Is R-32 really losing relevance in the refrigerant game?
As misbeliefs can become common, and in time, can easily sediment in peoples’ mind ANSWERING MISBELIEFS is a series of articles breaking downs false myths, with the aim to bring value in the sector and help people make informed decisions when working on Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) projects.
As the F-gas regulation gets more and more stringent, low GWP refrigerants are getting more attention.
What we have witnessed lately in the Applied market is a tendency in the sector to promote R-32 blends as more environmentally sustainable and preferable options to pure R-32, almost as R-32 refrigerant had been losing relevance in the sector.
While the need of having diversity of refrigerant choice in the industry is something to fully support, the above-mentioned idea rises concerns on misleading marketing claims that are not doing any good for the sector.
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Although pure R-32 refrigerant is slightly higher in GWP (vs its blends), from a regulatory perspective there is no limitation whatsoever in its use. This is true both in the Applied sector (commercial and industrial air conditioning) and in the residential. Meaning that R-32, as much as R-32 blends, fully complies with current regulations.
So, why R-32 blends are being promoted as preferable and more environmentally sustainable options? Are they really?
Let’s look take a closer look at R-32 and see if it really is a less sustainable solution, and if the possibility of R-32 to be part of a circular economy of refrigerants can put this option in a different position.
Yes, R-32 can be part of a circular economy of refrigerants for a couple of reasons, which will be explained in the next few paragraphs.
R-32 refrigerant composition
While R-32 blends and pure R-32 refrigerant can be employed on the same product portfolio, those can be quite different solutions. Especially if we consider the characteristics of each refrigerant in terms of composition.
Composition, in fact, puts R-32 in a very different position than blends when it comes to recycling and reclaiming, and that is a major difference.
R-32 blends are being promoted as lower GWP solutions, then, as more environmentally sustainable solutions than R-32. That might be correct if the mere GWP levels had to be compared. But this claim does not consider a key aspect related to R-32 refrigerant: it can be part of a circular economy of refrigerants.
R-32, being a pure and single component refrigerant, has all the characteristics needed to be easily recovered, recycled, or regenerated, so to enter the reclaimed refrigerant market and be reused.
The greater availability of R-32 in the market versus niche alternative options such as blends, makes R-32 an even more suitable option for reclamation, which only makes sense for widely used and largely available refrigerants. Indeed, the market itself has made R-32 a standard, since according to Eurovent statistics, the number of R-32 chiller and heat pump installations is 5 times higher than the sum of installations of Applied R-32 blends technologies. And if also residential installations are considered, then the relevance of R-32 refrigerant is absolutely clear.
The possibility to reclaim R-32 refrigerant opens up a new scenario where R-32 is, without question, an environmentally sustainable choice just as much other options can be, since the possibility to reclaim R-32 completely eliminates the environmental impact of its disposal.
Declaring R-32 refrigerant as a not relevant option in today’s refrigerants landscape is not correct at all. While R-32 is definitely as sustainable as R-32 blends, the possibility for R-32 refrigerant to be recycled or reclaimed, just increases its environmentally friendliness.
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