European manufacturers will be now able to sell self-contained commercial cabinets with a flammable refrigerant charge of up to approximately 500g (1.1lbs) of propane (R290) and up to 1.2kg (2.6lbs) of A2L less-flammable refrigerants, culminating a process that began in 2014.

This builds upon the global standard for R290 charge limits in commercial cabinets, contained in IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission standard) 60335-2-89, which was updated in 2019.

According to ASERCOM (the Association of European Refrigeration Component Manufacturers), the updated, harmonized European standard (EN IEC 60335-2-89:2022, “Household and similar electrical appliances – Safety – Part 2-89: Particular requirements for commercial refrigerating appliances and ice-makers with an incorporated or remote refrigerant unit or motor-compressor”) was published in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) under the “Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2023/1586 of 26 July 2023.” This supersedes EN IEC 60335-2-89:2010 and its amendments.

The European standard focuses on safety requirements for electric commercial refrigeration appliances and ice makers, like plug-in units and blast freezers; these have a built-in motor compressor or come in two parts for assembly as one appliance (split system). This is a significant sector in European commercial refrigeration, where many manufacturers of compressors and other components are involved.

This updated Commission decision will give more flexibility for manufacturers in commercial refrigeration to use single circuits with larger R290 charges in plug-in cabinets. In addition, this provides greater efficiency and sustainability.

“This is what the European manufacturers were expecting from some time [ago] since the correspondent IEC standard was available for more than three years,” said Marco Masini, President of ASERCOM. “This is important news, considering the increasing numbers of commercial refrigeration equipment adopting flammable refrigerants like propane  and isobutane [R600a] in the move to reduce environmental impact,” he added.

CE-marked products

A harmonized standard provides equipment manufacturers, whose products fall within the specified definitions and scope, the authorization to introduce products marked with “CE” in the European market. This mark serves as a “presumption of conformity” with relevant regulations, in this instance, aligning with the EU Machine Directive (MD).

“With the new harmonized standard we will be able to overcome the capacity limit of the previous version when using flammable refrigerants and potentially reach up to 5 to 6kW [1.4 to 1.7TR] of cooling capacity, something that blasts freezers or ice machines, for example, [need] to deliver their job,” commented Marek Zgliczynski, member of the Standard WG of ASERCOM and Chair of the IEC SC61c subcommittee that was responsible for developing the IEC standard.

While the IEC modified its safety standard IEC 60335-2-89 in 2019, permitting an increased charge limit for flammable refrigerants in independent commercial refrigeration units, that only served as a model for individual regions to approve their own versions. In Europe, due to the potential liability issues stemming from utilizing a non-harmonized standard, manufacturers chose not to embrace this modification. But this has now been addressed with the adoption of the harmonized standard.

Moreover, with the introduction of the new EN standard, “conducting a separate risk assessment under EN378 is unnecessary,” said Masini.

“This is what the European manufacturers were expecting from some time [ago] since the correspondent IEC standard was available for more than three years.”

Marco Masini, President of ASERCOM

Author Saroj Thapa