Trump Administration Approves Climate Friendly Flammable Refrigerants

Abandoned Building on Fire in Quebec, Canada.
Abandoned Building on Fire in Quebec, Canada. By Sylvain Pedneault (Self-photographed) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Greens are celebrating that the US EPA has raised the quantity of cheap highly flammable climate friendly refrigerants which can be used in home appliances.

Trump’s EPA Backs a Climate Change Tweak Environmentalists Like

By Eric Roston

29 November 2017, 04:14 GMT+10

The Trump administration took a small step toward addressing climate change last week — it just didn’t put it quite in those words.

Without fanfare — or even a public announcement — the Environmental Protection Agency issued an arcane rule that allows refrigerator and air-conditioner manufacturers to increase the amount of three cooling chemicals they can use safely. In a twist, the change was welcomed by manufacturers that want to adapt and use chemicals that would cause less global warming.

Home refrigerator makers in particular now have the EPA’s authorization to phase out the use of HFCs, replacing them with a hydrocarbon called isobutane. Having the rule in hand frees manufacturers to go ahead with their phaseout plans without needing the Kigali Amendment ratified in the Senate, according to Messner.

The EPA rule raises what the agency considers the safe levels of hydrocarbon coolants. The rule is confined to refrigerators and air conditioners, because car AC systems might release inflammable chemicals during an accident.

“There are accidents,” said David Doniger, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate and Clean Air Program. But “your home refrigerator is not going to run into another refrigerator at 30 miles per hour.”

The new EPA ruling is available here.

It is possible using more iso-Butane in a home fridges is not a big deal – the EPA ruling specifies a charge limit of 57g (2 ounces) of iso-Butane – not a lot of flammable gas. But the EPA is concerned enough about the flammability of iso-Butane to specify that it should only be used in new fridges.

From the EPA ruling;

EPA previously found isobutane, propane, and R-441A acceptable, subject to use conditions, in new household refrigerators and freezers. In the proposed and final rules, EPA provided information on the environmental and health properties of the three refrigerants and the various substitutes available for use in household refrigerators and freezers. Additionally, EPA’s risk screens for the three refrigerants are available in the docket for these rulemakings (EPA–HQ–OAR–2009–0286 and EPA–HQ–OAR–2013–0748).

Isobutane, propane, and R-441A have an ASHRAE classification of A3, indicating that they have low toxicity and high flammability. The flammability risks are of concern because household refrigerators and freezers have traditionally used refrigerants that are not flammable. In the presence of an ignition source (e.g., static electricity, a spark resulting from a closing door, or a cigarette), an explosion or a fire could occur if the concentration of isobutane, propane, and R-441A were to exceed the LFL of 18,000 ppm, 21,000 ppm, and 20,500 ppm, respectively.

To address flammability, EPA listed the refrigerants as acceptable, subject to use conditions, in new household refrigerators and freezers. The use conditions address safe use of flammable refrigerants and include incorporation by reference of Supplement SA to UL Standard 250, refrigerant charge size limits, and requirements for markings on equipment using the refrigerants to inform consumers and technicians of potential flammability hazards. Without appropriate use conditions, the flammability risk posed by the refrigerants could be higher than non-flammable refrigerants because individuals may not be aware that their actions could potentially cause a fire, and because the refrigerants could be used in existing equipment that has not been designed specifically to minimize flammability risks.

3. The charge size must not exceed 57g (2.01 ounces) in any refrigerator, freezer, or combination refrigerator and freezer in each circuit;

Read more:

What makes me uncomfortable is the only reason I can think of for switching from non-toxic non-flammable CFCs to highly flammable iso-Butane is pressure from the green lobby, and maybe some cost savings. The rules have been changed just a little in a way which puts convenience and political correctness ahead of consumer safety.

There is another potential issue. If everyone follows the rules, 2oz of flammable gas may not be a big deal – though the stipulation that the iso-Butane only be used in new fridges is intriguing. But with cheaper iso-Butane on the market, how long will it be until corner cutting refrigeration technicians start charging old fridges with cheaper iso-Butane?

