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What Techs Need to Know About A2L Refrigerants

Adapting to evolving refrigerant regulations is a regular occurrence in the HVAC industry. While phaseouts of ozone-damaging substances have been underway for several decades, staying on top of the latest regulatory guidelines and product specifications is still a challenge technicians face.


The renewed urgency in the fight against climate change has driven lawmakers and government agencies to fast-track the implementation of new, environmentally friendly refrigerants. As part of our mission to support HVAC/R contractors, Johnstone Supply – The Ware Group believes in providing the latest industry information to everyone involved in the trade. This article focuses on the switch to A2L and outlines the keys to transitioning efficiently.

About A2L

The roadmap for phasing out harmful refrigerants began in 1987 and has slowly progressed in the following decades. Initially, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) like R-11 and R-12 were removed from production, with hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) R-22 following suit a few years later. Following R-22, the EPA chose R-410A as the preferred replacement for R-22 due to its ozone-safe and non-flammable qualities. But now the EPA is looking ahead to a refrigerant with a special ASHRAE classification: A2L. The EPA’s stated goal is to have the entire industry transition to A2L by January 25, 2025.

Interestingly, the properties of A2L aren’t vastly different than HCFCs and HFCs. Additionally, there are variations within A2L refrigerant types regarding their thermodynamic properties. But the important thing, as far as the EPA is concerned, is that all forms of A2L have an ozone-depleting potential of 0. This metric is notable because the current refrigerants, such as R-12 or R-22 (which have an ODP of roughly 1 and 0.05, respectively), are being phased out.

Is A2L Flammable?

With each impending phaseout, HVAC/R companies must prepare for a transitory phase in which they become familiar with safely installing the new refrigerant.

Many techs with years of experience have worked with R-22 and R-410A, which are mostly non-flammable, though they do have some degree of flammability. For this reason, working with A2L (which is flammable) may be concerning to some HVAC/R workers. The AHRI states that certain items, including lit cigarettes, hot wires, or direct flames, could ignite A2L refrigerant. However, combustion from sources like static sparks and hairdryers is extremely unlikely.

Most techs already follow a protocol when working with R-22 and R410A, and as long as you adhere to the best practices that are in place, you shouldn’t have to worry about A2L’s flammable properties.

The Pros and Cons of A2L

In addition to ODP, another crucial measure of refrigerant is Global Warming Potential (GWP). The most noticeable benefit of A2L is its low GWP, which is up to 99% lower than the alternatives. In addition, most A2L products have exemplary thermodynamic properties, which increase energy efficiency while reducing operating costs.

Although the transition to A2L is a net positive for the environment, it also presents some drawbacks worth mentioning — most notably, upfront costs. Because A2L can’t be used in units (A/C, heat pumps, etc.) designed for prior generations of refrigerants like R410-A, new equipment is a common requirement when transitioning to A2L. However, this may represent a great opportunity for contractors to earn new business if they become proficient in installing A2L-compatible systems.

Finally, the last drawback of switching to A2L is one that most contractors are familiar with by now: complex regulatory compliance regulations. Sustaining compliance can be challenging at times due to the volume of standards and the requirements for ongoing monitoring and compliance reporting.

A Roadmap for Transitioning to A2L

Since the future of refrigerant is A2L, HVAC/R contractors should begin formulating a plan for transitioning existing systems to modern refrigerant standards.

The first step in the process involves evaluating current refrigeration and A/C systems to determine what will be needed to accommodate A2L. Take note of the equipment, application, and operating conditions. The next phase requires a comprehensive strategy for system modifications, equipment upgrades, and, of course, safety protocols.

Finally, it’s important to train technicians and installers to properly handle and install A2L refrigerant safely and efficiently. Seeking out an A2L expert before beginning a project can help increase your overall cost-efficiency by removing unforeseen obstacles from the equation.

Johnstone Supply – The Ware Group: Serving HVAC/R Contractors for Over 40 Years

Johnstone Supply – The Ware Group is a reliable resource HVAC/R contractors can count on to provide quality parts, expert training, and support when needed. We understand what it takes to help your business grow, and that’s why the Johnstone Advantage is Saving Your Time. Making You Money.

The Ware Group currently operates 30 stores (and counting) and has access to the most reputable brands in the industry. From marketing and selling to shipping and ordering, we’re here to serve you and your business. Contact us today for more information regarding inventory, training sessions, or anything else related to the world of HVAC/R.


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