There is an increasing demand for flammable refrigerants for use in HVAC due to their low-global warming potential (GWP), yet they also have the potential to pose an increased hazard.

Several lower GWP refrigerants are already available in Australia, such as ammonia, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons. Each of these natural alternatives to HFCs (hydroflourocarbons) have hazard characteristics that are different from those of the commonly used HFCs.

Ammonia has high toxicity and medium flammability, carbon dioxide operates at a higher pressure when used as a refrigerant than fluorocarbons,  and hydrocarbons are non-toxic but highly flammable

AIRAH, the recognised voice of the Australian HVAC industry, has now produced a video to promote the safe use of flammable refrigerants.

“As the world moves away from using high global warming potential refrigerants, we’re seeing an increase in the use and popularity of more flammable alternatives,” said AIRAH COO Neil Cox. “Be it hydrocarbons, or new blends and HFOs, it’s crucial that these refrigerants are handled safely by everyone involved.”

The new video promotes the Flammable Refrigerants Safety Guide, which AIRAH published in July last year, and emphasises the need for safety in all aspects of dealing with flammables.

the video covers the health and safety risks associated with the use of flammable refrigerants.

“The key to using these refrigerants is safety and a lot of training,” said Kevin Lee, from the Flammable Refrigerants Taskforce. “This training is vital for the industry because of an experience I’ve had myself; I have witnessed the aftermath of a flammable refrigerant accident.”

One of the key messages in the video is that A2 and A3 flammable refrigerants are not suitable drop-in replacements for non-flammable A1 refrigerants.

“A system that was designed and manufactured for an A1 refrigerant will not have the electrics suitable for flammable refrigerants,” said Lee. “So when we talk drop-in replacement refrigerants you should only change from one drop-in replacement refrigerant to another one of the same safety classification.”

The Flammable Refrigerants Safety Guide covers the health and safety risks associated with the safe design, manufacture, supply, installation, conversion, commissioning, operation, maintenance, decommissioning, dismantling and disposal of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment and systems that use a flammable refrigerant.