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November 29, 2017 3:29 am

I would hope these are not the type of refrigerant implicated in the huge tower block fire in London recently…

Reply to  Jer0me
November 29, 2017 7:44 am

It makes perfect sense to use isobutane for technical and economic reasons. It doesn’t have anything to do with climate change. The fire hazard is a red herring as most buildings have natural gas piped unto open flames in furnaces, cooktops, etc. As a refrigerant isobutane is in a closed loop and there is a small amount compared to the gas used for heating and cooking.

Reply to  Patrick Moore (@EcoSenseNow)
November 29, 2017 1:43 pm

There was nothing wrong with freon.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Patrick Moore (@EcoSenseNow)
November 29, 2017 2:33 pm

Hear, hear – 4TimesAYear!

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Patrick Moore (@EcoSenseNow)
November 29, 2017 2:51 pm

By the way Dr. moore, I also agree with your assertion that the miniscule amounts in closed refrigeration systems are minor and by the time they ignite the fire must be well enough involved to melt the soldered piping connections. I see a building afire in the accompanying graphic, but no connection in the article to a fire caused by one of these appliances.

Donald Shockley
Reply to  Patrick Moore (@EcoSenseNow)
November 29, 2017 4:45 pm

So highly flammable gas isn’t a danger to your home due to the small quantities used in a closed loop system, but CFCs in the same quantity and same closed loop systems were destroying the planet and needed to be banned?

Bryan A
Reply to  Jer0me
November 29, 2017 9:53 am

When you have a singe refer and AC unit in a house, 4 oz isn’t much.
But when you have an apartment building with 50 refers and AC units, you have 200oz or over 12 pounds of the stuff just waiting for a structure fire

Reply to  Bryan A
November 29, 2017 1:42 pm

Or a leak and a spark….

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Bryan A
November 29, 2017 3:07 pm

If the unit is a gas-fired, whole-house heat/ac system, a leak in the evaporator would be carried into the plenum and mixed into the discharge air. the chances of the airspace surrounding the burner containing a combustible concentration of refrigerant are extremely low.
The only danger of it starting a fire is when some copper scrapping thief cuts the line with a lit cigarette in his mouth.

David Cage
Reply to  Jer0me
November 29, 2017 10:36 pm

It is identical so welcome to the towering inferno remake twenty or more.

Y. Knott
November 29, 2017 3:31 am

IIRC, the Europeans have been using isobutane for automotive refrigerants all along – and isobutane actually has a higher flash point than R-134a.

The story I heard was that when Freon (R-12) was being put on the banned-list, Dupont stepped-up to the EPA and said “Okay, we’ve developed a new refrigerant – we call it R-134 – that does not have any CFC’s in it. It’s perfectly backward-compatible with R-12, you can squirt it right into existing systems with no ill effects.”

And the EPA replied “Oh, nonononononononono… We want a refrigerant that is totally INCOMPATIBLE with Freon – if you squirt it in your R-12 a/c, it will destroy the system. That’ll force everybody to get-away from Freon entirely.”

So Dupont said “Err, okay… we have this other stuff that turns your mineral oil lubricant into sludge; it will only work if you purge your system and replace the mineral oil with PAG esters for lubricant, and if you put any R-12 into the PAG esters, it turns them into sludge.” And the EPA said “SOLD! – call it R-134a.”

I originally blamed Dupont for profiteering, but I’m much more inclined to blame the EPA as this is exactly the sorta’ thing they’ve always done. Can anybody confirm or deny this story? – thanks!

Another Doug
Reply to  Y. Knott
November 29, 2017 10:57 am

Can’t confirm the story, but when my 1990 Dodge Dakota got low on R-12, I replaced it with a mixture of propane and isobutane because of the oil compatibility issue. Cost me all of about five bucks at a sporting goods store, compared to hundreds for a retrofit. Ran it that way for years.

