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IEC rejects rise in flammable charge limit

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) committee responsible for IEC Standard 60335-2-89 has narrowly voted down a draft international standard that would have raised the allowable charge of flammable refrigerants in certain appliances.

The vote comes after a five-year effort to raise the charge limit of flammable refrigerants such as propane and isobutane in some commercial refrigeration appliances from 150g to about 500g. The change would have applied to refrigerated display and storage cabinets, refrigerated trolley cabinets, service counters and self-service counters, blast chillers and blast freezers, and commercial ice-makers.

The result was close. Although the draft did receive enough yes votes to pass, more than 25 per cent of countries voted no, meaning it was rejected.

Australia and New Zealand, both participating members of the SC61C committee working on the standard, voted yes. Japan, the US, Malaysia and the Netherlands were among the countries that voted no.

Those who rejected the draft are now required to explain the reasons for their vote.

The result is a blow for proponents of hydrocarbon refrigerants – and potentially for companies that were already positioning themselves for the revised charge limit. The new standard would have allowed a single circuit to be employed in larger cabinets, rather than multiple smaller circuits.

“I was hoping it would succeed,” says Marek Zgliczynski, chair of the committee and director of research and development for compressor manufacturer Embraco. “The quantity of resources dedicated to developing the standard was great – all this work has not given fruit.”

Zgliczynski has indicated that the change could still occur if the draft was amended to address the comments of dissenting nations. However, this would take “years, not months”.

The next steps will be discussed when the SC61C committee meets in late May in Vienna.

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