AC industry alerted to risk of flammable gas retrofits

R410A and R32 are not interchangeable as drop-in replacements and could result in serious injury, warns Refcom

The manufacturers’ trade body FETA and the refrigerant handling register Refcom have issued warnings about the growing practice of retrofitting air conditioning systems with mildly flammable gases. Both organisations have sounded the alarm bell after the revelation that some users are removing R410A – a gas that is being phased out as part of the European F-Gas Regulation – and replacing it with R32.

FETA warned that A2L class refrigerants (mildly flammable) such as R32 are not suitable for retrofit projects. ‘A system that was originally designed for non-flammable R410A will not have taken into account the safety factors required when using an A2L refrigerant,’ it said. ‘Systems designed for use with R32 have different pressure-switch regimes, altered inverter profiles, and specially designed heat exchangers.’

Charging an existing system with R32 would breach the refrigerant safety standard EN378, create a potentially hazardous situation, and breach manufacturers’ warranty conditions, FETA continued. This could also invalidate the user’s insurance policy.

Refcom pointed out that R32 has a higher compressor discharge temperature than R410A, so would increase wear on the compressor and significantly shorten its operating life.

It added that unsafe retrofit work was becoming more common because of dramatic rises in the price of certain refrigerants as a result of the phase-down process under the F-Gas Regulation.

Although the operating characteristics of R32 are similar to those of R410A, Refcom pointed out that ‘these refrigerants are not interchangeable as drop-in replacements and serious injury could be the result of improper use’.