Chinese OEM Haier plans to launch a home air-to-air split propane (R290) heat pump in Europe in 2023, the company announced at the Chillventa trade show, where it showcased the technology.
Chillventa took place October 11–13 in Nuremberg, Germany.
“Propane (R290) is emerging as a serious alternative to high GWP gases in the air conditioning and heat pump market,” said Bob Cowlard, Haier’s Europe Managing Director in a statement released at the trade event.
“Growing evidence suggests that R290 will become a serious player in the air conditioning and heat pump market.”
He pointed out the climate benefits of a wide uptake of R290 in residential split air conditioners and heat pumps, which can reduce up to 0.12°C (0.22°F) of global warming, according to a recent study.
Need for standards revisions
Although split ACs using R290 as a low-GWP alternative to R410 and R32 are already available in the Chinese and Indian markets, in other parts of the world – including Europe – their use and acceptance have been limited because of restrictive safety standards and building codes related to flammability.
However, in a recent opinion, Member of the European Parliament Bas Eickhout addressed the need to update these standards. Eickhout is the rapporteur for the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the leading committee dealing with the revision of the EU F-gas Regulation.
“The Commission should request the European standardisation organisations to develop and update relevant harmonised standards to ensure the smooth implementation of the restrictions on placing on the market laid down in this Regulation,” reads amendment 10 of the opinion. “Member States should ensure that national standards and building codes are updated to reflect the allowable charge limits of flammable refrigerants, including IEC 60335-2-89 and IEC 60335-2-40 and should report on their efforts to that end and any exceptions to their update.”
In May, the global standard governing the use of flammable refrigerants in air-conditioning and heat pumps, IEC 60335-2-40, was unanimously adopted, allowing manufacturers to safely develop systems with higher flammable charges in equipment, R290 included. However, the standard needs to still be adopted regionally. In Europe, the primary method is for the European Commission to publish the EN 60335-2-40 ED7 as a “harmonized standard,” which could take two to three years. In the meantime, equipment manufacturers could apply the higher charge limits of the new standard by using a “risk assessment” – a simple argument that a new edition of a harmonized standard will be at least as safe as an old (ED6) standard.
A 2015 study reported that the risk of flammability of hydrocarbons in split ACs is lower than that of home fridges charged with these fluids (and billions of home fridges with isobutane/R600a are used safely throughout the world). “Results show the frequency and severity of ignition of SACs (split air conditioners) are significantly lower than domestic refrigerators due to the SAC installation characteristics being more conducive for dispersion of leaked refrigerant and less potential for confinement of a flammable mixture in the event of ignition,” said the study.
Thus, Haier is confident about the prospects for its R290 heat pump. “As the EU f-gas step downs continue, flammable refrigerants will have a greater role to play and will almost certainly be demanded by end-users,” said Cowlard. “That is why Haier is developing a wall-mounted split-system running on R290 which will be available to customers next year.”
Clivet (part of the Midea Group) also presented an R290-charged split heat pump at Chillventa, specifying that the product is already available in Germany. Clivet is among the partners in a training program targeting hydrocarbons in split systems that is about to be launched by four training institutions in Europe.
In addition, Japanese manufacturer Panasonic’s European division also recently announced the 2023 launch of its Aquarea L Series propane residential air-to-water heat pumps.
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