What a difference a year makes! At last year’s AHR Expo, I lamented the fact that most of the educational sessions concerning refrigerants were rather general in nature and focused more on the past rather than the future. This year, it was completely different, with numerous manufacturers and industry organizations getting specific about the next generation of low-GWP refrigerants.

Daikin and Arkema, for example, were both eager to talk about R-32, which is their choice to replace R-410A in many space cooling products. At a press conference at the Expo, Philip Johnston, general manager at Daikin Applied, explained that because it is a pure single component, Daikin believes that R-32 is the most balanced and ideal refrigerant to replace R-410A for certain residential, light commercial, and applied air conditioning applications.

“R-32 is not a new refrigerant, and it is a trusted commodity in the industry,” he said. “In addition, there are no patents on the molecule or on the production process to make it, which helps make it more affordable. For those in the field, R-32 is simple, stable, and inexpensive to install and maintain, because it is a single component refrigerant. That matters, because it can be topped up and recharged in the field in both the liquid and gas phases without changes in the composition in that blend or mixture. It can easily be cleaned and reused right on site, and R-32 can be reclaimed and recycled off site with a simpler cleaning process than blends.”

Johnston added that because of its thermodynamic characteristics, an R-32 system will have 40 percent less charge than a system using R-410A, while offering 10 percent more capacity than R-410A and up to 8 percent more energy efficiency than R-410A.

Chemours, on the other hand, was interested in talking about Opteon™ XL41 (R-454B), which is its low-GWP alternative to R-410A. At the booth, Diego Boeri, vice president of fluorochemicals at Chemours stated that R-454B, with a GWP of 466, is the ideal replacement for R-410A for a number of reasons.

“In Europe, the average GWP phasedown is about 80 percent from the current 2,500 GWP baseline, so you must be below 500 GWP on average in your portfolio,” he said. “In the U.S., there is not yet a phasedown, but it is coming. So, do you want to use something that will not take you until the end?”

In addition, R-454B is very design compatible with R-410A, so it’s a less significant conversion for most OEMs, said Boeri. For example, it is miscible and compatible with existing POE lubricants, and its pressures and overall operating envelope are more compatible with existing R-410A units. R-454B also offers comparable capacity with improved energy efficiency (up to 5 percent, depending on system design and conditions), and its discharge temperatures are a closer match to R-410A.

“In this period of uncertainty, having a solution that can be used in an existing air conditioning factory line brings value,” he said. “Our solution, R-454B, has been chosen, because it provides a solid foundation both financially and environmentally, making it the optimal choice.”

Replacements for R-134a were also front and center, with Chemours highlighting Opteon™ XP10 (R-513A), a low-GWP, nonflammable, A1 refrigerant, which offers a cooling capacity and energy efficiency match for R-134a. R-513A is designed for use in chillers and commercial refrigeration applications and can be used in new or retrofitted systems.

Arkema’s new replacement refrigerant for R-134a -- R-516A -- is a near drop-in and long-term solution with an ultra-low GWP of <150 that is designed for use in heat pumps, chillers, and commercial refrigeration. It is a close match to R-134a in terms of capacity and efficiency and has zero glide.

Honeywell announced the launch of Solstice N15 (R-515B), a new, A1, nonflammable and low-GWP refrigerant replacement for R-134a for use in chillers and heat pumps. The new refrigerant, with a GWP of 299, will be commercially available this year and because it is nonflammable, it can be used immediately by chiller and heat pump manufacturers.

As can be seen, there was a lot of exciting news about refrigerants at the Expo this year. Hopefully by next year’s Expo, there will be more clarity surrounding the use of A2L refrigerants, such as R-32 and R-454B. And maybe – just maybe – manufacturers will be able to let us know when their equipment will be available that utilizes these new low-GWP solutions.

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!