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  1. #1
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    The R32 Elephant



    R32 has been with us for a year and a bit.

    The first thought is that it is nothing especially different, as the blend of gases is exactly the same as R410a but one of the three gases is missing. Slightly flammable means nothing different, really. The pressures are practically the same so carry on with the same gauges. The install is no different, even with topping up, so no real difference to the installing engineers.

    I went along to the Daikin seminar last year and was struck by the blasé presentation. There was a film of someone (must have been in Asia) who opened up a bottle of R32 to atmosphere (we all held our breath) and he held a spark-lighter in front of the jet of gas, sparking it up to see what happened with the gas. The R32 flashed into flames and, when the lighter stopped sparking, the flames went out. That was to demonstrate that the R32 needed a constant igniter (like a spark-plug in a car or a blowtorch) to create the flames and keep the R32 flames alight.

    And the instructor went on to say that if a room was full of the gas, the speed of the flame from the point of ignition was about (can’t recall exactly) something like one foot per 3seconds, and he assured us all that was “enough time for you to grab your toolbag and get out through the door safely”.

    Well, no worries we all thought. And with distributors taking advantage of the rationing to raise their R410a prices through the roof…… Tally Ho!

    But it’s not all that simple and safe, is it.

    The first thing is to search the internet for “R32” and “Explosion” and you will see a vid of the sidewall of a building blown out from an R32 explosion. And another vid of an engineer disappearing out of shot when working on an R32 condenser. Hmmmmm. They did not mention this in the nice Daikin Seminar, which is strange.

    And when I went looking for an engineer to reclaim the gas from an R32 system that had a leak, they all went a bit wobbly at the knees and said they were busy with 2-3wks work. When I asked around for engineers with an R32 reclaim unit (last autumn) I was surprised to find that none of the engineers I checked with had a shiny-new reclaim unit. One said he had TWO, which turned out to be two R410a units - he was using them for R32, as it was a load of old twoddle, treating R32 the same as R410a.

    I also asked Yellow Jacket about the reclaim unit used by another engineer, to see if it that model was good for R32 (the engineer was unsure and unwilling to use it on R32 btw). The YJ man said it was not quite up to R32 as it did not have all the safety features of the R32 reclaim units. Curious, I asked about the features, what sort they were. One feature was the 5m-cord 'eh, why 5m?' I asked. Well, it was so the switch on the plug was far away from the reclaim unit to guard against a spark at the plug setting off any gas around the reclaim unit (blimey!).

    The YJ man went on to say that when R32 is in the condenser and in the system, it is classed as “Slightly Flammable”. (I knew that.) When it gets reclaimed, as soon as R32 goes into the reclaim unit it is no longer slightly anything – it is a ‘flammable gas’. And when it goes into a reclaim bottle it is a ‘flammable gas’. (omg)

    Hmmmmm. That nice seminar Daikin instructor did not mention anything about this in the Daikin Seminar.

    Talking with engineers about this subject, I have also heard tell of R410a VRF systems being topped or refilled with R32 after leaks/repairs, due to the high cost of 410a. (That was not my engineers but they had spoken with others etc). Blimey. So, subsequent following engineers (unknowing) might come along to such systems, thinking it is pure R410a and use their trusty 410a reclaim unit to reclaim the “r410a” gas and …………………… well.

    Okay, show of hands:

    Who has installed R32 systems? (Quite a few hands)
    Who has reclaimed R32 or is willing to reclaim it? (less hands)
    Who has an R32 reclaim unit with all the safety features (not just an R410a unit)?
    Who is fully trained to handle flammable gases, such as reclaimed R32, and Propane etc?

    Any comments on this?



  2. #2
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    Re: The R32 Elephant

    Good post Makeit go Right...Rep points added
    I'm back on the Pale

  3. #3
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    Re: The R32 Elephant

    I totally agree with Frank.
    A brilliant post.
    I bet your Engineers appreciate your pragmatic approach.
    I recently attended the Flammable pink girly gas course.
    ( No disrespect to those that work with this stuff!)
    Just not a fan of being sold yet another line of Snake oil

    Nothing was a problem!