Keith J
Reply to  Y. Knott
December 1, 2017 5:49 am

Myth. Halocarbon refrigerants are designated by a formula. Take the R number and add 90. The sum is a formula, the first digit being the number of carbon atoms, the second digit being the number of hydrogen atoms and the third is the number of fluorine atoms. The rest of the unsaturated bonds are chlorine atoms. R12 has a sum of 102 so 1 carbon, no hydrogen and 2 fluorine. So two more chlorine and you get dichlorodifluoromethane. R134 would have a sum of 224. Two carbons, two hydrogen and 4 fluorine. As saturated ethane has 6 hydrogen, there is no chlorine. The STRUCTURE is key, the isomer of arrangement of these hydrogen and fluorine on the ethane backbone can vary, the a isomer is the reason for the designation. Isomer differences mean nil with respect to the type of lubricating oil used in R134 systems. All isomers are nearly equal in polarity. R12 is non polar. R134 not so.

November 29, 2017 3:34 am

Most environmentalist initiatives — e.g., nuclear, DDT — backfire and increase human suffering or misery.

November 29, 2017 3:34 am
George Hebbard
Reply to  M Simon
November 29, 2017 10:30 am

A better rumor is that the EPA said “We are going to Ban R-12” and DuPont said “Have I got a deal for you…”

November 29, 2017 3:36 am

Well that is odd. I must have said something wrong.

[Nope. Just the ol’ overactive WordPress IP Blacklist filter…inexplicably removing some posts and leaving others by the same commenter. Your previous post was found and rescued. -mod]

Pop Piasa
Reply to  M Simon
November 29, 2017 3:40 pm

Moderator, is that why some posts just seem to fail? Chrome goes back to the top of the page and there is no message. That just happened in a reply to BrianA above.

Dodgy Geezer
November 29, 2017 3:56 am

The Grenfell Tower fire in London last June caused 70 deaths. It is thought to have been started by a fire in a fridge/freezer.

Never mind. It is one aim of environmentalists to cut down on the number of humans, who they consider to be a plague on the planet…

Bruce Ploetz
Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
November 29, 2017 4:11 am

I made a longer comment about this, Dodgy Geezer, and it appears to have disappeared into the ether. Apparently the refrigerant probably was a hydrocarbon version but this does not seem to be the cause of the fire. But the Greens have a lot to answer for even so.

[Found and rescued both comments. -mod]

Another Doug
Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
November 29, 2017 5:58 am

But did the fire start with the refrigerant or the wiring? An old freezer burned my parents’ house to the ground. Had nothing to do with the refrigerant.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Another Doug
November 29, 2017 3:58 pm

The refrigerant would have had to be copiously leaking in a closed environment, and then exposed to a spark or temperature above the flashpoint.

Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
November 29, 2017 6:38 am

Yes, that is the suspected cause of the Grenfeil Tower in London fire. However, to believe that current appliances are somehow harmless and user-friendly is not realistic. There are some 400 or so refrigerator fires per year in the USA, most starting in the casing, wiring or cable insulation. While none of these has burned down a huge apartment building, the reason the fire in England was so catastrophic is believed to be because of the cladding, which you may indeed blame the Greens for. Also, there appear to have been no sprinklers or smoke alarms in the apartment building (at least none that worked).

Michael Keal
Reply to  Sheri
November 29, 2017 2:08 pm

‘”… because of the cladding … ” which contained aluminium, you know, one of the ingredients of Thermite. Burns beautifully.

David Cage
Reply to  Sheri
November 29, 2017 10:40 pm

Not the cladding but the insulation under it and that was chosen not as claimed to save a few hundred pounds but to meet insulation targets set by the greens.

Reply to  Sheri
December 1, 2017 12:01 pm

The cladding was there so the affluent inhabitants of the borough did not have to look a 60’s tower block

November 29, 2017 4:06 am

The bizarre changing of refrigerants to satisfy the latest environmental fad has been in itself a wasteful and anti-environmental exercise.

Now, when an older fridge runs low on refrigerant and needs to be recharged, it is against the law in Canada to do so, and an otherwise good fridge must be scrapped. Other countries probably have similarly wasteful regulations.

All this needless waste is done to “save the environment”.

However, the “ozone hole” crisis of the ~1970’s that led to the banning of certain refrigerants such as CFC’s was probably overblown.

It is increasingly clear that governments should strive to do less and less, not more and more. They are incompetent at almost every level, and this should be their primary governing principle.

I will vote for anyone who says: “I’ll do a whole lot LESS for you!”

November 29, 2017 8:09 am



Y. Knott
November 30, 2017 8:57 am

I can answer this, having been through it:

If you have a Freon system (R-12) in a car, the ONLY thing that was legal in Canada to replace the Freon with, was R-134A. You should check first – maybe it’s changed – but I doubt it. You have to change the fill-fittings as well; the new equipment won’t bolt to the old Freon fittings.

However, AFTER you replace the Freon with R-134A, your system is unregulated; you can then replace the R-134A with anything you want (except Freon, obviously; DO NOT put freon in a R-134A system, you’ll sludge the lubricant and destroy the system. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!).

It’s a good idea to do so, if you can replace it yourself or find a refrig tech who’ll do so; none of the licensed techs will use anything but R-134A, it would jeopardise their license. And the reason to replace the R-134A? – gas mileage. A Freon-filled a/c system is 40% more-efficient than a R-134A-filled system, so it runs the compressor less of the time – and an Isobutane-filled system (last time I saw it, it was called ES-12A and they sell it at Cr@ppy Tire) is another 12% more-efficient than freon.


November 29, 2017 4:06 am

Hello. The limit now is 150 grams, instead of 57 grams. Modification was approved 2 weeks ago. It aligns UL limits with IEC. Thanks

Bruce Ploetz
November 29, 2017 4:06 am

Wasn’t the Greenfell Tower fire caused by a refrigerator?comment image This article states that the flammable refrigerant was likely not the cause of the fire, but points out the possible dangers.

And the Greens are crowing about the “healing ozone hole” because the latest satellite data shows a smaller hole this year. They think the Montreal Protocol was a huge success and use that as propaganda to push their other Green agenda items. Since we don’t have any way of knowing how big the ozone hole was before humans started using safe, clean chlorofluorocarbons there is no way to tell if they are right or wrong.

How many people have to die to achieve the Green utopia? Probably around 78% of us. That would get us back to a population that could be supported without hydrocarbons, using subsistence farming and animal power. Back to the issue of horse dung in city streets and life expectancies in the 50s. So a few deaths from cheap refrigerators is all on the plus side for those who consider humanity to be an invasive species.

For the rest of us, capitulation in small matters like exploding refrigerators adds up to surrender in the larger cause of humanity. There is no way to “reach across the aisle” on this one. The other side of the aisle holds a death wish for both sides.

Reply to  Bruce Ploetz
November 29, 2017 3:36 pm

Then if opposing the Greens will result in more deaths and damage because they happen to be right on something (by chance, maybe), we should oppose them and let more people die because we have to put those Greens in their place, right?

November 29, 2017 4:39 am

They have very different refrigerant properties and are not direct replacements for each other without physical changes to the system.

November 29, 2017 5:01 am

The term being floated for R-31 is mildly flammable, R-31 is targeted as a replacement for R-410a.

Reply to  Norman
November 29, 2017 5:03 am

oops R-32

November 29, 2017 5:51 am

The eco-nuts already have killed thousands with their CAFE standards which made cars more dangerous.

Reply to  jim
November 29, 2017 7:12 am

10’s of thousands.

Reply to  MarkW
November 29, 2017 7:17 am

That’s debatable.
Check out this crash test of a ’59 Bel Air vs a 2009 chevy Malibu

Reply to  MarkW
November 29, 2017 8:22 am

Fraizer: What if the ’59 Bel Air had seat belts and a head restraint? What about a ’59 Bel Air versus a ’59 Bel Air? This is just one clip and proves very little. We would have to see more.

