With the increasing worry about the depletion of the ozone layer, refrigerants that pose a risk have been phased out gradually. These include CFCs(chlorofluorocarbons) and HCFCs(hydrochlorofluorocarbons). They were then replaced with HFCs(hydrofluorocarbons). However, they didn’t provide the intended results since they were identified to increase the global warming effect. The refrigerant industry and the government are working together tirelessly to introduce eco-friendly options.
There are many environmentally friendly refrigerants used in air conditioning that have been introduced over the years to reduce the effect of global warming. Here is what you need to know about them.
The refrigerant industry has placed a lot of emphasis on the use of natural products like propane. However, there are a few concerns about this option. For instance, it might be a good eco-friendly option compared to HCFCs and HFCs but it’s considered highly flammable. Also, it can accumulate in large dangerous amounts and under pressure it contains gas which explodes. Therefore, in high concentration it will lead to suffocation and can cause frostbite.
Due to these disadvantages, propane has not been used as refrigerant in the United States but there are other countries worldwide that adopted its use, especially because it a natural and eco-friendly option. However, as of 2016, it was approved by the EPA (environmental protection authority) for use for commercial refrigeration purposes. When using or handling propane, make sure you follow the following guidelines for safety purposes.
- Remove any ignition or heat sources close to the substance when in use or in storage since it is highly flammable.
- Prepare adequate ventilation to prevent concentration of the gas in large amounts since it might cause suffocation in such a situation.
- Report any leaks immediately they are identified to avoid explosions as well as clearing the area in the event of any leakage. There should be gas monitors to identify any leaks immediately they happen. Note that, propane explosions are large so in the event of one, people should determine the largest safe distance and evacuate to avoid bodily harm.
- No tampering with the parts such as safety relief devices, valves or cylinders. If not checked thoroughly, these parts might cause a leakage that might lead to an explosion.
- Proper storage, in a cool and properly ventilated area without direct sunlight. The ideal place for storing it would be on the ground floor of a detached or isolated building.
These have been presented as a viable alternative. They have a very low potential for global warming and ozone depletion. Yes, they might be more eco-friendly when compared to HFCs but they have some safety hazards comparable in both cases. However, recently, they were granted A2 ratings an indication of low toxicity besides the fact that they are slightly flammable. Note that, if HFO refrigerants leak and start a fire, there’s a huge risk for bodily harm. Although no accidents have occurred yet regarding these refrigerant alternatives but there’s continuous testing being conducted with numerous concerns in mind.
- Carbon Monoxide (CO2)
CO2 is yet another environmentally friendly and natural refrigerant option. Before CFCs were introduced, carbon monoxide was used extensively, especially in the 1930s. The compound is not flammable but there are some hazards associated with it. For instance, when it is heated, it explodes. On the other hand, when it accumulates in large amounts it causes suffocation as well as frostbite.
For safety purposes you need to do the following:
- When handling carbon monoxide or storing it, make sure it’s away from other incompatible chemicals.
- Also, it should always be used or stored under the correct pressure requirements. Check the pressure readings regularly to avoid any accidents.
- All the cylinders holding carbon monoxide should be stored in an upright position. Also, they should not be placed close to emergency exits or areas with a lot of foot traffic since it might tamper with the seals.
- The area where carbon monoxide cylinders are stored should be cool and dry as well as properly-ventilated to avoid dangerous accumulation of the substance.
- Also, it should not be stored in areas with direct sunlight or a lot of ignition and heat sources. Make sure there are no corrosive materials such as salt and many more in the storage area.
- If there’s any leakage when handling or storing carbon monoxide, you should evacuate the area immediately to prevent the side effects mentioned above.
- R 32
Back in 2014, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approved the phasing out of HCFC R22. Over the next years, the availability of the compound dropped dramatically. By the year 2020, it’s expected that R22 will be completely phased out since no imported or new R22 will be in the United States. Since the phasing out of R22, the refrigerant industry has now started utilizing R32.
In 2012, the new refrigerant, R32 was first utilized in Japanese made AC units which were reported to have a very low potential for global warming. Currently, there are blends of HFO and R32 than are being used by a lot of players in the refrigerant industry.
To avoid any mishaps, here are the rules you should follow when handling R32.
- Note that, it is mildly flammable. Therefore, when it comes to storage or handling, make sure it is away from all the possible sources of ignition or heat.
- Also, any air conditioning unit that uses the R32 refrigerant should be installed in an area that’s properly ventilated.
- Finally, there should be gas monitors (which are regularly updated), in any area where R32 is currently being used to warn you of potential leaks whenever they happen.
As mentioned, although the terrible refrigerants are being phased out. There are still a few still in use. However, many people are switching to the alternatives that don’t harm the environment, especially most of the ones mentioned above. It’s important to note that although these refrigerants have been labelled as environmentally friendly, they also have their own share of hazardous side effects. Therefore, the storage and handling procedures should be adhered to for the utmost safety of everyone involved.