The R410a refrigerant has a high GWP value (2088), in line with European Union guidelines, it should be eliminated from use. At the split air conditioning market, R410a is less and less appropriate, however, it is still strongly positioned as the preferred refrigerant for A1 VRV / VRF solutions.
Classification – A1 is a key issue when searching for alternative solutions for the structures currently requiring R410a. Assuming the alternative refrigerants R452b, R454b or R32, it appears that although they may be the solution for new equipment, all of these refrigerants are eligible in class A2L (flammable) and additional requirements must be met in order to satisfy safety requirements.
The stringency of the R410a withdrawal may be dictated by the fact that split air conditioners are still placed on the market using it. An additional obstacle could be the approach of customers who are unaware of the nature of the problem with regard to the risk posed by the use of R410a in domestic or commercial equipment. From a customer perspective and therefore a demand, this is the case that there is no need for a rapid change. This perception is also convenient for smaller installers.
The majority of buyers hearing about the very high GWP or the “phase-down” idea do not respond until you change the narration a bit, talking about the real threat that it is a highly toxic refrigerant, then people become restless and prefer to avoid installing the device using this refrigerant at their home or office.
The evaluation of the Regulation on fluorinated greenhouse gases is under discussion in Brussels. It is necessary to examine whether further restrictions are necessary in this respect. Probably without more stringent rules to be imposed by a decision of the European Union, the subject will not be finally resolved. The work on the assessment of the situation is planned to be completed at the end of 2021 and its outcome will be announced. Will Brussels decide, for example, to phase out all refrigerants with a GWP higher than 1500 more rapidly? If this were the case, the market would have to accelerate the steps toward obtaining alternative refrigerants, with lower GWP values
Since January 2021, in order to achieve the European greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, a Regulation on fluorinated greenhouse gases has been formulated which requires a further reduction of the quotas by 18 per cent.
The situation is different for solutions available at the commercial and industrial refrigeration market. The substitution of high GWP refrigerants by low GWP indicator refrigerants accelerated in 2018 due to the ban on R404a and the gradual reduction of quotas.
We see progress in split, grille, multi-split and VRF-s systems where R410a is used less often, but it depends on the equipment and alternatives offered. R32 with GWP 675 is a choice for small new systems such as split systems and air heat pumps. Most major manufacturers are aware that cooling refrigerants with a GWP indicator higher than 750 may be used only until 1 January 2025 for a single split air-conditioning system with a volume less than 3 kilograms. Some producers extend the product range by offering R32 in VRV / VRF systems, thus following the recommendations of EN378, which indicates how much refrigerant can be used in certain areas. Everything depends on the classes (toxicity class and flammability class) in which the refrigerants are classified.
In the discussion on whether refrigerant has the chance to succeed as an alternative or not, the key aspects are GWP indicator, thermodynamic properties and a design concept within the framework of existing legislation.
The common alternative is R470a, the new non-flammable R410a replacement with GWP 909. Importantly, R470a has comparable thermodynamic efficiency to R410a and at the same time enables users to replace R410a in existing units at relatively low costs, with minimal structural changes. R470a is also compatible with the lubricants normally used with R410a, eliminating the need to replace the existing oil. Some may say it is also a better substitute than R32 because R32 can be used as an alternative to R410a only in new equipment, but it is not suitable for use in an existing appliance because it is flammable. The R470a can therefore be considered not only as an alternative to R410a but also as an upgrade solution which significantly reduces the costs of the entire operation.
Let’s note that not all air-conditioning systems are filled with R410a, so it is worth look at R515b (Honeywell refrigerant, commercial name Solticce N15), which is also part of a non-flammable group and has a low GWP (293).
When analyzing options we need to remember that the R515b refrigerant was not originally developed as an alternative to R410a but only as an alternative to R134a (GWP 1.430). R515b has a low GWP and A1 rating, allowing R134a to be exchanged in automotive air conditioning systems, coolers, heat pumps or other air conditioning systems under extreme conditions. The R515b is also important for the characteristics because it has an efficiency equivalent to R134a and a much lower discharge temperature. It also has the advantage of being able to operate in areas with high ambient temperatures thanks to a low adiabatic factor reducing the compression heating