All refrigerant containers should have one uniform paint color, a light green/gray (RAL 7044), and existing individually assigned container paint colors should be transitioned to that color by 2020.

That’s the word from the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), which has announced significant changes to refrigerant paint color designations in the revised version of its Guideline N, Assignment of Refrigerant Container Colors.

AHRI Guideline N previously stipulated that specific paint colors be used for refrigerant containers as an additional means of refrigerant identification. However, with the increasing number of refrigerants approved for use, there was concern over the potential misidentification of similarly colored containers. More than half the respondents to an AHRI survey of refrigerant handlers found that container colors had caused confusion. According to AHRI, this confusion was likely to increase as new refrigerants are added to the market.

“Misidentifying refrigerants can lead to serious safety issues since refrigerants have different operating pressures and, in some cases, flammable properties,” said Maureen Beatty, who chairs the AHRI committee that oversaw the revision. “It can also cause equipment damage if refrigerants are used in the wrong applications. Therefore, we decided the best course of action for the industry was to update the guideline to ensure that refrigerants continue to be used correctly and safely based on the required product markings and labels.”

The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 49 for hazmat transportation regulations and CFR Title 29 for occupational safety and health regulations require that all hazardous material containers, including refrigerant cylinders and drums, be properly labeled to clearly identify the contents. These container labels and markings should always be used as the primary means to identify the type of refrigerant in a container. Although AHRI guidelines serve as recommendations for industry and are not required by law, most industry members use Guideline N, and all refrigerant users should be aware that the label will now serve as the primary means of positively identifying the type of refrigerant in a cylinder or drum.

AHRI will continue to assign individual PMS ink colors for printed materials only, including the product label on containers and container cartons. The guideline already requires that all flammable refrigerants include a red band on top of the container.

Guideline N is free to download from AHRI’s website.