DR-55

Alternatives to R-410A?

Rather you like it or not folks R-410A will be going away and it’s going to be happening a lot sooner than everyone thinks. In 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they will beginning the initial steps of phasing out R-404A in July of 2016, January 2017, and 2018. Along with that they also announced that the tried and tested R-134a will begin being phased out in the year 2020. (2021 model years.) HFCs are quickly coming to an end.

On top of the EPA’s actions on phasing out HFC refrigerants there was an amendment added to the Montreal Protocol only a few months ago in November of 2016. More than one-hundred countries met in Kigali, Rwanda. The United States, the European Union, and many other countries have been working tirelessly on getting an HFC phase out amendment added to the Montreal Protocol for years. Well the last holds out finally gave in and everyone’s dreams finally came true in late 2016. The goal of the agreement was to ban all HFC refrigerants across the world by the year 2100. The United States along with all of the other countries happily signed the agreement.

Under the signed amendment developed countries, including the United States, must reduce their use of HFC refrigerants by ten percent by 2019 from 2011-2013 levels, and then by eighty-five percent by 2036. Along with this developed countries will also have to comply with a freeze of HFC consumption levels in the year 2024. By the late 2040’s all developed countries are expected to consume no more than fifteen to twenty percent of their baselines. In order to meet these guidelines developed countries have already begun phasing out the other HFCs as we discussed above. 410A is not on the chopping block yet but it will be soon.

Everything, and I mean everything, is pointing in the direction that 410A will be no more. The only thing that I could see stopping the phase out of 410A in the near future is the presidency of Donald Trump. Now, keep in mind that this is all speculation, but Trump has said before that he doesn’t believe in Climate Change. So, if you don’t believe in something than why would your country pledge and sign a treaty saying that you would phase something out because of Climate Change? It doesn’t make sense. No one knows what Trump will do though. He may leave things the way they are or he may go back and try to renege on the treaty.

The Four Rules

The race to find an alternative refrigerant for R-410A is on. After all, 410A has to be one of the greatest used, if not the greatest, refrigerant in the world. Everyone needs a cool house and most of the time they’re either using R-22 or R-410A. Finding an alternative has proven difficult though as there has been no perfect match so far. There are four considerations companies have to consider before they can sign off on a golden ticket replacement product. These four ‘rules’ or considerations are Environment, Energy Efficiency, Safety, and Economy.

  1. If we look at the first criteria of environment we have to consider two things. One being that the new product can’t contain Chlorine like the old CFCs and HCFCs of the past. We don’t want a repeat of the O-Zone damage that we went through the eighties and nineties. The second being that the replacement cannot have a large Global Warming Potential like the HFC refrigerants used today. The whole point is to have a refrigerant that does NOT damage the environment, or at least, does not damage the environment as much as the current HFCs do.
  2. Energy Efficiency pretty much explains itself. Obviously we do not want have a gas that would be used across the world that is terribly inefficient. What good would it do to if we’re just wasting energy and impacting the environment in another way? The whole robbing Peter to pay Paul mentality. It doesn’t make sense.
  3.  Safety is another consideration that has to be factored in when finding the ‘perfect’ refrigerant. One of the major risks here is flammability. Each refrigerant has a flammability rating and some are much higher than others. If you have proper training on dealing with flammable refrigerants than there is nothing to worry about. The danger comes in if the R-410A replacement is highly flammable. Commercial units are usually left alone. Only professionals ever attempt to maintenance them. With a home unit you run the risk of having novices or ‘Bubbas,’ trying to maintenance or even install their own machine. Imagine the risk they could be taking if the refrigerant they were dealing with was extremely flammable? (Like R-290.) The other aspect of safety is the toxicity levels of the refrigerant. If you have a leak and it is in a confined area what effect will that have on the people in that area? Will there be permanent damage to them after breathing it, or even death?
  4. Economy is the last and final aspect when looking for an alternative. What good is an alternative if no one can afford it? If a ten pound cylinder is north of $1,000 how is anyone going to be able to afford it? Cost is a large factor when considering an alternative. Truth be told I believe we’re seeing the cost problem now with the 134a replacement. The HFO 1234YF is nearly $700 for a ten pound cylinder. Imagine the cost involved if you had to refill your car after a repair? It’s quite the difference between the $100 cost of a thirty pound cylinder of 134a.

Ok, so with those four considerations in mind let’s review the possibilities of the future for replacing R-410A.

Hydroflurocarbons (HFC’s)

Yes, yes I know. R-410A is an HFC so why would we replace it with another HFC? Well, there is a push to change from 410A over to R-32 refrigerant. The thinking is that this wouldn’t be a permanent solution but more of a temporary until something better comes along. R-410A’s Global Warming Potential (GWP) is 1,725 times that of Carbon Dioxide. This large number is why 410A is being pressured to be phased out. While R-32 is an HFC it’s GWP is only 675. That is about a sixty percent decrease. It’s not a perfect bullet but it would help with the battle against Global Warming.

