Specifier Review

Panasonic’s guide to R32

After successfully leading the introduction of R32 in Japan, Panasonic is ready to drive the refrigerant change in Europe. The company has already introduced R32 models to the Nordic market in September 2015, with its outstanding A+++/A+++ HZ-Series, and now, Panasonic is set to introduce new R32 models across the rest of Europe within the coming months. Panasonic will also be offering comprehensive training and information on R32 over the coming months, to help distributors and installers get to grips with the new technology.

On 9th June 2014, the EU F-Gases Regulation came into force with the aim to protect the environment by reducing emissions of F-gases from refrigeration and air-conditioning units, electrical switchgear, heat pumps, fire-protection systems as well as other sources.

Classified at a grade of A2, R32 gas is a mildy flammable gas. Dispelling the concern surrounding this flammability score, Marc Diaz, Country Manager at Panasonic Heating and Cooling UK & Ireland comments: “R32 has been used for many years, making up 50% of current R410A gasses. Not only is it a more efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to R410A, but it is equally as safe to use. There have been concerns surrounding the fact that R32 gas is partly flammable, however, this gas is extremely difficult to ignite. In the rare case a fire were to start, R32 burns at a slower speed than walking pace, at 6.7 cm/s as opposed to Propane’s burning velocity of 46 cm/s, reducing the likelihood of any damage.”

Marc Diaz continues: “Under normal, everyday circumstances, R32 possesses no risk to the air conditioning systems or work environment. There is no possiblity of an ignition caused by a spark within the machine or in the magnetic switch of a power panel.”

Only under extremely specific circumstances might ignition occur. An example of this would be when ignition energy is applied whilst the gas concentration of R32 is between 13.3% and 29.3%. This gas concentration materialises at a level at which oxygen deficiency can occur (18% oxygen concentration or below), an environment in which people will not work in.

When exposed to high temperatures R32 will, like all HFC refrigerants, break down into three components: carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen flouride, which converts to hydrofluoric acid, a toxic substance, when it comes into contact with water. It is important to remember that this is the case for all commonly used HFC refrigerants; indeed this process clearly indicates how important it is for those working in the refrigeration sector to be mindful of safe and proper working practice at all times.

Indeed R32 has a number of other attributes which make it an attractive alternative, including:
R32 reduces charging volume by 30% compared to R410A
R32 has higher efficiency (10% compared to R410A) => Higher COP and EER R32 delivers better performance at extreme outdoor temperature

The EU F-Gases Regulation follows previous research which revealed that R32 could be an attractive solution with a low-global warming potential (GWP) for air conditioning and heat pump installation, with performance comparable to R410A. The results were in favour of R32, in terms of efficiency and cost as a suitable replacement for R410A. R32 has been used as a component of both R407C and R410A for many years, and makes up 50% of R410A.

R32’s use as part of R410A means that the installation of the refrigerant should change little from current procedure. The pipework and testing is the same but different tooling may be needed during installation, such as recovery systems and leak detectors. The major difference is that R32 is mildly flammable, which means it must be properly ventilated when being charged and recovered, because if the gas builds up it can be ignited by a naked flame. However, this should not present a significant issue to installers, as currently if R410A separates into its component gases then R32 is present

Other Key points
R32 has a GWP of 675 compared with R410A’s GWP of 2,088
R32 can be more energy efficient than R410A
Smaller charges result in heat exchangers and other components being more compact
R32 is rated as A2L – there is a low risk of accidents due to toxicity (A), and low risk of flammability (2L)
As a single component refrigerant, R32 is easier to reuse and recycle
The boiling temperature of R32 is similar to R410A, slightly higher than R22
It is easy to handle because it doesn’t fractionate

The move towards R32 is part of an overall strategy to reduce the impact of refrigerants on the environment. In 2020 refrigerants such as R404A and R507, with a GWP higher than 2500, will be banned for use in stationery units and will have to be converted to R407A. By 2025 refrigerants with a GWP greater than 750 will be banned for use in splits air conditioning units, and in 2030 use of R410A, R134A and R407C will be heavily restricted.

Panasonic is continuing to develop new products that incorporate R32. More information on these products will be announced over the coming months.

For more information, please visit www.aircon.panasonic.eu