The blows to a national HFC phase down plan just keep coming. It was announced today that the Supreme Court would NOT be reviewing the HFC Refrigerant court case. This appeal to the Supreme Court was the last resort to those companies and organizations who wished to see the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 SNAP Rule 20 stay in affect. This 2015 rule specifically targeted HFC refrigerants and put forth a plan of action to phase down and eventually phase out these Global Warming refrigerants. The original rule can be found by clicking here.

Upon the announcement of the EPA’s new rules two companies, Mexichem & Arkema, sued stating that the EPA had overstepped it’s authority. Mexichem & Arkema’s motivations for this lawsuit were strictly a stalling tactic while they came up with their own HFC alternatives, but the case still went to court nonetheless. In August of 2017 the Federal Circuit Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency stating that the EPA had overstepped it’s authority. As a reference, the foundation of the EPA’s Rule 20 referenced Chapter VI, 6, of the Clean Air Act. The title of this chapter is called, ‘Stratospheric Ozone Protection’ Herein lies the problem. This section of the Clean Air Act, and frankly the Montreal Protocol, focused on Ozone depleting refrigerants such as CFCs and HCFCs. These refrigerants contained Chlorine and the Chlorine is what damaged the Ozone. Without the Chlorine we have no damage to the Ozone. HFC refrigerants do not contain Chlorine and thusly cannot be phased down or out using a piece of legislation that is strictly focused on Ozone depleting substances. HFCs DO contribute go Global Warming though and are considered a Greenhouse Gas. Two very different and distinct problems.

The Federal judge who made this ruling was Brett Kavanaugh. (Some of you may have heard of this name before!) Everyone had expected the court to rule with the EPA so when this ruling came out the industry was taken aback. No one really knew what to do with the news. It only took a few weeks for an appeal to be filed by Honeywell, Chemours, and other organizations. Their appeal argued that the SNAP Rule 20 was ‘well founded,’ and that the Federal Court’s ruling was going against the foundation of the EPA’s SNAP program. Their second argument is just funny in my book. Honeywell and Chemours argued that they had already invested too much money into their new HFO refrigerants and that that was reason enough to rule in their favor.

Despite their best efforts, the appeal did not grant them any traction and the appeal was lost in early 2018. A few months later in the summer of 2018 Honeywell, Chemours, and the NRDC (National Resource Defense Council) petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the HFC refrigerant case. The decision on that potential hearing was announced today. Much to the disappointment of many within the industry, the Supreme Court will NOT be hearing this case.

Now, I love a good irony. I don’t care what your politics are, life is funny sometimes. The Judge who started all of this back in 2017 was Brett Kavanaugh. He was the one who made the initial ruling. And now, here we are over a year later, and the case ends up in the Supreme Court where Mr. Kavanaugh was just sworn into last week. I didn’t see that coming this time last year, that’s for sure. The good news is this that Mr. Kavanaugh had no part in the Supreme Court’s decision today. If this would have come up later this year chances are he would have recused himself from the case. This is normal tradition for Supreme Court Justices who have a case that they previously worked in a lower court come to them in the high court.

Something worth noting here is that the Supreme Court was asked to not review this HFC case by the Trump Administration. This is because of the new HFC rule that is being worked on by the Environmental Protection Agency. There aren’t any details yet on what the new EPA HFC refrigerant policy will be. Will it be close to what we had in 2015? Or, will it be gutted and we will be left with no actionable plan to phase down HFCs? Only time will tell here. I for one am anxious to see what the new rules will look like.

States to the Rescue

Don’t worry folks, there’s good news too! A lot of you may have already heard about this or read some of my articles from last month, but recently there has been a big push for individual States to come up with their own plans to phase down HFC refrigerants. This all started in California and as they began to adopt and pass their laws and regulations we began to see other States pick up the torch. In September we had New York announce that they would be enacting phase down plans and in that same month we had Maryland and Connecticut announce their intentions as well.

All of these states are part of what’s known as the ‘United States Climate Alliance.’ This alliance is a gathering of States that formed after the Trump Administration pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord last year. There are seventeen States in this alliance and so far four have already announced HFC phase down plans. It is only a matter of time before we see others move forward with their own plans.

If this trend continues we may not even need a formal Federal HFC policy. Instead, we’ll rely on the States to make the right decision and like a snowball going downhill it will pick up speed and size until the whole of the country is on board. Those left behind will be forced to comply due to attrition.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

How Much Does It Cost?

Purchasing a new air conditioner is a big decision for a lot of folks, but so many people who look to buy an air conditioner do not know what to look for. They do not know what price to expect. Instead, they receive a quote or two from various companies and end up going with the most competitive. While this is fine, I believe it is best to understand what you are getting into, exactly what you are buying, and what considerations that need to be measured. After all, if you are going to end up spending two, three, or even five-thousand dollars you want to make sure that you are not only getting your money’s worth but also that you understand what you are spending your money on.

Now before we get into the meat and potatoes of this article I want to first warn you that this will be an in-depth guide aimed at providing you everything you would ever need to know about central air conditioners, what kind to buy, how much you can expect on the cost, and how much you can expect on the installation. If you are in a hurry then you can scroll down to the bottom of this article to our ‘Cost,’ section and read the break down there. That being said, I do highly encourage you to read through this guide to ensure that you have the proper information and knowledge before you make that all important decision.

Repair or Replace?

Each of you may be reading this article in a completely different situation. That’s the wonder of writing, I’m reaching people from all over the country and the globe from all walks of life. It could be August in the dead of summer and your air conditioner has finally fell off its last leg. You received a quote to fix it from a few different contractors and each one that came in was over one-thousand dollars. Here you now debating rather or not to you should invest the money into repairing your system or if you should bite the bullet and purchase a new air conditioning system.

Making this decision can be tough and a lot thought needs to be taken into consideration before you make the choice. Let’s look at a couple of them here:

  • How Old Is Your Current System?
    • Most central systems will last between twelve to fifteen years. Some of you may get lucky and have yours last for nearly twenty years. When you are looking at a possible repair bill, especially an expensive one, it is best to consider how old your air conditioner is. Is it five years and is this the first problem you’ve had? If so then it would make sense to repair. However, if your unit is ten years or older, or if you have had a whole host of repairs over the years, then it makes sense to replace your system. One of the worst feelings is spending a thousand dollars on a needed repair only to have something else go wrong just a few months later. As AC systems age the chance of breakage and part failure increases. There comes a time where the decision needs to be made to replace.
  • R-22 Freon or R-410A Puron?
    • Some of you may be scratching your heads at this comment, but let me explain. R-22 and R-410A are both different types of refrigerant. R-22 is an older refrigerant that is no longer used in newer air conditioner models. It was phased out from new machines in 2010, and because of this phase out the price on R-22 refrigerant has gone up and up. If your air conditioner is from before 2010 chances are that it is using R-22 Freon. If that is the case and you need a refrigerant recharge on a repair then you are going to be shocked at the bill. On the other side, R-410A is about one-third/one-fourth the cost of R-22.
    • The point I’m trying to make here folks is that if you have an older R-22 unit then it may be time to replace with a newer R-410A system. The 410A refrigerant is far cheaper and it is more efficient then R-22. So, you can expect to see some savings on your monthly energy bill. If you stick with your older R-22 system then repairs are going to occur more frequently and those expensive refrigerant recharge bills will begin to accumulate. There will come a time where the cost of R-22 refrigerant will end up being about the same as a new 410A system.
  • Does Your Furnace Need Replaced To?
    • Another thing to consider before making the decision to repair or replace is how old your furnace is. Your furnace and air conditioner work together with each other and most of the time contractors will offer you a significant price break if you purchase both a furnace and an air conditioner. My family and I did this a few years back with our tax refund money. The total bill with install and everything ended up just shy of five-thousand dollars for both a furnace, air conditioner, and a new blower motor. If we had purchase these individually we would have spent quite a bit more.
  • Expense
    • For a lot of people the expense of purchasing a new air conditioner can be intimidating. Not a lot of people have a few thousand dollars in savings and for those who don’t the only other option they have is their credit card. While I agree you have to be careful here and make the best financial decision for your family, please do not keep reinvesting money into a failing system. If you are having repair after repair then your air conditioner is turning into a money pit and the best decision is to purchase a new system. Depending on the time of year that you are purchasing some contractors will offer low interest financing. If you get lucky you may even find a few offering zero percent interest.

What Size Do I Need?

Bigger isn’t always better, no really! Understanding what size of air conditioner that you need for home can be a very important aspect on your purchasing decision. In my previous home we had an air conditioner that was only a few years old but no matter what we did there were certain rooms that would just never get cool. After being consulted by a contractor we found that we had a much smaller air conditioner then what our home needed. That meant that the air conditioner just couldn’t keep up with the demand of our home. With that in mind, let’s take a look now at air conditioner sizing and how they are measured so you can avoid the mistake I had with my home.

Air conditioner’s size are measured in two ways. The first are what’s known as BTUs or British Thermal Units. BTUs are the traditional measurement of heat. The more BTUs an air conditioner has the more power it has to remove heat from your home. Don’t fall for the misconception though that more power is always better. If you go out and purchase a gigantic system for your home then you are going to run into a few things. The first is that your system will be using much more energy then is needed for your home and you will end up paying extra per month to cool your home. The second is that if you have a dehumidifier that is too large for your home you will end up running into hot and cold spots throughout the home. On the other side of the coin if you purchase a system that is much too small for your home, like my home had, then your system will be running constantly costing you money and your house will never be fully cooled.

The typical rule of thumb that most people use when determining how many BTUs their home needs is thirty BTUs per square foot of space. So, let’s say we have a twelve-hundred square foot home. In this case we will need a thirty-six thousand BTU system to cool the home. (1,200 square feet * 30 BTUs = 36,000 BTUs) Does that make sense? Good, now we can begin to get into the next set of measurements for an air conditioner.

As we get into larger air condition systems the BTU rating begins to go away and is replaced instead by Tons. No, these are not tons like you are used to with two-thousand pounds. These tons actually represent about twelve-thousand BTUs. So, one ton equals twelve-thousand BTUs. When dealing with central air conditioners most everything is done in tons. The general rule that most contractors follow is one ton per five-hundred square feet of the home. So, as an example my home is right about thirteen-hundred square feet. I could get away with a two ton system or a three ton system. (Two ton if my home is shaded for most of the day and with a straight layout with no vaulted ceilings.) Knowing this size estimate you can now begin to see what size unit you will need for your home.

While the above are guidelines and general rules it is best practice to have a contractor come out and determine exactly what size unit that you need. A professional contractor will not only look at square footage but also the layout of your home, if you have vaulted ceilings, if the basement is unfinished, if the house faces the sun throughout most of the day, and many other factors that need to be considered. Remember, you are paying these guys for their expertise, don’t be afraid to use it and to ask them questions.

Efficiency Measurements

Another great thing to ask your contractor before purchasing is the efficiency measurement of the unit that you are being quoted. Obviously, the more efficient your air conditioner is the less you will end up paying per month. I mentioned earlier the two differing refrigerants R-22 and R-410A. If you are going from an R-22 machine over to a new 410A unit then you will notice a monthly energy savings as 410A is more efficient.

Air conditioner efficiency are measured by two numbers known as the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) and the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). These two numbers help to determine just how efficient your unit is and what you can expect from it. What number you should use depends on where you are in the country. If you are in a zone where there is not much volatility throughout the year then you will want to use the EER number. An example area of this would be the south such as Florida or Arizona. However, if you are in an area with an ever changing climate then you will want to review the SEER number. Over here in Kansas our seasons change faster then I can enjoy them so we would use the SEER number.

Now by Federal law all new central air systems have to have a minimum of thirteen SEER. This is to ensure that we are not needlessly wasting energy. Thirteen is the minimum, but how about the maximum? What are some of the better units out there rated at?

Depending on how crazy you want to get some models go all the way up to twenty-five SEER. Be wary though folks, that buying a model with a very high SEER can add A LOT to the price of your new system. Yes, you will save money per month and year of having the unit, but is that money saved going to cancel out the upfront cost you spent? Over on KobieComplete.com I found a SEER calculator. This calculator allows you to see just how much money you would save per year by upgrading to a higher efficient model. It is up to you if you want to go with the bare bones minimum SEER or if you want to do the top of the line model.

Cost Factors

Alright folks we are now on to the part you’ve all been waiting for, the cost! Now before I just throw a number out at you I want you to realize that there are four main factors that can affect your cost. We are going to take a look at each of them and then give you an estimated cost for a small, medium, and large sized home.

  1. Brand
    • Brand can be a huge part of the price when purchasing a new system. You will also find that depending on the contractor you are working with that they may only have access to certain brands. A lot of these brand names you may recognize already such as Lennox, Trane, or Carrier. These are all great products but I also want to point out a few lesser known brands such as Goodman, York, Amana. I’m not going to get too in-depth here as I could write a whole article on just brands, just for now be sure to do your research on the brands and realize that the price between brands can vary wildly. You could pay fifteen-hundred for one brand and three-thousand for a different of the same size and efficiency.
  2. Size
    • We touched on this earlier in our previous section of ‘What Size Do I Need?’ The cost on your new unit can be greatly affected by how large or small your home is. The larger the home the larger the system you will need. In some cases larger homes may even need two separate central air systems. As an example, in a thirty-five hundred square foot home you may have a two ton system for the upstairs and a five tons system for the main floor and basement.
  3. Efficiency
    • Again, we touched on this briefly already but I want to bring it up again. If you get a standard efficiency system or something just above the thirteen SEER requirement you won’t see much impact on your cost. However, if you want a super efficient system then you need to be prepared to pay for it.
  4. Installation
    • Installation can be as easy as pie or it can be a complicated mess. It all depends on who you have installing and what your home’s setup is like. Before making a quote most contractors will walk through your home to understand what is needed, what the install will be like, and any other information that they need.
      • If you already have an existing central air system then your contractor will need to remove the old unit. In order for them to do this they need to vacuum out the old refrigerant and store it in a recovery cylinder. They will typically haul away your old unit for you. This is the standard replace and install that most contractors are used too.
      • How is the duct work on your home? Will any work need to be done before the new system can be installed? Are there rooms that need ducts routed? Or, are the ducts damaged in areas and need to be replaced? All of these possibilities can raise the install cost.
      • If you are purchasing a completely new system with no existing air conditioner then this may end up rising the install cost. You may also need to purchase a blower motor, deal with duct work or refrigerant copper tube routing, and a host of other things whereas with an replacing an existing system a lot of this setup has already been completed.
      • One good thing is that if you need to replace your furnace most contractors will give you a hefty discount for buying both a furnace and an air conditioner at the same time. This is how my wife and I were able to get both a new furnace and an air conditioner for under five-thousand dollars. If you are considering a new furnace it may pay to ask your contractor if they offer deals for a joint purchase.

