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OT dangers of modern refrigerants.

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  • OT dangers of modern refrigerants.

    As I write this post, the death toll from the Grenfell Tower fire has reached 79.
    The fire started when a refrigerator in one of the flats exploded.
    The high death toll was caused by several factors, such as inflammable cladding, lack of a sprinkler system and only one stairwell.
    Since the banning of cfc's, manufacturers have turned to other fluids with a high latent heat of evaporation.

    I checked out my two refrigerator's and they use butane, not too dangerous as they are both on the ground floor with two escape routes from the kitchen.
    What happened to ammonia, which is not flammable as far as I know?
    Last edited by old mart; 06-19-2017, 12:39 PM.

  • #2
    Actually, ammonia is flammable in the 16% to 25% by weight concentration. Anhydrous ammonia used in refrigeration has a tremendous affinity for water. Since you are mostly water, a large ammonia leak from a refrigeration system would not be the best thing for you. Although ammonia isn't classified as a poison, its not too good for you. That's why the US stopped using it in residential refrigerators almost a century ago. It is still used in large refrigerated warehouses though with proper safety features.

    Does the UK not use any of the modern non-chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants? While butane is lighter than air it is highly flammable. There are better choices.

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    • #3
      I hadn't given any thought to what chemicals are used now.
      When I was still working, one of the jobs for British aerospace required riveting using aluminium alloy rivets. They had to be annealed by heating and quenching in water. After annealing, they had a shelf life of a couple of hours unless they were frozen to -18C, 0F. We had an old domestic refrigerator with a tiny ice box. Everyone put their cans of Coke etc in the fridge which had to be defrosted every couple of months. I was in a hurry to scrape the ice out when my knife slipped and I got a face full of oily smelling Freon. The management then bought us a small top loading freezer, too cold for drink cans.

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      • #4
        Modern refrigerants are blends of many components. Butane is a common component in the blends but only amounts to maybe 1% of the total. Considering a household refrigerator hold just over a pound of refrigerant, the danger is minimal. The methane expelled from ones rear orifice after spicy foods presents a bigger danger.

        Are you saying the UK refrigerator is using straight butane (or large percentage) as its refrigerant?
        Last edited by Sparky_NY; 06-19-2017, 12:46 PM.

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        • #5
          There must be something dodgy to make one explode. The labels on mine just say butane.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by old mart View Post
            There must be something dodgy to make one explode. The labels on mine just say butane.
            Does it give a refrigerant number, like R134a or R410, R600a ???

            Googling, I see r600a (butane) is used in the UK, wow. I guess the fires do not contribute to global warming as much as the non flammable refrigerants do.
            https://www.agas.co.uk/products-serv...0a-iso-butane/
            Last edited by Sparky_NY; 06-19-2017, 01:05 PM.

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            • #7
              Boy what a sad deal --- so many places are accidents waiting to happen,

              don't think you could get me to live in a place like that even if they paid me and they gave out free kevlar rope and rappelling lessons...


              Edit; I think the scariest thing about it is albeit screw up after screw up it still was so called "unintentional" yet kinda exposes itself and other similar places to a "what if" so now imagine how bad it's going to get when those with bad intentions put two and two together and give it a little push start...
              Last edited by A.K. Boomer; 06-19-2017, 04:01 PM.

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              • #8
                Hard to believe a high rise without sprinkler system. I have read that propane and butane are in common usage in Europe for small systems requiring only a pound or two. I don't think they are used in the US because of the flammability issue. High latent heat of evaporation is a desirable quality in refrigerants as it relates to pounds of refrigerant needed to be pumped. I don't think it relates to flammability.

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                • #9
                  I suspect the BBC aren't reporting reality, 79 dead indeed, there's 24 floors of 6 flats or apartments per floor, and the cladding did a good job of spreading the fire, my guess is more like 500 dead, unless by some miracle most of the flats in London were empty.
                  There are big piles of clothes etc that people through thier kindness donated and left, but no one is taking anything away, there isn't anyone to take it away, they died in the high rise crematorium.
                  The building went up like the Hindenburg, thin Ali panel, plastic core cladding with a big air gap behind, the fire resistant side was the outside, the inside adjacent to the void was not fire resistant.
                  It's all very very suspicious
                  Mark

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                  • #10
                    I have been using straight propane in the A/C system
                    of my Ford Crown Vic for years, and it will blow snow
                    out the vents. Cheap too. There is only a few ounces
                    of propane charge in there. Nothing like that 20 gallon
                    bomb back behind the trunk.