There are a few benefits to R-32 one of which I mentioned above. The first being the lower Global Warming Potential. The second benefit is that consumers will see a ten percent reduction in their energy usage when switching to R-32. Another pro for R-32 is the cost. It is overall much cheaper than R-410A and is readily available to purchase now. R-32 has seen wide usage across Australia and in July of 2015 was approved for limited usage by the United State’s Environmental Protection Agency. (Visit link to their website here.)

Ok, so we have see the pros of HFC-32 now let’s take a look at some of the downsides.  R-410A is classified as ‘Non-Flammable,’ according to the Safety Data Sheets. The flammability rating on 410A is ruled as class 1. When looking at the same data for R-32 we find that it is ‘Extremely Flammable,’ and is classified under a level 4 for flammability. Both of these come from each products Safety Data Sheets which can be found by clicking here for R-410A and here for R-32. And to think people were freaking out about the flammability of 410A a few years ago!

Another downside to R-32 that companies have complained about is the toxicity of breathing in the product. Proponents have rebutted saying that R-32 is no more toxic than any other refrigerant when breathed in. Which I believe is a perfectly valid point. The last downside and one that is extremely difficult to prove is that R-32 causes cancer. There has been no conclusive tests on this theory and so far it is speculation. The belief is that this rumor started in California due to their strict environmental laws.

So, in review on R-32 we have a cheaper alternative refrigerant to R-410A and one that has nearly sixty percent reduction in Global Warming Potential. But, this replacement product is extremely flammable and may put people at risk. In my opinion I do not believe this refrigerant meets the four conditions to be accepted as an acceptable substitute. (Safety comes to mind.) If we do start using HFC -32 here in the United States than I could see it being only temporary until a better HFO refrigerant comes along. I wouldn’t put money on seeing this at your next service call.

Sources on R-32:

Hydrocarbons?

Hydrocarbons are a different story. They have been around a lot longer than the HFOs and even HFCs. Everyone is at least somewhat familiar with them and even a laymen has heard of most of them. (Propane, Isobutane, Carbon Dioxide.) Some of these refrigerants go all the way back to the nineteenth century if you can believe it. Before the rise of CFCs such as R-12 Hydrocarbons were widely used in various establishments. One of the first air conditioned movie theaters in the early twentieth century was cooled by Carbon Dioxide.

Alright, that’s enough of a history lesson. Let’s dive in and take a look at the possible scenario on each one:

R-290 (Propane)

Alright so let’s get the selling point of R-290 out of the way now. Propane has zero O-Zone depletion potential and only a GWP of only 3. Yes, that’s right. 3. Humongous difference when comparing to 410A’s GWP of 1,725.  Right out of the gate R-290 meets the environmental criteria for an alternative. Overall it is rather energy efficient and the cost is relatively cheap coming in at right about the same cost as a thirty pound cylinder of R-410A. (A little over one hundred dollars a cylinder.) We’re three for four on propane passing the feasibility test. There is just that last one. That one that we overlooked, safety.

The disadvantages are the flammability risk, safety standards/codes, and ensuring each technician is properly trained before handling. If propane is handled in the right way and by a properly trained technician than everything will be fine. However, if ‘Bubba,’ tries to install his own unit or retrofit his own machine with propane that is where things get dangerous. A common occurrence over the years since R-22 has grown more expensive is for companies to market their R-290 product as a drop in replacement for their R-22 units. This is a dangerous practice since the R-22 machines were not meant to use propane. The end result can result in injury or an explosion.

R-290 is already seeing widespread use in India and China and now the middle eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and others are expressing interest for R-290 due to it’s better performance in higher ambient temperature environments. The Environmental Protection Agency has approved R-290 for use in stand alone small charge units including retail food refrigerators and freezers. All that being said though I do not foresee seeing R-290 being widely used as a replacement for R-410A.

R-290 Sources

R-744 (Carbon Dioxide)

R-744 has no harmful environmental effects. I mean, there is nothing more natural than Carbon Dioxide. There is no O-Zone depletion potential and the Global Warming Potential is minimal. In fact as I mentioned earlier R-744 was one of the very first refrigerants used in the world only losing popularity once the easier to use R-12 was introduced.

R-744 requires very low energy to run, is non-toxic, and non flammable. The problem that comes with R-744 is not the dangers of flammability like that of R-290 but instead with economy. R-744 runs at an extremely high pressure during operation. The pressure is so high that the efficiency of the compressor suffers greatly and the durability and thickness of the pipes needs to be increased to compensate. The thickened pipes and the custom high pressure equipment increases the overall cost of R-744 for most uses.  Some could also make the argument that Carbon Dioxide refrigerant due to it’s increased pressure of 2,000 pounds per square inch also makes it dangerous to work on. That’s a tally of two out of four.

While R-744 is seeing usage in other smaller applications like that of refrigerated cases I do not foresee it being used as an alternative to R-410A due to the additional cost of the higher pressure equipment and the potential safety risk of the high pressure.

