Results 1 to 5 of 5
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    In a kitchen with my head stuck in an oven
    Posts
    1,535
    Post Likes

    HYDROCARBON REFRIGERANTS: Revisited

    I kinda threw this together this morning with two things in mind regarding hydrocarbon (propane or isobutane-based) refrigerants:

    1. The legalities of its use
    2. Safety considerations

    The questions continue to arise here in this forum on the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants. The topic remains a dynamic one, albeit, with a snail’s pace in progression towards its use. It seems inevitable given the focus on the GWP (global warming potential) index of refrigerants.

    At any rate, you technicians in the field WILL eventually encounter a system with a hydrocarbon refrigerant in it. UNFORTUNATELY, not every card-bearing tech with tools is so attentive to details that they would go and bother to MARK the system with appropriate & durable labeling that warns the NEXT technician that it has a flammable refrigerant in it. PLUS, some owners of such equipment may not be educated on hazards that exist from the misuse (illegal retrofitting) of the equipment that cools/heats their dwelling.

    Given the diverse environments that HVAC systems may be installed, if some systems develop a leak and just the right (uh..wrong) conditions exist, a building could be blown to smithereens and, worse yet, someone could die. For this reason, hydrocarbon refrigerants are restricted for use in small, self-contained refrigeration units - due to the limited amounts they may leak out. Hydrocarbon refrigerants are ILLEGAL for use in home and light-commercial HVAC systems because of the greater quantity of refrigerant they contain, which could lead to higher air/fuel concentrations in the event that a leak has developed within that installation space. All that's needed then is an ignition source (the flip of a light switch, a pilot in a water heater, a relay or contactor closing).

    Europe, Australia and other countries have put more hydrocarbon refrigerant-based systems into use in their markets than has been the case here in the U.S. Retrofitting to hydrocarbon refrigerants is also allowed overseas – BUT, only under certain mandated restrictions.

    However, many HVAC/R technicians in the U.S. see its use in other countries as an open door for proceeding with its use here. So, every so often we see another forum post where someone has asked advice on its use -OR- has already converted systems to a comparable hydrocarbon refrigerant as a cheap alternative to expensive R22 or complete system replacement that uses R410A.

    At present, there are just few SNAP approved hydrocarbon refrigerants in the U.S. (R290, R600A & R441A). Each has been delineated for use in limited applications and only used in systems designed and manufactured specifically for them. Each system must be engineered with safeguards which negate any hazards associated with the flammability of the refrigerant they contain. Equipment labeling must meet required minimum standards which convey to the user or the service technician that the equipment contains a flammable refrigerant.

    There has been OTHER, non-approved hydrocarbon refrigerants marketed as R22 replacements and, unfortunately, put into use by ill-informed technicians. Two specific ones I found were ES-22A (made by Enviro-Safe) & EF-22A (made by Eco-Freeze). There are probably others out there.

    The EPA has determined that ES-22A’s distribution & use is illegal (http://www.epa.gov/ozone/snap/r22a.html). I did a quick MSDS comparison of it with EF-22A and they appear identical in every form. Yet, no litigious processes have taken place (as of TODAY) regarding EPA’s stance on EF-22A. STILL though, EF-22A is NOT SNAP approved either.

    So, as it stands, the ONLY acceptable uses of hydrocarbon refrigerants in the U.S. are within these applications and limits:

    • R-600a and R-441A for use in NEW Household Refrigerators and Refrigerator/Freezers -57 grams (2.0 ounces) Equipment Constructed following UL250-Current Edition
    • R-290 for use in NEW Retail Food Refrigerators Freezers -150 grams (5.3 ounces) Equipment Constructed following UL471-Current Edition
    (industrial use & applications not mentioned. Re: http://www.instructorworkshop.org/Ap...s_Training.pdf)

    The aforementioned applications are ONLY for NEW equipment that's designed for/around the specific hydrocarbon refrigerant. Retrofitting a unit to a hydrocarbon refrigerant is NOT allowed.

    I did a quick search of the web, but couldn’t locate any comprehensive, U.S. government-backed information regarding training of technicians working with hydrocarbon refrigerants. We would expect OSHA to publish something regarding training requirements (or at least a handbook/pamphlet), but I found nothing.

    From across the pond, I encountered some literature from the UK and other European governments & organizations. However, what caught my eye was something from AIRAH (Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating) who released its Flammable Refrigerants Safety Guide in 2013. (SEE THE ATTACHMENT BELOW)

    I looked it over and there’s very much governing-body-language jargon referenced throughout its text. Some may parallel what may eventually be published here in the U.S. You may want to take a look at its CONTENTS on page 4 for what may apply when servicing hydrocarbon refrigerant systems. Having looked over these practices in their guide and then having such information "rolling around in your head" might be just the thing to prevent personal injury or a catastrophe while servicing such equipment.

    Another tidbit I found (some of which may be contained in that AIRAH guide) is from the Australian Government’s Department of the Environment titled “Safety considerations when using flammable refrigerants" (http://www.environment.gov.au/protec...considerations). Again, this may provide some safety or liability things that you may have not otherwise considered with regard to everyday practices when servicing HVAC/R equipment.


    Attached Images Attached Images


    "You never know what others don't know." -

    If I can't laugh at myself...then I'll laugh at YOU! -

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Earth
    Posts
    6,436
    Post Likes
    I am HC certified, but have not ran into one as yet, I imagine they are going to be very expensive, due to all the explosion proof controls and motors. Only the most earth conscious hippies with deep pockets, major players like coke and pepsi, or the govt with pockets filled deep with our money will be using them?

    Check this out.

    http://hvac-talk.com/vbb/showthread....pane-kit-today

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    In a kitchen with my head stuck in an oven
    Posts
    1,535
    Post Likes
    Thread Starter
    Quote Originally Posted by EugeneTheJeep View Post
    Fascinating.

    Well, since True went ahead and became the first to market their environmentally friendly, GREEN refrigeration equipment, I guess they HAD to get you the special tools you'd need to safely work with their product. I don't think they're selling those special tools in the supply houses yet.

    I take it the "HC" certification will be a RSES industry-wide recognized qualification standard...for the time being?


    "You never know what others don't know." -

    If I can't laugh at myself...then I'll laugh at YOU! -

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Earth
    Posts
    6,436
    Post Likes
    Yup, here is the course I took.

    http://www.rses.org/HC.aspx

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Earth
    Posts
    6,436
    Post Likes

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •