An excellent editorial in this month's magazine highlights the very real likelihood that in the very near future we contractors will be getting used to having to install, service, maintain and repair air conditioning and heat pump units containing flammable gases. OK they may be considered "mildly flammable" by some but, as I've said before, flammable is flammable as far as my insurance underwriters are concerned and my premiums will undoubtedly rise once they cotton to this fact.
But more worryingly - if there is anything more worrying than rising costs during these times of such economic uncertainty - is that I raised another aspect of this issue and as far as I can see nothing has been done about it. There is currently only one recovery machine certified for use with flammable gases and it designed for use by domestic fridge engineers recovering small amounts from domestic fridge freezers - typically 60 to 100g. It is very heavy to lift due to the safety features necessary for compliance with certification bodies and has a very slow recovery rate - not thought to be a problem by the manufacturer because it is only recovering small amounts.
However, if we are to be installing, servicing and repairing air conditioning heat pump systems, including VRFs, with flammables such as R32 or L41 then surely we need tools that we can legally use. What happens if we use our standard recovery machine and there's an accident? Alright I understand it's unlikely that the gas would burst into flame by the sparking of an on/off switch or fan capacitor on our machines, but since when did insurance companies need to apply common sense? I fear some poor contractor will use his standard machine, an accident will occur - quite possibly nothing to do with the flammability issue - and their insurers will jump on a non conformity and refuse to pay out leaving the contractor out of pocket at best; out of business, house and home at worst.
I raised this issue a year ago when I realised the inevitability of the rise of the flammable air conditioning heat pump system and yet there appears to be no progress at all. In all likelihood the existing equipment we use will be acceptable under testing for use with these gases, but until the tool and equipment manufacturers get their systems tested and certified we contractors are being left out on a limb: it is illegal to vent to the atmosphere, and I firmly believe that most of us no longer want to do this anyway, but we won't be able to legally recover the gas either because to do so would entail using tools that are not for use with "flammable" gases, thereby rendering us working without insurance.
Other standard tools many of us use daily now - electronic manifold sets, electronic leak detectors, etc. - all need to be tested and certified as well before we see a proliferation of installations which nobody has the tools to work on.
Will nobody sort this anomaly out?