R-744 Sources

R-717 (Ammonia)

Ammonia or R-717 is often regarded as the most efficient refrigerant gas on the market today. Along with it’s energy efficiency aspect it also has no O-Zone depletion potential and has a Global Warming Potential of zero. The cost for R-717 is much lower than other HFC refrigerants on the market today creating a cost savings if someone was to switch over to R-717.

If we refer to the four rules again that I stated above we are three for four so far. The fourth rule, and honestly one of the most important, is safety. R-717 is not the safest refrigerant… by any means and it is one of the reasons why it is not commonly used in today’s residential market.

Like R-290 R-717 is highly flammable. Don’t let me say it though, let’s take a look at the exact wording on the safety data sheet on R-717: “Flammable. Toxic by inhalation. Causes burns. Risk of serious damage to eyes. Very toxic to aquatic organisms.” – Source. So we have a highly flammable product that has high toxicity and can cause damage to your skin and eyes. I can see why this hasn’t taken off.

While R-717 does have the safety detriments it is still widely used today in many types of manufacturing plants such as dairies, ice cream plants, frozen food production, cold storage warehouses, and meat processing plants.  I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again. This potentially hazardous material works because it is being used in a large commercial setting. The Jo Schmo do-it-yourselfer is never going to tamper or try to fix one of these commercial machines. If something goes wrong at one of these businesses they call in a professional. If R-717 becomes a mainstream refrigerant found in every home in the country than the risk of do-it-yourselfers accidentally burning themselves or worse causing an explosion goes up exponentially. For that reason alone I do not foresee R-717 being used as a suitable R-410A replacement.

R-717 Sources

Hydrofluoroolefin (HFO’s)

HFO’s are already seeing large usage in the European Union and now beginning in the United States. Most of the applications have been under the HFO 1234YF used in automobile applications. As of January 1st, 2017 cars can no longer be manufactured with R-134a systems in the EU. The United States isn’t too far off either with our final date being 2020. (2021 model year.) 1234YF is quickly replacing the R-134a market that we know today. To some it’s 1994 all over again where we phased out the R-12 in place of R-134a.

The selling point on the new  HFO’s are the environmental impact. The goal here was to create something as similar as they could to the current HFCs on the market but without the high Global Warming Potential that comes with them. For example, the 1234YF refrigerant has a global warming potential of four. For comparison, the Global Warming Potential of R-134a is over 3,000. There is a significant difference and the climate will be greatly affected if the whole world switches over to these new HFO refrigerants. (Or Hydrocarbons.)

The problem with HFOs is that they are all in developmental stage. The two conglomerate companies DuPont/Chemours and Honeywell have been putting endless hours and money into developing new HFO refrigerants that could take the place of the beloved R-410A. The other complication with HFO’s is that since they are being invented by only a few companies these same companies hold the patents on the new product. This creates an almost monopoly type setting where Honeywell and Chemours can set whatever price they want on their new Opteon and Solstice brands. Now, I’m not attacking these companies for having a high priced product. There is cost involved and I am sure it is quite high to create these new refrigerants. The reason I bring it up is for you the consumer or the business owner to realize just how expensive these refrigerants are. For example, a ten pound cylinder of the HFO 1234YF goes for about $700. For comparison a thirty pound cylinder of R-134a goes for about $120.

While there are MANY HFO refrigerants under development and available today I am only going to be looking at the possible 410A alternatives. With the introduction out of the way let’s dive into the various HFO refrigerants available today:

Opteon DR-55 (R-452B)

R-452B passed the flammability and toxicology review required by the ANSI/ASHRAE in March of 2016. Upon it’s approval it was given a preliminary ASHRAE number of R-452B. While this new alternative refrigerant from Chemours still has a somewhat high Global Warming Potential of 676 it is still sixty-five percent lower than it’s R-410A counterpart. It also comes with a lower flammability rating than other proposed R-410A solutions. (R-290 for example.)

Along with it being friendlier to the environment  and safe to use R-452B matches the capacity of R-410A allowing it to be compatible with currently used R-410A equipment. This allows for a quick and easy change of refrigerants on existing 410A units in the field.

While this refrigerant is still in the preliminary stages I could definitely see this becoming mainstream once it goes to market. It has right around the same GWP of R-32 but comes with a lower flammability rating. My only concern on this new refrigerant from Chemours is the cost. How much is this going to cost per cylinder when it rolls out this year or next? HFO’s are notoriously known for their high cost. Let’s hope that this new refrigerant doesn’t fall into that same category.

R-452B Sources

Opteon XL41 (R-454B)

R-454B is another new HFO refrigerant that was developed by the Chemour’s company. This refrigerant has the lowest GWP of all of the drop in R-410A replacements out there today. It comes in at a GWP of 466, that is seventy-eight percent lower than 410A. The formula on the refrigerant itself is a very close match to 410A and has been proved to be higher performing than 410A in some instances.

