R32 refrigerant: FAQs you should know

What is R32? - R32 is a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant with a lower Global Warming Potential than R410a. R32 has been adopted by various global air conditioning manufacturers as an alternative to R410a, as it has virtually the same operating pressures as a R410a system.

However, R32 is a Class A2L refrigerant, which all have lower flammability and lower toxicity, but are not explosive. Therefore the R32 refrigerant, and the systems designed for it, will present significant changes to the tools, working practices, component standards and workplace safety considerations relating to repair, service and refrigerant recovery. The main characteristics of R32 compared to R410a are provided in the table below.

Can I convert a R410a system to R32?

No. R32 is not suitable as a drop-in replacement for R410a and must only be used in systems specifically designed for R32. R410a systems are not designed to operate using a flammable refrigerant. R410a systems are unable to be converted to a safety level that satisfies the requirements of international standards set for systems that use R32.

Where can I buy R32?

R32 is available from most refrigerant wholesalers and HVACR equipment suppliers.

Do I need a RTA and a RHL to buy and handle R32?

Yes. R32 is controlled under Australia’s Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management legislation. A refrigerant handling licence (RHL) is required to work on systems containing R32. A refrigerant trading authorisation (RTA) is required to purchase, store and dispose of R32. For additional occupational and WHS licensing requirements, check with your relevant state-based licensing authorities.

What refrigerant cylinders can I use?

The Australian Dangerous Goods Code classifies R32 as a Dangerous Goods class 2.1 flammable refrigerant. R32 requires a higher pressure 6.2MPa cylinder with a left hand valve thread and requires additional transport, handling and storage safeguards compared to class 2.2 non-flammable refrigerants. The Australian Dangerous Goods Code is available to download free at www.ntc.gov.au. The Flammable Refrigerants Safety Guide and Fact Sheets outline the WHS risks associated for working with refrigeration and air conditioning equipment and systems that use flammable refrigerants. These are available to download for free on the AIRAH website www.airah.org.au

What are the handling requirements?

Under the Australian Standard AS/NZS ISO 817:2016, R32 is classified as A2L lower flammability. This means that technicians need to take the relevant safety measures for the correct transport, storage and handling of a flammable gas. This includes, ensuring that the gas is not exposed to open flames or other ignition sources, including cigarette smoking. Toxic substances are created when R32, like all fluorinated refrigerants, is burnt. Asphyxiation and freeze burns are also a risk.

You should check with your state-based WorkSafe agency and refer to the relevant material safety data sheets available from your refrigerant wholesalers for specific safeguards when handling this refrigerant. Importantly, suitable trade training in flammable refrigerants is recommended prior to working on systems containing flammable refrigerants.

What equipment do I need to safely handle R32?

Due to the flammability and high operating pressures of R32, equipment compatibility of your existing equipment (e.g. manifolds, gauges, recovery units) must be checked and all electrical equipment must not have any potential sources of ignition. Only use equipment rated for use with (A2L, A2 or A3) flammable refrigerants, such as that listed below, and remember that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be worn when handling the refrigerant:

  • R32 calibrated gauge manifold set
  • Electronic refrigerant detector, rated for use with (A2L) flammable refrigerants
  • Vacuum pump rated for use with (A2L, A2 or A3) flammable refrigerant which uses a brushless motor and enclosed electrical components
  • Recovery/reclamation equipment, rated for use with (A2L, A2 or A3) flammable refrigerant
  • Only use dedicated R32 reclaim cylinders for recovered R32 refrigerant
Relevant Australian Standards, available for purchase from SAI Global at https://infostore.saiglobal.com/store/:
  • AS/NZS ISO 817:2016 Refrigerant - Designation and safety classification
  • AS/NZS 5149.1:2016 Refrigerating systems and heat pumps - Safety and environmental requirements:
    • Part 1 Definitions, classifications and selection criteria
    • Part 2 Design, construction, testing, marking and documentation
    • Part 3 Installation site
    • Part 4 Operation, maintenance, repair and recovery
  • AS/NZS 60335.1: Household and similar electrical appliances – safety, Part 1 General appliances
  • AS/NZS 60335.2.40: Household and similar electrical appliances – safety, Part 2.40 Particular requirements for electrical heat pumps, air conditioners and dehumidifiers
PLEASE NOTE: This information has been provided as a guide only. For more detailed information on R32 refrigerant, please refer to the relevant Australian Standards, Work Health and Safety regulations and relevant material safety data sheets.

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