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Research Results in Changes to Refrigerant Safety Measures

Research Results in Changes to Refrigerant Safety Measures

Completed Research, April 2019

A recently completed ASHRAE research project will help the building industry safely use flammable low-global warming potential refrigerants.

RP-1807, Guidelines for Flammable Refrigerant Handling, Transporting, Storing and Equipment Servicing, Installation and Dismantling, developed recommendations of what information the industry needs in safety codes, standards activities and best practices.

The recommendations the team developed to address gaps in best practices will help the industry apply flammable refrigerants safely after analyzing current best practices in the U.S. and internationally for the same use of flammable refrigerants, said William Goetzler, Member ASHRAE, who was the principal investigator. He said the RP’s results will help the industry create appropriate safety standards and best practices to ensure the safe application of flammable, low-GWP refrigerants.

As pressure grows to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) because of higher-GWPs, the next generation of lower-GWP refrigerants being considered includes refrigerants with A2L and A3 classifications, according to ASHRAE Standard 34, Designation and Safety Classification of Refrigerants.  These include flammable refrigerants such as hydrofluoroolefins (HFO), HFO/HFC blends and hydrocarbons (HC).

“While most refrigerants currently used in the US, except for certain niche applications and product classes, are non-flammable, many next generation low-GWP refrigerants will be flammable,” he said. “To ensure customer acceptance of new HVAC&R products and maintain the excellent historical safety record of the industry, it is critical that flammable refrigerants are handled and applied safely.”

The final report details a list of 36 changes to the current body of safety measures (standards, codes, regulations and best practices), 17 of which are identified as high priority areas such as personnel certification, brazing practices, leak detection and leak response, venting and relief device guidance.

Goetzler said the next step for research of low-GWP, flammable refrigerants needs to be developing guidelines and standards that address gaps in the industry’s current practices.  

MTG. Low-GWP, Lower Global Warming Potential Alternative Refrigerants, sponsored the project.