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Essential reading

Jane Gartshore explains the IOR’s safety code for flammable refrigerants

With the increased use of R290 (propane) and R1270 (propene) in commercial systems, particularly in the retail sector, reliable guidance on safety is of paramount importance.

Manufacturers are increasingly turning to the Institute of Refrigeration for guidance. Fortunately, the IOR’s Code of Practice for flammable refrigerants published in 2008 can provide them with the information they need. With this, they will be able to safely apply hydrocarbon refrigerants in their systems, from commercial
appliances to chillers and split AC systems with charge sizes above 150 g.

The IOR code for flammable refrigerants is indispensable reading for anyone designing hydrocarbon refrigerant systems. It takes guidance from the latest revision of EN378:2008 (Refrigerating systems and heat pumps - safety and environmental requirements) and shows how it is applied in practice.

It defines minimum standards for safety in the design, installation, commissioning and service for systems which use flammable (group A2 and A3) refrigerants.

The Code was prepared by the IOR Technical Committee, with input from members who have in-depth expertise in the application of flammable refrigerants and the associated standards.

Key areas of guidance in the safety code of practice are:

  • Properties of common (and uncommon) flammable refrigerants;
  • Component design;
  • System design and installation, including useful flow charts to determine maximum allowable charge amounts and room sizes;
  • System testing and commissioning;
  • Maintenance, including typical schedules and guidance on repair;
  • Documentation.

An important area covered is the assessment of electrical devices, to determine if they are sources of ignition. The code outlines the leak simulation test which should be carried out if potentially sparking electrical devices are used.

The test will show if these devices are safe in the event of a worst case leak, or if they should be replaced with sealed or solid state types or sealed into an IP67-rated electrical box.

The code also includes guidance on minimum air flow rates, so that in the event of a leak the flammable refrigerant is dispersed.

The IOR Service Engineer’s Section has a good practice guide for service engineers on handling flammable refrigerants in commercial applications. This covers key aspects such as risk assessment, cylinder transport, charging procedures, recovery, repair and leak detection.

The hydrocarbon safety code is one of a series published by the Institute in 2008. Other subjects include A1 refrigerants (nonflammable), ammonia and carbon dioxide refrigerant. They can be downloaded from www.ior.org.uk

Jane Gartshore is president of the IOR