As the refrigerant transition occurs, safety standards and building codes must be updated. Many of the next-generation refrigerants are classified as “lower flammability”: in order to break up in the atmosphere and reduce global warming impacts, the bonds must be looser—which means an increased level of flammability compared to some of the common refrigerants today. These refrigerants were put into a new category “2L” (explained below) which falls between the no flame propagation and flammable refrigerant categories. Standards and codes create common practices for application, installation, and repair of equipment, as well as create a legal framework for compliance. Additionally, they provide a technological baseline that advances innovation.
The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) has created the Safe Transition Task Force to accelerate A2L adoption in the United States. Major stakeholders—including equipment, component, and refrigerant manufacturers; other industry associations representing contractors; safety groups; and energy advocates—all have a voice in the task force.
Safety standards are created by technical committees and address technical issues. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 34 is the refrigerant classification standard, UL 60335-2-40 is the equipment standard, and ASHRAE 15 is the application standard. ASHRAE 34 classifies safety group for refrigerants: they are either A (lower toxicity) or B (higher toxicity), and 1 (no flame propagation), 2L (lower flammability), 2 (flammable), 3 (higher flammability). For example, R-410A is an A1 while R-290 (propane) is an A3. R-32, along with other next-generation solutions, is an A2L. These safety standards have been updated to address A2Ls.
Model building codes, meanwhile, are created by special trade groups and focus on practical aspects, adopting the safety standards. There are several model buildings codes—the International Building Code (IBC), the International Fire Code (IFC), the International Mechanical Code (IMC/UMC)—which operate on three-year update cycles. States and other jurisdictions can then adopt a model code, an updated version, or amend their building codes on their own. Industry has been working to update the model codes as well as the state codes.
Excerpted from: Legislation Driving the Next Generation of Refrigerants: Updated April 2021
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