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Are Hydrocarbon Refrigerants Safe?

Hydrocarbon Refrigerants are flammable but are safe to use if handled correctly. It should be noted that millions of tonnes of hydrocarbons are used safely every year throughout the world for cooking, heating, powering vehicles and as aerosol propellants for hairsprays, deodorants, whipped cream and cooking sprays etc.

In refrigeration and air-conditioning systems which use chemical refrigerants, oil mixes with the refrigerants and travels around the system. All these chemical refrigerants become flammable due to the oil vapour content of the gases when being discharged from the systems. Most chemical refrigerants produce toxic by-products and poisonous gases following accidental release in the presence of an adequate heat source.

Procedures and standards have been developed and adopted to ensure the safe use of Hydrocarbon Refrigerants. Australian Standard AS 1677-1998 includes comprehensive procedures for the safe use of all refrigerants including hydrocarbons.

Hydrocarbon Refrigerants do not spontaneously combust on contact with air. Three elements need to coincide.

1) There needs to be a release of hydrocarbons.

2) The hydrocarbon needs to mix with the correct proportion of air, the range of flammability being between 2 and 10%. Outside of these limits combustion cannot occur.

3) An ignition source exceeding 440 degrees Celsius must be present. If either one of these three elements is eliminated, combustion cannot occur.

At engas safety is our first priority. We provide and maintain a healthy working environment at all times. We ensure adequate control of health and safety risks associated with any use of Hydrocarbon Refrigerants. Hydrocarbon Refrigerants can only be handled by technicians who have been trained by Engas.

What energy savings can I expect from using Hydrocarbon Refrigerants?

Hydrocarbon Refrigerants are not just good for the environment; they can also save you up to 35% on your energy costs. Air-conditioning systems are the largest consumers of electricity for any building. The energy used in cooling generally accounts for 60% of a building's total energy consumption. By converting to Hydrocarbon Refrigerants with engas, substantial energy savings can become a reality.

Hydrocarbon Refrigerants are 50% more efficient conductors of heat than Fluorocarbon Refrigerants. Their operating pressures are about 20% lower than that of Fluorocarbon Refrigerants. These lower operating discharge pressures reduce the work that the compressor has to do thus reducing wear and tear. There is less pressure on pipe work, joints, hoses, fittings and the like thus reducing the likelihood of leaks. This can and will extend the working life of your equipment.

All these advantages equate to an energy saving of between 15% and 54%.

How do Hydrocarbon Refrigerants affect the environment?

The rate of climate change expected over the next 100 years is unprecedented in human history. It is difficult to grasp the full meaning of Global Warming as we rush to the next event of the day, yet face it we must or else allow the inevitable to happen. There is nothing new in extinction.

Mr Klaus Toepfer from the United Nations Environment Program said in March 2004, “Fighting Climate Change requires Governments, Business and Citizens across the Globe to harness technologies in the pipeline and act”. At Engas we believe that Hydrocarbon Refrigerants are one of those technologies that can make a big difference. Not only to the environment but also significantly reducing your energy costs.

Do you have to change the whole air conditioning unit when converting over to hydrocarbon refrigerants?

No. Only the chemical refrigerant in the unit will be replaced. However, every unit is different therefore inspections and assessments are important before conversion.

Why hydrocarbon refrigerants are not commonly used in air conditioning units already?

Hydrocarbon refrigerants were used a long time ago, prior to 1930. Then, non-flammable chemical refrigerants (CFCs) were developed to substitute hydrocarbon refrigerants. These CFCs were used up untill 1990. However, due to the global warming and environmental issues hydrocarbon refrigerants have made a comeback with better performance and efficiency. Hydrocarbon refrigerants are part of the Global Solution to combat Climate Change.


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