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From R-410A to R-32: The Shift to Low-GWP Refrigerants for Home Heat Pumps

By July 10, 2024Decarbonization, Heat Pumps

From R-410A to R-32: The Shift to Low-GWP Refrigerants for Home Heat Pumps 

Knowing what a refrigerant is and its function within a heat pump is crucial to understanding how heat pump systems work.  

A Quick Review of Refrigerants 

Refrigerants are crucial working fluids—especially within the refrigeration cycle of air conditioning systems and heat pumps. They undergo continuous phase transitions from liquid to gas and back, helping to facilitate temperature regulation.    

Understanding Heat Pump Systems 

Simply put, a heat pump transfers heat from one place to another. Heat pumps are often discussed in the context of heating, but they are also utilized for comfort cooling in homes. Heat pumps can function as air conditioners by extracting heat from indoors and moving it outside, and global adoption of home meat pump technology is on the rise with the aforementioned refrigerants playing a crucial role in their overall efficiency.  

The refrigerant itself moves through a circuit, absorbing and releasing heat. Driven by electricity, the refrigerant circulates within the heat pump, undergoing compression and expansion to alter its state and enable the transfer of heat. 

A Key Process 

  1. First, the refrigerant moves through a heat exchanger and passes the outside air, eventually becoming warm enough to start boiling, which changes it from a liquid to a gas. 
  2. Then, it moves through the compressor, which increases the pressure, further heating it. Once the refrigerant is past the compressor, it’s already warmer than the indoor space.  
  3. Next, the hot gas passes through another heat exchanger, where it releases heat into the room while condensing back into a liquid. 
  4. Lastly, the refrigerant goes through an expansion valve, reducing pressure and temperature, where’s it’s now ready to absorb more heat and continue the cycle. 

The Shift from R-410A 

For years, R-410A, a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant, has been widely used in air conditioners and heat pumps for its high efficiency and low toxicity. But, with a high GWP (Global Warming Potential), it unfortunately contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. To combat this, the EPA has implemented regulations to reduce the use of high-GWP refrigerants like R-410A, banning its use in new HVAC systems beginning January 1, 2025. 

What are the Main Differences Between R-410A and R-32? 

R-32 is a newer refrigerant developed as a next-generation option, initially used by Daikin and now steadily gaining popularity among major brands and heat pump manufacturers, including Dalrada HOME, as a modern replacement for R-410A. The key differences and advantages of R-32 over R-410A include: 

  1. Global Warming Potential (GWP): R-32 has a drastically lower GWP (675), representing only about 30% of R-410A’s impact on global warming. 
  2. Composition: R-32 is a single compound, while R-410A is a mixture of R-32 and R-125. 
  3. Recyclability: Being a single-component refrigerant, R-32 is easier to recycle than mixture-based R-410A. 
  4. Efficiency: R-32 has higher cooling efficiency. Additionally, systems using R-32 require up to 20% less refrigerant than those using R-410A, making them more efficient and cost-effective. 
  5. Pressure and Handling: R-410A operates at a high pressure, making it difficult to handle. In contrast, R-32 is easier to manage. 
  6. Refilling Requirements: In AC gas refilling, less R-32 is required compared to R-410A. 

Is it Possible to Switch Refrigerants from R-410A to R-32?   

Unfortunately, you cannot simply switch from R-410A to new refrigerants like R-32 in existing HVAC systems. Systems specifically designed for R-410A must only use that refrigerant, and the same thing applies for systems that use R-32 or other lower GWP refrigerants.  

While homeowners can still use their current systems with R-410A, the refrigerant will become more costly and difficult to find after the upcoming ban. Investing in new systems that utilize other refrigerants is recommended to future-proof any HVAC system. The good news? Systems that use R-32 offer benefits that offset the purchase price, such as better efficiency (which translates to lower utility bills), lower refill volume required, and lower cost per refill. 

As the industry transitions from R-410A, R-32 has emerged as a better alternative, offering significant environmental and operational benefits that are in line with global regulatory trends. Understanding the differences between refrigerants enables consumers to make informed decisions about adopting R-32 for more efficient, eco-friendly, and cost-effective HVAC systems. Choosing heat pumps and HVAC systems designed for R-32 refrigerant contributes to a more sustainable future.  

To learn more about home heat pumps and home heat pump systems, please browse our selection of blogs and articles or contact us today. 

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