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Last edited 05 Mar 2021
R404A phase out
R404A is a type of fluorinated gas (F gas) that is a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) blend. It is a mixed refrigerant made from R125, R134a and R143a. However, with a global warming potential (GWP) of 3922, it is a highly potent greenhouse gas. It is also ozone depleting.
 Background on 404A
R404A is one of the most common refrigerants used in commercial supermarket chillers, vending machines and other cooling units which have low and medium temperature requirements. It is also frequently used in industrial refrigeration applications.
 January 2020 phase out
On 1 January 2020, a phase out of virgin R404A went into effect under UK and EU legislation. This included a ban on the sale of new refrigeration and air conditioning equipment using new R404A and additional F gases with a GWP over 2500.
These refrigerants could be used in new equipment until the end of 2019, but suppliers began to reduce their production in the lead up to the phase out. This resulted in price increases and supply issues.
While virgin R404A can no longer be used in new equipment, recovered or reclaimed R404A can be used until the end of 2030. After that point, all replacement R404A will be banned. These rules also apply to R507 and the other gases with a GWP over 2500.
 Replacements for R404A
In response to these actions, lower GWP alternatives to R404A have become available. Initially, there were two main R404A replacements of similar composition - R407C and R407A. Additional products have been introduced for different applications.
Non-flammable substitutions suitable for cold rooms and other small to medium commercial refrigeration applications include R452A, R449A, R448A. Other alternatives, R513A and R134A are suitable in medium back pressure (MBP) applications.
Mildly flammable replacements include R454A, R454C and R455A.
 Refrigerant recovery
The phase out of virgin R404A has emphasised the importance of proper refrigerant recovery, and reclamation. Improving the reclamation and reuse of recovered products will be a factor in helping to ensure a sufficient supply of R404A until its total ban in 2030.
A refrigerant that has been recovered and recycled must go through a purification process that returns it - as close as possible - to its original state. Reclaimed products should be certificated and guaranteed to meet required standards.
Unprocessed product that has been recovered from a system should not be stored longer than 12 months. After that time, it should be designated as hazardous waste and disposed of according to the proper environmental regulations.
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