Cost

Alright folks, so we are now on to the cost estimate. Now, please keep in mind that this is an estimate and there are countless factors like I mentioned above that can change these numbers. For the estimates below we are going to assume that you want a standard efficiency system, an average priced brand, and will have a regular replacement installation.

  • Small Homes – 1,000 Square Feet
    • In this example we’re going to use a two ton system for the one-thousand square foot home. Are rough estimate puts the price tag between three-thousand dollars upwards to three-thousand five-hundred dollars.
  • Medium Home – 2,000 Square Feet
    • In this example we’ll be going with a three ton central air system for the two-thousand square foot home. This size is what most homeowners will end up purchasing. RefrigerantHQ’s rough estimate is between four-thousand dollars upwards to four-thousand five-hundred dollars.
  • Large Home – 3,500 Square Feet
    • Ok folks, now we are on to the big homes that are three-thousand square feet or more. These ones can be a bit trickier as there are a lot of options that could be done. It all depends on the layout of your home. For this article we’re going to go with a five ton central system. Some could make the argument of having two systems installed one for upstairs and one for downstairs, but in this example we’re going to go with one five ton system. Our estimated cost for this unit is between four-thousand dollars upwards to six-thousand dollars.

Now, if you are looking for just an overall average across the country on what it will cost to replace a central air conditioner then I would say four-thousand dollars is a pretty solid number that encompasses the pricier units and the cheaper. Please note though folks that these numbers are estimates and the actual estimate that you receive from a contractor can be different. These numbers are meant as a guideline to give you knowledge before you purchase.

I hope this article was helpful and thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

How Much Does It Cost?

Depending on where you live in the United States air conditioners may be a nice to have feature for your home or they may be a lifesaver. I’m originally from Michigan and the further north you go up in that State the less likely you are find air conditioners and if you do find them they are usually an older window unit that is rarely used. Most of the time it just doesn’t get cold enough up there. On the other side of the coin, if you’re in Miami then an air conditioner has to be a necessity to escape the constant heat and humidity.

The question on how much air conditioners cost can be a tricky one as there are a lot of factors that can go into it. It’s not as easy to say that all air conditioners are two-thousand dollars. No, there are many questions that we need to ask you first before we can give you an educated estimate on what to expect.

What Kind of Air Conditioner Are You Looking For?

The biggest question is what kind of air conditioner are you looking for? There are four main kinds of air conditioners and each one has it’s own set of Pros and Cons. Let’s take a look at each one now and you can then determine what you are looking for.

Window Air Conditioners

  • Window air conditioners are right up there with central systems as one of the most common air conditioners on the market. These are the units you see hanging from high rise apartment buildings and from older farmhouses. Window units provide a great alternative air conditioner for those that cannot afford a large central system. Most of the time these window units are a tenth the cost of a central system and they are also much easier to install. Nearly anyone can install one of these whereas with a central system you will need a trained professional.
  • The downside with these are the visual appeal and also the power. Most of the time a window unit just doesn’t look the best hanging out of a home. You also end up losing access to one of your windows.
  • Along with that, window units are not meant to cool entire homes. Instead, they are more focused for specific rooms or living areas. While some the larger models can cool up to one-thousand square feet you will find that most models cool between one-hundred to five-hundred square feet.

Portable Air Conditioners

  • Portable air conditioners are very similar to window units. They both have a very easy install process. With window units all you have to do is mount the unit, secure it, and there you go. Portables are only slightly different. Instead of mounting the unit all you have to do is route an exhaust pipe through one of your windows. The pipe comes with sealers as well so that you can block the entire window to prevent hot/cold air from getting in/escaping.
  • Portables again are again about the a tenth the cost of traditional central air systems. They can be a bit more expensive then window units, but not by much.
  • These units are great if you want to cool your home room by room, or if you want to cool your living room during the day and your bedroom at night. The portability makes it easy to changes rooms.

Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioners

  • I am a big fan of ductless air conditioners. They offer a great alternative for those of you who want the power of a central system but not the expense. Along with that, they give you that extra step up from a window or portable air conditioner.
  • Ductless Mini Splits are quite a bit more expensive then a window or portable unit. They are about a third or half the price of a central system.
  • Please note that when buying these systems you will most likely need professional installation before you can operate. This will result in additional install expenses. I would not recommend installing one of these yourself unless you know what you are doing.
  • Ductless systems have much more power than a window or portable unit and they also look much better. A window system is hanging out your window and it looks unattractive. A portable unit takes up floor space and has to have the exhaust routed across your floor and out your window. Ductless systems actually mount to your wall and only need a two to three inch hole through the wall for the refrigerant tubing. Most people barely even notice it’s in the room.
  • A lot of ductless systems also come with a built in heat-pump and electric heating coils. That means along with an air conditioner you also get heating. This is a great feature and works amazingly well for detached recreational rooms. We have a garage I’m thinking about finishing the loft in. A ductless system would be a great solution for climate control.

Central Air Conditioners

  • These are the most common air conditioners and the ones that you are most likely familiar with already. These are the large central systems that you see on the outside of homes. They intake the warm air in your home through various intake vents throughout your home and then disperse the cold air back through your home through the output vents.
  • While these are the most common air conditioners they are also the most expensive. Be prepared when quoting these systems out and be ready to pay quite a bit.
  • Also note that with central systems you are going to need a professional HVAC technician to install. While the actual unit can be quite expensive you also have to pay for the install which can add up quite a bit to the total cost of the system.
  • The good news is that central systems can last a long time. Most units end up lasting around fifteen years, some even up to twenty years.

Conclusion

You may have noticed that there was a link above on each type of air conditioner. Those links will take you to the cost break down for each type of air conditioner. So, instead of writing one gigantic large article for you to read through you can make the decision on what kind of system you need, click the link, and get the answer you need.

I hope this article was able to give you the answers you need and if you have any further questions on the matter please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

How Much Does It Cost?

Ductless, or mini-split, air conditioners can be a great alternative for those of you who are afraid to bite the bullet and purchase a traditional central air conditioner. Or, maybe your home or garage isn’t routed with duct-work and a central system is out of the question for you. Or, maybe you want to take the next step up from the unsightly window or portable air conditioners that are out there.

Whatever your reason is, a ductless air conditioner will provide you with a quality product that will cool and heat your home, garage, or office. The question now though, is how much do these mini-split systems cost? What can you expect when you begin shopping for one?

BTUs

First thing’s first, before you purchase or even look at the cost of a portable unit you first need to understand what size unit that you need. If you have already started looking at different products then you may have noticed that each product has what’s called a BTU rating.

BTUs, or British Thermal Units, are the traditional measurement of heat. The more BTUs your air conditioner has the more power it has. Don’t fall into the trap though that bigger is always better. It is always best to find the right sized unit for your needs. If you end up purchasing a product that is much too large for your desired cooling area then you are going to run into unneeded higher energy bills as well as potential hot and cold spots throughout your room due to humidification issues. On the flip side of that, if you purchase a product that is much too small for your room then the system will be running constantly causing you more energy cost at the end of the month. Along with that, you will never truly reach your desired temperature, or if you do, it won’t stay there for long.

In order to find that perfect sized unit you need to figure out how many square feet that you are going to be cooling. This is done rather easily just by measuring the width and length of your room. When you have those numbers you simply multiply them together to get your square footage. Now, there are always considerations that need to be taken into account such as closet space, vaulted ceilings, if the unit will be near the kitchen, etc. Use your best judgement here and if you feel you need to go up a few thousand BTUs then do it.

When you have your square footage you can then calculate the needed BTUs. Most people use the rule of thumb of thirty BTUs per square footage. So, if you have a three-hundred square foot room you will need a nine-thousand BTU system. (300 SF * 30 BTU = 9,000)

Cost

Alright folks, so now that we know what size of air conditioner that you need we can begin to give you an estimate on the price you will pay when purchasing a ductless system. As a broad range ductless systems will cost you between five-hundred to fifteen-hundred dollars. Yes, I realize that is a very wide range of price but as we mentioned above, the size of the unit has a big part of that.

One point to mention is that with ductless systems your cost doesn’t end at purchasing the unit. Most likely, you are not a trained HVAC professional and since you are not you will need to pay an installation fee as well. Ductless systems aren’t as easy to install like a window or a portable air conditioner. No, with a ductless mini system you have to mount your air handler into the interior of your home, mount the condenser to the outside of your home, route the refrigerant copper tubing, test for leaks, vacuum out the nitrogen filler, and then charge your system with refrigerant. All of this can get rather complicated and it is best to pay a trained technician to install. Please keep in mind this extra cost when purchasing.

Here at RefrigerantHQ our top product pick is from the Pioneer brand. This brand on Amazon.com offers you models in all different sizes ranging from nine-thousand BTUs upwards to thirty-six thousand BTUs. That means this unit can cool rooms at three-hundred square feet all the way up to twelve-hundred square feet. That’s an impressive range. (Remember to buy the right size BTU for your needs.) Along with that you get the heat pump and electric heater coil option. This is by far the best ductless pick out there right now.

Amazon also offers a professional installation service on this product. You can see this service when you click on the product page, it’s just below the BTU/Sizing models. This is a great service as Amazon will contract out the work to a local professional and they will then contact you to arrange the install. It’s a great way to give some local business some of your money when buying online.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Well folks it has been a hell of a few weeks in the refrigerant industry. The past few months have been rather quiet and then we get all of this news all at once. It always amazes me how fast this stuff can happen.

Just a few days ago the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they would be removing their rule that went in place back in September of 2016. (The official EPA Fact Sheet on this rule can be found by clicking here.) This rule applied Section 608 CFC/HCFC leak controls and regulations to appliances using HFC refrigerants that contained over fifty pounds of refrigerant. Basically, it passed on the same regulations that we had on CFC/HCFC refrigerants over to HFCs.

The EPA’s reason for overturning these regulations is that the EPA exceeded its own authority by issuing these laws back in 2016. Their reasoning is that these laws and regulations were all meant for CFC and HCFC refrigerants. They centered on the Ozone and the Chlorine in the refrigerants. HFCs do not contain Chlorine and thusly do not damage the Ozone layer. Instead, they are Greenhouse Gases and contribute to Global Warming. Both are bad for the Climate, but both are distinct separate issues. I do tend to agree with this as the law was bent to accommodate HFCs. Along with that the EPA also announced that they plan to save over forty-million dollars in regulation expenses enforcing these laws.

Before the law goes into effect it will be published in the Federal Register and then there will be a forty-five day comment period. The EPA will also be hosting a public forum fifteen days before the rule goes into effect. This will be held at Washington, DC and you can register by visiting the EPA’s site. Now, instead of rehashing what the EPA wrote I am going to take an excerpt from their site that way there is no confusion.

If finalized as proposed, this action would rescind the leak repair and maintenance requirements at 40 CFR 82.157 for substitute refrigerants. Therefore, appliances with 50 or more pounds of substitute refrigerants would not be subject to the following requirements:

  • conduct leak rate calculations when refrigerant is added to an appliance,
  • repair an appliance that leaks above a threshold leak rate,
  • conduct verification tests on repairs,
  • conduct periodic leak inspections on appliances that exceed the threshold leak rate,
  • report to EPA on chronically leaking appliances,
  • retrofit or retire appliances that are not repaired, and
  • maintain related records.” – SOURCE

Additional Changes Coming

But wait, there’s more! The EPA’s above proposal to remove the requirements on HFC appliances also comes with the option for public comment on removing additional leak requirements on different applications. Again, this is from the EPA website:

“EPA is also requesting comment on rescinding other provisions that were extended to substitute refrigerants, including the following:

  • anyone purchasing refrigerant for use in an appliance or handling refrigerants (e.g., air-conditioning and refrigeration service contractors and technicians) must be a Section 608-certified technician,
  • anyone removing refrigerant from a refrigeration or air-conditioning appliance must evacuate refrigerant to certain level using certified refrigerant recovery equipment before servicing or disposing of the appliance,
  • the final disposer (e.g., scrap recycler, landfill) of small appliances, like refrigerators and window air conditioners, must ensure and document that refrigerant is recovered before final disposal, and
  • all used refrigerant must be reclaimed to industry purity standards before it can be sold to another appliance owner.”

Did you get all that? There were some big ones in there. One in particular that I noticed was the removing of 608 certification in order to purchase HFC refrigerants. This law has only been effect since January of this year. That would be a BIG deal if that was removed as we then open the flood gates for all of the laymen and novices to purchase refrigerant again. This could also create a rise in pricing if enough people who are unregistered purchase.

Along with that we get that appliances don’t have to have their refrigerant evacuated before being brought to the dump. That’s not the scariest one though, what scares me is that last point. If it gets rescinded we are then removing the purity standards from reclaimed refrigerants. There are already so many people who are against purchasing or using reclaimed refrigerants and removing this provision is going to seriously hurt the reclamation industry’s reputation.

Conclusion

These are very confusing times. We have the various States in the Climate Alliances proposing and enacting their own HFC refrigerant laws and regulations and then we have the Federal Government and the Environmental Protection Agency removing previous laws.

As time goes on we’re going to have additional States join the phasedown and I have a feeling this new announcement from the EPA is only going to fuel the desire for the States to take matters into their own hands.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

How Much Does It Cost?

Air conditioners can be a life saver in the dead heat of summer, especially if you are in one of those areas that have to deal with extreme heat. A lot of folks end up using their traditional central air conditioning system. These units are found in most newer homes and provide every room in your home with a nice cool environment.

The question though is what do you do if your home or apartment doesn’t come with a central air conditioner? Or, if your central system breaks down and you can’t afford to purchase a new one? Sometimes these repairs can be thousands of dollars. Not a lot of folks can afford to drop that kind of money on a whim.

There are a few options you can do to get out of this situation, but in this article we’re going to look at one viable option: Portable Air Conditioners. These portable units accomplish two things. Firstly, they can cool your room or rooms depending on what sized unit you purchase. Second, they provide a much cheaper alternative to replacing a central air conditioner.  

How much savings can you expect? How much do these portable units run? Let’s take a look.

BTUs

First thing’s first, before you purchase or even look at the cost of a portable unit you first need to understand what size unit that you need. If you have already started looking at different products then you may have noticed that each product has what’s called a BTU rating.

BTUs, or British Thermal Units, are the traditional measurement of heat. The more BTUs your air conditioner has the more power it has. Don’t fall into the trap though that bigger is always better. It is always best to find the right sized unit for your needs. If you end up purchasing a product that is much too large for your desired cooling area then you are going to run into unneeded higher energy bills as well as potential hot and cold spots throughout your room due to humidification issues. On the flip side of that, if you purchase a product that is much too small for your room then the system will be running constantly causing you more energy cost at the end of the month. Along with that, you will never truly reach your desired temperature, or if you do, it won’t stay there for long.

In order to find that perfect sized unit you need to figure out how many square feet that you are going to be cooling. This is done rather easily just by measuring the width and length of your room. When you have those numbers you simply multiply them together to get your square footage. Now, there are always considerations that need to be taken into account such as closet space, vaulted ceilings, if the unit will be near the kitchen, etc. Use your best judgement here and if you feel you need to go up a few thousand BTUs then do it.

