The following remarks were made regarding the article “2021 ICC Mechanical Code is a mess” written by Julius Ballanco, P.E., CPD, F-ASPE, president of J.B. Engineering and Code Consulting, published in the July 2020 issue of PM Engineer:
Honeywell’s position on R-410A transition
To comply with critical regulatory phasedowns of high-GWP products, R-410A must be replaced with a safe, energy-efficient, lower-GWP solution with similar or better performance. U.S. OEMs are actively evaluating options for replacing R-410A in residential and small commercial applications.
The industry has a long-standing track record of developing safe and effective replacements to meet environmental challenges. With the right processes and procedures in place, the industry can safely enable transition to a R-410A replacement refrigerant.
The current discussion is focused on the safe transition of R-410A replacements into residential and light commercial equipment that will be used in homes and small businesses. Unlike large commercial buildings which have purposely designed and safe mechanical rooms, homes and small businesses are operating in an environment with small utility room footprints sometimes not a safe distance away from residents, fewer controls, larger numbers of systems (6-8 million systems produced in the U.S.) and larger charges. It is for that reason Honeywell has focused on developing the first, A1 (non-flammable) solution to enable the R-410A transition.
Honeywell has a broad portfolio of refrigerants, which includes both A1 and A2L refrigerants, such as R-32 and R-454B, that minimize environmental impact and are designed to meet the performance and safety needs of an application. As a supplier of A2L refrigerants into a broad range of applications, we strongly support all efforts to ensure flammable refrigerants are used safely. Our consistent recommendation has been for industry experts to work together using proven industry development protocols to establish appropriate safety requirements that are backed by rigorous testing, including system-level tests.
Current mechanical and fire codes prohibit mildly flammable refrigerants to be used in direct HVAC systems and must be updated when the standards (ASHRAE 15.2 and UL60335-2-40 ed. 4) are complete and harmonized during the next code cycle in 2024.
One of the most critical components of this process will be the industry establishing sufficient training and safe handling practices for its contractors.
Prior to the release of A2L refrigerants into the market, the industry must ensure the contractor base and supply chain personnel are trained and equipped to manage the additional risk of these refrigerants in residential and light commercial applications.
Industry and standard organizations are considering the design and incorporation of sensors, valves and other risk mitigation equipment to minimize flammability risk. Flammable solutions will also require significant specialized training of contractors — not a trivial issue today when the industry is struggling to recruit and retain enough contractors.
Honeywell and its suppliers have invested more than $900 million in research and development and expanded capacity for production of next generation refrigerant technologies. We continue to innovate to bring new solutions to market to meet industry needs, including designing and bringing to market Solstice N41 (R-466A), the industry’s first nonflammable (A1) R-410A replacement solution for stationary air-conditioning applications. We believe a non-flammable, reduced GWP R-410A replacement is the optimal, safer solution for residential and light commercial HVAC applications.
However, we also support A2L solutions with proper safety mitigation measures, and believe that A2L solutions can be designed for use in residential and small commercial applications if the full process is designed to ensure safety is followed. The safety standards and building codes must be responsibly updated for the protection of homeowners, first responders and other stakeholders, and for A2Ls to be safe for intended use.
Chris LaPietra, vice president and general manager, Honeywell Stationary Refrigerants
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