Bruce Heberle

EPA Proposes New Refrigerants for Refrigeration and Residential AC

July 10, 2020

By Bruce Heberle, Director Alabama/Gulf Coast HVAC Insider

On May 29, 2020 the EPA published a Proposed Rule 23 – Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: New and Revised Listings for the Significant New Alternative Policy Program (SNAP).

Section 612 requires the EPA to list as acceptable those substitutes that do not present a significantly greater risk to human health and the environment as compared with other substitutes that are currently or potentially available.

Listed in the EPA release was the following:

Acceptable Alternatives, with Use Conditions

End Use Substitute Decision
Residential and light commercial AC & HP (New) R-452B, R-454A, R-454B, R-454C, R-457A Acceptable, Subject to Use Conditions1
Residential and light commercial AC & HP (New) excluding self-contained room air conditioners.2 R-32 Acceptable, Subject to Use Conditions1
  1. For specific use conditions for substitutes listed as Acceptable Subject to Use Conditions, consult the Proposed Rule.
  2. EPA previously listed R-32 as Acceptable Subject to Use Conditions for self-contained room air conditioners. (April 10, 201; 80 FR 19454.)

Will the new A2L Refrigerants being considered replace R-410a as manufacturers gear up to meet US Climate Alliance standards? That remains to be seen, although a very real possibility. Be prepared, these are not A-1 (non-toxic – non-flammable) refrigerants. They are A2L (non-toxic and slightly flammable) refrigerants and each technician will have to be trained on how to use them properly.

The US Climate Alliance is made up of 25 states, representing over ½ the US population and 11.7 trillion dollars of the US economy. By itself, its members represent the 3rd largest economy in the world. When that much business and that many states say they will not accept R-410a equipment because it destroys the ozone, manufacturers will have to consider alternatives.

These new refrigerants will be the leading refrigerants for split system applications using R-410a, just as they have been in Europe and Asia for years! We cannot expect manufacturers to produce R-410a systems for part of the country and A2L refrigerants for the other. It would not make economic sense.

With this action, its looks like the United States is finally ready to adopt these flammable refrigerants. It looks like R-410a will be going away in a few years for NEW equipment. Just as R-22 was replaced by R-410a in new equipment over a decade ago, now is the time to start to understand that A2L refrigerants are the next step. Time to get trained!