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R32 is a single component lower GWP (Global Warming Potential) alternative to R410A most commonly used in new air conditioning split & portable systems.
R410A has what is now defined as a high GWP (2,088) and therefore must be replaced with a more environmentally friendly alternative. R32 is half of R410A’s blend (50% R32 & 50% R125) and has a GWP of 675.
R32 has been classified by Ashrae as A2L, mildly flammable and was always able to operate in air-conditioning systems, due to its flammability it was decided to blend R32 with R125 to render it non-flammable which led to the launch of R410A.
Because R410A is a high GWP refrigerant it has to be replaced, so manufacturers are now producing air-conditioning units using R32 which works just as well but these new systems have to be designed to use a flammable refrigerant so R32 cannot be used to retrofit existing R410A equipment. Although classed as flammable it is important to understand A2L refrigerants are mildly flammable so if ignited its burning velocity is relatively slow, less than 10cm per second compared to propane which can burn 4 times faster at over 40cm per second.
While A2L refrigerants are much safer than highly flammable refrigerants because there is currently no safety classification for Mildly Flammable, A2L refrigerants have to be grouped with highly flammable refrigerants like R290 (propane) and R1270 (Propylene) which means under building regulations they cannot be used for certain applications like hotels and offices.
Although the GWP of R32 is two-thirds less than R410A it is still classed as a medium GWP refrigerant so it is not considered as long-term sustainable replacement.
With F-Gas quota regulations now firmly in place since 2015 the ongoing reductions mean to be classed as a long-term sustainable replacement refrigerant its GWP has to be below 300 and ideally below 150.