Midea launches R290 split ACs on the European market
In autumn 2021, Midea, corporate member of the IIR, began marketing R290 split air-conditioning units in Europe. Further imports are planned for early 2022.
In many European countries, split air conditioners dominate the market among direct-evaporation systems. In Germany, for instance, over 70% of the room air conditioners sold are split ACs. Unfortunately, many of the units sold use R32 as an alternative refrigerant to R410A (GWP = 2100), which has a relatively high GWP of 704. More environmentally friendly alternatives are therefore desirable.
Energy-efficient split air conditioners containing propane (R290), a hydrocarbon refrigerant with a GWP < 1, have been produced and sold in China and India since 2013. However, the marketing of these propane air conditioners has not yet developed in other countries. According to a 2016 report by the European Commission, standards (at international, European and national level) regarding the use of flammable refrigerants appear to be an important barrier to the uptake of hydrocarbons. The report stressed the need to update these restrictions, which no longer seemed to be justified. In September 2020, the European Commission published a study concluding that propane in split air conditioners up to 7 kW can be classified as a technically valid alternative to HFC-driven split air conditioners.
In autumn 2021, IIR corporate member Midea shipped 220 propane split air-conditioning units to its warehouse in Germany, with more imports to follow in early 2022. With a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) of 8.5 A+++ in cooling mode and a seasonal coefficent of performance (SCOP) of 4.6 A++ in heating mode, the 3.5 KW model has been certified by the German "Blue Angel" environmental label. According to the Managing Director of Midea Europe GmbH, this certification has been very useful for the marketing of the product. Indeed, the available stock was sold to various European B2B wholesalers after just a few days. Midea plans to offer a full range of R290 split air conditioners over the next two years.
The flammability of propane still causes hesitation among wholesalers. To address their concerns, Midea offers its own technician training courses and sends experts to customers to conduct on-site training. Indeed, technicians need training in the safe installation and maintenance of the equipment, but also in the correct transport of the gas.
For further information on flammable refrigerants, the following documents are available for download on FRIDOC:
- IIF-IIR and Colbourne D. Flammable refrigerants, 36th Informatory Note on refrigeration technologies. https://iifiir.org/en/fridoc/flammable-refrigerants-36-lt-sup-gt-th-lt-sup-gt-informatory-note-on-141136
- Colbourne, D., Suen, K. O., Li, T. X., Vince, I., & Vonsild, A. (2020). General framework for revising class A3 refrigerant charge limits–a discussion. International Journal of Refrigeration, 117, 209-217. https://iifiir.org/en/fridoc/general-framework-for-revising-class-a3-refrigerant-charge-limits-a-142379
 European Commission (2020). The availability of refrigerants for new split air conditioning systems that can replace fluorinated greenhouse gases or result in a lower climate impact. Available at: https://eurovent.eu/sites/default/files/field/file/ GEN%20-%201160.03%20-%20EU%20report%20refrigerants%20split%20air%20conditioners.pdf