I will note that the front end of newer cars does indeed CRUSH IN. This means that hitting a deer with a ’97 Subaru totals the car, whereas hitting a deer at a higher speed with an ’85 Subaru just crumples the hood a bit and the car survives. The ’97 Subaru sustains far more damage.

Reply to  MarkW
November 29, 2017 8:39 am

Hi Sheri:

Like I said, debatable. People often equate heavier vehicles with increased safety. That is just not necessarily so. Also, you are conflating vehicle damage with passenger safety. The front ends are designed to crumple so as to keep the firewall-forward out of the passenger compartment. It also reduces the collision’s impulse of force. So, basically sacrificing vehicle structure for passenger safety.

Reply to  MarkW
November 29, 2017 9:23 am

what a waste of a fine looking classic. I do agree that modern engineering has made great improvements in crash safety, but d**n–that car should have ended it’s days being driven to sonic classic car nights. Personally, I love my 64 D-100 PU

Reply to  MarkW
November 29, 2017 10:35 am

Fraizer: I understand passenger safety versus car damage. However, the more damage, the higher the cost of repair, which adds to the cost of insurance on the newer vehicles. Insurers know if you hit a deer, your car could easily be totalled. CAFE standards may have made people safer, but they raised the cost of cars. So those who are poor don’t buy the newer cars. I really don’t know how it all works out—I’ve seen video of a smart car crumpling and saving the driver. I guess I remain skeptical. I do understand what you’re saying, though, even if my comment didn’t clearly indicate that.

Richard Bell
Reply to  MarkW
November 29, 2017 11:01 am

The only proven instance where a more massive car is safer than a less massive car is a head-on collision with a heavy transport truck. The ratio of car driver deaths to truck driver deaths is very close to the mass ratio of the two vehicles (20 dead 2 ton vehicle drivers for every dead 40 ton vehicle driver). In such a collision, the car bounces directly back from the truck, but the heavier car slows the truck more and accelerates less, as a result. In all other collisions, the energy absorbing crush zones are the strongest determinants of injuries.

The old Chrysler Airflow was designed with the (wrong) idea that the passengers were safest in a car that was most rigid. In an era without seat belts, these were basically vehicles where, after a high speed collision, you pulled out the blood stained upholstery, power washed the interior, re-upholstered it and sold it to the next guy.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  MarkW
November 30, 2017 11:03 am

The same thing was true of early Indy car design. You can find videos of some of those crashes; something goes sideways and you see the car rolling down the straightaway on its long axis, almost completely intact, transferring every erg of energy to the driver.

November 29, 2017 6:06 am

This is fine. This is easing restrictions to allow manufacturers more choices. Not forcing people into the “environmental friendly” option like Obama did. It doesn’t sound like a risk to the consumer had been meaningfully increased in any way.

Steve Case
November 29, 2017 6:07 am

The Ozone Hole/Montreal Protocol is BS.

Tom Halla
November 29, 2017 6:12 am

The green blob basically hates people. There was a good reason to use non-flammable coolants.

November 29, 2017 6:23 am

Can’t remember the source, but supposedly modern appliances have thinner copper tubing to jack-up the efficiency. This should be a lot more fun with the new refrigerant.

November 29, 2017 6:40 am

I am curious why there is an uproar over this when you can buy a propane refrigerator when you live off-grid. There are no prohibitions as far as I know against owning such a frig in any area, even if you don’t live off-grid. They are expensive, but the market is there.

I would also venture to note that most homes are highly flammable anyway. Furniture, drapes, etc all go up like dry kindling. And we worry about a bit of isobutane in a frig???

Reply to  Sheri
November 29, 2017 7:45 am

Exactly. We cook on a open flame of natural gas. The refrigerant is in a closed loop.

