After extensive research, testing and evaluation, Johnson Controls has selected R-454B, a lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant, to replace R-410A in its ducted residential and commercial unitary products as well as air-cooled scroll chillers.
Systems using the new refrigerant will be available for Johnson Controls, YORK, Luxaire, Coleman, Champion, TempMaster, Fraser-Johnston, Guardian, Evcon and Quantech branded products in North America, as well as specific international markets where codes are in alignment.
This decision was made as the HVAC industry is preparing to phase out high-GWP refrigerants, such as R-410A, which are now being formally addressed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the recently passed American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act.
The AIM Act directs the US-based EPA to phase down hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) production and use by approximately 85 per cent over the next 15 years.
After evaluating several low-GWP alternatives on a variety of performance and market metrics, such as safety, capacity, efficiency, reliability, availability and longevity, Johnson Controls has determined R-454B to be the best-in-class replacement refrigerant – a decision echoed by other leading HVAC manufacturers.
R454B has the lowest EPA SNAP-approved GWP for unitary applications of all ASHRAE classified A2L (low-toxicity, mild flammability) refrigerants on the market today, coming in at 466. This is one-fifth the GWP of R-410A, far lower than the pending 750 GWP limits being proposed and offering the longest-term viability.
Johnson Controls executive director of regulatory, codes and environmental affairs for ducted systems, Chris Forth, said utilizing R-454B was a clear decision, but one that took years of in-depth research, testing and evaluation.
“This decision maximizes environmental benefits, which will help to avoid, if not completely avert, a second, near-term transition for the unitary sector,” he said.
“As the AIM Act phase-down schedule progresses, higher-GWP fluids such as R-32, while viable today, have the potential to be eliminated as an option due to their high-GWP values. Johnson Controls will continue to evaluate lower-GWP alternatives for future possibilities.”
In addition to reducing environmental impact, R-454B is more compatible with existing R-410A equipment designs, requires less or similar refrigerant charge and can reduce the energy use of HVAC systems and improve system efficiency.
Forth said the similar operating characteristics with R410A will make for a smoother transition for distributors, wholesalers and contractors.
“It’s important to note that these pending mandates from the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) would only apply to the sale of new residential and commercial unitary equipment as well as air-cooled scroll chillers,” he said.
As the pending regulations stipulate a specific manufacturing cut-off date of 1 January, 2025, for residential and light commercial unitary products and 1 January, 2024, for air-cooled scroll chillers, existing R410A equipment built prior to that date can be sold and installed indefinitely.
“EPA and CARB are scheduled to begin their formal rule-making processes this year, which will determine how long of a servicing period will be granted for R410A equipment currently in service,” Forth said.
“As we approach the refrigerant transition cut-off dates, safety standards and building codes must be updated prior to a widespread market introduction of mildly flammable, low-toxicity A2L refrigerants such as R454B.
“Extensive, multi-year research and testing has been conducted by ASHRAE, AHRTI and others to ensure A2Ls can be safely deployed. Proper training will be critical to ensure the safe use, transportation and storage of A2L refrigerants.
“Johnson Controls is committed to ensuring the safe transition to R-454B by providing in-depth training for its contractors and technicians prior to the pending refrigerant transition dates.”