A2L Products Now Allowed in Many States – Get Ready!
Many states are now allowing for the use of low-Global Warming Potential (GWP) A2L refrigerants for air conditioning. Despite ACCA’s work to ensure a singular federal phasedown schedule, there continues to be a patchwork of state and local requirements depending on where you are. Your customers that are environmentally well-read may be asking about low-GWP sooner than you think. Read on!
What’s in Your State?
Connecticut, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia have already updated their state building codes to allow for the use of A2L refrigerants in air conditioners. In addition, Arizona, Indiana, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont have all passed legislation to allow for low-GWP refrigerants, regardless of whether there are any code requirements for residential A2L applications. Effective implementation dates vary by state, so check with your local jurisdictions.
Although the number of states shown above is growing, some states, like California, have been anticipating A2L installation requirements to appear in the relevant mechanical codes. On January 1, 2025, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will prohibit refrigerants with a GWP greater than 750 for new residential air conditioning equipment. For PTACs and room or window air conditioners, it will be even sooner, January 1, 2023. The next edition of the California Mechanical Code will be updated based on the pending 2024 IAPMO Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC). More on that later.
State Adoption Can Be a SNAP
In areas of the U.S. where statewide codes do not exist, another solution to allow for A2L products is to pass legislation allowing for products certified to the UL 60035-2-40 air conditioner safety standard that use refrigerants approved under the U.S. EPA’s SNAP Program. SNAP stands for Significant New Alternatives Policy and was established under Section 612 of the Clean Air Act to identify and evaluate substitutes for ozone-depleting substances. The program looks at overall risks to human health and the environment of existing and new substitutes, publishes lists, and promotes the use of acceptable substances. One sector is refrigeration and air conditioning.
A Tale of Two Codes
All of the above state activity is taking place even as the ink is drying on the two recognized code bodies’ A2L requirements for their upcoming 2024 editions. The two code bodies recognized by jurisdictions in the United States are those developed under the auspices of the International Code Council (ICC), and the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). The ICC’s International Mechanical Code (IMC) and the International Residential Code – Mechanical (IRC – M) are adopted by the lion’s share of states. Out west, the IAPMO Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) forms the basis for adoption as the California Mechanical Code. The UMC is also adopted by other states out west, such as Nevada, New Mexico, and even jurisdictions like Austin, Texas. Also, keep in mind that when a state adopts one of the above codes, they can modify, add, or delete requirements as they see fit. As always, contact your local AHJ to find out what’s in effect where you’re working.
It appears that the IAPMO and ICC versions for A2L home comfort systems will differ slightly from each other. Both will reference ASHRAE Standard 15 and UL Standard 60335-2-40 for installation requirements. That’s encouraging as we want a uniform set of requirements between all states. However, the IAPMO UMC coverage deviates from ASHRAE 15 in how an indoor DX unit will handle an A2L leak in terms of where the leak can be discharged by the ventilation system. ASHRAE 15 allows for two options: either (a) discharge to indoor spaces provided that the refrigerant concentration will not exceed a specific calculated limit, or (b) discharge to the outdoors. Right now, the UMC version will only allow for condition “b.” In addition, the UMC Technical Committee is currently voting on whether to require brazing-only for A2L fittings or allow for press-connects. ACCA and the HVAC industry supports the use of all viable safe options.
Regardless of the code requirements in your area, you can’t go wrong if you always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions as part of the equipment’s listing to national safety standards.
Recent ACCA Codes & Coffee on A2L Products
On May 11, 2022, ACCA held a free Codes & Coffee webinar featuring three prominent OEMs who provided an update on the residential HVAC products that will utilize A2L refrigerants. This focused on the codes and standards requirements covering the installation of such products. An update on A2L industry research was also provided. The OEMs represented Trane Technologies, Daikin/Goodman, and JCI/York. It was extremely informative and another great example of one of the many benefits of ACCA membership. Codes & Coffee will return this September and will feature more on this topic from industry leaders.
As more states start allowing A2L products to be installed in residential applications, contractors will have to obtain the proper training on how to handle, transport and install A2L refrigerants, which have mildly flammable characteristics. This will also involve augmenting their tools, gauges, etc., to be compatible with A2L and A2L cylinders. One difference is that A2L cylinders will have left-handed threads versus the right-handed threads for A1 cylinders. There are many sources for such training, including equipment OEMs and refrigerant manufacturers for their specific products, either directly or through their authorized dealers and distributors. ACCA currently offers training in the basics of handling and transporting A2L refrigerants in a residential setting. Click on the link to learn about it and sign up. A2L Refrigerant Training – ACCA
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