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A new international standard was approved last week which allows flammable A3 refrigerants such as propane (R290) in domestic air conditioners, heat pumps and dehumidifiers.

After 18 months of revisions the standard was finally approved by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) on 29 April, 2022.

Officially designated IEC 60335-2-40, the new standard allows higher charge limits for hydrocarbons such as R290 in residential applications.

The revised safety standard allows for using a larger charge of flammable refrigerants (up to 988g of R290 in a standard split air-con system) in new equipment designed according to certain additional safety requirements to ensure the same high level of safety as equipment using non-flammable refrigerants.

The new standard is expected to be published on the 24 June. Countries will then need to swiftly adopt the revisions into their national legislation.

Convenor of the IEC working group that shepherded the standard through its revisions was Asbjørn Vonsild.

“The new Edition of IEC 60335-2-40 will enable R-290 [propane] to be used in many A/C and heat-pump systems which were previously blocked from using this refrigerant by the outdated version,” he said.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) welcomed the revisions stating the new standard will potentially represent massive cuts in the emission of climate harming refrigerant gases.

“Hydrocarbons are cost-effective, efficient climate-friendly refrigerants, but due to their flammability they have been restricted to very small charge sizes in cooling equipment,” the EIA said in a statement.

EIA climate campaign leader Clare Perry said the agency had been urging governments and industry to address this issue for many years.

“EIA is delighted to see this critical milestone reached on the pathway to net-zero and clean sustainable cooling,” Perry said.

“This revised standard could not be more timely. The world is phasing out climate-harming hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and we urgently need to adopt future-proof, cost-effective solutions such as propane so as not fall into the trap of buying into another F-gas industry ‘solution’ such as hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), which are laden with environmental and human health concerns.

“With this new standard, we expect the European Parliament and EU member states to recognise that HFCs are no longer needed for a large portion of the air-con and heat pump market and to strengthen the recently proposed EU F-Gas Regulation accordingly,” Perry said.

“This will enable a thousand-fold reduction in direct climate emissions compared with systems using R410A.”

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