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F-Gas Question Time: Industry must simplify A2L switch-over support

Mike Marsden of Clade Engineering has warned during the recent F-Gas Question Time event that parts of industry are still struggling with how best to move to alternative refrigerant

More must be done to simplify the process of supporting companies to switch to lower GWP, lower flammability A2L refrigerant, as has already been seen with other alternative gas products used in cooling, an industry expert has warned.

Mike Marsden, sales director at natural refrigeration systems specialists Clade Engineering Systems, argued during this month’s RAC Magazine F-Gas Question Time that it was still proving a significant challenge to get some parts of the industry to look at alternative products.

Changing over systems that currently run on R404A to technology using natural products or gas with some level of toxicity or flammability, is becoming vital to ensure companies comply with the EU F-Gas regulation.

From January 2020, the regulation’s first service and equipment bans are set to come into effect that will directly impact installation and maintenance of appliances that run on higher-GWP products such as R404A.

Mr Marsden said that while larger contractors were fully aware of the shifting requirements of the F-Gas regulation, the supplier still received a number of enquiries about how to begin moving to alternatives to R404A as it is gradually phased out. He said that there were challenges to try and make part of the industry to look beyond existing non-flammable solutions such as R448A and R449A and undertake longer-term thinking for natural products or those with some form of flammability.

Mr Marsden said, “We are trying to convince people to do something differently. But people are reluctant, because at that level they stick to what they are used to.”

“When you start talking about, whether it be CO2, hydrocarbons or an A2L, it is very difficult to get traction with people on new technologies unless you take them by the hand and lead them.”

Mr Marsden claimed that significant work has been undertaken with CO2 in recent years that has seen growing familiarity among retailers about worked required to move over to the gas.

He said that A2L products, by comparison, needed much more support and work to encourage uptake as different parts of industry look to future proof themselves to F-Gas changes.

Mr Marsden added, “If people are putting in something under 40 kW, right now, they can still stick with R448 and R449. There needs to be a mechanism to simplify it to make those people step from R448 and R449 to an A2L, which is looking to F-Gas longer-term.”

“We need to simplify the process so that people can go from ‘step a’ to ‘step b’ relatively quickly without this additional burden in their minds - which isn’t altogether true - of Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) assessment.”

DSEAR is a regulation that is used to determine anld classify dangerous substances used or present in a working environment that have the potential to cause harm if not properly controlled. It was updated in 2015 to include all RACHP installations.

Martyn Cooper of FETA, who was in the audience for the Question Time event, said during a question and answer session that the organisation was among a number of industry bodies to provide guidance on A2Ls. He added the FETA’s advice was presently in the process of being upgraded to include examples of commercial refrigeration projects for supporting those interested in moving to refrigerant with some level of flammability.

Mr Cooper said that there is a lot of information and visual guides available from trade bodies such as itself, AREA and EPEE that was intended to help industry with some of the challenges to new refrigerant and the equipment needed to handle it.

He added that a first draft of a new risk assessment approach compliant with DSEAR has also received initial feedback that could support A2L products.

Mr Cooper said that further changes to F-Gas regulation, which are anticipated to further reduce the legal level of GWP of refrigerant was inevitable. EPEE is already said to be considering potential amendments.

He said that grave concerns were held that an F-Gas Regulation could be proposed where every reference to GWP levels would need to be under 150.

Mr Cooper added that this was seen as a plausible long-term target at present. He added, “Of course, don’t forget that post-Brexit, the UK - although still committed to F-Gas regulation – has absolutely no influence over it whatsoever, apart from trying to influence by European organisations.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • It will be always difficult to convince engineers of alternatives especially when alternatives involve extra health and safety measures due to flammability and in the absence of clear regulations, recommendations, manufacturers clear guidelines of the dangers especially when advertising products without warnings and misleading reasons that do not put the responsibility on the installer or the End users!!
    We can see the blame culture we are going through as a result of the Grenfell Tower inquiry? Nobody is pointing the finger to what started the fire? Is it a refrigerator? and what refrigerant it had? or am I touching on selfish commercial gains and marketing pressures?

    We must 1st separate Refrigeration and Air Conditioning applications. Refrigeration engineers and companies understand and appreciate the refrigeration cycle and know must qualify before touching the system, while air conditioning engineers only go by what manufacturers say? and what they decide to sell e.g. assuming the ban regarding split ac equipment with a charge of less than 3 kG is not until 2025 NOT 2020 which relates to refrigerants used in the refrigeration industry!!! We need to be serious to avoid another disaster. Neil Afram

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