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The HVACR industry is in the middle of another refrigerant transition, as HFCs such as R-410A and R-134a are being phased down in favor of lower-GWP refrigerants. Many of these new solutions were featured at the AHR Expo, as refrigerant manufacturers highlighted their low-GWP refrigerants for both air conditioning and refrigeration applications.


Changing Dynamics

The AHR Expo is a great opportunity to catch up with customers who understand the changing industry dynamics and also educate the community about the importance of A2Ls like Forane R-32, said Scot Swan, business manager at Arkema.

“Arkema’s Forane refrigerants have supported the industry through multiple environmental and industry-specific changes for over 60 years,” he said. “As we look forward, we will continue to provide more sustainable, AIM Act-compliant refrigerants to the market. We’ve been here for it all.”

To that end, Arkema highlighted Forane R-32 and R-516A. R-32 is newer to the market as a stand-alone refrigerant but has been used in blends for several years. It has excellent thermal dynamic properties and its low GWP of 675, coupled with its availability globally and compliance with the AIM Act phasedown, make it an excellent replacement for R-410A, said Swan.

With regulations across the globe shifting refrigerant standards to low-GWP alternatives and pushing energy efficiency standards to higher levels, Arkema developed the very low-GWP refrigerant, Forane R-516A, to replace R-134a in low- and medium-temperature applications in refrigeration, chillers, air conditioning, and heat pumps. Forane R-516A provides a 90% GWP reduction, while offering potential energy savings over R-134a and other alternatives.

Aside from highlighting its new low-GWP offerings in the booth, Arkema drew attention to the Debra H. Kennoy Scholarship for women in HVACR fields, which will hopefully serve as a way to attract more women to the HVACR industry, said Swan.

“In 2018, ASHRAE’s Philadelphia Chapter established the Debra H. Kennoy Scholarship in memoriam of our colleague,” said Swan. “Debra was a long-term employee of Arkema and a leader of several important ASHRAE technical committees related to refrigerants. She had a passion for science and was instrumental in mentoring several employees within the HVACR field. As a woman, she recognized the need to bring further diversity into a male-dominated industry. She would be very proud that this award has been established in her memory.”

Arkema recently increased the scholarship amount to $5,000, and Glenn Haun, general manager of Forane refrigerants in North America, mentioned that he would love to see the scholarship grow even more.

“We’re working on outreach and would love to have not only additional contributions, but also additional applicants for scholarships,” said Haun. “We'd love to have more people applying because then we can hopefully attract additional sponsors, so we can keep awarding this well into the future.”


Innovative Solution

With the HFC phasedown in effect, it will be important to ensure that all community members from end users through manufacturers understand the implications and solutions available to meet their needs, said Joseph Martinko, North American business director at Chemours.

“In 2024, the industry will experience a 30% reduction in HFC allocations and it will be important to increase education and training to ensure a proper transition to lower-GWP refrigerants,” said Martinko.

Chemours’ lower-GWP solutions include the Opteon XP and XL Series refrigerants, such as Opteon XL10 (R-1234yf), XL20 (R-454C), XL40 (R-454A), and XL41(R-454B), as well as Opteon XP10 (R-513A) and XP40 (R-449A). Opteon XP40 and XP10 have been available in the U.S. market for some time and have been widely used for retrofits and new system installations, while Opteon XL products have only been introduced in the U.S. market for sampling to equipment manufacturers for future systems.

Chemours Booth.

AWARD WINNER: The Chemours booth featured the AHR Expo Innovation Awards winner, Opteon XL41 (R-454B), which is a replacement for R-410A. (Staff photo)

One of the highlights at the booth was the 2023 AHR Expo Innovation Awards winner, Opteon XL41 (R-454B), which is a replacement for R-410A. It is a low-flammability (A2L) refrigerant that offers an approximately 78% reduction in GWP. Martinko said Opteon XL41, designed for use in new systems only, offers the optimal balance of performance, sustainability, cost, and safety in new system applications. R-454B is available for both OEMs and aftermarket/service.

“Driven by the expectation that new equipment charged with Opteon XL41 will soon be rolling off assembly lines, Chemours first started taking orders in December 2022,” said Martinko. “With its zero ODP and minimal GWP of 466, Opteon XL41 has already earned the attention of major OEMs, including Carrier, Johnson Controls, and Rheem, which have announced alignment with Chemours for the utilization of this product.”

Carrier representatives were at the Chemours booth, and Christian Senu, managing director of light commercial North America at Carrier, noted that the company would soon be offering products containing R-454B.

“Starting early and working with a partner like Chemours, we are actually going to start launching products this year and by 2025 we'll have our full lineup available,” said Senu. “It's going to be a full platform change across all our products.”

For commercial refrigeration, Chemours highlighted the A2L refrigerants, Opteon XL40, XL20, and XL10, which have GWP values of 238, 148, and 4, respectively. Martinko said that these low-GWP solutions for new systems offer the same or improved performance compared to R-404A and R-134a but are compliant with the strictest local and global regulations.


Sustainable Goals

As customers are focused on transitioning away from high-GWP refrigerants, Honeywell is supporting this process with its low-GWP and energy-efficient Solstice HFO solutions that have a reduced impact on the environment without sacrificing performance, said John Keating, vice president and general manager of stationary refrigerants at Honeywell Advanced Materials.

Honeywell Booth.

LOW GWP: Honeywell’s Mike Sweeney stands next to a self-contained unit that uses R-471A, a nonflammable HFO-based refrigerant that has a GWP of less than 150 GWP. (Staff photo)

“The industry is turning to HFOs not only to help meet current and proposed regulations that play a major role in the increasing demand for low-GWP alternatives, but also to meet their own sustainability goals,” he said. “Honeywell is supporting the industry by ensuring our customers have the solutions that meet their needs available now.”

