The first annual World Refrigeration Day, on 26 June 2019, is an opportunity for the industry to acknowledge the significant role of refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps in many aspects of modern life. To celebrate this inaugural event, Scott Davies from JAVAC discusses the importance of using the correct tools to work with R32 and other A2L refrigerants.
Times are changing… With the F-gas regulations phasing out refrigerants with the highest global warming potential (GWP), air conditioning (AC) engineers are faced with the ongoing challenge of keeping up with the changes. There are many different refrigerants currently in use, with R32 increasingly becoming the refrigerant of choice over R410A as availability of the latter dwindles. This is no surprise as R32 is a lower flammability refrigerant that has a lower GWP than its predecessor R410, 675 compared to a staggering 2088. And with the industry already experiencing a major decline in the availability of R410A, engineers will find themselves needing to work with R32 more and more.
These changes are reflected by AC manufacturers who are now pushing forward with R410A phase out. This year has witnessed some manufacturers phasing out split air conditioning products designed for R410A while there has also been a rise in new higher capacity AC units designed for R32.
R32 refrigerant has many benefits since it enables increased efficiency and lowers carbon emissions, meaning AC systems using R32 are better for both the internal and external environment. However, R32 is mildly flammable and so, with this escalating growth of changeovers to R32, engineers and manufacturers need to understand the importance of having tools that are designed specifically to deal with this mildly flammable gas.
One vital tool in an engineer’s kit is a vacuum pump. However, when working on AC units that use R32 it is essential to use spark proof pumps. Designed specifically for systems where A2L/R32 gases are in use, pumps such as JAVAC’s Bulldog A2L DV spark proof, two-stage vacuum pump have a sealed, spark proof 5m power switch lead and circuit breaker – critical when dealing with the mildly flammable refrigerant. This improves engineer safety and gives peace of mind to those working with R32.
When using a mildly flammable refrigerant like R32, engineers also need to opt for tools that are designed to help avoid overheating. The latest vacuum pumps, such as the Bulldog, include a fan which offers positive air-cooling that channels air over the motor and vacuum pump casing, preventing overheating and also maintaining the temperature at a controlled level. A further feature to avoid issues with high temperatures is an integrated motor that is high torque for low temperature starts. Both these features further improve safety by mitigating the risk of overheating and so the hazards associated with mildly flammable R32.
Another significant install challenge that AC engineers face on site is that the UK operates both single phase and three phase electrical supplies with different voltages. This can prove tricky for engineers since it can mean taking two different vacuum pump units on site, one suitable for each voltage. To overcome this, there are now pumps on the market that are not only R32 ready but also dual voltage. Pumps such as the innovative Bulldog A2L DV pump have a simple switch so engineers can change the unit to suit the voltage making it easy to switch from 115V to 230V as required. This is very convenient on site since it means engineers don’t have to carry two units in their vans.
Not only is the Bulldog R32-ready and dual voltage, it also provides engineers with market-leading reliability. The Bulldog is designed so forced oil lubrication provides lubrication to the bearings and seals, enhancing the life of the vacuum pump while ensuring performance and reliability, meaning fewer call backs. A gas ballast function allows condensable vapours (i.e. water) to be discharged through the pump into the atmosphere instead of accumulating in oil reservoir – avoiding the need to empty the reservoir and eliminates contamination or spillages. With an ultimate vacuum of 1.5 micron and free air displacement 160 L/min the Bulldog offers outstanding performance.
Other engineer-focussed features to look out for when selecting a vacuum pump include a built-in solenoid Isolation valve which isolates on shut down or on power failure, preventing loss of vacuum and eliminating oil returning or contamination, thus protecting the AC system and avoiding time-consuming problems on site. A dual stage oil demister is another useful feature as these effectively filter oil mist, reducing pollution and oil consumption as well as preventing spillages, again avoiding safety issues on site. To further aid engineers on site, the Bulldog is fitted with a tri-connector suitable for 1/4” SAE, 3/8” SAE & 1/2” ACME to ensure it can be used with a wide variety of AC units.
Changing over to R32 may be seen as a daunting prospect to some engineers but this shouldn’t be the case. By understanding its properties and by using tools specifically made for the job, engineers can safely and efficiently work with R32 knowing that they are helping reduce the industry’s impact on the environment.
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