                    --Doozer
                    DZER

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                    • #11
                      Butane is NOT "lighter than air". It is in fact twice as dense as air (2.0061 times, to be precise). As any boat-owner knows (or should!), a butane or propane leak on a boat can easily be lethal, as the gas collects in the bilges and then explodes when the engine's starter motor sparks it.
                      Ammonia is the refrigerant in absorption-type refrigerators, such as the gas-powered ones used in caravans.
                      The cause of the London fire has yet to be officially determined. The "exploding fridge" was reported by one survivor, and may well prove to be true. Likewise no-one with any sense will take the report of 79 dead as a final figure. The BBC is quite rightly reporting the figure of confirmed dead.

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                      • #12
                        Many portable fridges use ammonia. There does seem to be a danger to that especially because with the constant motion and vibration, you'd think the chances of a leak developing would be high. I haven't heard of any episodes of ammonia exposure in motor homes, though.

                        I've considered using propane in my own system, but opted away from that idea just because of the explosion hazard. I can't really say which hazard would be worse-

                        At any rate, if an exploding fridge caused that fire, it sure didn't feed it enough fuel to bring the whole building down. I'm of the opinion that there are too many combustibles in living spaces already, and so many of those are quite volatile- dry curtains and cheaply made furniture using particle board are likely to be much larger sources of combustibles, including producing toxic smoke that a body just can't handle. If the buildings fire suppression system wasn't up to the task, then there needs to be an intensive re-look at the whole situation. If an incapable system is legal, then that's all you'll get, and you'll have a false sense of security.

                        I don't know that building, or what was deemed adequate at the time of it's construction, or any of the other factors, so I shouldn't be commenting really- but perhaps a lesson, hard-won here by people losing their lives, will be learned and better applied in future buildings.
                        I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

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                        • #13
                          Particle board is not particularly flammable. Instead, it is the plastic cloth and cushioning material. Solidified napalm it should be called.

                          In a typical room, any fairly minor fire in the room will probably cause the room and contents to essentially explode into flames inside of 3 minutes as it heats up to ignition temp. Not so for natural fibres.
                          1601

                          Keep eye on ball.
                          Hashim Khan

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by J Tiers View Post
                            Particle board is not particularly flammable. Instead, it is the plastic cloth and cushioning material. Solidified napalm it should be called.

                            In a typical room, any fairly minor fire in the room will probably cause the room and contents to essentially explode into flames inside of 3 minutes as it heats up to ignition temp. Not so for natural fibres.
                            +1. I learned years ago that most upholstery foam is not fire-resistant, and will give off hydrocyanic acid gas when heated. Breathing this can have unpleasant side-effects, like death.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by darryl View Post
                              At any rate, if an exploding fridge caused that fire, it sure didn't feed it enough fuel to bring the whole building down.
                              Very much this. Eliminating every possible ignition source is not possible so the buildings should be made with more fire-proofing.
                              The building in this case really looks like shady construction.

                              Are the apartment blocks in UK equipped with (natural) gas pipes in kitchen? That would be lot more potential source of flammable gas..

                              ---
                              R600a is possibly the most common refrigerant in residential use here in Europe but the amount in one fridge is pretty small and the fridge is not going to "explode".
                              Edit: The EU maximum limit for r600a is 150 grams per unit but typically there is about 60-80 grams per fridge.
                              80 grams of r600a is not going to be at LEL (lower explosive limit) in any practically sized room. If you manage to cram 4 fridges in tiny closet-size toilet and let loose the r600a from all of them you might get enough rich mixture for "explosion".
                              Last edited by MattiJ; 06-20-2017, 05:04 AM.

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