stable.

Its boiling and melting points are both low, -51.6 degrees Celsius (-124.88 degrees Fahrenheit) and -136 degrees Celsius (-276.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

Further, R-32 has been listed as a volatile organic compound (VOC) exception in the Clean Air Act, Section 111 since 1997. It’s not only R-32, but difluoromethane in general since it doesn’t produce much tropospheric ozone during manufacturing.

R-32 has always had usage in air conditioning, refrigeration, and other types of cooling. Outside of that, it’s favorable as a fire extinguisher ingredient due to its endothermic properties.

The Advantages of R-32: 3 Reasons It Makes a Suitable Replacement for R-410A

R410a replacement options

The move to R-32 from R-410A comes at a good time, as the EPA has phased out the latter. Here are some strong benefits exemplifying R-32’s suitability as the new go-to coolant for HVAC units.

Much Lower GPA Than R-410A

You’ll recall that R-410A has a GWP of about 2,200, whereas it’s 675 for R-32. That’s a decrease of at least 30 percent.

GWP is a measure of how likely a substance is to contribute to global warming. R-410A has an excessively high GWP, explaining in part the EPA’s decision to discontinue its usage as the 2020s continue.

A Lot Like R-410A in Performance

Of course, change is always difficult, but R-32 may be more familiar than you think. The reason is that R-410A is partially comprised of R-32, so you’ve already been using it for years without even realizing it.

When replacing R-410A with R-32, there are fewer practical considerations to worry about. The HVAC units you use with the “new” refrigerant should operate the same as they did with R-410A.

Your customers won’t have to switch or upgrade their HVAC units, and they should continue performing at the same level as expected when using R-410A.

You can’t put a price on that kind of peace of mind. You have a business reputation to maintain, and you can continue prioritizing customer satisfaction even while shifting forward with your choice of refrigerant.

Better Energy Efficiency

R-32 has been called one of the most balanced types of coolants. This translates to awesome heat conveyance capabilities. When switching from R-22 to R-32, an air conditioner running on the former will use 10 percent less electricity.

That should motivate your customers to accept this new refrigerant change, as they’ll save even more money on their utility bills by continuing to do business with you.

The Downsides of R-32: Obstacles to Be Aware Of

As businesses charge ahead to use R-32, it’s wise to consider these downsides.

Frostbite

You’ll recall that R-32 refrigerant has a low melting and boiling point, into the negatives for both (whether you measure in Celsius or Fahrenheit). Improper handling puts you at a higher risk of frostbite, especially if not wearing protective equipment like gloves.

Higher Operating Pressure

While R-410A and R-32 share a lot in common, their operating pressures are not identical. You should research the unit you’re adding the refrigerant to before you pour it in, assuming that there could be no adverse effects. It’s unlikely but not impossible.

Uncertain Future

R-32 has a far lower GWP than R-410A, but is there another potentially viable refrigerant that has an even lower GWP? It would be a shame for HVACR companies to get on board with R-32, only for the EPA to pass more legislation in a few years that means replacing this coolant.

So, Should Your HVACR Business Switch to R-32?

While it’s tough to say what could come down the pike in the world of refrigerant, your HVACR company doesn’t have much of a choice in the interim of what coolant you will use. R-410A is no longer on the table.

Besides R-32, R-454B or Opteon XL41 has become a popular alternative. It’s suitable for air conditioning systems, heat pumps, direct expansion chillers, and ductless mini split systems.

Its performance is akin to what HVACR technicians (and customers) have come to expect from R-410A but can sometimes outmatch its efficiency and capacity. Its eco-friendly status is certainly greater than R-410A.

The GWP of R-454B is only 466, so that might alleviate your concerns about the necessitated move to a lower-GWP refrigerant than R-32.

Ultimately, your choice should come down to which coolant alternative is available, affordable, and better aligns with your HVACR company goals. As of right now, you can’t choose wrong between R-32 and R-454B, as either is certainly a marked improvement over R-410A.