The downside of this new refrigerant is it’s mildly flammable status. While flammable refrigerants are perfectly safe when used in the right hands they can be extremely dangerous in the hands of a novice. Even though this refrigerant is in fact the lowest GWP alternative out there today I do not foresee it becoming a mainstream alternative to 410A simply because of it’s flammability rating. The chances of a homeowner hurting themselves is just too great.

R-454B Sources

SOLSTICE REFRIGERANTS?

I spent some time digging through Google and Honeywell’s website looking for mentions of a feasible R-410A alternative. The best that I found was a press release from 2013, four years ago, saying that they were working on a new 410A alternative. I haven’t been able to find much more news on these refrigerants. When I reviewed their website, which can be found by clicking here, I found four new Solstice HFO alternatives… but they were not for R-410A. Instead they were for R-134a, R-404A, and R-22.

I may be mistaken here and missed the boat on finding their alternatives to R-410A. If I have please let me know by sending me an e-mail and I’ll update this article. (Follow this link and scroll to the bottom to send me an e-mail.)

What’s Winning?

At this point it is hard to say but if I was to put my money down I would be betting on two refrigerants. Over the next few years we are either going to see a push for the Hydrocarbon R-32 or the new Opteon DR-55 (R-452B). As I said before I have a feeling that the cost of the new R-452B will be quite a bit higher than what we are used to today. The consideration that has to be made is the lower cost of R-32 when compared to R-452B worth the risk of extra flammability? Is it worth saving money but having that risk of flammability?

Conclusion

Even though the R-32 and the R-452B refrigerants may be the new normal when it comes to home air-conditioning it is important to realize that they will not last. They are good viable alternatives to the R-410A used today but they are not perfect. They still have a somewhat higher Global Warming Potential. R-32 is too flammable for some people’s taste. R-452B will most likely be to expensive for others. Who knows what the next alternative will be?

There’s no telling what the final answer will be at this point in time. The only certainty is that everything is fluid and the refrigerants that we are using today could change this year or next and that I’ll do my best to keep everyone informed! If you see anything that is incorrect or not factual please take the time to e-mail me by clicking here and I will correct as soon as I can.

Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed the article please take the time to subscribe to our mailing list by navigating to the top right of the page and registering your e-mail. Thanks again!

Alec Johnson

Owner.

Well ladies and gentlemen it’s that time of year again. The time of year when a cold wind blows, the temperature doesn’t rise above thirty degrees, and snow flurries fall from the sky. What better time than now than to talk about refrigerant? It’s the slowest point in the season and it seems that when things slow down everyone is able to take a step back and look at what the market is doing and will be doing in the upcoming months.

This post will go over what my pricing predictions are in 2017 on some of the most common refrigerants used today. I am by no means a fortune teller or clairvoyant so I ask that you take these predictions with a grain of salt. My theories are based off of what I have seen happen in 2016 and what I believe will happen in 2017.

For 2017 I see it as kind of a mixed bag. I see the high possibility of two wild cards on a couple refrigerants (R-134a & R-404A) and the others I see as barely changing a dime. Before we get started digging into each refrigerant let’s take a moment and consider the following things that will happen next year in the refrigeration industry:

Considerations

Donald Trump's Affect on the Refrigerant Industry
Donald Trump’s Affect on the Refrigerant Industry
  • Trump – It’s worth noting that next year we will be having a ‘Donald Trump’ effect on the market. Rather this is a good thing or a bad thing is to be determined. Trump has shown that he is against regulations, against the EPA and it’s enforcement of climate changing policies, and most of all he doesn’t believe in Climate Change. All of this bodes well for the price of refrigerant. He very well may get rid of some of the phase outs and extra regulations. However, the other side of the coin is that Trump is VERY anti-China. He is against their so called currency war. He is against their trade policies. He is against dumping of their imports into the United States market. He has also talked about imposing a thirty-five to forty-five percentage tariff on Chinese imports into the United States. This would have a significant impact on not only imported refrigerant but also on US manufactured product. (If I was a manufacturer in the US and saw all the import price rising I would raise my cost too and make some extra money.) I wrote more about what impact Trump will have in another article that can be found by clicking here.
  • Anti-Dumping Tariffs – On top of the ‘Trump Effect,’ we also have the lawsuit filed by the HFC coalition with the International Trade Commission. For those of you that have been paying attention for the past few years I’m sure you are very well aware of it. The claim is that China is importing their refrigerants into the United States market at dirt cheap prices. They can do this because of course labor is cheaper over there but also because the Chinese goverment subsidizes these companies with the unlimited coffers of the goverment treasury. So, when this imported product hits the United State’s market it comes in at a very low price. (Sometimes $40-50 a cylinder.) The initial lawsuit was filed on R-134a and on September 30th, 2016 the Trade Commission made a preliminary ruling in favor of imposing a tariff on imported R-134a from China. The agreed percent was 137.23 on the two main Chinese companies and 188.94% on other Chinese companies. The Trade Commission released a fact sheet on this that can be read by clicking here. 
  • Phase Outs – Along with the other two factors phase-outs is something veterans of the refrigeration industry had grown to hate. It seems that every few years another refrigerant is being pushed out and being replaced by something else. Instead of the goverment coming after the CFCs or HCFCS they are now coming after the friendly HFC refrigerant class. This includes your commonly used R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A. Don’t be surprised if you hear of an upcoming phase out of these in the next few months and also don’t be surprised if you see your price raise due to a recently announced phase-out.

