View Full Version : Topical debate regarding natural refrigerants, share your thoughts.

10-06-2016, 07:06 AM
With progress to natural refrigerants, what is the logic of manufactures supplying market with VRF systems and R 32.
R32 mildly explosive, what ? we mere humans blow up slowly, what ever which way we die quickly or slowly. Cannot figure the logic at all, circulating an explosive component into office spaces and the like.
In the event of a explosion who is liable with current safety regs., I will bet it won't be manufacturers. Will start with building owners, nd the trickle down theory, to joe bloggs that installed and services system.
Defies logical thought to me, what happened to hydronic systems and ok use R 32 out in the open.

10-06-2016, 08:31 AM
Magoo depends on a lot of things.
I am not up to speed on VRF systems & why they would want to do it.
We have a refrigerator which is Butane or something similar with very small charge.
Probably means nothing to the average person.
Have a gas barbecue, could have a gas stove & cook top, no big deal.
A lot of LPG cars as well.
Most people understand those dangers when lighting etc.
If I had a propane or similar VRF would hope it's small charge & designed with safety in mind.
Not very often they leak, but of course does happen.

I could be wrong but a lot of accidents happen because people are not trained or informed hurting themselves or others.
A serviceman who lights up oxy torch near or on these systems is probably not trained or informed.
Would expect some serious labelling on systems that could cause harm.
With our fridg it says if you hear a hissing noise open windows & no naked flame.

JCI built propane or hydrocarbon chillers, all on rooftops for ventilation, now also ammonia on the cards.
Maybe because of big a as accident people very wary, but hope we learn from it.
Believe if flammable is it really necessary as you describe.
Manufacturers can make it, but only if market accepts it or there is a demand & regulations protect the innocent.

14-06-2016, 02:08 AM
Hi Magoo
I think Ranger is right about training and warnings. With gas in houses and cars everyone is aware of the danger. If a gas fitter has to weld a gas line he knows to purge it, so if a fridgie worked on a flammable refrigerant system he should purge it first. Accidents happen when they don't know it's flammable or are untrained and don't realise the danger.
I am not a big lover of flammable refrigerants but I think this is the way we will be going because of the "Green" thing.
I remember a long time ago when the range of Care refrigerants came out in Australia. Some of the bigger plants had explosion proof lights, sealed electrical cabinets and gas detectors everywhere just in case of a leak. This stuff never really took off.
As Ranger said as long as we know the risk and there is correct labelling I can live with it, only for a few more years I might add.

14-06-2016, 06:42 AM
Hi Ranger and Paulz.
Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of natural refrigerants. NH3 has been around for centuries.
Given the public and general hysteria with ammonia, and legislation requirements developed over the centuries, now an equaly explosive refrigerant is introduced with little regard to public safety. Just a warning label will surfice.
Dah!! as Bart would say. VRV/VRF systems with KGS of R 32 in systems, are all enclosures subject to similar regulations to NH3 ?. Highly unlikely. At least everyone knows when ammonia is leaking.
I read somewhere the current death toll attributed to propane or similar related refrigerants in domestic appliances is two as well several homes burnt out, me thinks that will rise. Given now auto a/c systems, domestic heat pumps and now VR systems. Some where there is an out clause of so many cubic meters open area per gram of natural refrigerant., per domestic and commercial application.
Mercedes Benz got pinged for not using natural refrigerants in their car a/c systems, MB concidered propane as unproven safety wise.
Imagine headlines stating " driver survived accident but died when a/c system exploded" that would really piss me off. After getting smacked in the face with air bags, and busted ear drums then die in a flash over.
PS,,,, when R32 burns, if you survive the explosion the R32 produces some seriously narsty chemicals, that will kick in and get you afterwards. a double wammy effect.
Your skin melts, and your butt cheaks will fall off, scrotum will disappear up internally with fright.
Same here Paulz, only a few years to go.

14-06-2016, 07:09 AM
Hi Magoo.
A good day at the Office then my Friend!
Wise words, maybe some who can make decisions will heed them.

Ranger and Paul, both have good points.
My question is how easy is it to leak detect these newer refrigerants?


