HyChill Australia general manager, Mario Balen, explains why hydrocarbon refrigerants are deserving of much greater recognition.

As an advocate for natural refrigerants and a true believer in the supremacy of hydrocarbons as an excellent refrigerant, I was disappointed by the release of the Flammable Refrigerant Guide which demonstrated a bias toward synthetic refrigerants.

The guide was a joint project between Refrigerant Reclaim Australia, automotive thermal and electrical trade association VASA and GHD Engineering, on the use of flammable gases, in an automotive workshop environment.

Interestingly, it was released at a time when the use of natural refrigerants is growing worldwide, particularly hydrocarbons. Just recently the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) increased the charge limit for A3 (flammable) refrigerants from 150g to 500g and increased the charge limit for A2 and A2L (low flammable) refrigerants from 150g to 1,200g in self-contained commercial refrigeration cabinets.

This increase is good news but there is still a long way to go, as there are many who believe the increase was too small.

Reading the guide it’s clear that instead of working constructively on how to ensure hydrocarbon use is made safe, easy and effective, the authors of this guide focused on restricting its use.

The Guide lists HFO R1234yf as A2L lower flammability, R12 and R134a as A1 not flammable and hydrocarbons as A3 higher flammability.

The guide rightly states that both A2L and A3 categories fall under the same provisions when it comes to the Dangerous Goods classification – they are both classed as 2.1 Flammable. For years, though, they have been trying to ignore the fact, known to every mechanic and technician who has ever dabbled in air conditioning, that even R12 and R134a, once mixed with oil inside the AC system, becomes highly flammable. As we all know AC systems are inherently designed to handle a flammable, pressurized compound that is circulating inside it.

The Guide also forgot to mention that such reputable brands as Daimler-Benz refused to use R1234yf, believing it has the potential to become extremely toxic when heated!

At present, R1234yf costs up to 10 times more than R134a and up to 25 times more than Minus30 hydrocarbon blend (per car charge).

Although R1234yf and hydrocarbons fall under the same Dangerous Goods code, the guide implies that once R1234yf is transferred from a cylinder on the shop floor to inside a car it magically becomes less flammable.

The differential treatment of these two refrigerants by the authors of this guide is misleading. As a result I believe the information provided is incomplete.

Hydrocarbon refrigerants are here to stay. Enjoy the benefits and savings they bring to your AC system and the environment!

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