Ever been confused by refrigerant containers? New AHRI guidelines should make their identity clear

by Brianna Crandall — August 23, 2019 — Significant changes to refrigerant container color protocol will commence in January 2020, as outlined in the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute’s (AHRI) Guideline N, Assignment of Refrigerant Container Colors. Guideline revisions, first published in 2015, specify that all refrigerant containers should have the same paint color, RAL 7044, to reduce confusion among similarly colored refrigerant containers.

Helen Walter-Terrinoni, AHRI vice president of Regulatory Affairs, pointed out:

Misidentifying refrigerants can lead to serious safety issues because refrigerants have different operating pressures and physical properties, including potential flammability. It can also cause equipment damage if refrigerants are used in the wrong applications. The updated guideline will ensure that refrigerants continue to be used correctly and safely.

AHRI Guideline N previously stipulated that specific colors be used for refrigerant containers as an additional means of refrigerant identification. However, with the increased number of refrigerants approved for use and the respective increase in the number of colors assigned to these refrigerants, there was concern over the potential misidentification of similarly colored containers. More than half of respondents to an AHRI survey of refrigerant users found that container colors had caused confusion, and this confusion was likely to increase as new refrigerants are added to the market.

The US Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 49 for hazmat transportation regulations and CFR Title 29 for occupational safety and health regulations require that all hazardous material containers, including refrigerant cylinders and drums, be labeled to clearly identify the contents. These container labels and markings should always be used as the primary means of identification for hazardous materials, including refrigerants, reminds AHRI.

AHRI will continue to assign PMS colors for printed materials only, including the label on containers and the outer packaging of DOT39 cylinders. The guideline still requires that all flammable refrigerants include a red band on the shoulder or top of the container. The changes do not apply to products already packaged.

While AHRI Guidelines act as recommendations from industry and are not required by law, virtually everyone in the industry adheres to Guideline N, and all users should be aware that the cylinder and drum label or silkscreen will now serve as the primary means of properly identifying the type of refrigerant in a cylinder or drum, says AHRI.

As with all AHRI HVACR industry standards and guidelines, Guideline N is free to download from AHRI’s website.

AHRI also announced that it has partnered with UN Environment to launch a global refrigerant management training program; see the AHRI announcement for more details.