Alright, so now that we got all of that out of the way let’s dive into it by looking at each of the common refrigerants out there today:

 R-22 HCFC

R-22 30 Pound Refrigerant Cylinder
R-22 30 Pound Refrigerant Cylinder

Phase-Out

Ok guys first thing’s first. If you haven’t switched your unit from R-22 and over to R-410A DO IT NOW! Your R-22 machine is at least seven to eight years old now and I’m betting that a lot of them are quite a bit older than that. On top of your machine being older it is also less inefficient than it’s HFC 410A counterpart. And finally, R-22 is extremely expensive due to the Montreal Protocol mandated phase out. Every year that passes less and less R-22 is allowed imported or produced in the United States and just like everything else the less supply there is the more demand there will be. According to the EPA’s website, which can be found by clicking here, the phase out schedule of R-22 is as follows:

Year to Be Implemented Implementation of HCFC Phaseout through Clean Air Act Regulations Year to Be Implemented Percent Reduction in HCFC Consumption and Production from Baseline
2003 No production or import of HCFC-141b 2004 35.0%
2010 No production or import of HCFC-142b and HCFC-22, except for use in equipment manufactured before January 1, 2010 2010 75.0%
2015 No production or import of any other HCFCs, except as refrigerants in equipment manufactured before January 1, 2020 2015 90.0%
2020 No production or import of HCFC-142b and HCFC-22 2020 99.5%
2030 No production or import of any HCFCs 2030 100.0%

Now, you may have noticed we’ve hit the majority of these dates already. Remember how I said your R-22 unit is getting old? As shown above no new machines from 2010 or greater can be manufactured with R-22. So, if you have an R-22 machine it is approaching or is already over ten years old. Worst of all, if your unit springs a leak and you run out of refrigerant you face paying a large sum of money just to replace your R-22.

Price

Let’s talk about price now. I’ve been writing my price per pound articles for the past three years now and each time I write one the price of R-22 keeps on climbing up. (My latest price per pound article can be found here.) In my 2015 article R-22 was retailing at about $300 per thirty pound cylinder. In my 2016 article R-22 was retailing at about $480.00 for a thirty pound cylinder. In my latest article that I wrote only a few days ago for the 2017 year R-22 is between $600-$700 for a thirty pound cylinder. That $300 price back from 2015 for a thirty pound cylinder will now only get you a ten pound cylinder for the same amount of money. (Example Amazon link.) It’s amazing at how fast the price can go up.

As you can see the price of R-22 is continuing to climb. The past two years it has gone up thirty percent consistently. My prediction for the 2017 year is more of the same. Let’s call the current price $650.00 for a thirty pound cylinder. That’s a happy medium between the $600-$700 that I’ve been seeing. If we do the below math we will get the number of $928.00.

$650.00 / (1-.30) = $928.00 for a thirty pound cylinder.

So there you have it folks. Next year’s predicted price for a thirty pound cylinder of R-22 is set at $928.00. If you are looking to buy some I would suggest to buy it now before the price climbs any higher. However, if you are on the other side of the coin and you have some inventory that you are sitting on I would hold onto it and watch the value climb and climb. I’ve even heard of some people buying whole pallets a few years back and storing it away in their warehouse for a few years. Imagine the profit if you bought forty cylinders at $300 and then turned around and sold them at $900 a few years later.

$300 * 40 = $12,000 cost

$900 * 40 = $36,000 cost.

Profit of:      $24,000

Not too bad of a deal if you ask me! If you are interested in purchasing R-22 please visit our product page. Also, if you are interested in purchasing pallet quantities please visit our bulk purchasing page. Lastly, please be aware that you need to be certified with the EPA in order to purchase or handle R-22.

R-410A HFC

R-410A Refrigerant 25 Lb Cylinder
R-410A Refrigerant 25 Lb Cylinder

Potential Phase Out

Along with R-134a I would say R-410A is one of the most popular refrigerants on the market today. Nearly every home or commercial air conditioning unit is using or will be using R-410A for their refrigerant. It became the default refrigerant back in 2010 when it replaced the HCFC R-22 as I talked about in the R-22 section.

Now that we went through all of the work of replacing R-22 with the 410A HFC there is now talk about replacing 410A. Can they make up their minds? Even though 410A does not contain Chlorine like it’s predecessor it has been found that HFC refrigerants have a very high Global Warming Potential (GWP). 410A has a GWP of 1,725 times the effect of carbon dioxide. Basically, 410A emits Greenhouse Gases that get trapped in the atmosphere and warm the planet. Now imagine the impact that it could have if every air conditioner in the world begins using R-410A. Startling, huh? So, now the race is on to find an alternative to 410A.

