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IEC amends hydrocarbon charge size limits after vote reversal

Initial industry respones appear mixed after motion to increase charge size for flammable refrigerants is passed due to the rejection of a dissenting vote for procedural reasons

A narrow International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) vote to reject extending the amounts of flammable gas allowed in refrigeration cabinets has been overturned. The new charge sizes will now come into effect after Malaysia’s vote against the amendment was disallowed.

motion previously put forward to the IEC backed increasing the allowable charge size for hydrocarbons, as defined under the IEC 60335-2-89 standard, to 500g from 150g.

The Hydrocarbons21.com site has reported that the initial decision announced by the IEC last month was subject to a recount owing to Malaysian representatives having their vote rejected for failing to provide a required justification statement to support their decision.

Mixed reactions

Industry responses have so far been mixed to the announcement, with a key divide being the nature of potential safety challenges in using larger quantities of refrigerant with some level of flammability in systems.

Graeme Fox, senior mechanical engineer with industry body BESA, said he was disappointed that changes were being introduced for what he believed were political reasons that did not account for existing evidence on the issue of charge sizes. Mr Fox argued that repeated evidence had shown that issues remained over the safety of allowing larger charge sizes for highly flammable refrigerants.

Proponents for backing the revised charged sizes have previously noted that a number of concerns could have been addressed during the committee stage after the approval.

However, Mr Fox said that this assumption would be based on the perspective that all manufacturers work exactly to the letter of the law and address safety considerations as required.

He added, “Whereas we all know there have been many cases of cheaper white goods which have not addressed the safety aspects of using highly flammable refrigerants with catastrophic consequences. Some cheaper brands will undoubtedly pay lip service to the standards and do something completely different with the end users and contractor engineers paying the price.”

Others in the industry have backed the IEC decision to introduce the new charge sizes.

Stephen Benton, director of training and consultancy group Cool Concerns, said that the announcement of the charge size amendments would be seen as a positive step for the cooling industry as F-Gas quotas continue to be reduced.

Mr Benton, who has worked with flammable refrigerant since 2001, said manufacturers would be able to move ahead with innovation that can support goals to move away from higher GWP products.

He added, “The approval of the standard will mean that the remainder of the world can build on the success story of lower GWP flammable refrigerants with confidence in terms of both safety and environmental performance. It will remove perceived barriers in using larger charge sizes of flammable refrigerant.”

“The standard is well placed to ensure a level of safety that has been demonstrated with 150g of flammable refrigerant for well over a decade and this was a prime mandate for the working group.”

Mr Benton noted that the new charge size limit was now 500g for higher flammability refrigerant, classed as A3 products, and 1.2kg for A2Ls with lower levels of flammability.

He said, “This will give manufacturers far more scope in the selection of compressors, heat exchangers and components to achieve required system capacities in products under the scope of the standard (which now includes ice makers).”

Readers' comments (1)

  • I said it before "What is the difference between Brexit and Flammables?" and the answer is still the same, confusion!! Brexit will not burn or kill, but Flammables might!
    The reason for recounting is a joke "was subject to a recount owing to Malaysian representatives having their vote rejected for failing to provide a required justification statement to support their decision"
    Are we serious?
    This is Safety at its lowest performance folks.
    Don't we think, that who ever is playing the environmental game, have the decency, care or the balls to display a clear warning signs on their flammable products! AND make sure end users and operators aware that what they have in their home, office, restaurant, school, hospital, computer rooms, etc equipment ( refrigerator etc or AC unit) that have FLAMMABLE substances ? and clear visible signs not HIDDEN ? why not? Why doesn't the IEC doesn't insist that clear warning signs should be displayed ? Surely they know that there are extra risks?. Don't treat engineers and endusers as sheep!. There are more ways to skin a cat ;). Neil Afram

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