[HVAC] The charging limit of flammable refrigerant is raised to 500g, what impact will it have on the industry?


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The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) recently released the new version of IEC60335-2-89:  2019 new standard for integrated commercial refrigeration equipment. The standard increases the maximum charging capacity of A3 (flammable) refrigerants from 150g to 500g, and at the same time increases the charging limit for A2 and A2L (low flammable and slightly flammable) refrigerants from 150g to 1200g.

What impact will the increase in flammable refrigerant charge have on the entire industry? Will this promote the development of hydrocarbon commercial equipment in the global market? The conclusion is undoubtedly affirmative. Once North America implements a higher limit standard for charging hydrocarbon refrigerants, this will have an impact on the commercial refrigeration market, especially commercial refrigeration equipment using low GWP refrigerants.

In the United States, the Hannaford supermarket chain in New England is testing a new water-cooled low-temperature R290 equipment in a new store, and the filling volume per cycle is less than 150g. It also hopes to apply this type of equipment in existing stores. The system maintenance director of the supermarket chain said that there is no need for more fillings of more than 150g, and the cost-effectiveness of the low filling volume system is higher than the large system.

Two retail stores in Texas have used the R290 system for many years, indicating that the system consumes 25% less energy than HFC condensing equipment. If the R290 filling capacity can reach 500g, it will be extended to all stores.

In 2017, the University of Birmingham verified the high energy efficiency of hydrocarbon systems. It quoted Emerson's research and compared the energy consumption and leakage of the integral R290 system with the split HFC, HFO and CO2 pressurization system from the perspective of CO2 emissions. Hydrocarbon systems have lower energy-related emissions and also have the lowest total equivalent warming impact (TEWI), which is 50% lower than R404A and 30% lower than R448.

In Japan, retailers prefer CO2 as a green refrigerant and are not interested in hydrocarbon equipment. Only the hydrocarbon refrigerant evaluation report issued by the Japan Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Industry Association (JRAIA) is likely to change the industry.

However, some Japanese technology suppliers and retailers have begun to deploy hydrocarbon systems. Japan's METRO Cash & Carry company is planning to replace R404A with R290 direct filling system in its existing Japanese stores. Convenience store giant Rosen mainly uses CO2 systems and has also announced preliminary tests of Embraco's direct hydrocarbon charging refrigeration system, which is mainly used in small display cases.

Not only in Japan, but the world has raised questions: whether higher hydrocarbon refrigerant charge will occupy more CO2 system market share. Some experts pointed out that CO2 is more suitable for large-scale centralized systems, while hydrocarbons are the opposite. The person in charge of Emerson Commercial & Civil Solutions said that the impact of hydrocarbons on CO2 is minimal. And those retailers who choose hydrocarbon refrigerants are mainly based on the fact that they are a global chain. For technicians, hydrocarbon integrated systems are easier to install and maintain.

For small shops, hydrocarbon refrigeration systems may be more popular.

Compared with 1.2kg of A2L or A2 refrigerants, what is the impact of higher hydrocarbon refrigerant charge limits? A2L/A2 will only be selected if there are no other options. For the A2L/A2 refrigerant system, the applicable commercial refrigerant equipment has a cooling capacity range.

In Europe, based on the restriction on the GWP value, which must be less than 150, European companies will not consider A2L refrigerants. The cost of propane refrigerant is lower than that of low GWP HFOs. The cost of HFC will increase as the cooling capacity increases.

Some HFO manufacturers are also trying to prevent the adoption of new IEC standards.

Choose 1.2kg of A2L and A2 refrigerant charge limit to match the refrigeration capacity of 500g propane, about 4kW. Of course, A2L manufacturers are preparing to propose higher A2Ls charging limits in a new round of revision of the IEC standard in 2022.


It is expected that a mid-term vote will be held on the limit on the amount of hydrocarbon refrigerant used in room air-conditioning.

As we all know, the charging limit of hydrocarbon refrigerants used in integrated commercial refrigeration equipment has been announced. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is focusing on the charging of hydrocarbon refrigerants used in stationary air-conditioning and heat pump products covered by the IEC60335-2-40 standard. The irrigation limit standard is revised.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) stated that if the draft proposed by the IEC60335-2-40 standard committee for voting is passed in both rounds of voting, a new standard will be issued in 2021.

At present, the hydrocarbon charging limit for factory-made air conditioners and heat pumps is: about 1kg for indoor systems, slightly different depending on the room area; 5kg for outdoor equipment or placed in special devices. Safety measures to support higher filling volume include improving system airtightness, ensuring adequate indoor ventilation and low-leakage valves.

IEC is also planning to revise the split condensing equipment standard, which is not included in the new IEC standard. The current problem facing this equipment is the need to establish a suitable test system.

There are different opinions on the charging capacity of split condensing equipment. Some people think 500g is sufficient, while others say 1500g is needed. Ultimately, this should depend on the needs of users.

In order to support the drafting of the new hydrocarbon charge limit standard, the EU LIFE project provides financial support. The LIFE FRONT project is collecting relevant information, including leak hole size, refrigerant flow rate, cause of leakage, and so on. The standards targeted by this project include EN60335-2-40, EN378 and ISO5149, mainly focusing on household air-conditioning and heat pump products.


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