Reply to  Sheri
November 29, 2017 9:08 am

Propane refrigerators have protection to insure that propane is combusting, not building up in the home (or RV). The one in my RV has good exterior ventilation. I have never seen one built for home use, but I suspect it is the same.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
November 30, 2017 11:07 am

That’s a different kind of refrigerator, that runs on propane. This article discusses fridges that use isobutane or propane as the refrigerant charge, still running on electricity.

Reply to  Sheri
November 29, 2017 9:28 am

I grew up with a natural gas fridge during the 50’s–grand father worked for the Philadelphia gas company. However, I believe the actual coolant used was ammonia.

John M. Ware
November 29, 2017 6:45 am

My impression (only that) is that most of the coolant charge will still be non-flammable. 150 grams (or 57) would still be a small fraction of a total charge of, say, 5 kg. Does someone know how much a full charge of coolant weighs?

Rick C PE
Reply to  John M. Ware
November 29, 2017 8:53 am

Typical home refrigerator only uses about 5-6 oz of refrigerant IIRC.

Steve Zell
November 29, 2017 8:01 am

Propane has been used as a refrigerant in the natural-gas industry for decades, because it is relatively cheap and can be condensed out of natural gas itself. Isobutane has a higher boiling point (11 F) than propane (-44 F), which makes isobutane less effective as a refrigerant than propane.

But large industrial applications needing refrigeration (such as natural gas processing plants) are better equipped to handle the flammability issues of propane, because the compressors are subject to strict regulations, and are frequently maintained and checked for leaks, since operators are aware of the danger.

Use of isobutane in home refrigerators presents a greater danger than in industrial uses, because the average owner of a refrigerator in a kitchen doesn’t check it every few weeks for leaks, and only calls a repairman if food starts melting in the freezer. Isobutane has no odor, so that a small leak could go undetected for months, but a buildup of less than 57 grams in a confined space, followed by a spark from the compressor motor coil could easily cause a fire. If the occupants of the home are asleep or absent at the time the fire starts, the fire could easily spread to the rest of the kitchen before any efforts are made to put it out.

IMO, isobutane is too dangerous for use in home refrigerators, since they are not often checked for leaks.

Reply to  Steve Zell
November 29, 2017 6:15 pm

I have designed propane refrigeration systems for many years. In 57 gram quantities you are perfectly safe. You have more grams of gasoline vapour in your car gas tank sitting above kilograms of liquid gasoline parked in your garage and you don’t worry about it. S02 was the early refrigerant used in fairly large quantity that was toxic. However the systems of the day held a lot of liquid, so unflammable CFC’s were a good invention. But modern small systems can use butane or propane, no problem.

David Naugler
November 29, 2017 8:45 am

Banning a refrigerant is good for the profit of manufacturers of refrigerant. It is no accident that the Montreal Potocol ban on Freons and the current AGW banning of HFCs correlate with expiration of their patents. The Antartic Ozone Hole alarmism is the same as Greenhouse Gas alarmism, corrupt.

November 29, 2017 9:06 am

New fridges become old.

November 29, 2017 9:06 am

This is a win for the people. The big chemical companies managed to get the Firefighters of America to oppose hydrocarbon refrigerants so they could keep a monopoly with their trademarked chemicals. Europe saw this was a fake argument years ago. And it has nothing to do with climate change. It allows for a more efficient refrigerant that costs far less. Most of us have natural gas lines or propane lines into our homes. The gas is burning as an open flame on our cooktops and in our furnaces. You can have 500 gallons of propane in a tank next to your house. The risk of a few ounces or pounds of isobutane in a closed circuit is virtually zero compared to the natural gas and propane infrastructure. The same for automobiles which have 20 gallons of gasoline in a tank.

November 29, 2017 9:29 am

Your fears are unwarranted. The amount of charge is so minimal and the real chance of fire is even less. This is a huge deal. In California, CARB is telegraphing the use of refrigerants for commercial refrigeration to have GWP ratings of less than 150 (meaning 150 times the impact of equivalent amount of CO2).