When you have your square footage you can then calculate the needed BTUs. Most people use the rule of thumb of thirty BTUs per square footage. So, if you have a three-hundred square foot room you will need a nine-thousand BTU system. (300 SF * 30 BTU = 9,000)

Cost

Ok, so we now know what sized air conditioner to look at. Now it is time to understand the cost of portable air conditioners. What can you expect when purchasing? Well folks, like with anything, it all depends on what you want. Sure, if a larger BTU system is going to cost a lot more then a smaller one, that’s a given. Another factor though is if you want the extra bells and whistles with your air conditioner or if you are satisfied with the bare minimum. Remember, that even a bare minimum unit will still cool your room.

Let’s take a look at the very bare minimum unit. The absolute smallest sized portable unit comes in at eight-thousand BTUs. That’s enough to cool a typical bedroom between one-hundred and fifty to two-hundred square feet. Let’s also imagine that you do not care about all of the features and options that some of the more expensive options have. We’re just going bare bones here. In this scenario you are going to end up spending between two-hundred and three-hundred dollars. Here at RefrigerantHQ we recommend the LG LP0817WSR Portable Air Conditioner.

If we now move a step up and look at a more in between product we can begin to see the price climb. Let’s look at a now ten-thousand BTU product. This sized system can cool rooms up to four-hundred and fifty square feet. That’s a large sized master bedroom/bathroom, a living room, or a room above a garage. We’ll include some features in this section, but nothing too crazy. These products can range in price from three-hundred to four-hundred. Here at RefrigerantHQ we recommend the following Honeywell’s MO10CESWK Portable Air Conditioner.

Lastly, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Whynter’s ARC-14S unit. This product comes in at fourteen-thousand BTUs and has the power to cool a room as large as five-hundred square feet. Along with that you get a host of other features such as digital display, remote control, programmable timer, and full thermostat ranging from sixty-one degrees up to eighty-nine degrees. This product can be expected to range between three-hundred and fifty upwards to four-hundred and fifty dollars.  ()Please note that prices can change at anytime.)

Conclusion

Well folks, I hope that this article was able to answer your question or at least shed some light on the topic for you and point you in the right direction. If you still have questions on Portable Air Conditioners consider checking out all of our various articles on the topic by clicking here.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

United States Climate Alliance

After the past few weeks of various States announcing their plans to phase out HFC refrigerants and the expectation of more States to follow it got me thinking about how these changes will end up affecting the pricing of HFC refrigerants across the country. The worse thing that can happen is for us to fall into the trap that the European Union finds itself in. Over there the prices on various HFC refrigerants have gone up hundreds of percent. These huge rises in price have caused many basic refrigerants to be out of reach for consumers and contractors.

The high prices in Europe has also caused a rash of crime on refrigerants. The crimes vary from illegal smuggling, to using disposable containers, to selling refrigerant online without proper documentation, and to mass theft from warehouses. Each one of these crimes have occurred due to the high profit and reward due to the inflated prices.

The good news here folks is that with these State by State phase downs here in the US the chances of prices sky-rocketing here are reduced significantly. The problem that occurred in Europe was that there were mandatory production and import regulations put in place.

These regulations restricted the flow of refrigerant and caused the supply to shrink all the while keeping around the same demand. I understand the intention of these restrictions, but they have caused a lot of pain to end users and contractors. Most regulators in Europe have just told people to tough through it. After a few years of hardship most of the HFC applications will be replaced by HFOs or Natural Refrigerants.

The US Market

The United States did something similar when it came to popular HCFCs like R-22. With R-22 there was a staggered phase down over a ten year period. The restrictions began in 2010 and are coming to a head in 2020. (In 2020 no import or production can occur on R-22, the only exception is reclaimed R-22.)

As can be expected, we saw similar price hikes on R-22 due to these regulations. At it’s peak last year we were seeing prices for a thirty pound cylinder at around seven-hundred dollars. Today’s price is much lower at only around three-hundred dollars a cylinder, but it is still quite high when comparing to it’s HFC counterpart, R-410A, that comes in at only around one-hundred dollars.

With these State by State laws there is not mention of production or import caps. (Not that I have seen anyways.) Instead, these laws focus on the applications that these HFC refrigerants use. To me, this seems to be the smarter way to go about it. By targeting the applications and mandating the converting of new systems over to a more climate friendly refrigerant we will win the war on HFCs simply by attrition. After a certain amount of time has passed the demand for HFCs will shrink and shrink until they eventually disappear and are fully replaced by alternative refrigerants. All of this would be done without restricting the flow of refrigerants into the country/state.

Conclusion

This my friends, seems to be the way to do it. We are not hamstringing ourselves by restricting supply and causing prices to skyrocket. No, instead we wage our war against the new machines out there and reward those who want to retrofit their old systems. Basically, this all boils down to the carrot versus the stick. Do we want to give our contractors and manufacturers incentives and mandates on new systems, or do we want to just cut-off the supply entirely and let everyone scramble to figure it out?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

United States Climate Alliance

Last week I wrote about New York announcing their plans to phase down HFC refrigerants over the coming years. This announcement came shortly after California finalized their HFC phase down law at the end of last month. Shortly after I wrote that article two more States announced that they would be phasing down HFC refrigerants as well: Connecticut and Maryland.

Like the other previous States, Connecticut announced that their new regulations would be modeled off of the previous EPA’s SNAP rules from 2015. Remember now, that these EPA SNAP rules were overturned in the courts last year and it was announced earlier this year that the regulations would no longer be enforced by the EPA. While now defunct, these previous EPA rules seem to be the standard bearer for future States and their HFC regulations.

While Maryland has not come out with a formal plan yet they have stated that their intentions are to have regulations similar to that of California. The details of their plan are expected to be hammered out soon.

What Comes Next?

Last week was a busy week when it comes to HFC refrigernat news. We had three additional States come out in favor of phasing down HFCs. The question now on everyone’s mind is who will be next and how many more will come forward with their own plan?

The answer to this may be found by looking at what’s called the United States Climate Alliance. This alliance is a gathering of States and Territories that aim to uphold the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. For those of you who do not remember, this was the agreement that the Trump Administration pulled the United States out of in the summer of last year.

Once this pull out was announced this alliance was formed on June 1st, 2017 in an effort to honor the goals of the agreement the best that they could. While there are only seventeen States involved in this agreement the size of these States is something to be considered. Over forty percent of the United States population resides in these States and over forty-five percent of the Gross Domestic Product of the US comes from these States.

So far, four out of these seventeen States have announced their intentions to phase down HFC refrigerants. (Three of these in just one week.) Has the snowball started to roll down hill? Will we be seeing the other States in this grouping announcing their own plans shortly?

States in the alliance are:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington

Conclusion

As more states make their announcements, we will begin to phase out HFCs by default. If we think about it for a moment, if just under half of the country’s population are living in HFC phase down States then it wouldn’t make sense for companies to continue using HFCs in newer applications. Why make two different models for different States if we can just make the switch and have one model in both States?

Tying directly into this, the CoolingPost.com reported yesterday that major HVAC and Refrigerant manufacturers have announced their support for California’s HFC phase down law. I won’t list everyone of these companies, but just a few of them are: AHRI, Goodman, Carrier, Lennox, Chemours, and Honeywell. These are the big players in the industry and if they are in favor then we are inevitably going to see the end of HFC refrigerants here in the United States, maybe even close to the same timeline that everyone was planning on based off of the EPA’s regulations from 2015.

It’s funny how all this worked out. I’m a big fan of States’ Rights so this couldn’t have gone better in my opinion. We removed the Federal regulations and had the States do their own laws to FORCE the industry to change on it’s own.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources:

 

VERSUS RefrigerantHQ

When people think air conditioners they either think of the traditional split system that you find in most homes or they think of the window air conditioners that you see mounted in apartment buildings, in older homes that do not have duct work routed in them, or in homes in the northern part of the country that normally don’t have a need for air conditioners.

Most people do not think about portable units, let alone ductless units when considering a new air conditioner for their home. Their go to is usually the window unit. In this article we’re going to do a quick look at the benefits and cons portable and ductless mini split air conditioners as well as what type of system is going to be the best for you.

BTUs

First thing’s first. Before we get into what the differences between these two types of air conditioners it is best to understand the sizes that air conditioners come in. If you’ve already done some research on your own then you may have noticed that air conditioners come with a BTU rating. BTUs, or British Thermal Units, are a measurement of the air conditioner’s ability to remove heat. The higher the number the more power your unit will have.

Global Air 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Global Air 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Don’t fall into the trap though that bigger is always better. If you get an air conditioner that is too big then you will be paying extra expense on energy cost as well as the possibility of ending up with hot and cold spots throughout the room due to dehumidification issues. On the inverse of this, if you purchase a unit that is much smaller then you need then the air conditioner will be running constantly causing you to pay more in energy bills. On top of that your room will never fully reach the desired temperature.

The typical rule of thumb when determining the right BTU size for your room is thirty BTUs per square foot of space to be cooled. Finding out the square footage of your room is relatively easy. All you have to do is measure the width and length of the room and multiply the numbers together. So, as an example let’s say we have a twenty by twenty room. If we do the math we have a four-hundred square foot room. In this example we would need a twelve-thousand BTU air conditioner.

Portable Air Conditioners

Ok, so now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s really look at these systems. We’re going to start out with portable systems. Portable air conditioners are just that, portable. What that means is that they can be moved from one room to the other. This makes these units very easy to move with you across the house. If you are looking to cool different rooms throughout the day then this would be the unit for you.

The setup and install is very easy. All you need to do is select the area you that you want cooled, place your unit, and then route the exhaust pipe to the nearest window. When the pipe is routed you will then fit your window with the seal to ensure no hot/cold air escapes. Once this is done all you have to do is turn it on and set the desired temperature.

Portable air conditioners are an ideal system for those that need an air conditioner every once and a while. I’m originally from Michigan and if you go far enough north in Michigan you’ll find many houses that don’t even have air conditioning installed. Most of the time they just have a furnace or a wood burning stove. There are times however where the summer gets exceptionally hot for a few days or a week out of the year. This is where a portable system would be ideal.The setup is quick and easy and before you know it you have your room being cooled off.

The price on portable air conditioners usually aren’t too bad. Depending on the size of the model you purchase you could spend a few hundred dollars all the way up to one-thousand. It’s up to you if you think you need that larger unit or if you want a system with a lot of bells and whistles.

Now there are a few downsides of portable systems as well. The first is that they can get in the way. The unit will be in your room along with the exhaust hose running to your window. This can annoy some people and depending on where you have it positioned it may not look the most appealing.

Another thing to to consider is that the sizing of portable units are typically smaller than that of a multi-split system. I see portable units more orientated to cooling a room or two, but not an entire home. Portables are a temporary measure and shouldn’t be used as a full time air conditioner all the time. If you are looking for something like this then you may want to go the mini split route.

A portable system will most likely not last as long as a ductless system. As I mentioned earlier, I see portable units as a temporary system or a gap fill during a really hot month. If you are looking for longevity in a system then you’ll want to go the ductless mini split route.

Ductless Mini Splits

The ductless, or mini split systems, can be a great addition to your home. I like to think of these types of products as an in between. You have your standard and traditional split systems that you see in most homes and then you have your window or portable air conditioners as well. The ductless systems give you that in between that allows you to get a powerful air conditioner without having to spend several thousands on a traditional split system.

PIONEER Ductless Air Conditioner
PIONEER Ductless Air Conditioner

With a ductless system you can get much more power or BTUs then you would with a standard portable air conditioner. Most portable units began to taper off around fifteen thousand to eighteen thousand BTUs. A reputable ductless system can go as high as thirty-six thousand BTUs. That is nearly double the power of a portable or even a window unit.

Along with the extra power of a mini-split system you also get a much more efficient system. Air conditioner efficiency is measured by what’s known as Energy Efficiency Ratio or it can also be measured by Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. These two numbers provide a measurement on how efficient your air conditioner is. When looking at portable air conditioners the typical SEER you’ll see is around ten to twelve. Ductless mini split systems are whole other story with a SEER number coming in around fifteen to twenty, and in some cases even as high as twenty-five. That means that a ductless system is significantly more efficient then your standard portable air conditioner which will result in you saving energy costs month after month of use.

The last Pro that I’ll mention on ductless systems before we move on to the Cons is that most of these systems come with a built in heat pump and electric heater. That means that not only will you have your air conditioner throughout the summer but you’ll also have a heating supplement throughout the winter. If it gets too cold outside for the heat pump then the electric coils will kick on and you’ll be just as toasty.

There are two big downsides to ductless mini split systems. The first is the cost. We mentioned earlier that portable systems can be a couple hundred up to a thousand dollars. A mini split system will usually START at around five-hundred dollars and can top out at around fifteen-hundred dollars, sometimes even more. This price can scare a lot of folks away from purchasing a ductless system, but there is still more expense after that.

Along with the high price point of ductless systems the installation can be quite difficult. So difficult in fact, that it is recommended to hire a professional HVAC technician to come to your home and install the system. A mini split system comes with three main parts that you will have to install. The first is what’s known as the air handler. The air handler is what is mounted on the inside of your home either on your wall, floor, or ceiling. This is the unit that intakes the hot air and releases the cold air into your home. The second part is known as the condenser. The condenser is the largest of the parts and has to be mounted on the outside of your home. Some users opt for a concrete platform while others opt for mounting brackets drilled into the side of their home.

Here is where things begin to get a bit tricky. The third component of your ductless system is the copper refrigerant tubing. This is the pipeline that the refrigerant will flow through back and forth between the condenser and the air handler. Remember folks, that air conditioning is an endless cycle of the refrigerant flowing back and forth and changing states from liquid to vapor and vapor to liquid. Installing the tubing can be difficult as you have to ensure that you do not bend or break any of the copper tubing. If you do so then your system will be leaking refrigerant and will not be able to cool your home. On top of that, you will have to drill a two to three inch hole in your wall for the refrigerant pipe to be routed to the condenser. You will then have to secure the pipe to the condenser and the air handler and make sure that there is no possible leakage.

We’re still not done yet though folks. Most ductless systems come pre-charged with nitrogen instead of refrigerant. The nitrogen will have to be vacuumed out of the system and then replaced with the refrigerant. Before that is done though, it is best to check your lines and connection points for any leaks. The most common practice here is to take soapy water in a spray bottle and spray it against the connection points. If you see any bubbles then you have a leak. Otherwise, you’re good.

Now it comes time to vacuum out the nitrogen and replace it with the appropriate refrigerant. If the wrong refrigerant is used then you can permanently damage your air conditioner. Also, as of January 1st, 2018 HFC refrigerants are now highly regulated and you will need to be 608 certified in order to purchase.

