The R22 ‘Swap Out’ deadline is approaching, but some alternatives being considered may not be the most responsible choice. Propane based refrigerants are appearing, however ”The use of these substances poses a potential fire or explosion hazard for owners and service technicians,” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (equivalent to UK’s DEFRA) warning that most air conditioning systems aren’t designed for propane or similar flammable refrigerants and the EPA is currently investigating instances where propane has been a substitute for R22. The ”EPA is aware of incidents…. where injuries have occurred as a result of the use of propane or other unapproved refrigerants…”
Sold as R290, these unapproved refrigerants are also referred to as 22a, 22-A, R-22a, HC-22a, and CARE 40.
The use of propane or other hydrocarbon refrigerants in any type of air conditioner is not approved by the EPA. “Owners and technicians are strongly recommended to limit use of propane or other hydrocarbons to only those appliances specifically designed for these substances and where properly marked to alert technicians…”
In the US, due to its non-ozone depleting properties and relatively low Global Warming Potential, propane has been approved as a substitute refrigerant for R22 in industrial process refrigeration systems and in new, stand-alone retail food refrigerators and freezers specifically designed to use flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants.
Andrews Air Conditioning Services has a policy of avoiding the use of flammable refrigerants and is able to advise owners and users of all types of air conditioning systems on their R22 replacement strategy and in developing a safe and efficient maintenance regime.