Today, this limits what may be used. The use of flammable refrigerants will make things cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and provide an economic boost as many commercial users will convert.

Additionally, hfc, cfc, or hcfc do not take well to hear and flame either. The burning of these may create phosgene gas which has been used in chemical warfare and is highly toxic/ poisonous.

I find the use of a burning building as fear mongering and the reporting to be more emotionally charged than fact based.

The production and use of current refrigerants is messy and creates issues with our atmosphere. As a country and as a planet, we need to find a better way. Propane and others may not be a panacea, but we need to find a transition refrigerant while we figure out what the long term solution may be.

Reply to  jontan27
November 29, 2017 11:19 am

I believe the problem is the words “green” and “mandated”. It could be the best idea on the planet and it would be vilified, rejected, and mocked by many simply because of those two words.

A/C Dude
November 29, 2017 1:12 pm

Why would you worry about a couple of ounces of butane or propane running your refrigerator actually propane is a great replacement for R22 freon in your AC unit… propane is much cheaper and its density is much higher than R22 so it would use quite a bit less to fully charge your air conditioner. So why are you worried about it being flammable when people have natural gas coming in their house and at the end of every run there’s a standing pilot there’s a flame or an electronic ignition and an unlimited amount of gas coming in the house??? why would you worry about a few pounds of propane in your A/C??? really doesn’t make much sense people worried about a little bit of propane in your air conditioner when you have an unlimited amount of gas coming in your house from the city.
It’s really just a matter of perception… They are wanting to scare you so you can continue to pay an enormous amount of money for freon that didn’t even need to be replaced in the first place!

Reply to  A/C Dude
November 29, 2017 3:33 pm

Not sure this is a plan to force people to replace freon that doesn’t need replaced, but you’re correct on the fact that the danger here is overrated. There are many things that are extremely flammable that we use every day. A natural gas explosion takes out most of a city block sometimes. We are very poor at risk assessment much of the time.

November 29, 2017 4:38 pm

This new ruling is a positive change. 2 ounces of iso-butane offers no real threat to homeowners — certainly far far less than their existing natural gas stoves, ovens, furnaces, water heaters — not to mention their propane bbq’s.

Refrigerants are in a closed system and (almost never) suffer catastrophic failures — when they leak, they leak ever so slowly — reducing the efficiency of the unit. Isobutane is heavier than air, sinking to the floor and spreading out — unlikely to collect in pockets large enough to to cause explosions (given that the upper limit is 2 oz.).

While their is not zero danger from the use of isobtane as a refrigerant — the risk is very very low and pales in comparison with the risks found in the normal US home equipped with natural gas or propane heating/cooking equipment.

Bravo for the EPA to use science and common sense in the ruling.

It puzzles me that it is the EPA that has control of the safety of household appliances — they are out of there corral once again.

November 29, 2017 5:18 pm

You must be a lobbyist for dupont or another refrigerat producer, its a known fact that if a propane or isobutaine unit leaks into a closed refrigerator the air to gas mixture is to low to ignite, they have been used in Europe for years , tell me about a fire ….. lol . [PRUNED.]

Refrigeration technician
November 29, 2017 6:00 pm

Eric obviously does not like refrigeration technicians. History lesson here. When r 12 was phased out in 1994 environmentally friendly refrigerant blends were introduced to replace the r12 in the systems so they could run until the end of their service life. One of those blends was r409. Which has propane as part of the blend. I have serviced and recharged systems with POUNDS of this refrigerant without issue. Two ounces in a residential fridge does not scare me, nor should it scare you. What should is when DuPonts patents on this new refrigerant expire and we do this all again and have to buy new equipment rather than service the old due to cost of refrigerant. By the way r409 was phased out in 2010 since it also contained r 22.