See why we need a professional HVAC technician? A professional install will end up costing you even more on top of the cost of the ductless system. You could be looking at a few hundred dollars, or something much higher depending on who you have come out to install.

Conclusion

So folks, what will it be? What do you believe is the best fit for your home? Are you looking for just something to get you through a few hot weeks? Then I would suggest the portable. Or, are you looking for something that will get you through the summer and even provide some heat during the winter? If that’s the case then I suggest you purchase a ductless model. Check out our recommended products below:

Our preferred portable air conditioners are:

  1. Honeywell MN10CESBB 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
  2. Black & Decker Portable Air Conditioner in Various BTU Sizes
  3. Honeywell MN12CES 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Our preferred ductless mini split air conditioners are:

  1. Pioneer Ductless Wall Mount in Various BTU Sizes
  2. Senville Ductless Wall Mount in Various BTU Sizes

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

R-134yf

By now we all know that R-134a is on it’s way out. It has already been phased out on new vehicles in the European Union for years now. While there was a planned phase out date here in the United States of 2020 (2021 Model Year) by the EPA, it was overturned earlier this year by a federal court. The phase out is still coming though and some States (California and New York) have already announced they will mandate the 2020 deadline even if the EPA does not.

The problem we now have though is the price of 1234yf. Originally, we heard from the manufacturers that the price was so high due to development time and lack of resources to manufacture the product. But now, years have passed and fully functioning manufacturing plants have been opened. Honeywell opened one up in Louisiana and Chemours broke ground on theirs over a year and a half ago in Texas. That isn’t even mentioning the plants in China.

We would think that the price would begin to come down but here we are in 2018 and we are still looking at around seventy dollars a pound wholesale. That is NOT even mentioning the cost to the end user. If we check on E-bay or Amazon we’ll find cans of 1234yf selling for forty or fifty dollars per eight ounces. Let’s look at R-134a pricing now. If we go to Amazon.com we can buy three twelve ounce cans for less then twenty dollars.

Now let’s really do some math. Most cars take anywhere from two to three pounds of refrigerant. Let’s say, for whatever reason, our compressor has cracked and we have lost all refrigerant in the system. We need a new compressor and a complete recharge. Let’s look at the two different refrigerants and what the predicted cost would be to repair at a dealership.

R-134a

For argument’s sake let’s call a new A/C compressor around two-hundred dollars. So, we have the new compressor and the two pounds of refrigerant to fill up. Using the R-134a price we mentioned above we can figure out what the approximate resale price would be. If we break down that twenty dollar price on Amazon by can, then by ounce, and then multiply the ounce price by sixteen ounces we get the price per pound. In this case the price we get is just shy of nine dollars per pound.

So, for this repair we would be looking at:

  • $200 for a compressor
  • $18 for two pounds of R-134a refrigerant
  • $100 for labor.
  • $318 for your grand total to get your AC running again.

R-134yf

Now, going through the same scenario that we laid out above, let’s do the math with the 1234yf refrigerant. The A/C compressor will still be two-hundred dollars. The price we mentioned earlier on 1234yf was around forty-five dollars per eight ounces. Let’s take that number times two to get our per pound price of ninety dollars. Now let’s figure the repair bill:

  • $200 for a compressor
  • $180 for two pounds of 1234yf refrigerant
  • $100 for labor.
  • $480 for the grand total of the repair.

Difference

Obviously, there is a large disparity in price here between the two refrigerants. So large in fact, that 1234yf is ten times the price of R-134a. In this example the customer is paying one-hundred and sixty-two dollars more to repair their air conditioning system and that is assuming that the dealership won’t mark up 1234yf at a higher percentage then they do R-134a.

This difference is causing a lot of gripe and complaints here in the United States. Over in the European Union it isn’t as big of a problem as the price of R-134a has gone up to extreme levels due to the mandatory phase down and phase out of the HFC refrigerant. So, the price disparity between the two refrigerants isn’t as dramatic.

In the US though things are different. Consumers have been paying dirt cheap refrigerant prices for decades now and they are used to it. The moment someone gets one of these high priced repair bills on a faulty yf system they are going to be in for a shock. I can’t even imagine what will happen when refilling a larger vehicle like a semi-truck. I believe this cost difference is what is causing some users to ‘retrofit’ their yf systems back over to R-134a.

Yes, you heard me right. There are quote a few people doing this today. In fact, I found a video about a month ago that gave viewers a ‘How To Guide’ on switching yf over to R-134a. The video has since been taken down (Smart of the creator), but my article can be found by clicking here. This conversion is not only risky to your car and it’s air conditioning components but it is also against the law.

Yes, that’s right folks. This isn’t just about the environment. If you convert your vehicle over like what was done in this video then you are actively breaking Federal Law under Section 203 of the Clean Air Act. What was done in this video is known as ‘tampering’ with a vehicle’s emissions’ control device.

“According to MACSWorldWide.com, ‘Any person other than a manufacturer or dealer who violates the tampering prohibition is subject to a civil penalty of not more than $2,500 per violation.'”

Conclusion

If the price doesn’t come down on yf then I can foresee a lot of these do-it-yourself conversions or retrofits back over to R-134a. While this is illegal, the risk of doing it is so minimal that I can see a lot of folks doing it already today. Heck, there are even conversion port adapters out there so that you can charge R-134a in your yf ports.

The only way I can see this getting better is if the price on yf begins to drop and drop significantly. I just don’t see this happening though as the price and market on yf is controlled by two companies: Honeywell and Chemours. They have a monopoly on this refrigerant and I do not see them giving up their cash cow, especially when it’s just starting to get good as more and more vehicle manufacturers are beginning to switch over to yf.

The other option is if yf price doesn’t go down then the price of R-134a will need to go up, and up dramatically. Maybe, once we get closer to the 2020 deadline and more States phase out 134a we will begin to see the price rise enough to make yf look more attractive. For now, it seems we are stuck with the high price of 1234yf refrigerant.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

What Is It?

HFCs, or HydroFluroCarbons, are a commonly used refrigerant classification used across the globe. Some of the most common HFC refrigerants that you may have heard of are R-134a, R-404A, R-410A, R-125, and R-32. These refrigerants are used in a variety of applications from automotive, to home air conditioners, all the way to industrial refrigeration. In recent years there has been a push to phase out HFC refrigerants due to their impact on the environment, but I’ll get into that a bit later into this article.

HFC refrigerants first started becoming popular and widespread in the early 1990’s. This came about due to the implementation of the Montreal Protocol. The Montreal Protocol was a treaty that organized and targeted the phase out of Ozone damaging refrigerants like CFCs and HCFCs. These Ozone depleting refrigerant such as R-12 and R-22 were the go to refrigerants for decades and were used all over the globe. It was in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that scientists discovered these refrigerants were releasing Chlorine into the atmosphere when they were vented or leaked. This leaked Chlorine couldn’t break down in the atmosphere and ended up eating away at the Ozone layer. The more Chlorine that was released the faster the damage occurred.

R-134a Refrigerant
R-134a Refrigerant

There was an immediate push from various countries to phase out CFC and HCFC refrigerants. The first target was R-12 in the early 1990’s. R-12 was majorly found in car air conditioners and it was replaced by the HFC refrigerant known as R-134a. Not too many years afterward R-404A began to see popularity after replacing R-502 and recently in 2010 R-22 was phased down and intended to be replaced by the HFC R-410A.

We have been chugging away with HFCs for the past few decades and the Ozone has nearly healed from the earlier damage. But now, we have a different problem when it comes to these new refrigerants. While HFCs do not contain Chlorine they do have a very high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. GWP is a measurement that is used to measure the impact a Greenhouse Gas has on the climate and environment. The higher the number the more harmful the substance is to the climate. As a zero base for the scale R-744 or Carbon Dioxide was used. R-744 has a GWP of one. Whereas, R-134a has a GWP of one-thousand three-hundred and forty-four. Think about that difference for a moment folks and let the impact sink in.

The HFC Phase Downs

While HFCs saved the Ozone layer we now understand that they are not a sustainable alternative refrigerant due to their high GWP. The push is on now to begin phasing down or completely phasing out HFC refrigerants for lower GWP/Non Ozone depleting alternatives. Depending on where you are in the world you may have already seen the ramifications of these phase downs.

The European Union phased out R-134a on new automobiles back in 2015 and are now actively working on phasing out R-404A as well as R-410A. Their replacements have either been lower GWP HFC refrigerants such as R-32, natural refrigerants such as R-290 or R-744, or the new classification of refrigerants known as HydroFluroOlefins or HFOs. While there is not a perfect alternative yet to HFCs many companies and countries are working towards multiple alternatives. Also, in the fall of 2016 an Amendment to the Montreal Protocol was signed. This amendment, called the Kigali Amendment, was aimed at phasing down HFC refrigerants across the world. Over a hundred countries signed the document.

I won’t get into all of the details here but the United States has had an interesting table to phase out. We signed the Kigali Amendment but haven’t ratified the treaty in the Senate. The EPA planned to phase out HFCs but their regulations were over turned by a Federal Court. We now have States doing their own policies on HFCs.

Prices & Purchase Restrictions

Chances are if you have a home air conditioner or an automobile from 2015 or earlier than you are reaping the benefits of an HFC air conditioning system. Over in Europe the cost of HFCs have skyrocketed to astronomical levels due to their phase outs. It’s so bad over there that organized crime has begun to take part in black market refrigerant sales.

Here in the United States things are a lot less hectic. The price on HFC refrigerants has been pretty stable over the past few years. Sure, we’ll always have our ups and downs, especially in the summer, but we haven’t seen anything like the European price jumps.

There is one thing to note for those of you looking to do your own repairs. On January 1st, of 2018 the Environmental Protection Agency extended their refrigerant sales restriction over to HFCs. What that means is that if you are not certified with the EPA (Either 608 or 609 certified) then you are not legally able to purchase or handle HFC refrigerants. This has frustrated a lot of do-it-yourselfers who are used to doing their own repairs.

There are a couple exception to this that should be noted:

  • If you are purchasing cans of refrigerant in under one or two pound quantities then you are still able to buy without being certified.
  • If you provide a signed document to your vendor stating that you will NOT be using the refrigerant you are purchasing then you can still purchase. Basically, you have to prove that you will be retailing the refrigerant and not using it yourself.

Conclusion

In the United States HFC refrigerants are going to be around for quite a while. The transition away from them is going to be a long and slow process. We are already beginning to see some signs of with automotive manufacturers voluntarily moving away from R-134a and opting for the HFO 1234yf. On top of that some states have announced they will be doing a full phase down and phase out of HFCs. (California and New York.) There are more states expected to announce similar plans.

Regardless of what happens, HFCs will be around for the next few decades, but as time moves on we will be seeing less and less of them until they are eventually as rare as an R-12 cylinder is today.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

VERSUS RefrigerantHQ

Most everyone has heard of and seen window air conditioners. For years they have been the end all be all for consumers who want relief from the heat but either can’t afford a traditional split system air conditioner, or perhaps their home just doesn’t have the duct work installed to route the central air. Window air conditioners also offered a relatively low price as well as an easy install. In most cases the install could be done in around a half-hour. All there is to it is setting up the mounting bracket, mounting the air conditioner, securing it, and then extending the curtains to block the rest of the window. With the smaller window units this can be done with one person, but with the larger BTU sizes you may need a second person to help while you secure the air conditioner.

A mini-split system, or a ductless air conditioner, are quite a bit different then your window units. With a mini split you get a mix between the window unit and a traditional split system. I like to think of these systems as the in-between or the compromise. With the mini split you get quite a bit more power then you would find in a window air conditioner. In some cases the split systems can go as high as thirty-six thousand BTUs. (That’s enough cooling power to cool around twelve-hundred square feet.)

Along with the extra power of a mini-split system you also get a much more efficient system. Air conditioner efficiency is measured by what’s known as Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) or it can also be measured by Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). These two numbers provide a measurement on how efficient your air conditioner is. When looking at window air conditioners the typical SEER you’ll see is around ten to twelve. Ductless mini split systems are whole other story with a SEER number coming in around fifteen to twenty, and in some cases even as high as twenty-five. That means that a ductless system is significantly more efficient then your standard window air conditioner which will result in you saving energy costs month after month of use.

There are two big downsides to ductless mini split systems. The first is the cost. A window air conditioner can be as cheap as one-hundred dollars or as expensive as five-hundred dollars. A mini split system will usually START at around five-hundred dollars and can top out at around fifteen-hundred dollars. This price can scare a lot of folks away from purchasing a ductless system, but there is still more expense after that.

Along with the high price point of ductless systems the installation can be quite difficult. So difficult in fact, that it is recommended to hire a professional HVAC technician to come to your home and install the system. A mini split system comes with three main parts that you will have to install. The first is what’s known as the air handler. The air handler is what is mounted on the inside of your home either on your wall, floor, or ceiling. This is the unit that intakes the hot air and releases the cold air into your home. The second part is known as the condenser. The condenser is the largest of the parts and has to be mounted on the outside of your home. Some users opt for a concrete platform while others opt for mounting brackets drilled into the side of their home.

Here is where things begin to get a bit tricky. The third component of your ductless system is the copper refrigerant tubing. This is the pipeline that the refrigerant will flow through back and forth between the condenser and the air handler. (Remember folks, that air conditioning is an endless cycle of the refrigerant flowing back and forth and changing states from liquid to vapor and vapor to liquid.) Installing the tubing can be difficult as you have to ensure that you do not bend or break any of the copper tubing. If you do so then your system will be leaking refrigerant and will not be able to cool your home. Along with all of that, you will have to drill a two to three inch hole in your wall for the refrigerant pipe to be routed to the condenser. You will then have to secure the pipe to the condenser and the air handler and make sure that there is no possible leakage.

We’re still not done yet though folks. Most ductless systems come pre-charged with nitrogen instead of refrigerant. The nitrogen will have to be vacuumed out of the system and then replaced with the refrigerant. Before that is done though, it is best to check your lines and connection points for any leaks. The most common practice here is to take soapy water in a spray bottle and spray it against the connection points. If you see any bubbles then you have a leak. Otherwise, you’re good.

Now it comes time to vacuum out the nitrogen and replace it with the appropriate refrigerant. If the wrong refrigerant is used then you can permanently damage your air conditioner. Also, as of January 1st, 2018 HFC refrigerants are now highly regulated and you will need to be 608 certified in order to purchase. Technically, you can still purchase single pound or two pound cans of refrigerant without a license, but even then you have to make sure you know what you are doing before vacuuming and charging your system.

See why we need a professional HVAC technician? A professional install will end up costing you even more on top of the cost of the ductless system, but it will ensure that your system is setup correctly and will provide cooling and heating for your home for years to come. You could be looking at a few hundred dollars for an install, or something much higher depending on who you have come out to install.

So, Window or Ductless?