For example, Solstice N71 (R-471A) is Honeywell’s newest low-GWP, non-ozone depleting, non-flammable, HFO-based refrigerant for commercial refrigeration. Designed for new equipment in medium-temperature applications, Solstice N71 is optimized for use in a wide variety of applications including supermarkets, cold storage warehouses, industrial process refrigeration, ice rinks, and convenience and drug stores.

“R-471A is the only HFO-based refrigerant available for refrigeration that has a GWP of less than 150 GWP and is nonflammable,” said Mike Sweeney, platform lead of commercial refrigeration at Honeywell. “A nonflammable refrigerant is very important for retailers because there's no charge size restrictions. You can largely use the same methodology in terms of servicing and installing equipment to get a big total cost of ownership benefit.”

Additionally, Honeywell showcased Solstice L40X (R-455A), a ready-now, low-GWP, energy-efficient HFO-blend solution for commercial refrigeration applications. Its GWP below 150 allows retailers to remain compliant with current and expected future HFC phase-down requirements and contribute to sustainability goals, said Sweeney. Applications include small- and medium-size supermarkets, food service, cold rooms, and freezer rooms.

“HFOs have shown 15% to 29% improvements in energy efficiency in commercial refrigeration, industrial refrigeration, and chillers compared to ammonia, propane, and CO2. That is equivalent to anywhere from $9 billion to $19 billion of electricity savings over 20 years,” said Sweeney. “Our Solstice N71 and Solstice L40X refrigerants, which are built using our innovative HFO technology, offer HFC alternatives that are low-GWP, energy efficient, and designed to maintain or enhance performance levels.”


New Product

Daikin displayed the Atmosphera, the first split-system R-32 product available in North America. This single-zone ductless product uses low-GWP R-32 refrigerant and is available in four sizes, ranging from 9,000 to 24,000 Btu.

Daikin Booth.

NEW PRODUCT: Kelly Hearnsberger was happy to talk about the Daikin Atmosphera, the first split-system R-32 product available in North America. (Staff photo)

“We want to help people feel comfortable with the solutions we're going to be providing,” said Kelly Hearnsberger, vice president of advanced product marketing at Daikin. “People don't understand how much of an efficiency gain they’ll be getting with R-32. It's a refrigerant that has some superior characteristics. For example, it is 10% to 12%, more efficient in Btu capability, and there’s no glide — it's a single component refrigerant. We chose R-32 because we can use far less refrigerant in the system. So when thinking about decarbonization, and electrification, our choice was born out of not just the GWP number, but how much refrigerant is being used in a system.”

In fact, the refrigerant charge of the Atmosphera is below the limit that requires detection or mitigation devices, said Hearnsberger. He added that the majority of Daikin’s mini-split designs, including the one-to-two fan coil units that will enter the market soon, will also be below the limit that requires leak detection and mitigation.

Another advantage of R-32 is that it is a single component refrigerant, which makes reclaim much easier than other blends, said Hearnsberger. “You just have to test for purity, and the process is streamlined and simple.”

Educating contractors about A2L refrigerants such as R-32 will also be important going forward, he said.

“We are being responsible in ensuring that our contractors understand and care about safely handling our systems. We want to make sure that they don't engage in installations without having that training. It’s also important for the authorities having jurisdiction to understand the technology. Equally important is our distribution knowing how to safely store R-32.”

One possible barrier to the adoption of A2Ls is state building codes, which have not been updated in many states to allow the use of A2L refrigerants in comfort cooling. Daikin has been working with a variety of stakeholders to revise these codes through model code-making bodies and at the state level. In addition, the company sees an opportunity to promote the proper recovery, reclamation, and destruction of refrigerants at the time of decommissioning products.


Shift to the Future

Orbia’s Fluorinated Solutions business, Koura, was at the AHR Expo to bring awareness to their new low-GWP refrigerants, which include R-473A, R-456A, and R-468C.

Koura Booth.

BRINGING AWARENESS: Michael Mukai (with glasses behind the desk) discussed Koura’s new low-GWP refrigerants, which include R-473A, R-456A, and R-468C. (Courtesy of Koura)

“We are promoting brand awareness, as well as letting people know about the changes we’re undertaking,” said Michael Mukai, business development director at Koura, an Orbia business. “We've historically been an R-134a supplier, but we supply other blends globally as well. Our focus right now is shifting towards the future and lowering the carbon footprint overall of the industry, as well as complying with the F-Gas and AIM Act and all the new regulations.”

Introduced last year, R-473A is a drop-in replacement that reduces GWP by over 85% from high-GWP refrigerants, R-23 (GWP 14,800) and R-508B (GWP 13,400). It can be used in either existing or new equipment in ultra-cold storage applications, which typically use the very high-GWP refrigerants, R-23 and R-508B.

“The GWP of R-473A is around 1,800, and it was our first commercial product to show the world that we're serious about lowering the overall carbon footprint, regardless of the application size,” said Mukai.

R-456A is a drop-in replacement for the mobile air conditioning aftermarket that reduces GWP about 50% from R-134a. This product is currently available in Europe and the United Kingdom and allows the carbon footprint of existing R-134a vehicles to be reduced.

Also featured at the booth was R-468C, an A2L refrigerant that has a GWP of 285 and is designed to be a replacement for R-410A. It is for use in unitary air conditioning systems and its performance is expected to be better than R-410A in new equipment.

“It has a GWP reduction of 85% compared to R-410A, and the efficiency and capacity of R-468C compares pretty favorably to R-410A as well,” said Mukai.