An Insight on Refrigerants | Air Conditioning equipments have been using refrigerants for a long time and will keep using them for much longer. In fact, as far as we can predict now, vaporcompression systems will remain the primary technology for the foreseeable future. Due to that, refrigerant consumption will most likely increase, considering the growing demand from emerging economies. In this scenario, it will be important for users to be able to choose the most suitable refrigerant for their systems and technologies.
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But let’s start with the basics.
What is a refrigerant
Refrigerants are fluid substances/mixtures used in a heat pump and refrigeration cycle to cool or heat a space. They capture heat and then release it to another space by using the thermodynamic phenomena of phase changes, in which a fluid changes to a gas or vice-versa. So, they usually undergo phase transitions from a liquid to a gas and back again.
Fluorocarbons, especially chlorofluorocarbons, were common in the 20th century, but they are going through a phase out because of their ozone depletion effects.
What are the main aspects to consider when choosing a refrigerant?
Safety, affordability, and environmental friendliness are the most important factors experts advise to consider when building a system. So, it is a matter of balance between these different aspects and factors. Of course, choices might differ depending on the application, as a single perfect choice for any application simply doesn’t exist. But the recent changes introduced by new international regulations have led to some interesting new developments in the world of refrigerants.
The AC industry has been moving towards lower GWP refrigerants in the recent years. And that will continue happening in the coming years.
Regulations, both national and international, have been among of the most important drivers for spurring investment in new technologies. So, HVAC manufacturers have had to find ways to comply with new regulations.
An insight on refrigerants: Daikin response to new needs
Daikin has been focusing on R-32 refrigerant since 2012, when replaced R-410a with R-32 in most of the residential AC products. Since then, Daikin has been pushing forward its commitment in using this low GWP refrigerant, extending it to Applied product as well.
As a matter of fact, R-32 refrigerant is considered the most balanced refrigerant in terms of Environmental Impact, Energy Efficiency, Safety and Cost-Effectiveness for AC and Heat Pump equipment.
Let’s start analyzing how R-32 responds to the main aspects to consider when choosing refrigerant: affordability, environmental friendliness and safety.
Because R-32 efficiently conveys heat, it can significantly reduce electricity consumption compared to equipment using R-410A.
The potential refrigerating effect of R-32, then, is 1.5 times that of R-22 or R-410A. The cooling seasonal performance factor (SEER) of R-32 is higher than conventional refrigerants. And its peak power consumption is also lower, which helps alleviating power shortages in large cities during periods of high demand.
Furthermore, compared to R-410A, R-32 has a global warming potential (GWP) that is one-third lower, which translates into lower environmental impact.
R-32 has zero ODP (Ozone Depletion Potential), while its GWP (Global Warming Potential) is 675. It can reduce the charging volume by 30% compared to R-410A. All that can result in a 76% decrease in CO2 emissions compared to conventional technology.
Recyclability, then, is another important aspect. R-32, in fact, not being a blend of refrigerants, can be easily recycled. It can be recovered during maintenance operations, for instance, and than reused. That allows to further respect the environment and regulations.
Following safety standards and safe-handling guidelines is the only way to make any refrigerant safe. That is because standards ensure common practices, technological alignment, and legal conformity. So, it is important for refrigerants to comply with international safety standards.
As far as flammability, the International Standard ISO 817:2014 segregates the flammability of refrigerants into 4 categories.
Class 1 (no flame propagation), Class A2L (Lower flammability), Class 2 (Flammable) and Class 3 (higher flammability).
R-32 refrigerant is a Class 2L refrigerant. This class presents the lowest risk off the 4 categories. They are defined by having a burning velocity of less than 10 cm per second. The main characteristic of this low burning velocity refrigerant is that the flame front does not quickly propagate in the horizontal direction. This is because the convection rise due to combustion creates a higher velocity than the burning velocity. This means that a Class 2L refrigerant is not explosive if ignited, because the flame only propagates upwards from the ignition point, while it spreads on a slower pace in other directions.
Also, Daikin performs any kind of risk assessment to ensure its R-32 refrigerant is absolutely safe for end users.
Refrigerants are more than ever necessary since the cooling and heating needs of our world are growing. So, while refrigerant solutions of the past may have had consequences on today’s environment, it is very important to find future-proof solutions to current challenges now. That is Daikin main goal. Contributing to mitigating refrigerants environmental impact with a comprehensive approach throughout refrigerant and equipment lifecycle.
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