As of January 1, 2022, the United States officially entered the world of A2L refrigerants for residential HVAC applications with the first installation of a Daikin ATMOSPHERA ductless system, with R-32 refrigerant. I installed that new system into a home in the Orlando, Florida area.

Roman Baugh is a contractor with vast A2L refrigerant experience
Roman Baugh

The introduction of A2Ls will soon be the new refrigerant standard in the United States. Why? Because A2L refrigerants have an improved ozone depletion rating – Global Warming Protection (GWP) – and a better ability to offset the dangerous greenhouse effects of currently used HFC-based refrigerants.

For several years, discussions focused on A2L refrigerant’s slight flammability characteristics. The key word here is “slight.” The bottom line is, yes, A2Ls can ignite, but it takes a lot of effort to make them ignite. With proper training, HVAC technicians who follow existing OSHA regulations and manufacturer guidelines, can install and service A2L HVAC systems without concern.

I was a mechanical contractor in the state of Florida for seven years and recently returned to that market after working for Daikin Comfort Technologies. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to install the very first R-32 mini-split in the United States in January 2022. This is why I want to share what I’ve learned from the experience so that other HVAC professionals can know what to expect.

I’ll focus primarily on R-32 because it’s the current leading A2L (over 160 million systems already installed worldwide), and I have the most experience with that refrigerant. However, the service and installation procedures outlined here will apply to most A2Ls.

A2L-certified Vacuum Pumps

HVAC Techs need to get used to working with A2L refrigerants
A2L refrigerants aren’t new — there are more than
160 million HVAC systems installed worldwide
that use the A2L refrigerant R-32.

Based on my first R-32 experience, installations only require minor changes. Among those, first and foremost, you must purge refrigerant lines with nitrogen when doing retrofits.

In fact, it makes a lot of sense to flush out the system and install a new line set with any R-32 mini-split installation. If you are servicing an R-32 system, be sure any vacuum pump you use is rated for A2Ls. Most newer vacuum pumps from Fieldpiece, Appion, and other manufacturers are A2L certified.

This certification is no different than considering exhaust fans in combustible areas. They, too, must be certified combustion-proof, meaning they can have no motor windings or anything electrical exposed to the atmosphere.

That’s the same type of rating given to vacuum pumps that are A2L certified. There is nothing in the compression or recovery machine process that would create a spark within that machine that could ignite A2L refrigerant.

Liability Issues?

From a service standpoint, there are many questions about liability. The fact is if your technicians are trained in proper refrigerant handling and proper system charging protocols, your liabilities are no different.

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