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AC and heat pump trainer Ben Bartle-Ross looks at how mainstream R32 has become

Well, we survived R32 didn’t we?

One thing that has always heartened me about our industry is our overall resilience and ability to change and adapt. And this is needed as technology and legislation drive the direction of travel for the construction and built environment.

We see scores of engineers each week in our training centres and there is always an eagerness to learn more from the vast majority of attendees.

And that’s good because there’s more change to come, especially as we make equipment even more efficient, quieter and easier to use.  

The world didn’t go up in flames

Ben Bartle Ross Ben Bartle-Ross Technical trainer at Mitsubishi Electric

The change to R32

For the HVAC industry, the biggest recent change has been R32, but we have survived and it has quickly become the norm.  As confidence has grown, so has the range available. And the world didn’t go up in flames with this ‘mildly-flammable’ ‘new’ gas.

As a manufacturer, we will always look at how we can help engineers cope with change, which is why we issue free guides on things like legislation and technology, and why we offer comprehensive training and support.

It’s is also why we have created our blogsite ‘The Hub’ which is full of informative articles from industry experts.

An interesting stat from the site shows that the most popular article, by far, has now been read by just under 25,000 people.

Can you guess the title?

R32 refrigerant - why the change and why now?

Increasing understanding

We also try and listen to the market, which is what you should expect from a manufacturer.

In a recent survey of customers, over 96% of engineers said they have fitted R32 systems and 50% said that more than half of the systems they are installing are R32.

So the speed with which our industry has adapted to this change in refrigerant is impressive and shows a level of resilience, regardless of changing legislative demands or even the uncertainty emanating from our politics at the moment.

Get ready, there’s more to come

Now that we are beyond the R32 change, it’s worth pausing for a moment and looking at the further change coming ahead as part of the F-Gas phase down of potentially harmful refrigerants.

The on-going switch from R410A to R32 see the global warming potential (GWP) of the gas in systems drop from 2,088 to 675 (two-thirds less than R410A).

Further down the line, we will need refrigerants with even lower GWPs and it’s worth reminding ourselves that all of this is being driven by the need to repair damage done to our climate by unconstrained development of modern life.

Whether that is the destruction of ancient rainforest to grow crops to feed our rapidly expanding global population, or continued overuse of carbon-intensive fuels such as oil and gas, the move to a more sustainable future is relentless and I for one welcome that.

All of us as individuals, as groups within an industry, as individual companies and, perhaps most importantly, as consumers, must do whatever we can to make a difference.

Forget Earth ‘Day’

A week ago was Earth Day (22 Apr) and with people like Greta Thunberg driving the climate change debate, this focus on how humanity impacts on the planet is only going to increase.

However, we need to focus on the earth for more than just one day, which I guess is the argument from the Extinction Rebellion campaign, although it is interesting how near upsetting their support they got by causing travel disruption. 

Programmes like Blue Planet have shown how important it is for us to do something … and do it soon!

And this is leading to change, at a speed that may be beyond the controls of government’s, business and manufacturers as we urgently strive to find ways of reducing the carbon footprint of modern society.

Everyone is aware now of the dangers and responsibilities associated with the use of plastics. And there is a growing demand and awareness for electric cars, although we need to also look at infrastructure. 

What we need to find collectively as an industry, are ways to promote the benefits of energy efficiency overall because we already have the equipment, the skills and the knowledge to help customers cut their energy use, wherever they are.

By focusing on the issues that demand an answer and the solutions that can help – including the skills of the people designing, commissioning, installing and maintaining the equipment we need for a comfortable modern life, we can all help build a sustainable future.

Ben Bartle-Ross is a technical trainer for Mitsubishi Electric.