Preparing for the Transition to Low-GWP Refrigerants in HVAC

Preparing for the Transition to Low-GWP Refrigerants in HVAC

The HVAC industry is constantly changing, especially in relation to new technology, safety, and environmentally minded advances. A sterling example is the pivotal (and ongoing) shift from using R-410A to R-454B refrigerants.

The Environmental Protection Agency regulations require HVAC manufacturers to stop producing products with R-410A starting Jan. 1, 2025. We contacted American Standard Heating and Air Conditioning to see how this HVAC leader is preparing for the inevitable transition.

Indeed, this is a critical move on numerous levels, from production and costs to best practices and environmental implications. And, as always, with change comes questions and concerns. As the industry adopts greener alternatives, you should understand the what, how and why. This will ensure you have a smooth and successful transition to a climate-friendly alternative.

To invoke the old saying, “Knowledge is power.”

R-454B – What is it?

The first question on your mind may be: What exactly is R-454B? Well, this is a good place to start, and we have the answer. R-454B (an A2L classified refrigerant) is the newest variation available. Gradually, it is among the refrigerants replacing its predecessor, R-410A. Specifically, R-454B is a blend of hydrofluoroolefins (HFO) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

But, why R-454B?

Perhaps the biggest reason that R-454B is an improvement over the 410 variant is Mother Earth.

For example, R-454B has a lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) and will have less environmental impact. In fact, R-454B’s GWP is just 466, roughly 75% lower than R-410A’s GWP of 2,088.

In short, this transition is a big step forward in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring a healthier future for everyone.

Exploring the Tradeoffs in Using Low-GWP Refrigerants

Life is full of tradeoffs, and the shift to R-454B is no exception. The good news is that they’re positive. This is especially true when it comes to environmental and safety factors.


environmental impact of refrigerants

The environmental benefits inherent to R-454B are significant – and measurably so. As we mentioned above, a GWP below 500 is excellent. Still, there’s more to this story than GWP numbers alone.

Refrigerants have traditionally contained hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) or hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). If you’re unfamiliar with them from an environmental perspective, the two are potent greenhouse gases. Indeed, scientific research has established this as a concrete reality.

Point of fact, HCFCs can damage the ozone layer. Consequently, stricter environmental regulations mean older refrigerants such as R-22 (known as HCFC-22) were phased out and replaced by HFC R-410A. 

R-454B, on the other hand, is a drastic improvement, not just because its GWP is 75% lower than R-410A. It also has no ozone depletion potential (ODP), which has long been a concern with refrigerants.


In addition to environmental benefits, R-454B proves itself a worthy replacement for 410A in terms of safety.

For example, it is non-toxic and has an American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) safety classification of A2L (which we’ll get to shortly), making it difficult to ignite.

Furthermore, American Standard tells us that their products containing the new refrigerant have comprehensive safety features. For example, patent-pending Refrigerant Detection System (RDS) technology with factory-installed sensors, leak detection, and mitigation panels.

Generally speaking, an RDS identifies a specific refrigerant at a certain concentration. It can do this using a series of sensors, such as an infrared light. When it detects a leak, it sends a signal to the HVAC equipment, setting in motion several mitigation steps.

Ultimately, these actions help to prevent the refrigerant from forming concentrations, ensuring smooth operation and efficiency.

A2L Classification

Earlier, I mentioned an A2L classification. As promised, here’s what you need to know.

What is it?

Simply put, A2L is a safety classification based on ASHRAE Standard 34. Breaking it down, “A” stands for lower toxicity; “2” connotes flammable; and “L” means low burning velocity.

Furthermore, they have a lower global warming potential than A1-class HFCs. (Of course, this correlates with R-454B meeting this qualification.) And, while they have similar operating characteristics to older refrigerants, they’re safer than ammonia and hydrocarbon alternatives.

The A2L Difference

American Standard advises that technicians gain an understanding of A2L refrigerants and how they differ from traditional refrigerants in terms of safety and environmental impact.

To do this, we must travel back to the early 1990s. More specifically, it is important to consider the EPA mandate for refrigerant recovery and eliminating chlorinated refrigerants (R-502, R-12, and eventually R-22). The primary concern was the long-running fear of ozone damage. Indeed, as a side note, along with R-11, R-12 has one of the highest ozone depletion potentials. Moreover, it stays in the atmosphere for roughly 100 years.

The transition to 410A eliminated the ozone depletion risk, but 410A had a higher GWP than R-22. That said, R-410A was not a long-term solution. The transition to A2Ls like R-32 & R-454B reduces the GWP potential.

Who Needs to Know About A2Ls?

R-454B transition

This R-454B transition incorporates all levels within the HVAC contractor’s office. In other words, the lion’s share of your team should take A2L refrigerants courses.

All installation, maintenance, and service technicians need to know and understand the changes related to the ongoing shift. Furthermore, system designers (i.e., salespeople) should receive training regarding application and code requirements.

Even the office and warehouse teams should undergo some level of education. This might include the red indicators on refrigerant cylinders and recovery cylinders, which indicate A2L refrigerants.

A2L Training Courses

Many training institutions focus on the “why” of the refrigerant transition such as the GWP requirements. While it is important to grasp to some extent (especially for consumers), many educators focus more on other equally important topics.


flammable refrigerant

For instance, flammability is a critical subject, particularly when it comes to the differences between refrigerants such as R600 (propane), which is an A3 refrigerant, R-32 (another low GWP alternative to R-410A), and, of course, R-454B.

Such coverage provides HVAC techs with a more surgically precise understanding of what A2L truly means in the scheme of this transition.

Regarding techniques and teaching tools, the folks at American Standard cite videos and animations as helpful resources. The objective here is to show the lower flammability limits for each refrigerant, the amount of energy required for ignition, and the burn velocity when the refrigerant ignites.

R-454B is minimally flammable and comparable to common household items like cooking oil and bed sheets. As such, it poses no significant risks to installers, service technicians, or homeowners.

Additional Topics

While flammability is undoubtedly important, training programs should cover much more. Although this list is not all-inclusive, it will help provide a more expansive portrait of just how sprawling the educational landscape is.

  • New tool requirements
  • Safe handling and storage of cylinders
  • Refrigerant line set design
  • Allowable line set connections
  • Proper nitrogen flow, pressurization, and dehydration
  • Temperature glide
  • Service procedure best practices
  • Refrigerant detection with mitigation
  • Control wiring changes
  • Decommissioning an A2L system

An Ounce of Preparation is Worth a Pound of Cure

Now that you understand the fundamentals of this transition, what it involves, and what it means for professionals, we can move on to preparation. This is especially significant for HVAC dealers. Preparing ahead of time will prevent you from falling behind your competitors. More importantly, it will help you better serve your customers as the industry shifts to low-GWP refrigerants.

Stay Educated

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) will continue making educational resources available to keep dealers informed about ongoing changes. Treat this material as a collection of transition handbooks, guiding you through what will be a long process.

R-454B transition education
Staying educated about the transition will boost your confidence and that of your customers.

Furthermore, make the most of training (like the A2L classes), Q&A sessions (which you can tune to your specific needs and concerns), and technical literature. The latter will help you stay versed and increase your confidence in the nuances of R-454B. In turn, your customers will recognize this confidence, boosting their trust in you and your services.

Understanding the New and the Old

As is the case with any big transition, you’ll have to shed the old for the new.

Perhaps the most significant difference for new equipment will be that most OEMs will include some form of sensor and control to detect refrigerant leaks. Refrigerant detection systems, like American Standard’s patent-pending design, are needed for any refrigerant coils that are within the indoor airstream of the home (for example: a furnace coil, an air handler, or the indoor section of a packaged unit).

ASHRAE’s revised Standard 15 mandates the installation of such safeguards, as does the California Refrigerant Management Program.

Because the new A2L refrigerants have different handling requirements than previous refrigerants, new product labeling and markings will help installers and technicians differentiate these units.

Inventory Management

refrigerant cylinder

The supply of R-410A refrigerant will dwindle over time as it will no longer be produced but only available through reclaiming it from older systems. With the upcoming transition, it will not be possible to perform a field conversion of an existing unit to use an A2L refrigerant (as in the past). That is because those older systems are not rated for that refrigerant type.

Leak Detection and Mitigation

Because R-454B is heavier than air and will pool in the lowest point, manufacturers must mount the RDS sensor in the lowest part of the evaporator coil’s housing. In the event of a leak detection, the sensor de-energizes the compressor and other electrical devices and then starts the indoor fan to disburse the refrigerant.

Be Sure to Update Your Tool Kit

As the old saying goes, an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.

Working with mildly flammable refrigerant calls for new tooling to service the equipment. The tools affected include:

  • A2L compatible gauges
  • Recovery machines
  • Vacuum pumps and leak detectors

Editor’s Note: It will be important to use A2L-compatible tools when handling A2L systems.

Storage, Handling, and Disposal

Last but not least is the matter of proper handling.

A2L refrigerant storage and transportation are strictly governed by the Department of Transportation, the National Fire Protection Agency, and local codes.

Be sure to check your area regulations for warehouse storage requirements. In addition, some companies must modify their work vehicles, as installation and service trucks cannot contain more than six 25-pound cylinders of A2L refrigerants.

Key Products

American Standard Silver 15 Heat Pump
Silver 15 Heat Pump

As American Standard embraces the R-454B transition, its fleet of HVAC products will start using the new refrigerant. This is a prime example of what you can expect as equipment adapts.

Among the first models to utilize 454B is the brand’s Silver 15 SEER2 Heat Pump.

In addition to the sustainability benefits, heat pumps like the Silver 15 have financial perks. Such products qualify for several incentive opportunities, including the Energy Efficient Home Improvement Tax Credit expanded under the 2020 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Functionally, the Silver 15 SEER2 offers solid heating and cooling. In particular, its Spine Fin coil and Duration compressor result in more efficient operation.

Finally, this heat pump enables pairing the unit with a gas furnace, adding versatility to overall design quality. Again, as the transition accelerates, you’ll start seeing related changes in manufacturers’ product rollouts.

Need More Info?

For more information or questions about how you can prepare for the refrigerant transition, visit American Standard HVAC.

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