Michael S. Kelly
November 30, 2017 12:52 am

Sorry, my upset at this is over the fact that the EPA has any say whatsoever on what refrigerants I can use. As for flammability, I have a 1,000 gallon tank of propane buried in my yard. It is piped into my house and burned at my stove top for cooking, in my water heater for heating water, and in my furnace for heating the house. Two of those items, the water heater and furnace, rely on automation to ensure that the house doesn’t explode. So far, so good. The third, my stove top, relies on me to ensure that the spark igniter actually worked and I’m not pumping gas out into the kitchen. So far, a mixed record. I’ve actually left it on for quite some time when the spark igniter failed. But I know enough about propane combustion to know when it’s safe to light.

We go through about 2,100 gallons of propane a year. That’s over 10,000 pounds of propane pumped into my house, enough to charge the entire 200,000 cubic foot volume of the place to 21,000 ppm more than 4 times. The thing that riles me the most about this article is that the EPA sets a charge limit of 57 grams on a (hermetically sealed) refrigerator unit due to “flammability” “concerns.” That’s 0.026 pounds, or 387,000 times less propane than is pumped into my house annually, for the sole purpose of being burned.

I am a Federal regulator. I work for the Federal Aviation Administration. And this sounds to me like the sort of thing I see every single day, namely, some bozo who has no connection to the real world save through a computer using the very formidable reigns of power given him to smack down one of the proles outside of the beltway who are, in his view, reckless ignorami who must be restrained for their own good.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
November 30, 2017 12:07 pm

Back when I was flying the 727, we had a halon fire extinguisher in the cockpit, but it was more important to save the penguins from the ozone hole than to put out a fire in the airplane, so they took them out. We also had a windscreen rain repellent called RainBoe (Boeing, get it?) that helped us see the runway when landing in storms. Buuuut, it too contained a CFC, so adios. That’s why you might have seen a pilot at the gate hanging out the side window rubbing Rain-X on the windscreen.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Mike McMillan
November 30, 2017 7:05 pm

Halon was also the fire extinguisher of choice in Dodge vans. That application survived the ozone hole purge, because everybody loved Van Halon..

November 30, 2017 8:04 am

Totally agree, I’ve been witness of all kind of wrong procedures with no flammable refrigerant, i don’t want to imagine what can happen with those.

November 30, 2017 6:18 pm

I doubt it was the refrigerant, but the plastic back of the reefer:

November 30, 2017 11:53 pm

I’m amazed an the number of people claiming hydrocarbon refrigerants are not a problem. No one has thought to look at the data.

Hydrocarbon refrigerants have been used in the UK for a few years. Turns out a fairly common incident is to have a slow leak in the evaporator coil inside a closed refrigerator. The hydrocarbon build up and eventually on of two things happens. If you’re lucky, the thermostat clicks and set off and explosion throwing the refrigerator door across the room. If you not lucky, you open the door and the spark from the light switch sets off the explosion and throws the door in your face.

Here’s a couple of examples. There are many more.

Keith J
December 1, 2017 6:04 am

Nearly every home has far more than two ounces of isobutane in aerosol cans in inventory. This is in a disposable, valve sealed steel can container.

Compare and contrast with hermetic sealed heavy steel and copper refrigerant system. Protected by an outer casement.

The engineering of refrigeration systems has improved greatly over the last 90 years since Kettering and Midgely pioneered chlorofluorocarbon to offset flammable, corrosive and toxic refrigerants of the 19th century. Modern recovery systems mean nothing is lost. In automotive systems, far greater hazard exists in high pressure direct injection gasoline systems..discounting the evaporator sections which never leak in operation as they operate below atmospheric pressure.

The use of hydrocarbon refrigerants is economic. They are more efficient, require far smaller compressors and are dirt cheap.

December 2, 2017 1:43 am

>Compare and contrast with hermetic sealed heavy steel and copper refrigerant system. Protected by an >outer casement.

Can you please identify a home refrigerator where the evaporator is made of steel and copper? I’ve been looking at refrigerators and everything I see is aluminum.

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