Cool New Tools for A2L Refrigerants
The transition to mildly flammable alternatives will require spark-free tools
The 2020 AIM Act gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to phase down the consumption and production of high-GWP HFC refrigerants in the U.S. by 85% over the next 15 years. This includes R-410A, which is found in just about every type of residential and commercial air conditioning equipment in the U.S.
While R-410A is a nonflammable (A1) refrigerant, its current replacements for comfort cooling products — R-32 and R-454B — are mildly flammable (A2L). In order to install or service equipment containing these new refrigerants, HVAC contractors and technicians will need to invest in tools that are compatible with the new A2Ls.
“A2L compatibility requires intrinsically safe features and arc/spark mitigating build designs.”- Andrew Greaves director of customer experience
The good news for HVACR contractors and technicians is that they don’t have to replace all their tools in order to work on A2L systems. In general, tools that don't touch the refrigerant circuit — such as scales and non-electric hand tools (e.g., wrenches, pipe cutters) — can usually be used for both A1 and A2L systems. However, most of the electronic tools and testing equipment must be rated for use with flammable refrigerants, although these same tools are usually compatible with A1 systems as well.
“Technicians can continue to utilize all their existing service tools and equipment, but they will need a new analog or digital gauge for R-32 or R-454B,” said Chris Carroll, HVACR sales manager at Mastercool Inc. “The other three product categories where they need to review their existing equipment are recovery machines, vacuum pumps, and leak detectors. Existing Mastercool equipment can still be used, but our new spark-free equipment adds another layer of safety when working with A2L or mildly flammable refrigerants.”
One of the key distinguishing factors between tools designed for A1 and A2 systems lies in the spark-free designation. Spark-free tools and test instruments are specifically crafted to minimize the potential risk of ignition, eliminating sparks or arcs that could lead to fires or explosions while working on A2L equipment. That is why all electrical and electronic products must be rated for use with A2L systems, as this prevents the possibility of a spark during operation, said Gary Lampasona, vice president of sales and marketing at Ritchie Engineering Company/Yellow Jacket.
“A2L compatibility requires intrinsically safe features, and arc/spark mitigating build designs such as brushless or sparkless motors, soft-contact switches, and other manufacturing choices that can nearly eliminate the risk of ignition in the field,” said Andrew Greaves, director of customer experience at NAVAC. “For example, NAVAC’s NP7DP2, one of our A2L-compliant vacuum pumps, uses triac-style switches instead of the typical centrifugal switches that use mechanical contact points. Additionally, it uses a sealed thermal overload for the motor versus the typical open-style near-the-motor windings.”
There can be challenges when it comes to designing tools and test instruments for A2L equipment, though. As Diana Liem, head of marketing at Fieldpiece Instruments Inc., noted, “There is more need for sealed switches and for designs to ensure they will not ignite. Different A2L refrigerants also ignite at different temperatures, so the product design needs to ensure they will never reach those temperatures.”
As mentioned above, the four main tool categories that require A2L compatibility are gauges and manifolds, recovery machines, vacuum pumps, and leak detectors. Here are some of the options that are currently available.
Gauges and manifolds
Fieldpiece: The SM480V–SMAN Refrigerant Manifold 4-port features super rugged construction, data logging, temperature-compensated system tightness test, A2L compatibility, water resistance, and the ability to send and receive wireless readings.
Mastercool: The Spartan Series smart four- and two-way manifolds are A2L compliant and offer a large 4-inch color LCD touchscreen display, wireless technology — and, with the tap of a finger, technicians can diagnose and service an air conditioning system. The new compact Black Series Mini-Fold 94261 features 93 refrigerants and also has pre-programmed A2L refrigerants, providing a more affordable digital option. In the analog category, the three-way aluminum manifold 51261 can be used with R-410A and R-32 and is available with easy to read 3-1/8-inch gauges.
NAVAC: The refrigerant-agnostic digital N2D4H manifold gauge features Class 0.4 accuracy, while the analog N2A4B manifold gauge effectively measures the pressure of various gases and liquids used in HVAC systems, including R-32 and R-454B.
Yellow Jacket: The P51 Titan and Series 41 digital manifolds are A2L refrigerant (R-32, R-454A, and R-454B) compatible with PT charts programmed in the product. The A2L Brute II, Titan, and Series 41 analog manifolds and gauges feature large, easy-to-read, and 3-1/8-inch gauges designed for R-32, R-454B, and R-410A.
Fieldpiece: The MR45 Digital Refrigerant Recovery Machine features a smart, variable-speed, DC motor that accelerates during vapor recovery. The lightweight, A2L-compatible machine also includes an oversize compressor that pumps refrigerant easily and quietly and a large backlit display that shows status messages and pressures.
Mastercool: The 69395 combustible gas recovery machine is built with spark-free components with all electrical wiring and switches sealed. It is compatible with CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs and can handle both A2L and A3 refrigerants. The 69400 Mini Twin Turbo combustible gas recovery machine is a compact unit that is designed for both A2L and A3 refrigerants, which are commonly used in small self-contained refrigeration systems.
Mastercool 69395 Combustible Gas Recovery Machine.
SPARK FREE: The 69395 combustible gas recovery machine is built with spark-free components with all electrical wiring and switches sealed. (Courtesy of Mastercool)
NAVAC: The A2L-compatible NRDD recovery machine features a brushless DC motor, making it lightweight and efficient; a large backlit display; and twin cylinder compressor with two-row oversized condenser. The NRDC4M DC inverter 4-cylinder recovery unit operates up to 40% faster than two-cylinder units and utilizes an efficient brushless DC motor and ultra-effective condenser with an oversized microchannel coil and three cooling fans.
Yellow Jacket: The TurboRecover (with BLDC motor) and Recover XLT recovery machines feature fast and efficient refrigerant recovery; dual gauge design, which allows for monitoring the system and tank pressures simultaneously; and integrated purge circuit, which clears residual refrigerant.
NAVAC A2L-Compliant NP7DP2 Vacuum Pump.
NEW SWITCHES: The A2L-compliant NP7DP2 vacuum pump uses triac-style switches instead of the typical centrifugal switches. (Courtesy of NAVAC)
Fieldpiece: The VPX7 – 10 CFM Vacuum Pump weighs only 24 pounds and features a ¾-HP DC motor; RunQuick oil change system, which offers on-the-fly oil changes in seconds; and backlit oil reservoir. Also available are the VP87 – 8 CFM and VP67 – 6 CFM vacuum pumps. All are certified for use with A2L refrigerants.
Mastercool: The 90066-BL-SF 6 CFM, single-stage, spark-free, Black Series vacuum pump features all sealed and protected electrical switches, as well as easily removable vapor discharge/oil fill port; large oil level sight glass with max/min level indicator; and easily accessible oil drain valve.
NAVAC: The NP4DLM and NP2DLM vacuum pumps are part of the company’s BreakFree Series of cordless HVACR solutions. The NP4DLM features a high-performance lithium battery capable of up to one hour of continuous running time. The NP2DLM is a compact, lightweight unit suitable for residential HVAC systems up to 5 tons with high-speed evacuation hoses. Other A2L-compatible offerings include the NP7DP2, NRP8Di, and NRP6Di vacuum pumps.
Yellow Jacket: The SuperEvac Plus II and Bullet DC vacuum pumps feature a BLDC motor for high torque and high efficiency; a 10-foot power cord; and locking IEC power cord connector.
Fieldpiece DR82 Infrared Refrigerant Leak Detector.
IR LEAK DETECTOR: The DR82 – Infrared Refrigerant Leak Detector detects all HFCs, CFCs, HCFCs, HFOs, and blends. (Courtesy of Fieldpiece)
Fieldpiece: The DR82 – Infrared Refrigerant Leak Detector detects all HFCs, CFCs, HCFCs, HFOs, and blends and features state-of-the-art infrared sensor; large backlit LCD screen; and can sniff out leaks at <0.03 oz./year, which is 20 times more sensitive than soap bubbles. The DR58 – Heated Diode Refrigerant Leak Detector detects all HFCs, CFCs, HCFCs, HFOs, H2N2 (tracer gas), and blends and features a bright, LCD screen with easy-to-see bar graphs and numeric readings.
Mastercool: The 55800/55900/55975 Intella-Sense refrigerant leak detectors provide fast response time and employ a new metal oxide gas sensor for the high-sensitivity detection of all combustible gases, hydrogen, and CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs.
Yellow Jacket: The 69320 AccuProbe IR leak detector uses infrared technology for ultimate sensitivity, accuracy, and reliability with audible and visible leak indication.
A2L service tools are already readily available, and many HVAC equipment manufacturers are planning to start introducing their A2L systems later this year or in the first quarter of 2024. That means now is the perfect time for contractors to make sure their technicians have the correct tools and test instruments in order to service these new units.
Greaves added, “In addition to the features and build factors crucial for A2L compatibility, contractors should look for tool manufacturers that provide generous warranty periods, responsive technical support, and commitment to improving their product experience.”Source: Cool New Tools for A2L Refrigerants | ACHR News