Navigating the Transition to R32 Refrigerant

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By Peter Souflias, Director and National Engineering Manager at Grosvenor Engineering Group (Grosvenor)

Navigating the transition to R32 Refrigerant

This year R32 refrigerant, which is one of the most commonly used refrigerants, in Australia has had its low flammable gas grade upgraded to highly flammable from the ATL. R32 refrigerant’s popularity started to gain traction because of its efficiency in conveying heat. It also has one-third lower global warming potential (GWP) and lower environmental impact compared to other air conditioning gases, such as R410A refrigerant.

The HVAC industry is now scrambling to accommodate this change by ensuring staff are adequately trained in the use of R32 refrigerants.

As with anything flammable precautions need to be put in place. The right training is paramount. Properly trained technicians using established installation and servicing guidelines along with appropriate safety measures to fit equipment is very important to reduce issues.

This year Grosvenor trained 30 HVAC consultants via Superior Training College who have developed a comprehensive and fully accredited course in the use of R32 refrigerant. The company aims to have over 400 qualified by the end of 2021.

Ultimately, the future goal is to move towards natural refrigerants such as hydrocarbons to reduce greenhouse emissions. Grosvenor is one company leading this transition however, the entire industry needs to drive the change to have the most impact.

Below are a few questions that need to be asked as we move forward with the changes being made in the HVAC space.

Why are the manufacturers transitioning?

Global markets and the FGAS, HFC Cap, phase down and more energy equipment.

Is there any risk to your business using these new systems with R32 refrigerant?

There are several questions which should be asked in relation to this.

R32 is classified as a Class 2.1 flammable gas by the Safety Data Sheet (Linde Gas) and Class 2.1 gas is listed as a Schedule 11 Hazardous Chemicals in the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017.

Does your SWMS statement / High Risk Construction Work cover off how to safely work with R32 refrigerant?

Any person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must manage risks to health and safety associated with an ignition source in a hazardous atmosphere at the workplace, in accordance with Part 3.1.

Have your OH&S Responsibilities been covered from either an employer or employee perspective? Are you even aware of what these are?

What makes a person competent to carry out an installation of this new R32 equipment?

Is a “Manufacturer Training session sufficient” or do you need to complete the Nationally Recognised Course VU22583, Handle Class A2/A2L Flammable Refrigerants and Natural Refrigerant courses

Where’s your evidence of adequate training, if an accident or incident occurs, is a Manufacturer Training session sufficient to cover your liability?

If flare fittings are used on the R32 equipment, air conditioning unit must comply with the requirements of AS 60079.10.1, Clause ZA., considering the hazardous zone around a flared fitting when the pressure at the joints exceed 2000 kPa. Do you understand this?

Have you applied Occupational Health and Safety legislation (NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017), specifically in regards to Division 8 Hazardous atmospheres and Managing risks to health and safety in regards to the concentration of flammable gas, exceeds 5% of the LEL for the gas?

Have you identified the hazardous zone and advised the electrician that the electrical fittings within the hazardous zone need to comply with AS3000, Section 7.7.1?

Have you advised the owner of the strata’s and or individual owner to advise their insurer if Hazardous refrigerants are installed?  Did you document it?

How many of the above questions were you able to answer successfully?

Grosvenor understands the challenges that government, consultants, builders, developers, air conditioning manufacturers, and HVAC contractors are all going through with the new R32 refrigerant guidelines. It is so critical that everyone understands that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability.

The business has compiled a free information pack to help answer the above questions and more on this important topic.

Register now to obtain a free R32 information pack.  Email: [email protected]