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410A vs R32-refrigerant

Before we discuss the comparison of R-32 and R410A refrigerants, it’s important to understand what a refrigerant is and its role within a heat pump system. Read on to learn more.

What is a Refrigerant?

A refrigerant is a working fluid used in the refrigeration cycle of air conditioning systems and heat pumps. It typically undergoes a repeated phase transition from a liquid to a gas and back again.

The Role of Refrigerants in Heat Pumps

On a basic level, a heat pump transfers heat from one place to another. While heat pumps are often discussed in the context of heating, they are also used for cooling, functioning as an air conditioner by extracting heat from indoors and moving it outside. Heat pumps have many useful applications around the world, and refrigerants play a major role in carrying out their intended purposes.

Believe it or not, the “hero” of a heat pump system is the refrigerant—the fluid that moves through a circuit, absorbing and releasing heat. Powered by electricity, the refrigerant circulates within the heat pump, compressing and expanding to change its state and ultimately facilitate heat transfer.

  • Initially, the refrigerant flows through a heat exchanger, passing outside air, becoming warm enough to start boiling, changing from a liquid to a gas during the process.
  • Next, it moves through the compressor, which increases its pressure, further heating it. By the time the refrigerant is past the compressor, it’s warmer than the indoor space.
  • The hot gas then flows through another heat exchanger, releasing heat into the room and condensing it back into a liquid.
  • Finally, the refrigerant passes through an expansion valve, reducing its pressure and temperature, ready to absorb more heat and continue the cycle.

The Shift from R-410A

R-410A, a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant, has been widely used in air conditioners and heat pumps for its high efficiency and low toxicity. However, with a GWP (Global Warming Potential) of 2088*, it unfortunately contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. To combat this, the EPA has implemented regulations to reduce the use of high-GWP refrigerants like R-410A, with a ban on its use in new HVAC systems beginning January 1, 2025.

* The Global Warming Potential (GWP) of refrigerants, calculated by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reflects their environmental impact. GWP includes factors like the refrigerant’s lifetime and radiative forcing effect, among others.

Impact on Existing Systems

Existing HVAC systems cannot simply switch from R-410A to new refrigerants. Systems designed for lower GWP refrigerants—known as A2L* refrigerants—must be built specifically for them. Consumers may continue using their current systems with R-410A, but the refrigerant will become more expensive and harder to find after the upcoming ban. Investing in new systems that use A2L refrigerants is advisable for future-proofing any HVAC system.

* Refrigerants are categorized based on toxicity and flammability and assigned respective refrigerant concentration limits by ASHRAE® Standard 34, an alphanumeric system. Letters A and B denote lower toxicity and higher toxicity respectively, and “1” denotes no flame propagation, “2L” denotes lower flammability, “2” denotes flammability, and “3” denotes higher flammability.

R-32: The New Kid in Town

R-32 is gaining popularity among heat pump manufacturers, including Dalrada, as a modern replacement for R-410A. Key advantages of R-32 heat pumps for both commercial use as well as residential use include:

  • Lower GWP: With a GWP of 675, R-32’s impact on global warming represents only about 30% of R-410A’s impact.
  • Efficiency: R-32 systems use up to 20% less refrigerant than R-410A, making them more efficient and cost effective.
  • Ozone Depletion Potential: R-32 has an ozone depletion potential of 0.
  • Recyclability: R-32, a single-component refrigerant, is easier to recycle than R-410A.

As the industry moves away from R-410A, R-32 stands out as a promising alternative, offering environmental and operational benefits that align with global regulatory trends. By choosing heat pumps and HVAC systems designed for R-32 refrigerant, we can contribute to a more sustainable future while enjoying improved efficiency and cost savings.

To learn more about heat pumps and heat pump systems, browse our selection of blogs and articles. For additional information or to speak with a Dalrada Climate Technology specialist, feel free to contact us today.

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