WASHINGTON (CN) - The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed five flammable refrigerants as greener alternatives to refrigerants being phased out, for home air conditioners and refrigerators. The refrigerants were chosen because they do not contribute to ozone depletion.
The EPA wrote
that, despite their flammability, it believes the substitutes "present overall lower risk to human health and the environment compared to other available or potentially available alternatives in the same end-uses."
The proposed refrigerants include one hydrochloroflourocarbon (HFC) refrigerant - HFC-32 - and four hydrocarbon refrigerants - ethane, isobutene, propane, and R-441A.
Other uses for the refrigerants are in household freezers, retail food refrigeration, very low temperature refrigeration and vending machines.
The EPA's proposal includes several "conditions" for use of the listed refrigerants in equipment, so they do not present a significantly greater risk than other substitutes might. Proposed requirements include that the refrigerants can only be used in equipment specifically made for these refrigerants and that there is no source of ignition that could start a fire or explosion.
The EPA also has proposed that uses of the four hydrocarbon refrigerants, unlike many other refrigerants, be allowed to include venting, release or disposal of the refrigerant. For this the EPA cites "current evidence" that it does not pose a threat to the environment. Other regulatory requirements would still apply, however.
The EPA's proposal is in response to a presidential mandate to tackle climate change, and use "climate-friendly" refrigerants. Under the Montreal Protocol, the U.S. agreed to fully phase out HCFCs by 2030.
After the EPA publishes the proposal in the Federal Register, the public can submit comments for 60 days.