So far there is no end all be all for a 410A replacement. Honeywell, Chemours, and other companies are hard at work as we speak seeking out the best alternative refrigerant with the lowest GWP. Some of the contenders are:

  •  R-32 – This has a GWP of 675, not the best but better than what we have now. I wrote an article about this one last year that can be found by clicking here.
  • Natural Refrigerants such as R-290 and CO2 – So far these have not shown to be a cost effective solution but their GWP is VERY low. (Source article.)
  • DR-55 – A Chemours refrigerant pending approval as R-452B. Blend of R32, R1234yf and R125. GWP of 698. (Source)
  • L41z – A Honeywell refrigerant pending approval as R447B. Blend of R32, R125 and R1234ze(E). GWP of 740. (Source)
  • ARM-71a – An Arkema development refrigerant with a GWP of 460. (Source)

There is no set date on when R-410A will be phased out but I foresee it as only a matter of time. Once a standard replacement has been found than the phase out will begin. This could be next year or five years down the road. It’s difficult to tell.

Price

When 410A started to become popular the price was about on par with the price of R-134a. In 2014-2015 the price hovered between $75 and $80 for a twenty-five pound cylinder. Over the past few years it has climbed about fifteen to twenty percent each year. Today the price is hovering around $130 for a retail customer. (If you purchase more than one cylinder or go in for a pallet of 410A you will save money per cylinder as well.)

Even though the price has climbed over the past few years I honestly don’t see 410A changing much in 2017. The phase out won’t be happening for a while. They haven’t even decided on a replacement product yet and when they do decide the phase out will be a staggered approach just like all of the others. If they decide on a standard replacement product in 2017 the phase out of 410A may not even start until 2022 or 2023. So, with that in mind I predict that the price of 410A in 2017 will stay relatively flat at between $130-$150 retail. Bulk purchasing may get you lower but even then you’re still looking at being in the hundreds, maybe in the high nineties if you’re lucky.

Another thing to mention on 410A is that in 2017 you do NOT need to be certified with the EPA to purchase. If you wanted you could go to Amazon.com or E-Bay.com today and purchase yourself some 410A with no regulations required. However, starting on January 1st, 2018 you will be required to be certified before purchasing or handling any HFC refrigerants including 410A, 134a, 404A, and others. (Source from EPA’s website.)

Lastly, if you are looking to purchase 410A by the cylinder I recommend Amazon.com today or E-Bay.com. If you are looking for a bulk purchase of forty cylinders or more visit our bulk purchasing page and we’ll see what we can do for you!

R-134a HFC

R-134A 30 Pound Cylinder Refrigerant
R-134A 30 Pound Cylinder

Phase-Out?

Remember those wildcards I mentioned at the beginning of my post? Well 134a is one of them. (If you haven’t noticed already by watching the market.) It was announced in the summer of 2015 that R-134a would be joining alongside R-404A in the slow phaseout of applications. The case on R-134a wasn’t  nearly as drastic as it was for R-404A. The phase-out of 404A has already begun where with R-134a we still have a few good years left. (2020 is the main year for vehicles.)

R-134a days are numbered rather you like it or not. More and more newer model cars are opting for the HFO 1234YF made by Honeywell and Chemours. The Global Warming Potential of 1234YF is significantly less than R-134a and it is being pushed heavily by the United States’ Government as well as many other nation states including the European Union. Give it a few more years and 134a will be the exception instead of the rule.

The Anti-Dumping Tariff

Alrighty, ladies and gentlemen. Here were are. The tariff. You may have noticed that the price of R-134a went from about $70 a cylinder this summer all the way up to an average of $110 a cylinder over the fall and winter. This jump in price is in direct correlation to the ruling by the International Trade Commission on a anti-dumping tariff on R-134a imports from China. As I said in the beginning of this post they ruled in favor of imposing a tariff on September 30th, 2016. While this ruling is still preliminary and the final ruling won’t happen until March of 2017 the market still freaked out. (Click here for the Trade Commission’s fact sheet on the ruling.)

The standard price of $70 flew up overnight with the announcement of a proposed 137.23% tariff on all imported Chinese product. (188.94% on smaller Chinese refrigerant companies.) Can you imagine taking a 137% increase in cost for your business? I certainty can’t. This ruling is a double edged sword. If the HFC Coalition gets their way Chinese imports price will sky rocket. This will create a chasm in the market and cause every price on 134a to climb along with the imports… just like it did this fall. You, me, and everyone else will end up paying more for their refrigerant. On the other side is the preservation of American jobs and American manufacturing. We can be competitive again. We can actually buy American made product. Sounds nice huh? Do you want to pay more and save jobs… or do you want to pay those low prices and maybe put your neighbor out of work?