That is the question, and the answer is going to depend on a few things. The first thing I’m going to ask you is what do you want out of your new air conditioner? Are you looking for relief from the heat while you are sleeping? Do you want something that’s not going to be too expensive and will let you sleep through the night? If so, then a window unit is most likely the best bet for you. Today you can go on Amazon.com and choose between various five-thousand BTU models that will keep your room cool through the night. Most of these range between one-hundred to two-hundred dollars. This will give you that restful night’s sleep all the while not spending too much on a new system. Here at RefrigerantHQ we recommend Frigidaire’s FFRA0511R1.

Now let’s look at another scenario. Let’s say your home has a traditional split system installed but for whatever reason the air flow just isn’t providing enough cool air to the upstairs of your home. My family and I had a similar problem with our large bedroom over our garage. The bedroom was rather large as it covered the entirety of our three car garage so a standard five-thousand BTU unit would not be good enough. We either had to go with a much larger window unit or we could go with a ductless system. In this scenario we ended up going the window route (Frigidaire FFRE1233S1), but a ductless would have been a great fit as well… perhaps even a better fit. I like to think of window air conditioners as a temporary solution that will have to replaced every few years, whereas ductless system is a more permanent solution to cool and heat your home. So, if we had gone the ductless route I may not have had to replace window after only four years. As an example, the Pioneer WYS012GMFI17RL would have been a great alternative that would have lasted more then four years.

The last option that I want to bring up is cooling your whole home. Let’s say you have a thirteen-hundred square foot home that you are looking to cool and for whatever reason the traditional split system air conditioner is not an option. It could be price or it could simply be that your home is older and doesn’t even have duct work installed. There were quite a few farm houses I visited that had absolutely no duct work. A lot of people in these situations end up going the window air conditioner route. I would argue against this. As you get into the larger square footage the ductless mini split systems become more and more optimal. Yes, you’re going to pay more, but you are getting more power, more efficiency, and more longevity then your typical window unit. In this same example of a thirteen-hundred square foot home I would recommend Pioneer’s WYS036GMFI17RL. Also, if you do decide to purchase a ductless unit don’t forget that Amazon actually offers a professional install service that contracts out a fully trained professional to come to your home and do the install. The install link is on the same page that I linked above.  This is great for those of you who are intimidated by a ductless install.

Conclusion

Well folks, what do you think? What will you end up getting? I hope this article was able to steer you in the right direction and to also give you some pros and cons of each type of air conditioner. Regardless of which one you decide with the end result will be the same.  Your room or home will be cooled. It’s just a matter of preference and what you want out of your air conditioner.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to another product review from RefrigerantHQ. Today we are going to be focusing on a ductless air conditioner, also known as a mini-split system. These air conditioners provide a great alternative to those of you who want something a bit nicer then a window or a portable unit but also don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on getting a traditional split system installed.

In this review we will be taking a look at the various sizes and models that are offered from Senville. Now, please be cognizant that this will be an all encompassing review and that we will be covering different models all from Seville. (The only real difference between these models is their size, so not much is going to change between each unit.) At the end of this article we’ll do a quick breakdown for you of each model number and what they have to offer.

Before You Buy

First thing’s first, before we look at all of the details of this product and what it has to offer I want to make sure that you understand what all goes into a ductless air conditioner. They can be a great solution for your home or office, but they can also be a huge headache when it comes to installing. Let’s take a moment here and dive in to what you should consider before purchasing.

Senville SENL Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner
Senville SENL Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner

The first point that I’m going to mention, and probably the most important, is what sized unit that you need. You may have noticed by now that when looking for an air conditioner that they all come with a BTU number. BTUs, also known as British Thermal Units, are a measurement of the cooling capacity of your air conditioner. The higher the number the larger the space the unit can cool. Don’t fall for the trap though that bigger is always better though. It is always best practice to find the closest fit unit for your needs. If you end up purchasing a unit that is too big for your area then you will be wasting energy and you may even end up with hot and cold spots due to dehudmification issues. On the inverse, if you purchase a unit that is too small for your area then the system will be running constantly trying to keep up and you will never get to that desired temperature.

So, what size BTU unit should you get? Before you make that decision it is best to know the square footage of your room. This is a simple equation that can be done just by taking the length and width of your room and multiplying them together. Once you have that number you can begin to see the amount of BTUs that you need. The standard rule of thumb is thirty BTUS per square foot of the room. So, let’s say you have an eight-hundred square foot area you want to cool. Eight-hundred times thirty BTUs equals out to twenty-four thousand BTUs. Now the Senville ductless system comes with a variety of sizes. It is up to you to determine what the perfect size is for your needs. Your options are below and by clicking on these links you’ll be taken to the Amazon page where you can do further research.

I want to mention one more thing before we get into the actual product features. Yes, yes I know, this isn’t the fun part but it is necessary so that you understand what you’re getting into before you purchase. Mini-split systems are not easy to install, especially if you are a laymen when it comes to air conditioning work. Ductless systems like these aren’t as simple as a window unit where you can mount and forget it. No, with a system like this you have to mount the interior air handler in your room, drill a two-three inch hole, route the copper refrigerant tubing/draining pipe through the hole, install and mount the condenser on the outside of your home, connect the tubing (Flaring the tube if needed), check for any possible leaks, and even after all that we’re still not done. You will need to wire the unit, setup an electrical outlet box on the outside of your home, vacuum out the pre-filled nitrogen from you system, and then input the actual refrigerant.

This is a huge undertaking, especially if it’s your first time doing something like this. A lot of people who purchase mini-split systems like these buy online from stores like Amazon.com to save the mark-up they would see from their local HVAC contractors. Then, once they have their unit in hand they call the technician to come out and install. This is what I would advise. I would not advise you try this on your own unless you know exactly what you are doing. Otherwise, you risk damaging the unit by installing it correctly, or it could be something as simple as the tubes weren’t fitted right and the unit is leaking refrigerant. There are so many variables when it comes to this that it is best to hire an expert.

Product Features

Alright folks, have I bored you enough yet with all of this installation talk? Well, let’s move on to the fun stuff now. Let’s take a look at the actual product features and what you will be able to do if you purchase the Senville air conditioning unit.

Senville Air Conditioner Remote
Senville Air Conditioner Remote

There are a whole host of features to be aware of and I may end up missing some here and there but here is what I have found throughout my research on the product. The first, and biggest selling point to me, is that this product comes with a heat pump as well as an air conditioner. Along with that, most air conditioners that come with heat pumps do not have a matching BTU. Typically, you’ll see the heat pump attachment having a few thousand BTUs lower then the air conditioning system. That is NOT the case with this Senville brand ductless system. In fact, your heat pump BTU is right in line with the air conditioning BTU no matter what size you choose.

One thing to mention is that this unit comes with a heat pump. A heat pump is only effective up until a certain temperature. If it begins to get too cold then your heat pump will no longer be as efficient. Now, depending on who you ask, this temperature range can vary. Most people say around forty degrees is when the peak performance begins to drop. Instead of the unit taking heat from outside of your home and transferring to the inside of your home, you will now have electric heating coils activate to give your home heat. The difference here is that these coils are not as efficient as the standard process. This will result in two things: The first is that the BTU heating capacity of your air conditioner will fall slightly. Secondly, you will end up paying more in energy when you begin to use electric coils. Now, Senville claims that their product will heat rooms fully with outside temperatures as low as five degrees Fahrenheit, but again, you are relying on the electric coils in these situations. If you live in an area that gets rather extreme winters then you may consider buying an infrared unit as well to heat the room. (I prefer the infrared fireplaces.)

Speaking of heating and air conditioning, the Senville system comes with an automatic switch mode that allows the unit to switch between cooling, heating, and dry. Having this feature enabled allows you to have the most efficiently run air conditioner.  When the machine senses the temperatures rising or falling it turns on accordingly. Another setting this comes with is a timer. The timer can be great for programming your air conditioner to turn off and on during set times of the day. A lot of people use this to shut their unit off during night hours and have it kick back on again during the morning. This saves some energy and only has to be programmed once. To control all of these functions you get a remote control. (Pictured to the right.)

The last two feature points that I want to make is that the unit comes with multi-directional air vents which allows you to change the direction the air is blowing and that this product comes with what’s called ‘Whisper’ technology. What this means is that the unit runs extremely quiet. Much much quieter then a standard window or portable air conditioner. This product would be great for a bedroom or other area where people are sleeping.

Many of you may not care about this, but the refrigerant that this unit takes is R-410A, or Puron. 410A is now the most common used refrigerant in the United States when it comes to home or commercial air conditioners and it is readily available in case you need a recharge down the road. The refrigerant line set measures in at sixteen feet which should give you plenty of space to route the piping through your home and out to the condenser.

Last thing I’m going to mention on this product is the weight. A lot of you may be expecting this to be heavy, but I want to alert you anyways. Depending on the model you purchase these units can weigh between one-hundred and fifteen pounds up to three-hundred pounds. Please be sure that you have help when you begin to setup the unit. Remember, safety first… and I’d hate for you to drop it accidentally and damage the unit.

Pros

The biggest Pro we have here with these ductless systems it that it gives the homeowners an in-between alternative to a traditional split system air conditioner or a window mounted system. Along with that, it gives you a nice clean looking mounted system that blends in with your room. Many people aren’t happy with the look a window air conditioner gives a room and a ductless system will give you that second option. Lastly, ductless systems give you the option to install air conditioning in your house even if you don’t have ducts routed throughout your home.

Senville Energy Guide
Senville Energy Guide

The next big point on these mini-split systems is their energy efficiency. Air conditioner efficiency is measured by two numbers. The first is known as their Energy Efficiency Ratio, or EER. The second number is known as Season Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER. The only difference between these two numbers is that EER looks at performance based on one solid outside temperature whereas SEER looks at the wide varying range of seasonal temperatures. The higher EER or SEER number the more efficient your system is. A typical window air conditioner will have an EER rating between ten to twelve. Now, the EER/SEER rating on this Senville brand is 10.0 EER and 15 SEER. That puts us right in line for the standard efficiency level that is expected with window and portable air conditioners.

A quick Pro on these Senville systems is that they run VERY quiet. I mentioned this above in the product features, but I wanted to bring it up again as it’s a big deal to a lot of people. If I am going to have this product installed in my living room I am going to want as quiet as possible. Remember, you get that ‘Whisper’ technology. If you are currently using a window unit in your room then you know how distracting a noisy machine can be. Nothing to worry about with the Senville ductless unit.

The last Pro that I want to bring up before we move on to the Cons is the warranty. These Senville units come with a two year limited parts warranty and a five year limited compressor warranty. Their limited warranty policy can be read about by clicking here.

Cons

I mentioned install in our ‘Before You Buy,’ section but I’m going to bring it up here again as well. It’s a big deal. If you don’t know what you’re doing then you are going to need to hire a professional. The worst thing you can do is to guess your way through this. Some homeowners have gone through and mounted the air handler and condenser. They also drilled the appropriate hole, but ultimately they left the electrical work and the refrigerant work to the professional. Remember, you may need to end up flaring the refrigerant piping for a perfect fit, you will need to vacuum the system out, charge it with refrigerant, and lastly you will need to route a electrical box to the exterior of your home. (Most likely a two-hundred volt outlet.)

This next con is going to relate to instillation, but I’m going to bring it up anyways. Many users have complained that the unit was leaking refrigerant and that the unit would not cool their home. Ninety percent of the time their unit was leaking due to improper installation. If during the install you bend one of the copper refrigerant lines or you do not attach the line correctly to the air handler/condenser then you are going to have a refrigerant leak. The other ten percent of the time it may be an actual defect in the air handler or the condenser. If this is the case then the Senville warranty should cover you.

The next common complaint I read about was the heat pump not working correctly. Remember earlier in our ‘Product Features,’ where we mentioned that heat pumps are only designed for warmer winter areas? Well, some people do not realize that. One reviewer said, “The unit isn’t meant for Michigan winters.” Well, yes… of course it’s not! It’s a heat pump. It’s going to work up until that forty degree mark and then it will begin to supplement it’s heat with electrical heating coils, but in very cold winters it may not be enough. Again, I would recommend purchasing an infrared fireplace. These things work great, keep your room warm, and can be put away in storage once the winter is over.

When you purchase something online there is always the risk of it arriving to your home damaged. That risk increases with the bigger and heavier the package. On top of that, the risk increases even more when dealing with a machine like an air conditioner. Now, I’m not going to lie to you here. The chances of your unit arriving damaged is rare, but there is a chance folks. The good news though is that if this does happen you can always file a claim with Amazon.com and they will take care of the return process. Something that you’ll notice is that some of the ‘bad reviews,’ on this product are a direct result of the product arriving damaged to the consumer’s home. This is not Senville’ fault and frankly shouldn’t be attributed to them.

Conclusion

Well folks, what do you think? Will you be getting a ductless unit? Or, are you going to end up going the window air conditioner route? If you have decided to go the ductless route then I can honestly say that you will NOT be disappointed with the Senville brand name and the options that they have to offer.

While the installation may be difficult it is worth it once you have it up and running and have a nice cool home to come home to. Again, as I mentioned earlier, this product comes in a variety of sizes. If you are interested in purchasing then I suggest you click on the appropriate size below.

However, if you find that you want to go the window air conditioner or the portable air conditioner route then check out our best of buying guides:

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

New York

Well ladies and gentlemen like dominoes in a line we now have a second state coming forward with their own HFC refrigerant phase down laws. At the end of last month we had California make their HFC phase down bill become official when their legislate voted in favor on August 30th. This new law known as the California Cooling Act (SB 1013) is aimed at reducing HFC usage across the state with a carrot and stick approach.

The carrot is that the state will be offering incentives for low Global Warming Potential refrigeration systems. To start the main target of these incentives will be focused on supermarket and industrial refrigeration applications. The stick approach is preserving the now defunct Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20.

As most of you know, the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 was the announced planned phase down and eventual phase out of HFC refrigerants across the United States. This Rule 20 was announced back in the summer of 2015 and was to begin phasing down HFCs progressively year after year. The EPA created this regulation based off of their power found in the Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol. There was a problem in this logic though, the Montreal Protocol and the section of the Clean Air Act that was used strictly specified Ozone depleting chemicals such as CFCs and HCFCs. HFC refrigerants such as R-404A and R-134a do NOT contain Chlorine and therefore do not fall under the Clean Air Act/Montreal Protocol.

A Federal Court ruled against the EPA’s Rule in August of 2017. The ruling came as a shock to those in the industry and there was an appeal filed only a few weeks later by Honeywell and Chemours. The appeal court ruling occurred early in 2018 and the court again ruled against the EPA and Honeywell/Chemours. The EPA had overstepped it’s bounds and could not phase down HFCs without proper legislation.

With the current administration in power there was and is little hope of a comprehensive HFC refrigerant phase down bill from being passed. Another hope for climate advocates was the Kigali Amendment. The Kigali Amendment was an addendum to the Montreal Protocol that was signed by various countries in 2016. This amendment again aimed at phasing down HFC refrigerants across the globe. Over the years many countries have ratified this amendment, however one of the remaining countries to do so is the United States. No one is for sure what the Trump Administration will do on this amendment. Will they push it to the Senate to ratify, will they kill it, or will they just sit on it and let it drift off into purgatory?