    Just sign here to say you have applied all the correct risk assessments and by the way if anything goes wrong its your fault! (Corporate answer!)
    Grizzly
    Rep points added.
    Last edited by Grizzly; 10-05-2019 at 06:00 PM.
    Despite the High Cost of Living it still remains Popular!

  4. #4
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    Re: The R32 Elephant

    Ive not worked with R32 yet but i work with R290, R600 and R1270 and have the correct recovery machine and cylinders to recovery the refrigerant.

    When i sat my hydrocarbon course they mentioned about transporting the reclaimed refrigerant and it being classed as flammable gas, when we questioned the safety of transporting it the tutor explained that the cylinder he would be more worried about would be the Acetylene as it would burn longer and quicker than any reclaimed refrigerant.

    As long as you know what your doing on the hydrocarbon units i dont see an issue with working on them, once youve had to braze in new components on a hydrocarbon unit the rest is a breeze

  5. #5
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    Re: The R32 Elephant

    I am facing this at the moment, new multi unit onto new indoor units that can take either R410a or R32.

    LG have both models available, the R410 version is last in the series before they have now switched manufacturer to R32 units and £50 cheaper.

    My thinking is that the R410 unit will be more refined in terms of software whereas the R32 might still need refining when the next revised version comes out.

    Plus the R410 version has the gold fin and the R32 the black fin so a slight difference there.

    Not sure what to do! On paper the comparison is that the R32 is slightly more efficient and forecasted Annual Energy consumption is 33kw more on the R410 unit.

    My concern is around longevity and reliability.

  6. #6
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    Re: The R32 Elephant

    Cooling Post Daikin will change over from R32 to another refrigerant in 2023.
    Didn't last very long did it.
    Gibbo

  7. #7
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    Re: The R32 Elephant

    Found this after you posted. Guess that is the next one:
    JAPAN: Daikin: "Announcing the air conditioning manufacturer’s latest financial figures last week, president and CEO Masanori Togawa told Japanese journalists that the company was employing AI technology to develop a new refrigerant with a GWP of 10 or less. This, he hoped, would be introduced in 2023. He did, however, indicate that, like R32, it would be a 'mildly flammable' A2L."

    This is not too good either, four years and all change again:
    "Plans for a new refrigerant are not unexpected. R32 was only ever perceived by Daikin as a medium-term solution in the drive to reduce air conditioning’s contribution to global warming."

    Last edited by Makeit go Right; 16-05-2019 at 11:35 PM.

  8. #8
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    Re: The R32 Elephant

    Daikin seem to be putting more squeeze on the UK aircon industry by discounting all their remaining stock of R410a kit to get rid of it, with no plans to restock with that old stuff. Oh, no. It’ll just be the sexy R32 kit available from that brand soon. And Mitsi are doing the same thing.

    Maybe it is the right thing to do, but 'slightly flammable' remains a serious health+safety issue in my book, and a particular worry in some applications:

    a) There was a recent post about installing condensers in a boiler room, which was resolved with quoting (non-flammable) R410a systems, rather than the (slightly) flammable R32. That made good sense to me, but how would that option be available in a year’s time when R410a kit is hard to source.

    b) I have recently been discussing aircon to a kitchen with a customer. DX in the make-up was one way to go but splits inside the Kitchen was the winner. The kitchen has gas cookers, so flammable R32 was just too risky here too.

    c) Then there are the great many medium and small-sized Computer Rooms where split systems are quite normal, these days. But I would worry about installing (slightly) flammable R32 aircon units inside such a room with all that switchgear, servers, and other electrical kit, none of which will be flame proof. Phew, bad enough when the aircon goes down, but if the whole room goes up, that is going to be a real flap for any customer (and installer).

    I guess this slide to R32 will continue until the elephant does a decent dump.

    (Just an odd idea: with the HFCs being held responsible for the ozone depletion and thus climate change, and many governments around the world flapping about the damage, why not build some more power stations – ones that produce ozone. I have a little domestic ozonator so the tech is nothing special. I am sure they could build some generators the size of power stations, and then re-populate the ozone layer and save the polar bears.)
    Last edited by Makeit go Right; 05-07-2019 at 01:57 AM.