14-06-2016, 02:33 PM
R32 will only become popular if the sales of R32 units increase to a certain % level.
I fully appreciate that as an industry we have to progress to the next challenge, however R410A systems are still available in great quantities and the more of those that are put in, the longer it will be before we are forced by the manufacturers to change to R32 systems.
Currently, most of the R32 systems are more expensive than R410A so thankfully this is not a useful selling point.
Whilst the EU flammable guidance regulation documents are being rewritten to include 'slightly flammable' as a category and this may take a while, keep on using R410A.

Rob White
15-06-2016, 08:31 AM

My understanding of R32 is it will NOT burn in air under normal conditions.

In the EU it has a new safety classification, A2L. A2 is for slight flammable risk
but the addition of the L indicates that the risk is low. R32 will not normally
burn in air and has to be vented through jets in exactly the correct proportions
with O2 before it will bur.

In air at normal pressures it would not burn and if set on fire it would extinguish

And remember we have been working with R32 for years now because it is 50%
of R410A.



Oh Magoo, in reply to the mildly flammable bit, that means your hair
is only mildly on fire, so no need to worry. :D


16-06-2016, 06:06 AM
Hi Rob.
Haha hair is a distant memory, grows everywhere apart from on the head.
Encouraging comments though about R32, what about homes with gas hot water heaters and pilot flames, let alone businesses etc. OK R 410a is part 32, so things are going to be even more potentially hazardous with full monty R32.
Check your feet, there are more holes in them by your own admission.
Sorry, just want more comments and topical debate from the forum. A bit like pulling teeth at this stage, the old Dah!! factor.

17-06-2016, 07:38 AM
Hi Rob
Yes R32 has been around for a bit as a blend. Yes it does not burn as a blend but it does burn on its own! As it does have an ignition point, flame propagation and lower flammability level.
Under EN378 charge size limitations need to be applied on installs.

I agree with Magoo hydronics is the way forward or backward if looked at from another angle. Smaller refrigerant charges, externally contained, maintenance simpler, easier to modify & install.

17-06-2016, 10:04 PM
Volvo used to have an auto air conditioner in an overjacket If a leak developed the propane went directly into the intake manifold of the engine. Probably made an idling engine run a little fast and not of much use if the engine was not running...Thermoking did something similar for a nose mount I believe.

There would be a lot of considerations before anyone would advocate a hydrocarbon system for a big food processing circuit as a direct refrigerant. Ammonia being what it is, you have a whole different service work orientation than with the CH's....You can put a small drill hole in an ammonia pipe, or crack a gasket, and know right away the truth of the pump out topic......but ammonia pipes largely do not have oil in them. With the CH's and many other refrigerants, even CO2, the oil is a hazard to hot work that largely survives after vaccing.

22-06-2016, 09:46 PM
"Volvo used to have an auto air conditioner in an overjacket If a leak developed the propane went directly into the intake manifold of the engine."

I hope that was before R134a came into use. Burning R134a, whether in open air or in an internal combustion engine, produces phosgene gas. A couple of good whiffs of that can kill you. I'd rather take my chances with a pound of R290 (propane) in an automotive system. At least, when R290 burns, it only produces carbon dioxide and water vapor.

A few years ago I had the experience of walking behind an ambulance that was being loaded onto a flatbed tow truck in a shopping center parking lot. It was being towed because the air conditioning system had developed a leak. The engine of the ambulance had been started to help maneuver it into position and it was ingesting the R134a from the refrigerant leak. What came out the tailpipe was absolutely acrid and nasty, like nothing I had ever smelled from a vehicle exhaust. Fortunately, I was able to hold my breath until I could walk a safe distance away. A lungful of the burnt refrigerant might well have ended my life then and there.:(

It puzzles me why R134a was ever chosen for automotive air conditioning systems, unless it was just to pay tribute to DuPont. R290 would have been the better choice, by far, from the aspects of both safety and efficacy.

23-06-2016, 02:33 AM
Me again.
the best description of a fire or explosion is that it is chemical reaction. Scientifically speaking
OK,. fire or bang = fuel source + ignition source + oxygen.
So hermetic refrig systems with natural refrigerants, eliminates the oxygen part.
So elliminting the oxygen potential part is totally OK, disregard all potential risk factors with smaller applications. I am not convinced.
Recall reading about the very first LNG bulk tanker built, left port fully loaded on maiden voyage. Never seen again. did not arrive at the other end of voyage. OOPs