10 things technicians should know about next generation refrigerants

Refrigerants are exponentially improving as the demands for eco friendliness and energy efficiency increase. New, alternative refrigeration gasses have become mainstream – dominating the HVAC&R market. HFCs are becoming a thing of the past and with expanding research and growth of HFOs (Hydrofluro-Olefins), HCs (Hydrocarbons) and CO2. Training of HVAC&R technicians is essential.

Here are 10 things technicians should know about next generation refrigerants:

  1. HC refrigerants have low GWP, and their energy efficiency lowers operating costs, however, they are flammable. Ignition can be triggered under the following condition: the right combination of air and electrical spark (eg. On/off switches, lights, torches etc.)
  2. HC is close to odourless and a leak can cause health issues. To avoid this, regularly service the compressor and inspect the air conditioning system before opening it.
  3. Technicians should always use OEM, approved and standardised replacements – never use counterfeits.
  4. When it comes to CO2 refrigerants (all natural refrigerants actually, such as ammonia and propane), high pressure is a real danger. This is what our BITZER expert has to say about it: “at a room temperature of 22.2°C, the pressure is 59 bar. So, when performing service on a CO2 system, a technician should treat the closing of any two valves that trap CO2 vapour, just like trapping liquid of a lower-pressure refrigerant and should be aware that a rapid pressure increase can occur.”
  5. Technicians should be aware of the flammability of HFOs.
  6. HFOs can lead to skin, eye and throat irritation in its acidic form. Its high solubility in water attribute, combined with exposure to high temperatures leads it to form an acid.
  7. New refrigerants are more soluble in the lubricating oils than others. To prevent the refrigerant from degassing, be cautious with superheating. This could lead the compressor carrying over oil and performing poorly.
  8. It is important to learn the names of the new refrigerants, their safety designations and the new jargon. For all this important information, see BITZER’s refrigeration app available for Apple and Android devices. Also see BITZER’s Refrigerant Report 19.
  9. Mostly, new refrigerants are blends of common HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) and HFOs and sometimes HCs. Because of this, technicians should be aware that mixtures leak at uneven rates due to different vapour pressures. It is therefore advised that the refrigerant be completely removed (not into the environment) and replaced rather than topped up.
  10. With the rate of production of new and better refrigerants, technicians need to participate in non-stop learning about current and future compressors.
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