States’ Rights

This is where the States’ Rights have come into play. I’ve always been a big proponent of the States making their own decisions and this is no different. California signed their bill late last month and just today we have an announcement from Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, that New York will be adopting the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 as law in New York. This is now the second state to create their own EPA type regulation in order to combat the impact of Greenhouse Gases like HFC refrigerants.

Like the California law the New York regulation is very similar. The goal is to enact the proposed changes from the EPA’s original ruling. What that means is that we are going to see impact right away in a few sections of the industry. The biggest and most significant impact is automotive.

In the original ruling the EPA stated that R-134a would no longer be accepted in new vehicles from model year 2021 and beyond. Now, a lot of car manufacturers have already begun switching over from 134a over to 1234yf, but not all of them have. This now gives car manufacturers only a few years to comply with this new law if they want to sell vehicles in California or New York. The hope with these regulations is to force the hand of manufacturers to only use GWP friendly refrigerants and if enough States sign on then this very well may happen.

Another change will be the food refrigeration equipment found in supermarkets, vending machines, refrigerators, and freezers. With the first major change hitting in 2020 targeting supermarket systems and vending machines, the next change in 2021 targeting household refrigerators and freezers. And in 2023 targeting industrial cold storage warehousing.

The last major change will be on stationary air conditioning equipment such as centrifugal chillers and positive displacement chillers. The target for these is January 1st, 2024.

Conclusion

Are these two states the first of many? Will we begin to see the dominoes fall so to speak and see other states fall in line? If so, should we even bother with the Kigali Amendment or should we just let the States decide and move on from there?

Time will tell, but if enough states get on board then companies will begin to feel the pressure and proactively transition away from HFCs and over to HFOs or Natural Refrigerants.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson
RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to RefrigerantHQ! Today we are going to be doing a product review on a ductless air conditioner. Ductless air conditioners, also known as mini-split systems, are a great overall compromise for the consumer who wants the efficiency and power of a traditional split system air conditioner but also wants to save the money on routing duct work and buying a whole new air conditioner. On the inverse of that, mini-split systems are also a great solution for those of you who are wanting to take a step up from window or portable air conditioners. The ductless system gives you more power then a window unit while also looking aesthetically pleasing in your home.

Today we will be looking at the Pioneer ductless mini-split air conditioner. Now, this is going to be an all encompassing review as the actual Pioneer product comes in a variety of sizes depending on the room or home that you wish to cool. Also, at the end of this article we’ll do a quick breakdown of each model number, what they offer, and which one you should choose.

Pioneer

Now before I ever make a big purchase I always like to take the time and consider the brand and the company behind the product. I do this especially on something I haven’t dealt with before. As an example, I’m a Toyota guy, and when I buy a Toyota I know what to expect, quality. That is their brand and they have earned the recognition that comes with it. The question is what and who is Pioneer? Are they a reputable brand? Let’s take a look.

The Pioneer brand and company has been around for nearly twenty-five years. The brand is owned by a company called ‘Parker Davis.’ (Their website can be found by clicking here.) They specialize in HVAC equipment, especially in ductless mini systems. Their products can be found throughout the US as well as numerous other countries throughout the globe. Over the decades they have been innovating and improving their ductless designs so that with today’s model you get one of the most efficient and effective design available.

Pioneer Mini-Split Ductless Air Conditioner
Pioneer Mini-Split Ductless Air Conditioner

If I was going to be buying a new ductless system I would want to purchase from a company that is dedicated to HVAC, or even moreso, dedicated JUST to ductless systems. That is what you get with Pioneer. Other companies may manufacture ductless units but it is just another product that they sell. The dedication just isn’t there. Pioneer’s mission statement is “To provide you with top quality HVAC equipment at affordable prices and with instant availability.” They are a secure and always improving brand that I would have no problem spending my money on.

Before You Buy

Ok folks, so now that we’ve gone over the company behind the product let’s take some time now and take a look at what this product has to offer to you the consumer.

The first point that I’m going to mention, and probably the most important, is what sized unit that you need. You may have noticed by now that when looking for an air conditioner that they all come with a BTU number. BTUs, also known as British Thermal Units, are a measurement of the cooling capacity of your air conditioner. The higher the number the larger the space the unit can cool. Don’t fall for the trap though that bigger is always better though. It is always best practice to find the closest fit unit for your needs. If you end up purchasing a unit that is too big for your area then you will be wasting energy and you may even end up with hot and cold spots due to dehudmification issues. On the inverse, if you purchase a unit that is too small for your area then the system will be running constantly trying to keep up and you will never get to that desired temperature.

So, what size BTU unit should you get? Before you make that decision it is best to know the square footage of your room. This is a simple equation that can be done just by taking the length and width of your room and multiplying them together. Once you have that number you can begin to see the amount of BTUs that you need. The standard rule of thumb is thirty BTUS per square foot of the room. So, let’s say you have an eight-hundred square foot area you want to cool. Eight-hundred times thirty BTUs equals out to twenty-four thousand BTUs. Now the Pioneer ductless system comes with a variety of sizes. It is up to you to determine what the perfect size is for your needs. Your options are below and by clicking on these links you’ll be taken to the Amazon page where you can do further research.

Now, something you may have noticed is that when clicking on one of the above links is that there are two options for the smaller BTU systems. The only difference between these two is that one requires a standard one-hundred and twenty volt outlet and the other ones require a two-hundred and thirty volt outlet. This option only exists on the smaller units but even if you were going with a nine-thousand BTU system I would still recommend the two-hundred and thirty volt option just due to the increased efficiency.

I want to mention one more thing before we get into the actual product features. Yes, yes I know, this isn’t the fun part but it is necessary so that you understand what you’re getting into before you purchase. Mini-split systems are not easy to install, especially if you are a laymen when it comes to air conditioning work. Ductless systems like these aren’t as simple as a window unit where you can mount and forget it. No, with a system like this you have to mount the interior air handler in your room, drill a two-three inch hole, route the copper refrigerant tubing/draining pipe through the hole, install and mount the condenser on the outside of your home, connect the tubing (Flaring the tube if needed), check for any possible leaks, and even after all that we’re still not done. You will need to wire the unit, setup an electrical outlet box on the outside of your home, vacuum out the pre-filled nitrogen from you system, and then input the actual refrigerant.

This is a huge undertaking, especially if it’s your first time doing something like this. A lot of people who purchase mini-split systems like these buy online from stores like Amazon.com to save the mark-up they would see from their local HVAC contractors. Then, once they have their unit in hand they call the technician to come out and install. This is what I would advise. I would not advise you try this on your own unless you know exactly what you are doing. Otherwise, you risk damaging the unit by installing it correctly, or it could be something as simple as the tubes weren’t fitted right and the unit is leaking refrigerant. There are so many variables when it comes to this that it is best to hire an expert.

Speaking of experts, Amazon has a great feature I just discovered where you can actually add professional installation when you are purchasing the unit. As an example, let’s look at the thirty-six thousand BTU Pioneer unit by clicking here. As you can see just under the sizing there is a box to select for professional instillation. This works just like how it would if you were to go to a Home Depot or Lowes and pay for installation. Amazon contracts this out to a local professional and they then co-ordinate everything with you. It’s a great feature that a lot of people just don’t know about. My family recently used this feature for a new garbage disposal we bought. It was quick and painless and didn’t cost much more to have the project done professionally.

Product Features

Pioneer Air Handler
Pioneer Air Handler

Ok folks, so now that I’ve bored you with the sizing, electrical, and installation options let’s take a look at the actual product features you’ll be getting if you purchase this unit. There are a whole host of features to be aware of and I may end up missing some here and there but here is what I have found throughout my research on the product. The first, and biggest selling point to me, is that this product comes with a heat pump as well as an air conditioner. Along with that, most air conditioners that come with heat pumps do not have a matching BTU. Typically, you’ll see the heat pump attachment having a few thousand BTUs lower then the air conditioning system. That is NOT the case with this Pioneer brand ductless system. In fact, your heat pump BTU is right in line with the air conditioning BTU no matter what size you choose.

One thing to mention is that this unit comes with a heat pump. A heat pump is only effective up until a certain temperature. If it begins to get too cold then your heat pump will no longer be as efficient. Now, depending on who you ask, this temperature range can vary. Most people say around forty degrees is when the peak performance begins to drop. Instead of the unit taking heat from outside of your home and transferring to the inside of your home, you will now have electric heating coils activate to give your home heat. The difference here is that these coils are not as efficient as the standard process. This will result in two things: The first is that the BTU heating capacity of your air conditioner will fall slightly. Secondly, you will end up paying more in energy when you begin to use electric coils. If you live in an area that gets rather extreme winters then you may consider buying an infrared unit as well to heat the room. (I prefer the infrared fireplaces.)

Speaking of heating and air conditioning, the Pioneer system comes with an automatic switch mode that allows the unit to switch between cooling, heating, dehumidifier, and ventilating. Having this feature enabled allows you to have the most efficiently run air conditioner. You also get what’s known as an auto-restart function. What this does is simple, it remembers the settings that you have on the unit and then, if the power goes out and comes back on, your unit will power back up with the exact same settings that you had before. Now if only my alarm clock could do that.

Another setting this comes with is a timer. The timer can be great for programming your air conditioner to turn off and on during set times of the day. A lot of people use this to shut their unit off during night hours and have it kick back on again during the morning. This saves some energy and only has to be programmed once. On the indoor air handler you get an LED display showing you the temperature and any other readings you would like to see. You also get automatically swinging louvers that allow the air flow to be optimized. (They move up and down directing the air flow to the appropriate parts of the room.) The air handler itself runs VERY quiet, so quiet in fact that most people don’t notice it. This is a big selling point when comparing to a window or portable air conditioner as a lot of people complain about the noise level from them. Along with all of that you get a wireless remote control that will allow you control your settings.

Many of you may not care about this, but the refrigerant that this unit takes is R-410A, or Puron. 410A is now the most common used refrigerant in the United States when it comes to home or commercial air conditioners and it is readily available in case you need a recharge down the road. The refrigerant line set ranges between ten feet upwards to twenty-five feet depending on the model you buy. What’s neat about this unit is that if your system develops a refrigerant leak you will see a ‘EC’ error code be displayed on the system and the unit will not run until the hole is patched. (Remember, refrigerant flows an endless cycle and you should never have a leak.)

Pioneer Ductless System Remote
Pioneer Ductless System Remote

Last thing I’m going to mention on this product is the weight. A lot of you may expecting this to be heavy, but I want to alert you anyways. Depending on the model you purchase these units can weight between one-hundred and twenty pounds up to three-hundred and fifteen pounds. Please be sure that you have help when you begin to setup the unit. Remember, safety first… and I’d hate for you to drop it accidentally and damage the unit.

Pros

The biggest Pro we have here with these ductless systems it that it gives the homeowners an in-between alternative to a traditional split system air conditioner or a window mounted system. Along with that, it gives you a nice clean looking mounted system that blends in with your room. Many people aren’t happy with the look a window air conditioner gives a room and a ductless system will give you that second option. Lastly, ductless systems give you the option to install air conditioning in your house even if you don’t have ducts routed throughout your home.

The next big point on these mini-split systems is their energy efficiency. Air conditioner efficiency is measured by two numbers. The first is known as their Energy Efficiency Ratio, or EER. The second number is known as Season Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER. The only difference between these two numbers is that EER looks at performance based on one solid outside temperature whereas SEER looks at the wide varying range of seasonal temperatures. The higher EER or SEER number the more efficient your system is. A typical window air conditioner will have an EER rating between ten to twelve. Now, the average EER/SEER rating on this Pioneer branded unit is between sixteen and eighteen. That is quite the difference and that heightened number means more money saved in your pocket month to month.

A quick Pro on these Pioneer systems is that they run VERY quiet. I mentioned this above in the product features, but I wanted to bring it up again as it’s a big deal to a lot of people. If I am going to have this product installed in my living room I am going to want as quiet as possible.

The last Pro that I want to bring up before we move on to the Cons is the warranty. These Pioneer units come with a two year limited parts warranty and a five year limited compressor warranty. Their limited warranty policy can be read about by clicking here.

Cons

I mentioned install in our ‘Before You Buy,’ section but I’m going to bring it up here again as well. It’s a big deal. If you don’t know what you’re doing then you are going to need to hire a professional. The worst thing you can do is to guess your way through this. Some homeowners have gone through and mounted the air handler and condenser. They also drilled the appropriate hole, but ultimately they left the electrical work and the refrigerant work to the professional. Remember, you may need to end up flaring the refrigerant piping for a perfect fit, you will need to vacuum the system out, charge it with refrigerant, and lastly you will need to route a electrical box to the exterior of your home. (Most likely a two-hundred volt outlet.)

This next con is going to relate to instillation, but I’m going to bring it up anyways. Many users have complained that the unit was leaking refrigerant and that the unit would not cool their home. Ninety percent of the time their unit was leaking due to improper installation. If during the install you bend one of the copper refrigerant lines or you do not attach the line correctly to the air handler/condenser then you are going to have a refrigerant leak. The other ten percent of the time it may be an actual defect in the air handler or the condenser. If this is the case then the Pioneer warranty should cover you.

The next common complaint I read about was the heat pump not working correctly. Remember earlier in our ‘Product Features,’ where we mentioned that heat pumps are only designed for warmer winter areas? Well, some people do not realize that. One reviewer said, “The unit isn’t meant for Michigan winters.” Well, yes… of course it’s not! It’s a heat pump. It’s going to work up until that forty degree mark and then it will begin to supplement it’s heat with electrical heating coils, but in very cold winters it may not be enough. Again, I would recommend purchasing an infrared fireplace. These things work great, keep your room warm, and can be put away in storage once the winter is over.

When you purchase something online there is always the risk of it arriving to your home damaged. That risk increases with the bigger and heavier the package. On top of that, the risk increases even more when dealing with a machine like an air conditioner. Now, I’m not going to lie to you here. The chances of your unit arriving damaged is rare, but there is a chance folks. The good news though is that if this does happen you can always file a claim with Amazon.com and they will take care of the return process. Something that you’ll notice is that some of the ‘bad reviews,’ on this product are a direct result of the product arriving damaged to the consumer’s home. This is not Pioneer’s fault and frankly shouldn’t be attributed to them.

Conclusion

Well folks, what do you think? Will you be getting a ductless unit? Or, are you going to end up going the window air conditioner route? If you have decided to go the ductless route then I can honestly say that you will NOT be disappointed with the Pioneer brand name and the options that they have to offer. While the installation may be difficult it is worth it once you have it up and running and have a nice cool home to come home to. Again, as I mentioned earlier, this product comes in a variety of sizes. If you are interested in purchasing then I suggest you click on the appropriate size below. Also, if you’re looking for help for installation don’t forget that Amazon offers their own professional install as well.

