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Standards are important when it comes to buildings and refrigerants

Changing regulations on refrigerants in HVAC systems mean that designers and installers are increasingly looking at products which use refrigerants they may not have used before.

The new, lower-GWP generation of refrigerants offers many benefits, but it is vital to be aware of the regulations and standards around their use in products and systems.

That’s why we are holding a free, CPD-accredited webinar at the end of the month, which will consider generic safety standard BS EN 378 and related product safety standards such as BS IEC EN 60335 that also cover the safe use and application of refrigerant in HVAC systems.

BS EN 378 is a European safety Standard that focuses on the safety and environmental requirements of refrigerating systems and heat pumps, with an aim of minimising any potential risk of hazards to people and environment, minimising product failures and enhancing the overall operational efficiency of the system.

The webinar will also touch on how these standards can help designers, contractors and installers meet the requirements of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) DSEAR (Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations). It will also touch on the narrative from industry bodies such as CIBSE, IOR , REFCOM , BREEAM.

This webinar clarifies the different standards to help consultants make the best choice for their clients

Jobin Varghese Jobin Varghese Product Manager for City Multi VRF and Hybrid VRF systems

Managing fluorinated gases

Refrigerants are part of a group of chemicals known as fluorinated gases, or F gases. They can cause environmental damage if released into the atmosphere, trapping heat close to the earth’s surface and contributing to global warming. Each F gas has a varying level of potential impact, known as its Global Warming Potential (GWP). The higher a refrigerant’s GWP number, the more potential harm it can cause.

As a result of these characteristics, the European Union introduced legislation to phase down and remove F gases from the market. These F Gas Regulations have had a significant impact on the HVAC sector, and they will continue to drive change across the refrigerant landscape for the next decade and beyond.

Even though the UK is no longer a member of the EU, the UK government has committed to following the same phase-down route as the EU. Full details of the F Gas Regulation and its application in the UK can be found in the Mitsubishi Electric CPD Guide to F Gas Regulations and the Future of Refrigerants.

The F Gas Regulations have seen familiar HVAC refrigerants phased down (or out), with new options introduced.

This new generation of low-GWP refrigerants offers benefits such as lower embodied carbon and enhanced efficiency, but some are accompanied by requirements for additional risk assessments. This includes a few which are categorised as ‘mildly flammable’ and ‘flammable’.

It is, therefore, critical for specifiers and installers to track their decisions about refrigerants in HVAC systems so that they can demonstrate correct risk assessment and potential hazard reduction. There are also other factors to consider when selecting modern HVAC systems for long-term efficient and cost-effective performance for clients.

Refrigerants and risk

The changing refrigeration landscape means there are several areas of risk that must be considered when working with HVAC systems which can be categorised as:

  • Safety

Lower GWP refrigerants have distinct characteristics that can impact safety in handling and use, so they are assigned a safety classification based on toxicity and flammability data.  The regulations also now cover ‘gasses under pressure’ which means that all refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump installations must undergo a DSEAR risk assessment.

  • Sustainability

The choice of refrigerant will impact on the embodied carbon footprint, so lower GWP refrigerants can help but there are also systems that replace refrigerant with water for the majority of a system, leading to much less overall refrigerant and no need for leak detection.

(Link to HVRF)

  • Energy efficiency

The energy efficiency of the HVAC system will also be affected by the choice of refrigerant and this in turn will affect the operational carbon of the system, and therefore the building. It’s therefore important to understand how certain types of refrigerants affect long-term energy performance.

  • Future-proofing buildings

Around 80% of the buildings we will use in 2050 are already built, so we will see significant refurbishment in the next decade and this will include upgrading HVAC systems to increase EPC ratings and performance. The choice of refrigerant will therefore have a major impact on how well protected the building and its carbon footprint is against increasingly tough legislation.

Find out more

The CPD Webinar is titled ‘BS EN 378: Managing Risk in HVAC Systems with Modern Refrigerants’ and is being held at 2pm on Thursday 30th May (UK time).

There are a range of safety standards relevant to refrigerant-using equipment, which has implications for cooling and heating equipment specification, installation and operation.

This webinar will clarify the differences between the different standards to help consultants make the best choice for their project.

In addition to helping increase knowledge and understanding of the generic safety standard, BS EN378, the webinar will explore related product safety standards such as BS IEC EN 60335, DSEAR, and focus on the safe use and application of refrigerants in HVAC systems.

Whether you’re a consultant, designer, contractor, or installer of HVAC equipment, understanding these standards is crucial for specifying, installing, and operating cooling and heating equipment effectively.

Jobin Varghese is Product Manager for City Multi VRF and Hybrid VRF systems