  9. #9
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    Re: The R32 Elephant

    Over here I can get Daikin in both but only R32 for LG. R410a is available here. R32 isn't as yet.. We stick with R410a where we can...
    Last edited by r.bartlett; 10-07-2019 at 10:02 PM.

  10. #10
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    Re: The R32 Elephant

    In July, I sent an email to the Institute of Refrigeration asking what their view was on the above R32 Elephant, and I assumed it would be passed to the appropriate person and there would be some response. Well, nothing back in these five weeks (not even an ack).

    On 5 August, after noticing an IOR Technical Committee at a recent IOR conference was covering Health & Safety Risk Assessments etc, I wrote to that committee person, asking the same.

    And, just in case he was not quite the right person to speak up for the IOR, I also wrote to President of the Institute of Refrigeration, Stephen Gill, seeking any IOR comments and views on the R32 Elephant. It’s only been ten days so it might be a bit early to feel ignored (very busy people).

    I expect the IOR will come back with: the industry needs to train its engineers to higher standards blah blah, so that they install perfectly safe (flammable) aircon systems, and then there will be no problem. But that is not quite looking this elephant in the eye, is it? First, the IOR would need to specify some minimum engineer qualification before an engineer can touch an R32 system; and secondly, even a perfectly installed aircon system can leak after a few years. I have had at least two Fujitsu room units in the last 3yrs needing their heat exchangers replaced after the bottom copper pipe corroded and leaked refrigerant into the room. (The Chinese manufacturer went stone deaf on the defective design/coil liability, of course.) And brazes inside the room unit can leak, though less likely than the flare joints – seen quite a few flares go after several years operation.

    And after 3-4yrs, who is responsible for the install? Not the engineer/installer, as his warranty on the install will be just one year, and they can rightly say that R32 is now an industry standard and they were properly qualified. Not the distributor or manufacturer – 3yrs on spare parts (or 5yrs if you’re a big spender) but all labour and consequential excluded. Which leaves it with the end user, who knows far less about the relatively higher potential risks of ‘slightly flammable’ R32.

    It really does need a professional body to deal with this R32 elephant and highlight it to government for proper regulation (though I am not really a liker of even more regulations).

    Incidentally, one of our customers asked his insurers if the use of R32 kit in lieu of R410a would have any impact on his premium or cause any additional provisions in his policy – they said no difference.
    No difference, eh?

  11. #11
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    Re: The R32 Elephant

    From doing my own research into this and seeing somebody try to set light to it and failing to get any reaction as well as various videos trying to do the same I really think it has been blown out of proportion how dangerous it is. R32 is basically R410 but without the R125 which makes it inflammable.

    The operating conditions are also very similar, yes pressures and discharge temps are slightly higher but this is managed through limiting compressor hz to achieve the same as R410. Efficiency is also a little better as well.

    If there is a leak then it's easier to recover the gas as you can be sure that what remains is just R32 which is not a blend etc, provided the gas is not contaminated through a compressor burn out for example.

  12. #12
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    Re: The R32 Elephant

    R466A old news

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    Re: The R32 Elephant

    vacuum pumps and evac units used on R32 has to be Ex certified.

    I'm not an expert...

    But as long as the R32 is clean there is nothing to worry about.

    the problem with R32 occurs if there is a leak, or if it's mixed with air (sloppy pressure test and vacuum)...

    if there is air in the R32 system is that you can get something called the diesel effect.

    As you all know, diesel engines doesn't use spark plugs, it ignites simply by pressure, this is what can happen in r32 systems.

    so during pump down, when the correct mixture of R32 and air enters the cylinder, upon compression... it will explode... and the results are catastrophic since the explosion happens inside an already pressurized system.

    Once the explosion happens, you can expect a catastrophic failure of the compressor, rupture of pipes, and the release of liquid refrigerant turning to gas, mixed with oil, and it all turns into a ****storm.

    I've never found the source of this video... but apparently they were just pumping it down with no external equipment connected.

    Skip ahead to 0:45
    -Cheers-

    Tycho

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    Re: The R32 Elephant

    Wow, that's scary!!!
    Mobile A/C at its best, see avatar.
    Bedford. Now retired and trying to relax.

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