Air conditioning technicians and businesses should prepare now for a significant upcoming change in the HVAC industry: a new refrigerant.
R-454b will be the refrigerant for the next 15 years, but even though its use will not be mandated until 2023, installers and HVAC technicians should be ready to use it starting Jan. 1, 2022.
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“Manufacturers are starting to switch over,” said Bill Powers CFE, ServiceTitan’s Senior Industry Advisor. “People should be preparing and getting certified now. All new residential sales next year will have units that use the new gas.”
New refrigerant training and certifications will be required. Some classes have been created already. Powers said groups like the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and ESCO are already certified to offer classes, and NATE also will have certification testing.
People need to start preparing today for 2022,” Powers said.
Powers’ point that the changeover will start sooner than required is illustrated on Trane’s website. Trane is candid that it is making chillers, heat pumps and rooftop units that will use R-454b refrigerant.
R-454b will replace R-410a, which has been the primary refrigerant since 2008. The changes are prompted by ozone depletion, a factor in climate change. R-22 was used until 2008, but it contained chlorine, which damages the ozone when it leaks. R-410a lacked ozone and thus had less Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP), but it had Global Warming Potential (GWP) that was higher than R-22.
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R-454b, also known as Opteon XL41, has no ODP and GWP that is 78% lower than R410a. The Opteon website calls it “a refrigerant solution that offers maximum performance with minimal environmental impact.”
Businesses need to be laser-focused on building codes, Powers said. Those codes will have to be updated to accept the new coolant. Installers are advised to communicate regularly with local building departments to make sure the code has been changed before proceeding with units that use R-454b.
It would not be wise to think the changeover won’t take place sooner rather than later. Powers said the business will be driven by standards enacted by the state of California that take effect in 2023. Once systems are made for California, manufacturers will make them for the rest of the country.
R-22 and R-410a will remain usable options, though R-22 will be phased out by 2030. Powers said that honesty with customers is vital. It would not be ethical for any technician or company to tell consumers that R-22 and R-410a are illegal and their existing system cannot be repaired. That would be a deceitful way to sell a more expensive new system.
“Integrity is a must in our industry,” Powers said. “Hold all your people to the highest standard possible. No scare tactics. Keep our business clean.”
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