Technicians beware! Care must be taken regarding refrigerant selection
Replacing 'like with like' refrigerant is relatively simple however, with a number of new refrigerants coming into the market technicians need to inform themselves of the appropriateness and characteristics of any substitute refrigerant.
In the first instance it is critical that refrigerant only be used in equipment that is fit for purpose.
The equipment should be designed for the type of refrigerant to be used. Technicians need to be mindful of their legal responsibilities should they wish to substitute one refrigerant type for another. Product warranty may be void, and there are both consumer law and health and safety laws to consider.
Safety requirements under state and territory work health and safety legislation, which places obligations on importers, designers, manufacturers, suppliers, installers and others to ensure that the work health and safety risks are assessed and eliminated or mitigated, need to be considered when contemplating using or retrofitting refrigerants. If you are contemplating substituting or retrofitting substitution refrigerants, the Department of the Environment has a useful checklist available on their website. Some of the areas that need to be considered include:
- Is the equipment for use only for a specific hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) whereby substituting with an alternative gas could introduce safety hazards?
- Has the unit's manufacturer and the refrigerant supplier approved the use of a flammable, toxic or high pressure refrigerant in the system?
- If a retrofit is to be undertaken, how can you assess the safety and suitability for purpose?
- Has the equipment manufacturer given approval for retrofitting the equipment using an alternative refrigerant?