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DIYers Beware: Hydrocarbon Refrigerant a Potential Fire Hazard

In a further step to increase public awareness about the risks of using flammable refrigerants in home and office air conditioning systems, the Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) is approaching the provincial Fire Marshal’s starting with the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office seeking action on this potentially hazardous product. Fire services could be at additional risk when responding to home or office fires if the building has highly flammable hydrocarbon refrigerant in the air conditioning system.

Mass marketers and retailers are promoting to home and building owners a hydrocarbon refrigerant “Do-It-Yourself (DIY)” kit as a replacement refrigerant gas for residential or commercial air conditioning systems. Unlike the non-flammable refrigerants used by qualified air conditioning technicians, hydrocarbon refrigerants are made up of a mixture of propane and isobutane and are extremely flammable similar to the gas in a barbecue tank.

The use of such a flammable refrigerant in a home or building can create a serious fire and explosion risk as heating and air conditioning systems typically involve combustion flames and spark igniters that are potential ignition sources. A leak in the refrigerant system could bring flammable vapours in contact with such an ignition source, with potentially fatal consequences.

“With the air conditioning season nearly here, Canadians need to be aware that flammable refrigerants used in home or business air conditioning systems can create the potential for a serious explosion and fire, which could result in injury or death” stated Warren Heeley, President of the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI). “It is time government authorities including provincial fire services take action on this potential hazard.”

In addition to the potential for fire and explosion, the refrigerants used in these DIY kits are not approved for use in air conditioning systems already installed in the home or business and their use could cause environmental damage and create a fire hazard if the existing refrigerants in these systems are not properly recovered. Improper mixing of existing refrigerant with the DIY hydrocarbon refrigerant could also have a negative impact on the operation of the air conditioning system, potentially causing added repair or replacement expenses to the home or building owner.

Prior to purchasing these hydrocarbon refrigerant DIY kits, home and business owners should be fully aware of the potential hazards and liability of using hydrocarbon refrigerants in air conditioning systems. Is the risk of fire, explosion and environmental damage as well as the potential degradation of the air conditioning system worth saving a few dollars? Or are some jobs best left to the experts?

Click on the link for additional information about hydrocarbon refrigerants. To locate a qualified contractor to service your air conditioning system, visit EiEiHome’s service pro listing.

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