Across nearly every industry worldwide, there has been a continued push for fuel and energy efficiency – along with a reduction in global warming impacts. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning industry has been a focal point of that trend. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the energy used to cool residential and commercial buildings accounted for a full 10 percent of total electricity consumption.
The latest push in the industry to help reduce electricity use and greenhouse gas emissions is the shift to A2L HVAC systems featuring new refrigerant types designed to be both energy efficient as well as less impactful toward global warming. The use of advanced A2L refrigerants – and their widespread use – will help drive a continued reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and continue a push for a healthier world.
A2Ls have been used in the European Union, Japan, India, Australia, and the auto industry for some time. But as the advantages of using A2L systems became more clear, regulatory bodies made adjustments to account for their use in commercial and residential HVAC systems, such as ASHRAE 15-2019 and UL 60335-2-40. In order to burn, A2L gases would need to leak, reaching concentrations above the chemical’s lower flammability limit, and then be exposed to an open flame or other ignition source. To prevent this, much of the regulatory focus has been on the preventing and detection of leaks within a given system.
Systems designed to operate with A2L refrigerants must be designed so they cannot operate if leak detection systems are bypassed. Those same leak detection systems must withstand very challenging environmental conditions – high in condensation with significant temperature extremes - without needing additional maintenance or calibration over a planned 15-year equipment life. In addition, many chemicals used in servicing HVAC equipment may use oils or other chemicals which may foul some detection systems. Those factors put the pressure on HVAC OEMs and their partners to develop solutions for this next generation of equipment.
Looking ahead, further enhancements in HVAC system design throughout the coming years and decades will continue to take shape, governed by that ongoing focus on safety, environmental impact, and energy efficiency worldwide.
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