Providing for safe and environmentally sound refrigerating systems
Published: December 2020
A series of four European standards set down safety and environmental requirements for refrigerating systems and heat pumps. This blog post discusses why they matter and the recent amendments to Part 1 in the series.
Refrigeration is such a familiar aspect of everyday life that it’s easy to lose sight of its hazards – but there are several, especially when refrigeration is undertaken on a commercial scale. Specific hazards come from excessive temperatures at compressor discharge, liquid slugging (the phenomenon of liquid entering the cylinder of a reciprocating compressor), operation errors and reductions in mechanical strength that can be caused by corrosion, erosion, thermal stress, liquid hammer or vibration. Corrosion needs special attention because alternate frosting and defrosting, and covering equipment with insulation, can often lead to it.
The hazards of refrigerants
Another real hazard is that the most commonly used refrigerants (other than R-717) are heavier than air. So it’s necessary to avoid stagnant pockets of heavy refrigerant vapours from building up.
As well, refrigerants combined with oil, water or other substances can also affect refrigerating systems chemically and physically. They have the potential to harm people, property and the environment. In particular, refrigerants have be selected with regard to the potential harm they can do to the environment, both locally and globally. And besides the impact of refrigerant leaks, there are other ways in which refrigerating systems can have negative environmental impacts, including because of their location, or from poor energy efficiency, service frequency or control methods.
All these considerations have been fed into a four-part series of European standards, the first of which has just been amended. It is: BS EN 378-1:2016+A1:2020 Refrigerating systems and heat pumps - Safety and environmental requirements - Part 1: Basic requirements, definitions, classification and selection criteria.
Operation, maintenance and repair
BS EN 378-1:2016+A1:2020 gives requirements for the safety of people and property, provides guidance for the protection of the environment, and establishes procedures for the operation, maintenance and repair of refrigerating systems (including heat pumps) and the recovery of refrigerants. It also specifies the classification and selection criteria applicable to refrigerating systems, which are then used in parts 2, 3 and 4 of the series.
The standard covers refrigerating systems that are stationary or mobile, of any size, except vehicle air conditioning systems covered by a specific product standard e.g. ISO 13043. BS EN 378 also covers secondary cooling or heating systems and applies to the location of refrigerating systems, to replaced parts and to components added after the standard is adopted.
Annex C (on refrigerant charge limit requirements) specifies how to determine the amount of refrigerant permitted in a given space, which when exceeded, requires additional protective measures to reduce the risk. Annex E ( on safety classification and information about refrigerants) specifies criteria for safety and environmental considerations of different refrigerants used in refrigeration and air conditioning.
This standard covers new refrigerating systems, extensions or modifications to already existing systems; and for existing stationary systems, being transferred to and operated on another site. It also applies where a system has been converted to another refrigerant type.
Amendments to the standard
BS EN 378-1 is widely used, in particular because it provides a simple route to conforming with complex legal requirements, especially those related to the EU’s pressure equipment and machinery safety directives.
Users will therefore need to be on top of the 2020 amendments to the standard. These consist of an update to the definition of split systems; the introduction of modified conditions for the application of alternative provisions to Annex C (on risk management of refrigerating systems in occupied spaces); and the replacement of three extensive tables in Annex E covering safety classifications and information about refrigerants.
These amends keep the standard current and ensure it continues to fulfil its purpose, which is to minimize the possible hazards to people, property and the environment from refrigerating systems and refrigerants.