Risk of Using Hydrocarbon Refrigerants At Home
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Risks of Using Hydrocarbon Refrigerants at Home
Hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants are increasingly seen as suitable replacements for other refrigerants that contribute to global warming. HC refrigerants benefit from better energy efficiency and are more environmentally friendly. However, certain HC refrigerants like R600a are also known to be highly flammable and may be hazardous to consumers in the unlikely event of leakages. To prevent such accidents, all refrigerants must be hermetically sealed within the refrigerator as part of product safety standards.
Refrigerators belong to one of the 33 categories of Controlled Goods in Singapore and must bear the SAFETY Mark before they can be sold in Singapore. The SAFETY Mark indicates that the refrigerator model has been tested to specific safety standards, and also carries a unique certification number traceable to the supplier. For your own safety, it is highly recommended to check for the SAFETY Mark on refrigerators before purchase.
Safe handling of HC refrigerants
In addition to checking for the SAFETY Mark, it is also important for consumers to be aware of the presence of flammable refrigerant and its inherent risks. To use HC refrigerants safely, we must first understand the basic concept of flammability.
A fire can be created when there is a right concentration of fuel, an oxygen supply (normally from the air), as well as a source of ignition as the trigger point. We can prevent a fire from happening if we eliminate at least one (preferably two) of these criteria.
In order to achieve this, three general guidelines should be followed:
- Containment of the substance
The refrigerant is already hermetically sealed within the refrigeration system. This helps to prevent the spread of flammable refrigerant in the event of a leak
- Avoidance of ignition sources
All possible ignition sources, such as lit cigarettes, should be as far away as possible from the site of installation, repair, removal or disposal during which flammable refrigerant can possibly be released to the surrounding area.
- Use of ventilation
Good ventilation will mean that any vapour from a leak will be rapidly dispersed to prevent fires from happening.
- Always find out whether the refrigerator is using a flammable refrigerant before buying it.
- Always read the user instructional manual that comes with the refrigerator.
- The maintenance, refrigerant handling and disposal of refrigerator are to be handled by trained service personnel from the authorised service centre.
For more details, you may wish to refer to Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) circular on Review of Hydrocarbon Refrigerant.