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HVAC service providers, check your refrigerant. If you use R-410A, sometimes called Genetron R410A, AZ-20, or Suva 410A, a big shakeup is occurring that will impact the refrigerant you provide to customers moving forward. 

As 2024 gets underway, you must know what the EPA has proposed for R-410A usage, what the ban means for you, and what your options are so you can begin planning an alternate source of refrigerant now. 

R-410A replacement

What Is R-410A Gas? When Was It Introduced?

R-410A is a type of refrigerant comprised of pentafluoromethane and difluoromethane. It’s a common chemical used in heat pumps and air conditioners. Its boiling point is -55.3 degrees Fahrenheit or -48.5 degrees Celsius. 

The refrigerant was created in 1991 by Allied Signal, a brand that people know better today as Honeywell. At the time, the company specialized in aerospace products, engineered materials, and automotive products, so manufacturing refrigerant wasn’t too far out of its wheelhouse.

After patenting its invention, Allied Signal allowed other brands to make R-410A and license it, which explains why you see so many brand names for the refrigerant. Honeywell uses the largest capacity of the product and makes the most sales. 

R-410A was paramount in replacing R-22, which is a difluoromonochloromethane or chlorodifluoromethane. This colorless hydrofluorocarbon, also called HCFC-22, began disappearing under the Montreal Protocol. 

Most parts of the world embraced R-410A as the new refrigerant of choice, including the United States, Europe, and Japan.

Ironically, what happened to R-22 is now transpiring to R-410A. 

Why Is R-410A Being Banned?

As the world learned more about HCFCs, such as that they worsen climate change by diminishing the ozone layer, R-22 exited in favor of R-410A. Although only a chlorofluorocarbon and not a hydrochlorofluorocarbon, CFCs like R-410A are still greenhouse gases.

Once again, as the world better understood what causes global warming, the finger was pointed at this popular refrigerant. A kilogram of the stuff is as bad for the planet as two tons of carbon dioxide. For comparison’s sake, you’d have to run your car nonstop over six months to produce that much CO2. 

R-410A was indeed the smarter, eco-friendlier choice over R-22 when it came out in the early 1990s. Now, in the 2020s, we need a refrigerant that’s even better for our planet still. 

When Will the R-410A Ban Take Effect?

HVAC systems R-410a

If you’re reading this in 2024, the ban is already in place, and the stage has been set since at least 2020.

That was the year the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, better known as the AIM Act, began. Although it might sound unrelated to HVAC system refrigerant, one of the biggest proponents of the AIM Act was enforcing the EPA to introduce an action plan to lower HFC usage.

The three-part plan includes reducing the manufacture and usage of HFCs, introducing new substitutes, and making restrictions that ease the transition into the new type of refrigerant. 

Products identified with a high global warming potential or GWP are being limited to control the amount of greenhouse gases produced when using the products. Beginning on January 1st, 2025, here is the GWP limit for HVAC systems and services:

  • 700 GWP for residential dehumidifiers
  • 700 GWP for light commercial and residential air conditioning systems, including variable refrigerant flow systems
  • 700 GWP for light commercial and residential heat pump and air conditioning systems
  • 700 GWP for comfort cooling chillers
  • 700 GWP for industrial process refrigeration chillers 
  • 150 GWP for residential refrigeration chillers
  • 300 GWP for industrial process refrigeration, including cascade systems and those systems with a refrigerant charge capacity of under 200 pounds

The GWP limits are proposed and not necessarily set in stone but prove that the EPA has set into place a plan that should better control HFCs. 

What Alternatives Should You Use Instead of R-410A?

 

R-410a air conditioning

As the circle of life continues, with R-410A replacing R-22, what will be introduced as the new refrigerant of choice after the EPA phases out R-410A? There are two viable options, so let’s explore them. 

R-454B

Trademarked as Puron Advance, Solstice 454B, and Opteon XL41, R-454B includes a hydrofluoroolefin 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoropropene (31.1 percent) and a hydrofluorocarbon difluromethane or R-32 (68.9 percent).

R-454B doesn’t deplete the ozone, and its GWP is a lot lower. R-410A has a 2088 GWP, while R-454B has a GWP of only 466. 

While the refrigerant is somewhat flammable, it’s nontoxic. Packaging will denote that the product is flammable so consumers don’t store it improperly. 

Manufacturers from Johnson Controls to Mitsubishi Electric have hopped on the R-454B bandwagon. 

Forane R-32

The other R-410A alternative is Forane R-32, which combines R-125 and R-410A. Although it contains a refrigerant the EPA is banning, R-32 has a much lower GWP than R-410A at 677. That’s still higher than R-454B, though.

Forane R-32 is usable in heat pump and air conditioning systems. It’s efficient and better for the environment.