The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to add R32 and five other A2L refrigerants as lower GWP alternatives to R410A in smaller air conditioning units.
The EPA proposes to SNAP-list the lower GWP, “mildly flammable” refrigerant R32, along with R452B, R454A, R454B, R454C and R457A as acceptable, subject to use conditions, for use in new residential and light commercial air conditioning and heat pumps.
What is the Significant New Alternatives Policy program?
The SNAP (Significant New Alternatives Policy) was established to identify and evaluate substitutes for ozone-depleting substances. The list approves and prohibits chemicals used in a variety of consumer and industrial applications.
The EPA proposes that these refrigerants may only be used in new self-contained and split-system air conditioning equipment specifically designed for use with the refrigerants. Limits are placed on charge sizes, and include greater ventilation requirements, refrigerant leak sensors, alarms and self-shut-off valves. In addition the proposal stipulates the inclusion of a number of safety and flammability warning labels both inside and outside the equipment.
What is the purpose behind the SNAP program?
The basic ideas of the SNAP program are:
Evaluating and identifying substitutes for past solutions that have used various ozone-depleting substances.
Assessing the overall risk of current, past, and new substances to the environment and human health.
Publishing SNAP list of unacceptable and acceptable substitutes.
Promoting the use of SNAP-compliant substitutes.
Providing information on the potential for adverse environmental and health impacts of substitutes.
What are the criteria for proposing SNAP-compliant alternatives?
Let’s take a closer look into the most important characteristics the EPA assesses when evaluating potential substitutes for existing refrigerants:
Atmospheric effects: SNAP takes both the ozone depletion potential and the 100-year global warming potential into account when deciding whether a substitute is acceptable or not.
Exposure assessments: This criteria inspects the levels of exposure to the substitute consumers, workers, and general population would be subject to. The techniques used to collect this data include are campling and personal monitoring.
Toxicity data: Data on toxicity is used to determine the potential negative environmental and health effects of exposure to a refrigerant substitute. Some of the health-related criteria are:
FlammCbility: The EPA inspects potential SNAP-compliant refrigerant substitutes based on the following criteria:
Other environmental effects: Finally, SNAP examines other potentially adverse environmental effects when testing substitutes, such as the impact on the quality of local air or their overall ecotoxicity.
How do SNAP refrigerant regulations work?
The EPA classifies possible substitutes into four categories:
Acceptable: They reduce the overall risks to the environment and human health when compared to other available alternatives.
Acceptable subject to use conditions: These substitutes are only acceptable in a unique way.
Acceptable subject to narrowed use limits: Such a substitute can only be used for specialized applications within a certain end-use and sector.
Unacceptable alternatives: These substitutes are completely prohibited because of their unfavorable effects on the environment and human health.
Which refrigerants have been SNAP-listed?
R32, a single component refrigerant with a GWP of 675, is already being adopted around the world by most unitary equipment manufacturers as the leading replacement for R410A. Since 2015, it has been SNAP- listed for use in the USA in new self-contained room air conditioning units.
The other five refrigerants are blends made up of varying amounts of R32, R125, R1234yf and R152a.
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Here are a few resources that may provide a little more information on this topic: