MISSISSAUGA, Ontario, Canada — In a further step to increase public awareness about the risks of using flammable refrigerants in home and office air conditioning systems, the Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) is approaching provincial fire marshals, starting with the Ontario fire marshal’s office, seeking action on this potentially hazardous product.

HRAI released a statement revealing that fire services could be at an additional risk when responding if the building has a highly flammable hydrocarbon refrigerant in its air conditioning system.

Mass marketers and retailers are promoting to home and building owners a hydrocarbon refrigerant do-it-yourself (DIY) kit as a replacement refrigerant gas for residential or commercial air conditioning systems. Unlike the nonflammable refrigerants used by qualified air conditioning technicians, hydrocarbon refrigerants are made up of a mixture of propane and isobutene and are extremely flammable, similar to the gas in a barbecue grill tank.

The use of such a flammable refrigerant in a home or building can create a serious fire and explosion risk as heating and air conditioning systems typically involve combustion flames and spark igniters that are potential ignition sources. A leak in the refrigerant system could bring flammable vapors in contact with an ignition source, with potentially fatal consequences, stated the HRAI.

“With the air conditioning season nearly here, Canadians need to be aware that flammable refrigerants used in home or business air conditioning systems can create the potential for a serious explosion and fire, which could result in injury or death,” said Warren Heeley, president, HRAI. “It is time government authorities, including provincial fire services, take action on this potential hazard.”

In their fire marshal message, the HRAI shared that, in addition to the potential for fire and explosion, the refrigerants used in these DIY kits are not approved for use in air conditioning systems already installed in the home or business and use of such gases could cause environmental damage if the existing refrigerants in these systems are not properly recovered. Improper mixing of the existing refrigerant with the DIY hydrocarbon refrigerant could also have a negative impact on the operation of the air conditioning system, potentially causing added repair or replacement expenses to the home or building owner.

Prior to purchasing hydrocarbon refrigerant DIY kits, home and business owners should be fully aware of the potential hazards and liability of using hydrocarbon refrigerants in air conditioning systems.

Publication date: 7/1/2013

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