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Refrigerant type replacement

Have you heard the news? R-410A, one of the longest-standing refrigerants in the HVAC industry, is out. The move came courtesy of the EPA, which will ban refrigerants with a high global warming potential or GWP. 

R-410A was created in the 1990s to replace R-22, the refrigerant used prior. As awareness of its dangerous environmental effects spread, R-410A became a suitable replacement. It doesn’t deplete the ozone layer, even to this day.

However, its GWP of 2088 is high, which means it’s likelier to contribute to global warming. For example, carbon dioxide has a GWP of 1, so R-410A contributes to global warming 2,088 times greater. 

The EPA requires HVAC companies to begin the phaseout of R-410A by 2025, which means 2024 is the year to choose a suitable replacement. Ahead, explore alternatives to the popular refrigerant and advice on how to select the right product going forward.

R-410A Alternative #1: R-454B

The first type of refrigerant HVAC companies is flocking to is R-454B, which doesn’t affect the ozone layer and has a lower GWP than R-410A (a mild 466). It’s still not zero, and as a refrigerant, it might never be, but the GWP reduction is greater than 75 percent, so you can understand R-454B’s appeal. 

Here are some other advantages of this refrigerant:

  • Nontoxic: Since it’s approved for residential usage, customers and HVAC technicians alike can take solace in the fact that R-454B is nontoxic. It’s also appropriate for commercial use. 
  • Versatile: You can use R-454B in air conditioning systems, portable air conditioners, chillers, direct expansion chillers, window units, ducted-split units, heat pumps, packaged terminal air conditioners, and ductless mini split systems. 
  • Similar if not better performance: Pound for pound, R-454B proves itself as a viable alternative to R-410A in areas like efficiency and capacity. The newer refrigerant sometimes exceeds what R-410A could do. Its efficiency improvement can be as high as two percent greater and its capacity reduction rate three percent. It also has a 20 percent reduced mass flow rate. 
  • Can handle high temperatures: The performance of R-454B in high ambiance is exceptional and doesn’t differ from how it performs in normal ambiance. 
  • Mildly flammable: While it’s a downside that R-454B is flammable, it’s labeled A2L for mildly flammable, so it’s a safe product overall. 

R-410A Alternative #2: R-32

 

Your HVAC company won’t miss using R-410A when you can switch to R-32, a refrigerant renowned for its balanced performance and reduced carbon footprint. The difluoromethane-based refrigerant is a heat conveyor, meaning it can reduce your reliance on electricity versus running an air conditioner that uses another type of refrigerant. The savings are great too, with 10 percent less electricity required. 

Let’s look at some other upsides of this refrigerant:

  • Low GWP: Between R-410A, R-454B, and R-32, the latter has the lowest GWP at 675. 
  • Mildly flammable: Just as R-454B is classified as mildly flammable, the same is true of R-32. It’s also water-insoluble. 
  • Doesn’t deplete ozone: This is less of a sticking point considering that R-410A also didn’t affect the ozone layer, but it’s true of R-32, nevertheless. 
  • Not new as a refrigerant: As an HVAC tech, you have already used R-32 refrigerant. After all, it’s a component in R-410A. The purer form’s lower GWP makes it suitable for use on its own. 
  • Variable applications: R-32 is compatible with many HVAC systems, from window units to portable air conditioners and commercial air conditioning units. 
  • Better efficiency: Choosing R-32 over R-410A ensures more efficiency. Systems using R-32 can reduce refrigerant usage, sometimes by up to 40 percent. 

How to Choose the Right Refrigerant for Your HVAC Business 

Although it’s difficult to discontinue using R-410A refrigerant (especially if you have a large supply), your HVAC business has no other choice. Here are some pointers for selecting a replacement refrigerant as you contemplate your options.

refrigeration fluid alteration

Availability 

Both R-32 and R-454B are spreading on the market as HVAC businesses consider their next steps. The former especially has seen its usage jump, but R-454B is equally as popular in some markets. 

Due to the high demand for new refrigerant ahead of the 2025 discontinuation of R-410A, it might be difficult for your HVAC business to obtain the refrigerant you need for a while, especially in the quantity required for day-to-day operations.

This excessive demand should level out the further we get from the EPA’s phase-out date. 

Pricing

Another factor to consider is the cost of new refrigerant. Again, you might see a spike in pricing initially to complement the high demand, but it will drop off. The costs should be about what you’re used to when purchasing R-410A. 

Performance

Both R-454B and R-32 have performance advantages over R-410A, so you can’t choose wrong if you want to save on the quantity you use and increase performance. 

Familiarity 

R-32 will be more familiar if you’re a long-time R-410A user considering it’s a chief ingredient. To reiterate, the pure version is different and more efficient, but switching to it from R-410A will make the transition easier. 

Safety 

R-454B and R-32 are both labeled mildly flammable. While the refrigerants have a preceding reputation of safe installation and operation, R-32 might be somewhat safer because it has a low burning velocity.