R-134a Tariff Schedule
R-134a Tariff Schedule

Pricing

Alright, so enough about all that other stuff. Let’s get to the reason you came here. What is the price of R-134a going to do next year? Up until the ruling in September the retail price on cylinders was just shy $100.00 on Amazon and E-Bay. After the ruling the price only jumped to about $115. While this may not seem like a big jump I can assure you that on the wholesale side of things we saw our price jump from $80 a cylinder all the way up to over $100 a cylinder. I believe the product that we are seeing sell for $115 online are distributors sitting on old inventory. I do not see this price lasting for long.

As for what will happen in 2017 this is a tough one to call. I do not believe the impending phase out in a few years is going to effect the pricing at this time. My big concern is the ruling on the tariff in March. What will happen if they rule in favor? What will happen if they rule against? Here are my two predictions:

  • If the Trade Commission rules in favor I do not see the market adjusting much at all. I believe the adjustment already happened in early October when their preliminary announcement was made. (It jumped nearly thirty dollars a cylinder.) My prediction if they rule in favor is that wholesale prices will stay just a shy above $100 a cylinder. Retail prices will level out at about $130-$135 a cylinder.
  • If the Trade Commission rules against the tariff than I can see the price plummeting back down to where it was earlier this summer. My prediction would be that wholesale pricing will be in mid $70s and retail pricing will be in the high $90s. 

Lastly, if you want to purchase R-134a by the cylinder I would suggest visiting our Amazon and E-Bay partners. If you are looking for more than just a few cylinders please visit our bulk purchasing page and we will get you in contact with some of our distributors.

 

R-404A HFC

R-404a Refrigerant
R-404a Refrigerant

So-Called Phase-Out

This is the other wildcard of 2017. No one really knows what’s going to happen on the price of 404A as there are so many cards in play in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Starting in July 20th, 2016 the initial phase-out began. While the July date only imposed a ban on retrofitting existing machines over to 404A it was just the beginning. The next big date on 404A phase-out is January 1st, 2017… you know only a few weeks away. The order and the types of machines affected can be very confusing. Instead of trying to explain everything in text I figured it would be easier to review in a table or picture. I pulled these tables directly from Chemour’s website. All credit goes to them for compiling the data. (Click here for source.)

Chemours HFC Phaseout Schedule
Chemours HFC Phaseout Schedule
Chemour's HFC Phaseout Table
Chemour’s HFC Phaseout Table

As you can see from the above tables this is the beginning of the end for 404A. July 2016, January 2017, January 2018, and so on. The big thing to mention though is that 404A will no longer be accepted in these machines it is NOT at this point in time being phased out. Let me rephrase that: R-404A is not being phased out yet but it’s use in certain machines is. So, unlike R-22 where the applications were limited and the production/imports were phased out R-404A is not being phased out. It is just having it’s applications severely limited. Their strategy could very well be phasing out 404A by starvation. If there are no more legal applications what would we use R-404A for anyways? It’s a roundabout way of going about it but maybe this will be the new way to rid the world of HFC refrigerants.

Price

So, what are we looking at as far as price on R-404A next year? Well, before we look to the future let’s look at the past. In 2015 we were at about $90-95 for a twenty-four pound cylinder of R-404A.  The price went up slightly in July of 2015 when the EPA announced their intention to phase out R-404A starting in July of 2016. I believe almost everyone saw it coming anyways so it came as no surprise. After a few months the price leveled out and has remained fairly constant for the rest of 2015.

The price began to climb again in 2016. As shown in the above table the first phaseout was this July with the ban on retrofitting. In just a few weeks the next ban hits. As of right now the price online on Amazon and E-Bay are between $110 at the lowest and at $175 at the highest. It is honestly very difficult to say what’s going to happen next year.  The phase out of machines using R-404A inclines me to believe that the price will go up. But, on the other hand there is no official reduction in R-404A production, only the shrinkage of machines using it.

Because of the supply remaining the same but the demand slowly shrinking I predict R-404A to actually go down in price next year. My prediction is that we will see single cylinder price at the end of next year hovering right around $85-$90 a cylinder. We’ll see if I’m right!

If you’re interested in purchasing R-404A by the cylinder I advise you to check out our Amazon and E-Bay partners for the best deal.  If you’re looking at purchasing more than a few cylinders at a time please check out our Bulk Purchasing page and we will see what we can do for you.

1234YF HFO

1234YF Refrigerant & Refrigerant
HoneyWell’s Solstice 1234YF Private Brand

Background

1234YF is one of the highest priced refrigerants on the market today. A ten pound cylinder goes between $700 to $800 a cylinder. This is substantially higher than it’s HFC counter part R-134a. The reason this HFO is so high in price is due to the demand. At this point in time there just isn’t that much demand for it. Even as I write this towards the end of 2016 the majority of vehicles in the United States are still using the trustworthy HFC R-134a for their refrigeration systems.