However, if you find that you want to go the window air conditioner or the portable air conditioner route then check out our best of buying guides:

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

What Is It?

A ductless system is another variation of all the varying kinds of air conditioners. You have your window air conditioners, your portable air conditioners, your traditional split systems, and then your ductless or mini-split systems. Now, each one of these types of units have their own Pros and Cons.

The ductless system comes with two main components: The air handler and the condenser/compressor. The air handler is mounted inside your home either higher up on the wall, on the ceiling, or even on the floor. The condenser unit is installed outside either on a concrete pad or mounted on the side of your home. Along with these two components you also receive a copper tubing line that will connect the handler and the condenser to each other. This tubing is where the refrigerant will flow back and forth between the two units.

Pioneer Mini-Split Ductless Air Conditioner
Pioneer Mini-Split Ductless Air Conditioner

Remember folks, that refrigerant flows in an endless cycle. Air conditioners work by intaking heat from the room and removing it. This is done by the refrigerant in the system. The refrigerant goes through a series of state changes moving from vapor, to liquid, to vapor, to liquid, again and again. These state changes allow the refrigerant to absorb and remove the heat. It’s not about creating cold air, but instead about removing the heat.

I am a big fan of ductless air conditioners. These air conditioners provide an alternative solution to the homeowner who has a house that isn’t routed with duct work. Here in Kansas we have quite a few old farmhouses from over one-hundred years ago and the thought of leaving space in the walls for duct work never occurred to the builders.

Most people in this situation end up going with the a standard window air conditioner or perhaps a portable unit. While window air conditioners work they have a lot of downsides. I won’t go through everyone here, but a few of them are:

  • Visual Appeal – Many people see window air conditioners as an eyesore. In fact, a lot of homeowner’s associations won’t even allow them nowadays. On top of that you also lose the use of a perfectly good window.
  • Noise – Window air conditioners can in fact be quite loud when compared to a traditional or mini-split air conditioning system.
  • Air Flow – A window unit usually only works best with one or two rooms. After that the air flow starts to become restricted as there is only so far the fan can move the cold air.

So, is a ductless air conditioner the right solution for you? Well, before you decide let’s take a look at some of the Pros and Cons of these types of air conditioners. I will say this upfront though folks, while ductless air conditioners work great they can be difficult to install and may require the help of a certified HVAC technician.

Pros

The first point to mention here is that these ductless air conditioners are just that, ductless. That means that you will not have to route ducts throughout your home. On the inverse of that, you won’t have to make a large hole in your wall either to accommodate a mini-split system. There are some window units out there that require you to create a large hole in your wall for the unit to mount in. With a ductless system all you need a small hole around two to three inches in diameter.

I’m going to get into the install requirements in the Cons section but before I do I did want to point out that while these units are a difficult install they ARE easier then a traditional split system. Speaking of split systems these units are quite a bit cheaper then the traditional units. With those you typically end up paying anywhere from two to four-thousand dollars. Most ductless units will be around five-hundred to twelve-hundred dollars.

When comparing a mini-split system to a window air conditioner we have three main benefits. The first is the visual appeal. Ductless systems are smooth and sleek looking. Most people don’t even notice them in the room. Window units on the other hand are noticed right away. Along with that, ductless units run MUCH quieter then a standard window unit. This makes the room that much more enjoyable. Air conditioners are measured by their Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER). The higher this number the more efficient your unit is. Most window units hover between nine and twelve for their EER. A ductless system is MUCH more efficient and when shopping you will easily find units EERs as high as twenty or even twenty-five.

The last Pro that I’ll mention is that mini split systems can actually be setup to cool multiple areas of the house. Depending on the unit you purchase you could have two to three air handlers in varying rooms that all route back to two or three condensers/compressors you have installed outside. If the install is done correctly then it will look seamless and provide your home with reliable air conditioning for the foreseeable future.

Cons

Mini split systems aren’t the end all be all for air conditioners. There are reasons to buy one and there are reasons to go with an alternative. The first and largest point to make about these units is the installation. When dealing with a window air conditioner or even a portable air conditioner the install is relatively easy. Most of the time all it involves is setting up a mounting bracket, positioning the unit, routing the drainage, and sealing off the rest of the window. Along with that, these window and portable units come precharged with refrigerant so that when you are done installing all you have to do is flip it on and your room will be instantly colder.

Mini splits, or ductless systems, are much different. Instead of just having one unit to pop into your window you now have two separate unique parts to your air conditioner. We mentioned this already but I’ll go into it a bit here as well. The part that is mounted inside your home that takes in the hot air and blows out the cold is known as the air handler. This is mounted either on your wall, floor, or ceiling. Along with the handler you get a set of copper refrigerant pipes and a drainage pipe that have to be routed outside your home. Typically, a two to three inch hole drilled through the wall will allow enough space. This leads us to the next part of your mini-split system, the condenser/compressor. This section is seated outside and is where the unit rids the heat from your home. This is where things get tricky. You have to route the copper refrigerant pipe from your air handler, through your wall, and connect it to your condenser. Along with that, you need to ensure that the connection is a perfect fit and that you are not having any leaks. In some cases you may need a flaring tool to flare out the pipe for a perfect fit.

If that’s not enough to scare you away from installing one of these then this might. Some of these units come precharged with refrigerant, but not all of them do. If you purchase one that is filled with nitrogen instead (Nitrogen is used as a filler.) then you will need to vacuum the nitrogen out of your system and then replace it with the appropriate refrigerant. This is where having a professional HVAC technician comes in handy. They do this day in and day out and know exactly what to expect. Lastly, when installing one of these units the chances are you are going to need route power for it to the outside of your home. (Most of them take a two-hundred and twenty volt and the outlet has to be routed directly to your circuit breaker.) Again, your HVAC tech can help you with this.

Another point to make with these units is the cost. While they are significantly cheaper then a traditional split system air conditioner, you will find that the mini-split systems are much more expensive then your window or portable units. This is due to their efficiency and overall power when compared to window or portable units. The mini-split systems are meant to cool larger areas. If you have a small room or office that you want to cool then I would suggest you go with a window or a portable air conditioner. However, if you are looking to cool your entire home or a large space then the ductless mini split may just be the fit for you.

Conclusion

What do you think? Do mini-split systems seem to be the right solution for you? They can offer a lot of benefits, you just have to get past that first bump of installing. If you are interested in learning more about mini split systems feel free to check out some of our articles on them:

However, if you find that you are leaning towards window or portable units then check out our best of articles below:

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Hello everyone! I hope your Labor Day is going well. We just got back from our city’s parade and I’ve got a few hours before our barbecue so I thought I’d take some time and get an article out there. I’m going to preface this article with the disclaimer that this is an opinion piece. Take it how you want, but it has been on my mind over the past year or so.

As we all know refrigerants have been phased out or phased down for decades. We started it way back in the early 1990’s with R-12 and other CFCs. Then we focused on HCFCs and now the world is looking at HFCs. With CFCs and HCFCs the goal of the phase out was to stop using Ozone damaging refrigerants. These refrigerants contained Chlorine which did not break down in the atmosphere and ended up harming the Ozone layer.

HFCs were the replacement for these Ozone damaging refrigerants. HFCs did not contain Chlorine and did not harm the Ozone layer. They were also non-flammable and non-toxic. Yes, I am aware there are always exceptions out there, but the most commonly used HFC refrigerants were non-flammable and non-toxic. These HFCs seemed to be the perfect substitute for HFCs and HCFCs.

Fast forward to the present and the world is now looking to phase down or phase out HFC refrigerants across the globe. This time though instead of them damaging the Ozone these refrigerants are contributing to Global Warming. Refrigerants are measured on a scale known as Global Warming Potential, or GWP. The zero scale for GWP is Carbon Dioxide (R-744) with a GWP of one. Popular HFC refrigerants, such as R-134a, have GWP as high as one-thousand four-hundred and thirty. There is an obvious problem here and the continued use of HFC refrigerants will speed up Global Warming. The question now though is what alternatives are out there?

Natural Refrigerants

For a lot of companies and countries the answer has been Hydrocarbons such as R-717 and R-290. These natural refrigerants have a very low Global Warming Potential and they do not deplete the Ozone layer. In fact, R-717 is widely seen as one of the most efficient refrigerants out there. Both of these refrigerants are great for the environment. The downside though is that these refrigerants can be dangerous.

Yes, just like with anything, if the refrigerants and machines are handled correctly and maintained properly then there is little chance of problems, but the chance still persists nonetheless. Let’s look at R-717, or Ammonia, as an example. Ammonia is a great refrigerant but it is toxic if inhaled. In today’s world it is mostly used industrial refrigeration such as meat packing plants and in ice rinks. When a leak does happen it can be deadly. Notice, how I said when? Ammonia leaks occur quite frequently across the Americas. There was a particularly bad one around one year ago in Canada that ended up fatally harming three workers. (Source) When an Ammonia leak occurs an evacuation has to occur. Depending on the size of the leak the evacuation could be a couple of blocks surrounding the facility. It can be that dangerous.

The alternative for Ammonia based systems was R-22. In the 1980’s and 1990’s companies could pick between these two refrigerants for their plants. (Yes, there were more, but I believe these were the main players.) The choice for R-22 is now gone due to the phase outs. Depending on the application, some were using R-134a as an alternative to Ammonia. But now, that too, is being phased out. While R-22 and R-134a were damaging the Climate they were safe. If a leak occurred it wasn’t the end of the world.

Now with the shrinking list of alternative refrigerants more and more companies are leaning towards Ammonia. Yes, there are new HFC and HFO alternatives being developed by Chemours and Honeywell but these have not been perfected yet. You may get one that has a low GWP but has a higher flammability rating. Or, you may get one that still has a somewhat high GWP and it just wouldn’t make sense to base a new machine off of a refrigerant that is only going to be around for a few years.

R-290, or Propane, has a similar story. While yes, it’s not near as deadly as Ammonia, it still has it’s risks. Instead of toxicity being a problem we now have to deal with flammability and flame propagation. If an inexperienced technician attempts to work on an R-290 unit and is not sure what they are doing they could end up igniting the refrigerant. (The worst is the guys who smoke when working on a unit.)

Now picture this, what if we start using R-290 in home based air conditioners? It doesn’t even have to be a split system, it could be a mini-split or even a window or portable unit. Let’s say Mr. Homeowner, who has no idea what he’s doing, decides to tamper with the unit because it’s not blowing cold air. Maybe he thinks it just needs ‘more Freon.’ If the unit was using Puron then the homeowner would recharge, waste his money, and think he did some good. However, if the unit contained R-290 the results could be far worse.

HFOs and Alternative HFCs

In my opinion, HFOs are much safer then Hydrocarbons, but there is still that safety risk out there. Let’s look at everyone’s favorite HFO target, 1234yf. Now, I know this horse has been beaten to death, but I’m going to bring it up one more time. YF is rated as an A2L from ASHRAE. That 2L means that YF is flammable and has a chance to ignite. What kills me here is that there was such a push to get YF rolled out to new vehicles that instead of rating it as a standard A2 refrigerant they instead created a whole new flammability called 2L. (Lower Flammability.) So, they’re admitting to it being flammable, but only slightly.

The whole controversy on YF started years ago when the European Union was looking for a suitable alternative to R-134a. There were hundreds of tests conducted across Europe and the World to view the viability of 1234yf. In one of these tests the Daimler company out of Germany found that after the vehicle suffered an impact and the compressor cracked open the HFO YF refrigerant ignited when it was exposed to the hot engine. (For more on this check out our YF fact sheet by clicking here. The video of the ignition is at the bottom.)

Needless to say, this test result shocked Daimler and they published their findings to the world. The other companies and countries stated that Daimler’s test could not be reproduced and that it was a non-issue. The world moved forward with the somewhat dangerous 1234yf. Daimler, being the innovators they are, decided to instead move forward with a completely different automotive refrigerant, R-744.

While 1234yf is by far one of the most popular HFC alternatives on the marketplace today there are others that have similar problems. One that comes to mind right away is R-32. R-32 is an HFC refrigerant that is beginning to see more popularity for it’s usage in home and commercial air conditioners. R-32 is an alternative to the standard R-410A that is found in most home units. The goal of R-32 was to reduce the GWP number when compared to R-410A. 410A has a GWP of two-thousand and eighty-eight while R-32 has a GWP of six-hundred and seventy-five. This is a significant reduction, but the GWP is still quite high when comparing to Hydrocarbons or HFOs. Another very important point is that R-32 is rated as an A2 refrigerant. There’s that 2 again. 2 means flammable except with this one we don’t even get the L for lightly flammable.

So again, I’m going to illustrate the similar scenario we mentioned above. Picture a homeowner, who doesn’t know what they are doing, trying to either retrofit his existing R-22 over to R-32 or perhaps he just wants to recharge his R-32 machine. Without the proper training and knowledge this can end in disaster.

Conclusion

So, now here we are sacrificing technician and public safety for the betterment of the Climate and environment. I understand that Global Warming is a crisis and that it needs to be dealt with, but is it really worth increasing possible risk and danger of everyday workers and people? It appears that in everyone’s haste to move away from HFC refrigerants and to save the environment the thought of safety has taken a backseat.

I mean, if we wanted to get really aggressive in the fight against climate change why not start using Ammonia in nearly every application? After all, it has a GWP of zero and is extremely energy efficient. (I’m being sarcastic here, if you couldn’t tell!)

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

The phase down and phase out of HFC refrigerants across the European Union was done to help the environment. These commonly used HFC refrigerants have an extremely high Global Warming Potential (GWP) and are now being replaced with lower GWP alternatives such as HFO’s like 1234yf and by natural refrigerants such as R-744. In order to ensure countries and companies complied with the phase down strict regulations and rules were set in place. Production was capped. Imports were capped. Companies and contractors were incentivized to use more climate friendly refrigerants.

While all of this had the positive effects of reducing Global Warming it came with unintended consequences. All of these new regulations and production limits caused the supply of HFC refrigerant to dwindle across the European Union. And just like anything else in the world, when the supply shrinks and the demand is still there then the price rises. That is exactly what happened in Europe. Last year certain refrigerants saw multiple hundred percent increases in price. The most prominent example is R-404A. Imagine paying five-hundred percent more for R-404A. What would you do? How would your customers react?

Some people saw these high prices and shortages of HFCs as just a growing pain. After all, this was only temporary. The new refrigerants would began to take over and dominate the market in a few years time. They just had to get through this transition and then they would be fine. Others however, saw a different approach. They saw profit. They saw dollar signs dancing in front of them as the prices of these HFC refrigerants kept rising and rising.

Over the past few years there has been an explosion of refrigerant crime across the European Countries. From what I have read there are three main types of crime being perpetrated on refrigerants.

