A submission by A.S. Trust & Holdings requesting SNAP approval for the use of hydrocarbon refrigerant R441A in new vending machines has been found complete by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As a result, “R441A may be sold in new vending machines as of May 23, 2012”.
This is stated in a US EPA letter on the determination of completeness for the SNAP submission addressed to A.S. Trust & Holdings, the company that has developed the hydrocarbon refrigerant blend.
Next step: initiating the rule making procedure
Following the determination of the submission as “complete”, the US EPA will initiate the rule making procedure, with R441A expected to be listed on the Federal Register within the next 24 months.
Until this is done however, any use conditions accompanying the use of R441A in new vending machines remain largely undefined, thereby stalling potential interest in using the refrigerant by OEMs.
“A.S. Trust has several internationally known companies expressing interest in R441A and eager to move ahead once the use-conditions are defined,” says Richard Maruya, president of A.S. Trust. “There are more than three million vending machines in operation in the US alone (according to Noah Horowitz, Senior Scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a 2002 survey, the most recent data available), and the DOE energy standards defined in 2009 go into effect this year. A switch to hydrocarbons to meet this particular standard (designed to reduce cold vending machine energy) would represent a significant advance in moving the country to widespread, climate-friendly coolant usage.”
Use conditions likely to limit charge to 150g in line with UL standard
Despite the uncertainty that the “waiting time” brings about, historically the US EPA uses an existing Underwriters Laboratory (UL) standard when determining the use conditions to be included in its ruling.
As far as the maximum allowable refrigerant charge size is concerned, UL has released a standard for flammable refrigerant in vending machines, UL541, which stipulates a 150-gram charge size.
Vending machines with naturals coming soon?
Currently there is no EPA rule listing hydrocarbons, ammonia or carbon dioxide as acceptable refrigerants for new vending machines.
Nonetheless, hydrocarbon R441A may be sold in new vending machines as of May 2012 as stated in the US EPA letter. The Agency has also recently indicated that a draft rule on the use of CO2 in vending machines is in the works before the end of the year.
With several stakeholders interested in getting SNAP approval for different refrigerants in a plethora of applications, it remains to be seen if the use of hydrocarbons in vending machines receives interest from a multitude of stakeholders, in a manner that would move this SNAP ruling process up the EPA’s priority list.
About A.S. Trust & Holdings
A.S. Trust & Holdings has developed a refrigerant that is a ground-breaking blend of pure hydrocarbons. It has been designated R441A by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) since January 2011. R441A is one of the first hydrocarbon refrigerants to be approved for sale in the United States by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Significant New Alternative Policy (SNAP) for use in household refrigerators and freezers.