While 1234YF is the minority today it won’t be for long. There is already a scheduled plan to phase out R-134a across the United States starting in 2020. (2021 model years on vehicles.) The phase out will be staggered like most of the other refrigerant phaseouts but the process will start in only three short years. Hard to believe 2020 is that close. On top of our phase out the European Union has already phased out R-134a entirely and has moved the majority of their new vehicles over to 1234YF or to other lower Global Warming Potential alternatives.

Price

Over the course of 2016 the price of 1234YF has fallen, albeit slowly. We started the year right around $750 and we are ending the year at a price at or just below $700 for a ten pound cylinder. If I was to predict what would happen next year I would say almost exactly the same thing as this year. The addition of more cars to the marketplace will create more demand for manufacturing. Honeywell and Chemours will respond accordingly and start to add more of it to the market. This will be a slow creep effect and I could see at the end of 2017 that we will be looking at a price of around $620-$650 a cylinder.

As the years roll by and the refrigerant becomes more popular I see us going under $500 but not much lower than that. When the phaseout of 134a starts in 2020 I could see 1234YF jumping up in price for a a few months but as the phaseout wears on the price of 1234YF will settle back down to around $500-$600. In my opinion, the days of lower priced HFCs are gone. HFO’s will always be higher than what we are used to today with our low cost environmentally damaging HFCs. My final prediction for 2017 on 1234F is $635.00 for a ten pound cylinder this time next year.

If you are interested n purchasing 1234YF than I suggest your visit our friends over at Refrigerant Depot. We’ve been partnered with them for the past couple years and they have provided the best product and service to our customers.

Conclusion

As I said at the beginning of this post these predictions are just that… predictions. No one knows exactly what will happen next year and anyone who claims to know is making it up! Here’s hoping that I’m right on 1234YF and 410A and am dead wrong R-22! No one wants to see the price go up. (Well at least I don’t.)

I hope all of you enjoyed my post and my fortune telling on next year’s market trends. Here’s to a happy new year and I wish everyone the best sales next summer!

Thanks for reading,

Alec John Johnson

Owner.

Opteon DR-55 to Replace R-410A?

Yesterday I did a post about the upcoming meeting in Dubai to discuss the phase out of HydroFluroCarbons. Well, before we can phase out HFC refrigerants we need to have a suitable replacement product. The refrigerant industry is moving towards HydroFluroOlefins, or HFOs, instead of the alternative natural refrigerant such as CO2, Propane, or Ammonia.

There is already an HFO replacement, 1234YF, for the R-134a refrigerant that is in wide scale production and is being used throughout the European Union. Another common HFC refrigerant, R-404A, also has a direct HFO replacement out known as R-452A. That only leaves one big HFC refrigerant left needing a replacement, and it’s a big one.

It seems like just yesterday we were switching everybody over to R-410A systems but now it seems that 410A systems will be going away before we know it. The Chemours Company, formerly DuPont, has come out with a  new HFO R-410A replacement known as DR-55, or under their brand name of Opteon XL55.

Facts of DR-55

What are the benefits of this new HFO refrigerant? How does it compare to 410A? Does it still operate at the higher pressure level? Can it be dropped in or will retrofitting be required? I pulled this information from the official Chemours site and it can be found by clicking here.

  • DR-55 is non O-Zone depleting.
    • This seemed like it would be a given since all of the hassle we went through in the 90s and 2000s on CFCs/HCFCS.
  • DR55 has a lower Global Warming Potential, or GWP, compared to it’s HFC 410A counterpart.
    • R-410A has a GWP of 2,088 whereas DR-55 has a GWP of 698. That is an over sixty percent reduction.
    • It is important to note that yes, DR-55 has a lower GWP than R410A but it still has a rather high GWP and it will most likely be replaced by something new and better in the future. The goal here is to get the GWP number as low as possible.
  • Low Flammability – This has been an on-going concern on the new HFO refrigerants. Daimler, and some other German manufacturers, have expressed concern on the R-134a HFO counterpart 1234YF due to it’s flammability.
  • Five percent more efficient than R-410A refrigerant.
  • Direct replacement for R-410A units, no retro-fitting required.

Opteon-XL55-properties

Trane

Last week the company Trane showed the first ever air cooled demonstration chiller with the new DR-55 HFO refrigerant at the International Conference of Refrigeration in Yokohama, Japan. At this time DR-55 is being evaluated by the HVAC industry and government agencies for use in residential units.  Once approved it is expected units could start shipping in twelve to eighteen months.  It may take some time before we begin seeing DR-55 here in the United States but I would predict it will start picking up popularity in the Asian markets and potentially in the European Union.

I gathered this information from the article linked here.

Summary

All in all I believe DR-55 could be a viable alternative to the R410A. The question is how long will it be before DR-55 is replaced by something new and shiny? I might be a little cynical here but it seems like every few years we find something wrong with the current refrigerant that we are using. If DR-55 does become a common replacement I predict it will only be around for ten to fifteen years before the next new thing comes along promising better environmental protection.

Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed the article please take the time to subscribe to our newsletter or like us on Facebook.

Alec Johnson

Owner.

Sources