Theft

It was reported this week that thieves targeted a German refrigerant manufacturer of R-134a. This wasn’t a small operation stealing a few cylinders here and there. No, these guys stole one-thousand cylinders of R-134a worth an estimated value of nearly seven-hundred thousand dollars. This was a well organized operation that had the time and effort to arrange the stealing, loading, and shipping of one-thousand cylinders of refrigerant. Let’s think about that for a moment. Most refrigerant cylinders come forty to a pallet. So, that is twenty-five pallets of refrigerant stolen. Typically, you can fit twenty pallets on to a truck. These guys were so greedy that they somehow crammed an additional five pallets in there.

This isn’t the only report of R-134a being stolen either folks. In July other refrigerant manufacturers were hit across Germany. In one example over eight-hundred cylinders were stolen. In other cases there have been multiple cylinders stolen. Five cylinders here, sixteen here, ten there. A lot of the refrigerant manufacturers in Germany are hit over and over again. Refrigerant is now seen as a commodity in Europe. The reason for all this is what we mentioned above, price. The price on R-134a has increased over eight times what it was in Europe last year. Again, let’s do some math. Let’s call R-134a price today at ninety dollars a cylinder. Now, times that number by eight. Seven-hundred and twenty dollars a cylinder. That is just unbelievable.

These huge price increases are directly due to the MAC Directive that organized the phase down of R-134a and replaced it with 1234yf or R-744. The bad news is that there are still so many cars on the road today that take R-134a and they aren’t going away anytime soon. The need for R-134a will be with us for at least another ten years. If the price continues to remain high then we are going to continue seeing these robberies occur. The good news is that here in America we haven’t had such a significant shortage and at this time R-134a does not have a set phase out date. While there are cars today taking 1234yf it is not a mandatory switch at this point. We still have time, and to be honest, I don’t see it getting to this level over here.

Online Selling

Now, most of the time, when people commit crimes they don’t think it through all the way. It’s the same way with these refrigerant thieves. While many of them try to unload their cheap product onto an unwitting buyer, others take a different route. They opt for putting their stolen merchandise online for all of the world to see. Yes, that’s right. A lot of these guys put their products on sites like E-Bay and Craigslist.

There was an example the other day in Italy where an auto parts retailer was raided by the Italian Police due to them selling R-134a without the proper documentation and certification. He was just selling the cylinders on E-bay for a quick buck. Who knows if the product was stolen or not. Regardless, he broke the law by not obtaining the proper documentation when selling to his customers. Europe is not kidding around with these kind of sales.

This isn’t just isolated to out friends across the sea. The same problem exists here in America. You can go to Ebay.com today and search for R-22 cylinders. You’ll find tons of matches and I’m willing to bet that not all of them are going to ask you for your 608 certification number. Again, highly illegal. I will say that after looking into a few of the top sellers of R-22 on Ebay there is a mention of providing a your 608 EPA cert number, or also giving you the option to fill out an intent to resale form. Doing it this way is perfectly legal, but as I said I KNOW there are some out there selling R-22, or even R-134a/R-410A without asking for a EPA license. You might have to dig a bit more, but they will be there. Heck, they may even have the cheapest price.

While E-bay is a big problem it is not the worst offender. No, that prize goes to Craigslist. Craigslist may not have the volume that Ebay has but it comes with a whole host of other problems. With Ebay you provide the money to the seller through the Ebay platform. There is a paper trail. You can trace back who you bought from and they can trace back who they sold to. If someone gets audited there is at least that trail that can be relied upon. Craigslist has none of that. Most of the Craigslist sales are done in person and in cash. There is very little to trace back, if anything. Most of the time it’s just a simple swap in a parking lot and then it’s over. I’m willing to bet that sellers aren’t stopping the sale if the buyer doesn’t have the proper certification.

While we haven’t had much of a problem of illegal online sales here in America I fear that it has increased this year. This is mainly in part due to the new EPA refrigerant purchase restrictions on popular HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A. People who were able to purchase cylinders of HFC refrigerants less then twelve months ago now find that they have to be certified. I can still find numerous sellers on Amazon.com selling HFCs without licensing required. In one example of 410A I see no mention anywhere of providing a 608 license certification number. This is now illegal. While many people may not know this, ignorance will not save you.

Smuggling

The smuggling of refrigerant is perhaps the most lucrative and the most dangerous of refrigerant crimes to partake in. The concept of smuggling refrigerant has been around at least a decade now. It may have been around earlier but I first heard about it when the world began to phase out R-22. Each country had it’s different phase out dates but across all of them one common thread was the implementation of import and production quotas. Once a quota was met no new R-22 could be imported/manufactured in that country. These quotas kept the price high and opened the market for smugglers. I can go through numerous examples of this happening around the globe and even right here in the United States. Let’s look at just a couple of them:

  • In 2015 Russia found twenty tons of R-22 refrigerant being illegally imported. It was disguised as R-134a cylinders. They had originated from China. – Source
  • In 2013 A California resident was caught importing R-22 cylinders illegally by having them disguised as R-134a cylinders. He was travelling back and forth between America and China arranging shipments. He is now facing up to ten years in prison for his smuggling operation. – Source
  • In 2013 Tonga caught thirty cylinders R-22 being illegal imported into their country. Again, they were disguised as R-134a. Now, five years later, the cylinders still sit at the customs office of this island nation. – Source

These are not even close to all of the cases. It happens all over the world: Europe, Middle East, Russia, America, everywhere. In most of these smuggling cases we find that the disguised refrigerant is originating from one country, China. Most of the time they used R-134a as their go to disguise. It has gotten to the point now that customs agents are now using refrigerant identifiers and testing random shipments to ensure no excess R-22 is being imported under their noses. (This is how they caught the Tonga shipment.)

As the world begins to move away from HFC refrigerants we are now beginning to see the smugglers moving away from R-22 and towards R-134a. I had mentioned earlier that R-134a’s price had gone up nearly eight times in Europe. This led to thefts of various manufacturers. Well, it has also led to increased smuggling from China. In some cases the product is marketed as R-134a but it is being shipped in disposable cylinders instead of the required reusable ones that we are all familiar with. Anything to save a bit of money and increase that margin.

The European Union is on the lookout for these smugglers and we here in America should be as well. In 2018 I would say that the prospects of smuggling into the Untied States have gone way down mainly due to the overturning of the EPA’s proposed HFC phase down and also due to the falling price of R-22. Since R-22 is hovering in the three-hundred dollar range a cylinder this year it may just not make sense to go through the risk of smuggling today. If prices begin to creep back up though, be on the look out. If you do see a price on refrigerants that seems to good to be true then be wary as you may be purchasing stolen or illegally imported product.

Conclusion

This was an interesting article to write as I never thought I would see organized crime on refrigerants. But, if there is a high enough profit opportunity then there are always going to be those bad apples that take the chance and break the law. While we are not having the extent of problems that Europe is having with illegal refrigerants it very well may come our way in the future as we move closer towards phasing out HFC refrigerants.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

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Hello ladies and gentlemen. It’s been a while since we last updated here at RefrigerantHQ and there are a few reasons for that, but I won’t get into every one. As we all know, time has a way of escaping us. I had planned on doing updates a few weeks ago but I ran into some bad luck with my website right about the same time. On August 13th the traffic to my site all but collapsed. I went from receiving thousands of visitors a day to only receiving a couple hundred. At first I thought I was just having a bad day but as the days wore on I saw that the trend was continuing. I couldn’t understand what was going on. Why was my traffic going away? Where were my readers? I began to get frustrated and walked away from the site for at least a week.

It was last weekend that I decided to take a crack at it again and figure out what happened. There had to be a reason for this. I checked Google and my other traffic sources but I was still ranked towards the top of the search results. It wasn’t Google’s fault. I then tried going to my website via my phone and that is when it dawned on me. My website had been hacked. Anyone who had clicked on my site was automatically being taken to the hacker’s site. Once I figured out what it was I became even more worried, but I also buckled down and spent a good six to seven hours over the weekend researching how to remove the code.

Come to find out the hackers gained access to my website through the RefrigerantHQ forums that I had launched at the beginning of this year. I won’t get into all of the technical details here, but long story short the hackers injected their malicious code through my forum software. I had hopes of this forum of being a go to for those of you within the industry but after seeing the damage that these hackers had done I decided the safest bet was to scrap the forums entirely.

At a later date, I may bring them back, but over the weekend I only had one concern and that was getting my site up and running again. I found all of the malicious code and deleted it from my database and also paid a security consultancy firm to review my site for anything that I have missed. I got the all clear this afternoon from them and now here I am writing this article. The site is good to go now, but just as a precaution, if you see anything out of the ordinary please let me know and I’ll get fixed as soon as I can.

Onwards and Upwards

Now that I have reclaimed my site I have quite a few plans for future articles. I have still been watching the industry over the past month or so and I haven’t seen much activity in the news cycle. That doesn’t always mean that there isn’t a lot going on, but it does slow down the quantity of articles. I did find quite a bit of chatter over illegal refrigerants. Over the next few days I’m going to be working on an article highlighting the illegal refrigerant purchasing in Europe and also how it is happening here in America.

Beyond that I aim to add additional ‘Refrigerant Fact Sheets.’ These fact sheets act as an all encompassing guide to a specific refrigerant. The goal with these is to be able to answer any and all questions about the refrigerant and to have it all in one place. These articles will be trickling in over the next few months as we move closer to 2019.

Speaking of 2019, we are on pace to hit around seven-hundred thousand views for the 2018 year. While I had high hopes of hitting that one-million number this year I KNOW that we can do it in 2019. For those of you who do not know, RefrigerantHQ, is a hobby of mine that I work on during my off hours. Presently I work full time as a software consultant, but my dream is to grow this business until it can sustain my family and I. If any of you are interested in working with me on any future projects please don’t hesitate to reach out to me either via e-mail at johnsonalec41@gmail.com or you can text or call me at 913-206-5026. If I don’t pick up please don’t hesitate to leave a voicemail.

The last update that I want to share with everyone is that my wife and I are expecting our third child here in just a few months. The due date is November 13th, and while I love my two girls more then anything, it will be nice to finally have another man in the family! All that being said, don’t be surprised if I’m a little slow to update for those first few months. I have a feeling I’m going to be up all night with him for a while…

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

About a month ago I wrote an article about the falling price of R-22 refrigerant. This time of year it is very unusual to see the price of refrigerant falling, especially with how drastic R-22 has gone down over the past year. If we rewind to this time last year we were seeing prices around five-hundred to even six-hundred dollars a cylinder. In June of this year the price was around three-hundred and thirty dollars for a thirty pound cylinder and as I write this article in early August the price has remained right about the same.

While this price decrease is great for end users and consumers it has also hurt a lot of distributors and HVAC contractors out there. Refrigerant has always been a speculation game and while it is not as volatile as the oil market the price can change just as fast. In 2017 when the prices were sky high nearly everyone was thinking that the price would only go higher as we got closer and closer to the year 2020. You see, in 2020 the production and import of R-22 will be banned across the United States. This is in accordance to the Montreal Protocol to phase out CFC and HCFC refrigerants.

Most everyone’s thinking was that with 2020 only a few years away and the price on R-22 getting higher that the time to buy was now. Might as well get in early before the price gets so high it’s no longer reachable. So, a lot of folks bought up on R-22 during that 2017 season. In fact, this buy-up across the country contributed to the drastic price increase that we saw. Because of everyone was buying up the price jumped, but only temporarily. With refrigerants we always see the price jump in summer and then start to taper off and lower during the fall and winter season. (I always like to buy in December or January when the price is at it’s lowest.)

Well, what happened in the 2017/2018 winter is that the price dropped and dropped. More so then usual. All of the distributors and contractors now had a surplus of R-22. No one had a need to purchase any. This lack of demand continued towards spring and now into summer. The market had been flooded due to the ‘panicked’ buying of 2017. The usual slow uptick in price that we normally saw start in spring and into summer was gone and everyone was now stuck with the low three to four-hundred priced cylinders.

The Gamble

During the high priced 2017 year a lot of companies and individuals decided to gamble on the future pricing of R-22. It was a tough call and no one really knew what was going to happen, but if you succeeded then the rewards would be amazing. Imagine, buying a cylinder for five-hundred dollars in 2017 and then turning around and selling that same cylinder for eight or nine-hundred dollars just a year or two later. Now, times that cylinder by forty for a pallet of R-22. Then, times that pallet by twenty for a container shipment. That’s one-hundred and twenty-thousand in profit selling at eight-hundred a cylinder. At nine-hundred a cylinder you’re looking at one-hundred and sixty-thousand profit.

Hudson Stock Price

I can definitely see how that profit lured some people into purchasing large quantities of R-22, but there was a reason this was a gamble folks. The price bombed and now these companies are having to make the tough decision on rather to unload their R-22 inventory at a loss or to hold onto their stockpiles and hope for the best. Will the price go up by the time we hit 2020? Will they be able to make a profit, or at least break even?

One such company, Hudson Technologies, made this gamble and are now paying for it this summer. Now, I don’t know exactly how much they purchased but I do know they have a large surplus of R-22 just waiting for the price to climb back up. Their second quarter earnings report came out today and within those earnings I found something astonishing. Last quarter Hudson wrote off fourteen million dollars worth of inventory due to the decline in refrigerant pricing. Fourteen million! Remember, that is just a cost adjustment and not the ACTUAL value of their refrigerant inventory. Imagine the position they would be in if the price had climbed. That’s why they call it a gamble though folks.

Because of these inventory write offs, among other factors, the Hudson stock has gone down and down since the past year. As you can see in the picture to the right this time last year the stock was around nine dollars and now this year we’re under two dollars.

Investing into Hudson has been a hot topic lately in the refrigerant world and many people are buying it up due to the very low cost of the stock. The hope is that the R-22 price will begin to climb again and Hudson’s stock along with it. The good news is that even though Hudson had that inventory write off they still ended up breaking even for the second quarter. So, while the company itself isn’t in trouble, their R-22 inventory definitely is.

Hudson Tech shares have lost about 69.7% since the beginning of the year versus the S&P 500’s gain of 6.9%. – Source

Conclusion

The future of R-22 is anything but certain. As the summer moves on and we inch closer to fall the price of R-22 still remains stagnant. If I was to guess I would say that the price is going to go down even further as we approach winter. We may even end up seeing a flat three-hundred dollar price per cylinder around December and January. As for 2019 it is anybody’s guess. By then, many distributors surpluses may have run out and the price could start creeping up again.

Another factor to consider is that 2019 is the LAST summer season for R-22 before the ban takes hold. After January 1st, 2020 no more imports or production. We will only be left with reclaimed R-22 or alternatives. While 2019 may see an increase I do not foresee us reaching the levels we saw in 2017. Perhaps four to five-hundred a cylinder. The year 2020 will be a totally different story as the companies who do have their surplus refrigerant in reserve will began to release it in waves to offset the lack of production or imports. If done correctly, it will keep the market stable at a certain price. If done incorrectly, the market will be flooded just like it was back in 2017. Only time will tell what happens next.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources