HCFCs

At the beginning of this year many folks thought that the price of R-22 would rise and rise. Some were predicting prices at five-hundred or even six-hundred dollars for a thirty pound cylinder. After all, this was the last true summer for R-22. At the end of this year on January 1st, 2020 the Environmental Protection Agency’s phase out of R-22 will be complete.

After that date imports or production of the HCFC R-22 refrigerant will be banned. The only way for a contractor to get a hold of R-22 will be through the backlog of product that refrigerant distributors are sitting on or through an EPA certified refrigerant reclaimer.

This phaseout has been ten years in the making and over those years the price of R-22 was expected to rise. In 2010 there was a restriction imposed on imports and production. In 2015 that restriction was ratcheted up. In each of these occurrences the price of R-22 climbed.

It reached it’s highest point during the summer of 2017. At one point it hit seven-hundred dollars for a thirty pound cylinder. In most cases though it averaged around six-hundred dollars a cylinder. There was a time where folks thought this was the new normal. That this six-hundred dollar price would be the baseline and that it would only go up from here as the 2020 date slowly approached.

Instead, the opposite occurred. It was towards the end of 2017 that the price began to fall. The price decline seemed like the typical winter price drop but as we moved into 2018 the price decline continued. There was some bounce back here and there but the overall trend was decline.

Why though? Why was the price dropping? There were two primary drivers. The first was the amount of product that was sitting on hand. Many refrigerant distributors had begun buying R-22 in larger quantities in anticipation of the price going even higher. Once the market adjusted to the higher price these distributors would then sell at just below market value and make a ton of profit. Or, so they hoped.

This extra inventory flooded the market and caused the prices to drop. As the prices dropped the distributors who were holding onto their product began to unload theirs as with each price drop they were losing more and more money. It was a snowball effect that led to the price falling downwards.

The other part of the equation was the R-22 alternatives and the R-22 reclaimers. During the ten years of the R-22 phase out it seemed like everyone was coming out with their own R-22 alternative refrigerant. There are dozens and dozens of them out there. Each one is it’s own unique refrigerant with it’s own unique requirements. Some of these alternatives required very little retrofitting as well. A contractor could buy an alternative refrigerant and do the retrofit on the customer’s unit all for under the cost of recharging their system with genuine R-22.

When R-22 hit that peak price point of six-hundred dollars a cylinder the alternative market began to grow. Along with the alternatives came the certified reclaimers. Throughout my research and talks with those within the industry the supposed ‘sweet spot’ for alternatives and reclamation is about four-hundred to five-hundred dollars a cylinder. If R-22 falls below that four-hundred dollar price then alternatives/reclaimed product doesn’t make sense. After all, why buy a knock-off version if you can get the real thing for the same price?

Today

So, here we are folks. It’s the middle of September of 2019 and the summer has passed us by. If there was going to be a price increase on R-22 it would have been this summer. Instead, the pricing didn’t move at all. No, today folks we’re seeing a thirty pound cylinder of R-22 going between two-hundred and fifty to three-hundred dollars a cylinder.

Yes, you heard me right. We are at rock bottom prices here. Remember what I said about alternatives just a bit ago? That four-hundred dollar sweet spot? Well, we’re not even close. Alternatives and reclamation are no longer competitive. There is just too much product out there. The market has been flooded and it’s a race to the bottom as everyone keeps lowering their prices to offload their product before the deadline comes.

Now, don’t get me wrong. After 2020 distributors can still sell R-22… but a lot of folks are wanting to get out now. The reason for that is all of these R-22 machines out there are from 2010 or earlier. At the beginning of the phase out the EPA stated that no NEW R-22 machines could be manufactured within the United States.

So, if you have an R-22 unit running at your location that unit is nearly ten years old already. Even before the phase out began in 2010 manufacturers were switching to R-410A models in anticipation. So, your R-22 unit may even be closer to fifteen years. They say that an average home air conditioner will last between fifteen to twenty years. These units are on borrowed time.

Herein lies the problem. The demand for R-22 is going to drop soon and it will drop quickly. With each year that passes more and more R-22 air conditioners are being retired and replaced with R-410A. This decline in demand will also lead to an even lower price point of the product.

These distributors are walking a fine line. If they hold onto their R-22 product until after the 2020 phase out there is a chance that the price could rise again. However, the demand is going to start dying down soon as well. When is the right time for them to unload their product?

During this summer there were quite a few times where the price dipped down five or ten dollars a cylinder. In most cases when this occurred it was due to a distributor unloading their backlogged product and removing themselves from the R-22 game.

Conclusion

The question now is what will happen over the next few months. Will prices remain flat until January hits? Will we see an increase in January? If so, how much? Over the years of writing articles on refrigerant I have learned one important thing. Do not try to predict. The market is anything but stable and it is very difficult to say what will happen.

The key point I will make here in this article though is if you are a contractor and are needing R-22 refrigerant NOW is the time to buy. Heck, now is the time to stock up. I do not say this in anticipation of higher prices, as I just don’t know what the market will do, but I say this due to rock bottom prices.

I’ve been running this blog for about five years now and this is the lowest I’ve seen R-22. It may or may not go up in 2020 but I’d rather have the peace of mind now and get a hold of that low priced product.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

It was announced last Friday that an agreement had been made between the Federal Government’s EPA/Justice Department and the company Southeastern Grocers (SEG). Southeastern Grocers is a large grocery store chain that operates nearly six-hundred stores across the southern United States.  They operate under various supermarket chains including BI-Lo, Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Mas, and Harveys Supermarket. They have over forty-five thousand employees and over eight billion in revenue.

The court case emerged from the Environmental Protection Agency accusing SEG of not following the Clean Air Act. Specifically, on the refrigerators within their stores. These refrigerated units use HCFC refrigerants and were not being actively monitored for leaks. Along with that, there was not proper record keeping on what maintenance had actually been done.

The agreement states that SEG will work to solve their issues over the next three years. Part of that is investing four point two million dollars to reduce SEG’s dependency on Ozone depleting systems. SEG will also pay a three-hundred thousand dollar fine. But wait, there’s more! It’s not just fines and investment that SEG will have to go through. Along with all of that they will also have to put in place a corporate policy when it comes to refrigerant management. This will include a bi-monthly leak monitoring program to ensure leaks no longer go undetected and if they do then they get repaired in a timely manner.

Most grocery stores/supermarkets have an average leak rate of twenty-five percent. SEG will now be expected to maintain a twenty-one percent leak rate in the first year, a nineteen percent in the second, and a seventeen percent by the third year (2022). They also are mandated to use non-Ozone depleting advanced refrigerants in all of their new stores as well as in fifteen existing stores. (These would be any of the SNAP approved refrigerants for commercial refrigeration.) If any of these requirements are not met over the next few years then SEG could face additional, possibly harsher, fines and penalties.

The Clean Air Act states that owners of commercial refrigeration equipment that contain fifty pounds or more of refrigerant must regularly be checked for leaks and if a leak is occurring to have that leak repaired within thirty days of detection. It should be noted that there is a threshold here, not EVERY leak has to be repaired right away. A determination needs to be made as to how large the leak actually is. I won’t get into all of the details in this article, but the EPA states that for commercial refrigeration the leak cannot exceed a rate of twenty percent. (This used to be thirty-five percent, but was changed at the beginning of this year.) If you’d like to view the EPA article on this topic click here.

Conclusion

While this fine and mandated investment may seem like a lot it is just a blimp in the radar for a company like Southeastern. They bring in billions a year, this won’t have much impact on them. Don’t let that fool you though folks, the EPA doesn’t discriminate when it comes to company size. If the Clean Air Act isn’t being followed then your business could be at risk as well. It’s just that SEG was a much bigger target for an investigation. This initial agreement is subject to a thirty day public comment period and then final approval from the court.

If you walk away with one thing from this article know that proper record keeping is essential. Even if you have regularly scheduled maintenance if you don’t have the records showing so it is all for not. Be sure to cross your Ts and dot your i’s in these matters to prevent any future risk of EPA investigations. Use these companies that are going through the EPA headaches as warnings to others out there.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Over the past few months I have seen a rash of articles from all over the web stating that the price of Freon is going through the roof in anticipation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s planned phase out that hits January 1st, 2020. The frustrating part about all of these articles is that nearly all of them have it wrong. Or, if they don’t have it wrong, they are misstating the facts. In this article I aim to educate you, the homeowner, on what exactly is happening on January 1st, 2020 and if you should worry.

Freon

Before we dive too deep into this article I first want to explain the term Freon. When you hear Freon you most likely think of any refrigerant that is found in refrigerators, cars, home air conditioners, etc. Here’s the thing though, Freon is actually a very rare find nowadays. You see Freon is a brand name of refrigerant. It is just like how Coca-Cola is a brand name of soda. If you want a soda you don’t say you want a Coke, instead you say you’d like a soda. The same thing can be said with Freon. When you hear the term Freon nowadays it really only applies to one type of refrigerant known as HCFC R-22.

R-22 dates all the way back to the 1930s and falls under the HCFC classification of refrigerants. HCFCs along with their sister refrigerant class CFCs actively damage the Ozone Layer. Way back int he 1980’s there was an international treaty passed called the Montreal Protocol. This treaty aimed at phasing out all of the Ozone damaging refrigerants. Freon was included in this. Over the years there have been various Ozone damaging refrigerants phased out.

The last refrigerant on this thirty year phase out list was R-22 Freon. This product’s phase out began in 2010 and has had a staggered approach every few years. The final end date of the R-22 phase out is January 1st, 2020. After this date no new imports or manufacturing of R-22 will be allowed into the United States. The only way to purchase R-22 refrigerant from then on will be from distributors who stock piled it or through refrigerant reclaimers. (Think of refrigerant reclaimers as companies who recycle and clean used refrigerant.)

Do You Have a Freon R-22 System?

Here’s the good new folks. In most cases homes will be using a Puron refrigerant system. This is also known as R-410A. Puron systems started to become popular in the late 2000’s and once the initial phase down of R-22 hit in 2010 Puron as the go to alternative for new air conditioners. So, if your air conditioner is from 2010 or newer then chances are you have a R-410A Puron system.

However, if your air conditioner predates 2010 then you should check to see exactly what refrigerant your system takes. It is most likely R-22 but it is always good to physically check. You can do this by locating your outside air conditioning unit and looking at the sides for a white labeled sticker. In some cases there are a few stickers so be sure to look them both over carefully. The text may be small but you should see either a ‘R-22’ or a ‘R-410A’ marking on the system. This alerts you to what kind of system you have.

If you find a R-410A marking on your air conditioner then you have nothing to worry about. Remember, the only refrigerant being phased out in 2020 is R-22. Your HFC R-410A is perfectly safe and will be around for a quite a while longer. If you find that you do have an R-22 unit then be prepared for potentially expensive repairs.

Price

Obviously, with the impending phase out we would all expect the price on R-22 to go up and up. Well, it did… sort of. You see when the phase out started in 2010 we had a jump in price. It was about three-hundred and fifty to four-hundred dollars per thirty pound cylinder. Then as the years went by the price stabilized and maintained the price point we mentioned earlier. It was then in 2015 that a tightening of the EPA’s phase out took hold and the market’s supply was constricted.

This caused the price to start to climb again. It was in 2017 though that we saw the dangers of price speculation. At one point in 2017 the price for a thirty pound cylinder climbed all the way up to over seven-hundred dollars. Everyone thought that the price was only going to go higher so they all bought up as much as they could. This was it. Every year after 2017 was going to be worse and worse.

Well folks, that just wasn’t the case. After the extreme prices of 2017 the price on R-22 began a downward trend. With each passing season the price kept moving downward. Now, as I write this article in August of 2019 the price is now under three-hundred dollars a cylinder. That is an amazingly low price and we are only a few months away from total phase out of the product.

At this point it is anyone’s guess as to what will happen to R-22 pricing as we get closer to that impending January 1st, 2020 date. We could see prices remain flat at around three-hundred dollars or we could see it climb again and soar over five-hundred dollars a cylinder.

Sealed System

Refrigerant Cycle in a Closed System
Refrigerant Cycle in a Closed System

Even before you have a contractor come to your home and look at your air conditioner you should be aware that air conditioners are what’s known as closed systems. What that means is that the refrigerant in your air conditioner moves back and forth between different cycles and it, in theory, never runs out or needs refrigerant refilled.

If you find that your unit is low on refrigerant or is completely out do NOT just refill your machine with a new refrigerant. I repeat do NOT do this. Your system does not need a top off. It does not need just a little bit more refrigerant to get by. No. If you are running out of refrigerant that means that somewhere in the refrigerant cycle there is a leak. Your unit is leaking refrigerant and will continue to leak refrigerant until a repair is made. If you dump more refrigerant into it without fixing the leak you are literally throwing money down the drain. Potentially a lot of money too if yours is an R-22 unit.

I like to think of it as a above ground pool. If you get a puncture in the pool lining water will leak out. Sure you can always add more water but it’s not fixing the problem. Adding more refrigerant doesn’t fix the problem either. It’s just prolong the inevitable and wasting money.

Repair or Replace?

Alright, so let’s say you have an R-22 unit at your home and it breaks down over the summer… or the fall. What do you do? There are a few things to weigh here before making a decision. First, call out a contractor and determine exactly what has gone wrong and how expensive the actual repair will be. In most cases if a major component broke on your air conditioner then you will need a refrigerant recharge after the system has been repaired. These refrigerant recharges are where things can get expensive on R-22 units.

The typical rule of thumb is between two to four pounds of refrigerant per ton of your air conditioner. (You should always check the exact specifications of your machine, but most of the time the two to four pound guideline will be sufficient.) Most home air conditioners are between one ton and five tons. (Anything over five tons is considered a commercial grade unit.) So, as an example let’s say you have a four ton R-22 system that needs recharged. Let’s do some math here to determine exactly how much you’d pay for a refrigerant recharge.

3 pounds of refrigerant * 4 tons = 12 pounds of refrigerant.

$400 per 30 pound cylinder of refrigerant = $13.33 per pound of R-22

$13.33 * 12 pounds of refrigerant = $160 for a recharge.

Now that we have figured out an R-22 recharge let’s take a look at the new counterpart refrigerant known as R-410A. 410A typically costs about ninety dollars per twenty-five pound cylinder. So, let’s do the same scenario above but this time substitute the $13.33 R-22 per pound with the $3.60 per pound of R-410A.

$3.60 * 12 pounds of refrigerant = $43.20 for a recharge.

Conclusion

While the amounts mentioned above may not seem that bad, keep in mind that you also have to pay for the actual repair as well. The repair could be a couple hundred as well. You also need to consider what the price per pound on R-22 would be if the price went up significantly when the 2020 deadline hit. Let’s say it rose to six-hundred dollars a cylinder. That one-hundred and sixty recharge bill now just jumped to two-hundred and forty dollars.

The decision to repair or replace is going to have to be a judgement call. If this is the first repair for your R-22 unit then it may make sense to throw four or five-hundred dollars at it. But, if you are having to repair the unit multiple times a season then your best choice would be to scrap it and purchase an entirely new R-410A system instead.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

United AirLines

The past few weeks have been rather crazy on my side of the world. I started a new job a few weeks ago, put a contract down on a house, and the kids start school in just a month. Time is definitely flying by. I’m hoping here in a few months things will begin to calm down… but we will see.

Overall the news has been rather slow in the refrigerant industry the past few weeks. One story I did come across today though was that United Airlines has announced that they will be spending twenty million dollars to replace their aging air conditioners. These aren’t the air conditioners on the plane though. No, these are mobile units that are used while the plane is parked at the gateway to keep the plane nice and cool for when passengers leave or board the plane.

Truth be told, I didn’t even know these existed. I had assumed that the planes had their built in air conditioners running while on the tarmac through an auxiliary power unit. (Similar to what we do with heavy duty semi trucks.) Instead, airlines have these units called Air Conditioning Units for Aircraft (ACUs) and Pre-Conditioned Air Units (PCAs). They are a heating and cooling unit that can be moved to any plane on the tarmac. It makes perfect sense and is most likely more cost efficient then having APUs installed on each plane.

The Investment

The ACUs and PCAS that United Airlines have are aging and use the HCFC R-22. As we all know, R-22 is completely phased out here in just a few months. (January 2020) While this is good news I will say that United Airlines isn’t doing this out of the goodness of their hearts or to protect the climate. No, it is a business decision. These older units are not performing where they should be and in some cases are not able to fully cool the plane. Along with that they are also breaking down more and more frequently. This is not only costing in repairs but it is resulting in downtime for United Airlines. Downtime means money lost.

The plan is to invest twenty million dollars in replacing sixty-seven GPUs and eighty-five PCAs across their network. While that may seem like a large number, it is only a dent when compared to their total of five-hundred GPUs and four-hundred and sixty-four PCAs. Everyone has to start somewhere though. Along with replacing older R-22 units they will also be making the switch away from diesel/gasoline models and over to all electric. While electric models in the end cost more to operate United Airlines is seeking government grants to help offset the extra expense. So, I do have to give them credit here. They are making an effort at being green with these new units.

Conclusion

There doesn’t seem to be an end to the versatility of R-22. I swear, it’s everywhere. For most of us when we hear R-22 we picture a home or office building’s air conditioner. It’s the most popular and widely used R-22 application. But, since I’ve been doing this site I have seen R-22 ice rinks, R-22 fishing boats, R-22 shrimp boats, R-22 refrigerated transport, R-22 supermarket freezers/refrigerators, and now R-22 airline air conditioning.

The business owners who operate these machines are a whole other animal. These aren’t your residential customers who have an air conditioning unit that’s ten or fifteen years old that needs replaced. No, for the most part these business owners hold on to these R-22 air conditioners for as long as they can, sometimes longer then they should. This is all due to the investment needed to either retrofit their systems or to purchase a whole new HFC, HFO, or natural refrigerant system.

Sure, a homeowner may spend five or ten-thousand dollars on a new R-410A air conditioner. But, what about United Airline’s spending twenty million dollars on new portable air conditioners? That number is staggering and it is only about fifteen percent of their air conditioners. This is from a huge conglomerate like United Airlines. Now imagine a small town having to replace an R-22 ice rink. Or, a fishing company have to replace their refrigeration system on five or ten boats. The costs can be staggering and in some cases unaffordable. Many folks just kick the can down the road and hope their situation will improve a year or two later.

I don’t know if this constitutes as good news or not, but R-22 is at record low prices right now. This was unexpected in the market place and the assumption is that there is just a massive oversupply in the market place right now. Everyone has bought up and is holding onto what product they can. In some cases I have seen reports of small business owners buying pallets of R-22 just in case their aging system breaks.

The end is coming for these R-22 machines. We can bury our heads in the sand and ignore the problem, or we can come up with solutions. Is a retrofit possible? Is there an alternative refrigerant available for the application? Could the conversion be done in baby steps like what United Airlines is doing? Whatever way is decided, these R-22 systems need to be retired.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources:

As we all know, when January hits in 2020 R-22 production and importing will no longer be allowed within the United States. The only way to receive R-22 will be through purchasing virgin product from those distributors who have stockpiled or by purchasing reclaimed refrigerant. This simple fact is causing a lot of concern for ice rink owners, managers, and local governments. In most cases their ice rinks are decades old and need repairs every other year or so. In the United States R-22 was the primary refrigerant used for ice rink applications.

The problem occurs with the R-22 ice rinks that are aging. These business owners and government leaders are left with two choices. They can continue with their R-22 systems and hope that the cost of the refrigerant doesn’t climb when the phase out hits. Or, they can bite the bullet and invest in a completely new refrigeration system for their arena. Yes, there is a third option of retrofitting but in many cases retrofitting to a new refrigerant simply isn’t possible. A retrofit is very dependent on what refrigerant you are using and what refrigerant you will be moving towards.

A new refrigeration system for ice rinks can cost multiple millions of dollars. It this reason alone why many managers have decided to kick the can down the road and go with the first option we listed. The prospect of stockpiling R-22 is much cheaper than replacing their old R-22 system with Ammonia or an HFO refrigerant.

One arena out of East Grand Forks, Minnesota is doing exactly that. In an article I read this morning they stated that they are purchasing nearly three-thousand pounds of R-22 in anticipation of the January 2020 phase out. While this may sound like a lot of refrigerant a standard ice rink can use several thousands of pounds of R-22. So, this stockpile may only be able to handle one or two full recharges. When their stockpile runs out, they will be in the same boat again only this time facing a higher priced R-22.

The prospect of spending millions on replacing an outdated system is simply just not possible for many of these ice rink owners.  In most cases they have to get grants from their local city or county government in order to pay for the replacement. Often times these grants are difficult to get pushed through.

This is why we see many arenas stock piling R-22. There is no better time to buy R-22 then right now as the prices are at rock bottom. I haven’t seen prices this low in years.  Depending on where you look a thirty pound cylinder can cost less than three-hundred dollars. That’s less than ten dollars per pound.  No one knows for sure what’s going to happen to the price as we get closer to January, so if you are looking to stockpile then now is the time.

Conclusion

This problem is rather unique to the United States. Outside of the US most ice rinks use R-717 ammonia.  Ammonia is cheap and is one of the most efficient refrigerants in the world. The downside though is the toxicity risk if a leak occurs. There are specific safety regulations and procedures taken when working with Ammonia systems though that helps to mitigate the risk of exposure.

The US though has always been apprehensive to refrigerants that come with safety concerns such as hydrocarbons or ammonia. However, in recent years though this has begun to change. When these arena owners do finally decide to bite the bullet and pay for a new system ammonia is a viable option.

Along with ammonia there are other options out there as well. Last year, I wrote an article on the future of ice rinks. The article went into all of the possible refrigerants that could be used in ice rinks today. Click here if you’d like to review it.

All of the above being said, this is assuming that these ice rinks can actually get the money to replace their existing system. In many cases the money is just not obtainable and when their existing R-22 system finally breaks down beyond repair these arenas may have to shut their doors for good.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Update

Well folks, we are now halfway through the year and there are only six months left until the January 1st, 2020 deadline hits for R-22 refrigerant. Yes, in just six months we will no longer be able to import or produce R-22 refrigerant within the United States. When that date arrives the only way to obtain R-22 will be through reclaimed product or through a distributor who stockpiled the virgin refrigerant before the deadline came.

As the date came closer everyone thought that the prices would go up and up. In fact, as the 2019 year has progressed we have seen the opposite. It seems that with each passing month the price on R-22 is going down and down. In many circles I have seen the price for a thirty pound cylinder drop under three-hundred dollars. While there is no way to tell for certain why we are seeing such a drop in pricing there are a couple of factors that could be playing a part.

We already saw the massive price increase back in the summer of 2017. At one point prices were as high as seven-hundred dollars a cylinder. This increase was mostly speculation. Folks knew that the end was coming so they tried to make as much profit as they could. The problem was that with such a high price point customers began looking for alternatives to R-22. With prices as high as they were alternatives were a viable possibility and we saw dozens of R-22 alternatives come to the marketplace.

The surplus of alternatives and the end of the 2017 season caused the prices to slowly settle back down. Ever since the fall of 2017 we have seen R-22 prices slowly slide down. However, this year is the lowest I have seen it in years. I had thought earlier this year that if prices were to go up it would either be mid-summer or at the end of the year when the phase out went into effect. So far though, summer has seen pricing do down. I believe this is caused by the refrigerant distributors dumping their R-22 virgin product.

The phase out is coming and the machines that are using R-22 are getting older and older. At a minimum they are over nine years old. (Remember, no new R-22 machines allowed starting in 2010.) The demand for R-22 will shrink with each passing year. It is a war of attrition. What we may be seeing now is distributors just cutting ties with the refrigerant, or at least they are significantly lowering their product on hand before the phase out goes into effect. After all, if they hold on to it for too long they may end up seeing extremely diminished demand.

With prices this low reclaimed refrigerant and even alternatives to R-22 are not a viable possibility. Why even bother with purchasing reclaimed or alternatives if the virgin product is the same price… or even cheaper? For reclaimed refrigerants/alternatives to be useful we have to see the R-22 price hovering around five-hundred dollars. Right now, they are just not competitive at the current R-22 price of under three-hundred dollars.

At this point it is anyone’s guess as what the next six months have in store for us. We may end up seeing more distributors dumping product and causing the prices to go down even lower. Or, we could finally start to see the surplus of overstock R-22 start to diminish. If this occurs before the January 1st deadline then we could see a significant price increase. The problem is there just no way to tell how much virgin R-22 product is out there sitting in warehouses across the country. Who knows, there could be so much product on the shelf right now that the virgin product will outlast the R-22 machines today and the price we see today could be the new normal for the next few years.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

RefrigerantHQ's Pressure Charts

One of the very first steps when it comes to diagnosing your home air conditioner, refrigerator, or even your vehicle’s air conditioner is understanding the temperature and the current pressure that your system is operating at. Having these facts along with the saturation point, the subcool, and the superheat  numbers for the refrigerant you are working on are essential when it comes to really understanding what is going wrong with your system.

After a visual inspection the very next step for the most seasoned technicians is pulling out their gauges and checking the pressure and temperature. It just becomes second nature after enough calls. I have heard stories of rookie techs calling some of the pros on their team for help on a system that they’re stuck on. It doesn’t matter what the situation is. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Miami or in Fargo. It will never fail that one of the first questions the pros ask the rookie is what is your subcool and what is your superheat? Having  and understanding these numbers is key to figuring out what to do next.

But, these numbers won’t do you any good if you don’t know what refrigerant you are dealing with and what the refrigerant’s boiling point is at each pressure level. This article aims at providing you with just that information.

R-32 Pressure Chart

The HFC R-32 refrigerant is quickly becoming popular, more so then it already was. Most of you know R-32 as a necessary component in the widely popular HFC blend known as R-410A Puron. R-32 along with R-125 gets you that R-410A that is found in nearly every air conditioner today.

However, in recent years there has been a push to slowly phase down R-410A. That is because of 410A’s very high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. The higher the GWP the more harm the refrigerant does to the climate. R-410A has a GWP of over two-thousand whereas R-32 has a GWP of only six-hundred and seventy-five.

While R-32 isn’t perfect it is a lot better then R-410A. That is why we are beginning to see a rise of usage of R-32 in the European Union and here in the United States as well. I do not foresee this becoming a long term trend but only as a temporary place holder until the world finds a more suitable R-410A replacement.

If you would like to read more about R-32 refrigerant please click here to be taken to our refrigerant fact sheet.

Let’s take a look at our pressure chart:

°F °C PSI KPA
-94 -70 -9.46 -65.2
-90.4 -68 -8.77 -60.5
-86.8 -66 -8.02 -55.3
-83.2 -64 -7.19 -49.6
-79.6 -62 -6.27 -43.2
-76 -60 -5.27 -36.3
-72.4 -58 -4.17 -28.8
-68.8 -56 -2.98 -20.5
-65.2 -54 -1.67 -11.5
-61.6 -52 -0.26 -1.8
-58 -50 1.28 8.8
-54.4 -48 2.95 20.3
-50.8 -46 4.75 32.8
-47.2 -44 6.69 46.1
-43.6 -42 8.78 60.5
-40 -40 11.04 76.1
-36.4 -38 13.45 92.7
-32.8 -36 16.05 110.7
-29.2 -34 18.82 129.8
-25.6 -32 21.79 150.2
-22 -30 24.96 172.1
-18.4 -28 28.34 195.4
-14.8 -26 31.94 220.2
-11.2 -24 35.77 246.6
-7.6 -22 39.83 274.6
-4 -20 44.15 304.4
-0.4 -18 48.72 335.9
3.2 -16 53.56 369.3
6.8 -14 58.68 404.6
10.4 -12 64.09 441.9
14 -10 69.79 481.2
17.6 -8 75.81 522.7
21.2 -6 82.15 566.4
24.8 -4 88.82 612.4
28.4 -2 95.84 660.8
32 0 103.21 711.6
35.6 2 110.95 765.0
39.2 4 119.07 821.0
42.8 6 127.58 879.6
46.4 8 136.49 941.1
50 10 145.81 1005.3
53.6 12 155.57 1072.6
57.2 14 165.76 1142.9
60.8 16 176.41 1216.3
64.4 18 187.53 1293.0
68 20 199.13 1373.0
71.6 22 211.21 1456.2
75.2 24 223.81 1543.1
78.8 26 236.93 1633.6
82.4 28 250.59 1727.8
86 30 264.8 1825.7
89.6 32 279.57 1927.6
93.2 34 294.93 2033.5
96.8 36 310.89 2143.5
100.4 38 327.47 2257.8
104 40 344.67 2376.4
107.6 42 362.51 2499.4
111.2 44 381.05 2627.2
114.8 46 400.24 2759.6
118.4 48 420.15 2896.8
122 50 440.79 3039.1
125.6 52 462.17 3186.6
129.2 54 484.33 3339.3
132.8 56 507.27 3497.5
136.4 58 531.02 3661.3
140 60 555.63 3830.9
143.6 62 581.1 4006.5
147.2 64 607.49 4188.5
150.8 66 634.81 4376.9
154.4 68 663.11 4572.0
158 70 692.45 4774.3

Conclusion

There you have it folks. I hope this article was helpful and if you find that something is inaccurate here in my chart please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I have sourced this the best I could but there is always going to be conflicting data.  I’ve seen it multiple times on various refrigerants. I’ll search for a refrigerant’s pressure chart and get various results all showing different pounds per square inch temperatures.

The aim with this article is to give you accurate information so again, if you see anything incorrect please let me know by contacting me here. On top of this post we are also working on a comprehensive refrigerant pressure/temperature listing. The goal is to have every refrigerant out there listed with a pressure/temperature chart that is easily available. 

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Owner

RefrigerantHQ's Pressure Charts

One of the very first steps when it comes to diagnosing your home air conditioner, refrigerator, or even your vehicle’s air conditioner is understanding the temperature and the current pressure that your system is operating at. Having these facts along with the saturation point, the subcool, and the superheat  numbers for the refrigerant you are working on are essential when it comes to really understanding what is going wrong with your system.

After a visual inspection the very next step for the most seasoned technicians is pulling out their gauges and checking the pressure and temperature. It just becomes second nature after enough calls. I have heard stories of rookie techs calling some of the pros on their team for help on a system that they’re stuck on. It doesn’t matter what the situation is. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Miami or in Fargo. It will never fail that one of the first questions the pros ask the rookie is what is your subcool and what is your superheat? Having  and understanding these numbers is key to figuring out what to do next.

But, these numbers won’t do you any good if you don’t know what refrigerant you are dealing with and what the refrigerant’s boiling point is at each pressure level. This article aims at providing you with just that information.

R-22 Pressure Chart

R-22 refrigerant is the major refrigerant, or… it was. R-22 was invented by a partnership with General Motors and DuPont back in the 1930’s. In the 1950’s the use of R-22 exploded and for nearly sixty years it was THE refrigerant to be used in home, office, and commercial air conditioning. Along with air conditioning it was also used in chillers, ice rinks, and many other applications.

It was in the 1980’s that it was discovered that R-22 was damaging the Ozone layer with the chlorine that it contained. In order to correct this R-22 was phased out across the world. Here in America our phase out began in 2010 and the refrigerant will be completely phased out in 2020. Taking R-22’s place is the HFC refrigerant blend known as R-410A, our Puron.

As I write this article, in 2019, there are still thousands of R-22 machines out there, but they are a dying breed and within the next ten to twenty years R-22 will be as rare to find as R-12 is today.

If you would like to read more about R-22 Freon  refrigerant please click here to be taken to our refrigerant fact sheet.

Let’s take a look at our pressure chart:

°F °C PSI KPA
-40 -40.0 0.5 3.4
-35 -37.2 2.6 17.9
-30 -34.4 4.9 33.8
-25 -31.7 7.4 51.0
-20 -28.9 10.1 69.6
-15 -26.1 13.2 91.0
-10 -23.3 16.5 113.8
-5 -20.6 20.1 138.6
0 -17.8 24 165.5
5 -15.0 28.2 194.4
10 -12.2 32.8 226.1
15 -9.4 37.7 259.9
20 -6.7 43 296.5
25 -3.9 48.8 336.5
30 -1.1 54.9 378.5
35 1.7 61.5 424.0
40 4.4 68.5 472.3
45 7.2 76 524.0
50 10.0 84 579.2
55 12.8 92.6 638.5
60 15.6 102 703.3
65 18.3 111 765.3
70 21.1 121 834.3
75 23.9 132 910.1
80 26.7 144 992.8
85 29.4 156 1075.6
90 32.2 168 1158.3
95 35.0 182 1254.8
100 37.8 196 1351.4
105 40.6 211 1454.8
110 43.3 226 1558.2
115 46.1 243 1675.4
120 48.9 260 1792.6
125 51.7 278 1916.7
130 54.4 297 2047.7
135 57.2 317 2185.6
140 60.0 337 2323.5
145 62.8 359 2475.2
150 65.6 382 2633.8

Conclusion

There you have it folks. I hope this article was helpful and if you find that something is inaccurate here in my chart please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I have sourced this the best I could but there is always going to be conflicting data.  I’ve seen it multiple times on various refrigerants. I’ll search for a refrigerant’s pressure chart and get various results all showing different pounds per square inch temperatures.

The aim with this article is to give you accurate information so again, if you see anything incorrect please let me know by contacting me here. On top of this post we are also working on a comprehensive refrigerant pressure/temperature listing. The goal is to have every refrigerant out there listed with a pressure/temperature chart that is easily available. 

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Owner

Greetings folks! Another month is nearly wrapped up and we are slowly inching towards spring. We’ve got a few more hard weeks here in Kansas but I’m looking forward to the day when I can start planting some trees.

I’m writing this article today as I was informed of more volatility in refrigerant pricing. Even though we’re only two months in, 2019 is certainty turning out to be an interesting year. In late fall early winter I always take the time to do my refrigerant pricing prediction articles. In these articles I do my best to predict what prices will be the following year by weighing a variety of factors and considerations. Some years I miss and other years I hit the mark. It looks like this year is going to be a miss.

Towards the beginning of January a notification went out to various refrigerant distributors from two refrigerant manufacturers. I cannot and will not names here, but the notification stated that there would be a six percent increase on your everyday refrigerant including R-134a, R-410A, and R-22. I had assumed that this increase would be the start of a trend of upward momentum for the year. I was wrong, very wrong.

Pricing

What surprised me is that prices are going down and down. They are at levels I haven’t seen in years. Let’s take a look:

R-134A – Thirty Pound Cylinder Pricing:

  • Fall 2017 – $140
  • Fall 2018 – $85
  • Jan 2019 – $88
  • Feb 2019 – $70

Most people had thought we had reached the bottom of the barrel when it came to R-134a pricing. This was especially the case when that notification was sent out in January stating that prices were going up. People were used to paying around $90-$100 a cylinder.

This new price of $70 is the lowest I have seen in years. In fact it’s close to where it was when I used to buy R-134a in bulk back in 2008. Back then I was paying around $61-$65… but that was before tariffs. I am really amazed to see the price back to almost pre-tariff levels. Who knows how much lower it will go.

R-410A – Twenty-Five Pound Cylinder Pricing:

  • Fall 2017 – $140
  • Fall 2018 – $65
  • Jan 2019 – $68
  • Feb 2019 – $56

Just like R-134a, R-410A is going down and down. At this point it’s difficult to forecast what will happen. I honestly don’t know folks. Will we keep going down, or will we start creep back up as the summer season sets in?

R-22 – Thirty Pound Cylinder Pricing:

  • Fall 2017 – $550
  • Fall 2018 – $350
  • Jan 2019 – $410
  • Feb 2019 – $300 or Under

Obviously, the big story here is R-22. There are only ten months left until R-22 is completely phased out across the United States (January 1st, 2020). Everyone had assumed that the price would go up and up as we approached closer to that deadline. What actually happened is that we saw a spike in pricing hit in the summer of 2017. At certain points it was $600-$700 a cylinder. However, in 2018 the price started to go down and down.

There could be a resurgence in pricing as the summer season sets in and people began to realize that R-22 will be going away. But, we may also have just too much overstock in the market place which is causing prices to stay low.

Conclusion

The refrigerant market is anything but stable this year folks. It is tough to tell when the right time to buy is. You don’t want to get stuck with overpriced product but you also want the opportunity to buy low and sell high. Time will only tell. It’s as much as a guessing game for you as it is for me.

If you are interested in purchasing refrigerant please check out our bulk refrigerants page by clicking here.  We are partnered with one of the leading distributors in the country and will get you a competitive price in today’s marketplace.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Even today there are so many homeowners and companies hanging onto their old R-22 systems. Sometimes it takes a heated negotiation just to convince a homeowner to switch from R-22 over to R-410A. Now imagine trying to convince a billion dollar company to switch all of their systems away from R-22. You think it would be an easier discussion. You would think that the company would want to get the obsolete units out of rotation and start using a more climate friendly solution.

Well folks, this wasn’t the case with Trident Seafoods out of Seattle, Washington. Trident is one of the largest seafood processing companies in the northwest and Alaska. Between the years 2009 through 2016 Trident violated the Environmental Protection Agency’s leak restrictions on Ozone depleting refrigerants. Leaks in their R-22 systems went untreated for years. They also failed to document services and repairs on two-hundred and eighty-nine separate occasions. On top of that they used uncertified technicians and inadequate recovery tooling.

Because of their lack of maintenance Trident was directly responsible for leaking over two-hundred thousand pounds of R-22 into the atmosphere. These leaks occurred on their various fishing and transport ships.

It was announced today that the Environmental Protection Agency and Trident Seafoods had come to a preliminary agreement. Trident would pay a nine-hundred thousand dollar fine for violating the Clean Air Act. They would also pay for twenty-three million dollars worth of retrofits to prevent these incidents from occurring again. Quite a lot of expense and fines all because this company didn’t follow proper regulations or that they didn’t want to invest in new refrigerant systems.

As a result of this ruling Trident will be retiring or retrofitting twenty-three r-22 systems across fourteen ships. These retrofits will remove one-hundred thousand pounds of r-22. The removal of all of this R-22 is the equivalent of one-hundred and forty-three thousand passenger cars being removed from the roads.

Along with the retrofitting Trident Seafoods will conduct routine leak inspections and fix any leaks in a timely manner in accordance to EPA standards. They will also have a third party auditor to review their leak inspection procedures. This way we don’t have a repeat.

EPA regulations state that owners or operators of industrial refrigerant equipment that contains over fifty pounds of ozone depleting refrigerants have their leaks repaired within thirty days. Along with that, these leak repairs have to be documented in full. Lastly, only 608 certified technicians are able to open and work on these systems.

Conclusion

While this settlement is still subject to public comment and court approval it is easy to see the type of punishment companies can receive if they fail to comply with the Clean Air Act and the EPA standards.I’m actually surprised the fine and repercussions wasn’t higher. The amount of refrigerant that was leaked is staggering. Rather Trident thinks it or not, they got off easy.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

Price Alert

The New Year has only just begun and already we are seeing refrigerant price changes coming to the market. Earlier today one of my contacts within the refrigerant industry reached out to me to share price increases that are coming down the pipeline. While so far these changes are from one or two manufacturers, I have seen from experience that other manufacturers typically follow suit. These price increases or decreases have reasoning behind them such as raw materials costing more, a shortage on materials or refrigerant, unexpected increased demand, logistics/freight issues, or a whole host of other possible issues. The point though is that if one manufacturer is experiencing a price increase then the others will usually be close behind them.

Now when I do articles like these that go into upcoming pricing changes I make sure to leave things anonymous to not only the source of the information but also to the company that has announced the pricing increases. It is not my place to share and publish internal company documents. By doing it this way I can protect myself and my business as well as still provide you, the reader, the much needed information on upcoming price changes.

The Changes

Ok folks, without further ado let’s dive in and take a look at the changes that were announced. Yesterday, a mailer was sent out by a leading refrigerant manufacturer. This mailer stated that as of next week, January 8th, prices would be going up six percent on HFC and HCFC refrigerants. The increase targets all of the most commonly used refrigerants today including R-22, R-134a, R-410A, R-404A, R-507A, R-407A, and R-407C.

While six percent doesn’t sound like a lot it really depends on the refrigerant that you are looking at. R-134a right now is trending between eighty to ninety dollars for a thirty pound cylinder. Six percent of that would be around five dollars more a cylinder. Not too much of an increase. However, if we take that same logic and look at R-22’s price which is hovering around four-hundred to four-hundred and fifty a thirty pound cylinder we can begin to see a larger impact. Lets take the four-hundred dollar price as an example. With that base price we’re looking at around twenty-four dollars more per thirty pound cylinder. Now we can begin to see a slight impact.

One more thing folks on these increases. The announced price increase on HFCs have only been from one manufacturer. The R-22 price increase though has now come from two different and distinct refrigerant manufacturers. Just like I stated above, most manufacturers are in tandem with each other and have their ears to the ground watching the trends. The chances are R-22 is going to go up around six percent across all manufacturers.

2019 is a big year for R-22 as this is the LAST year that any quantity can be physically produced or imported into the United States. When January 1st, 2020 hits that’s the end. Fin. No more. The only way to acquire R-22 then is either purchasing from distributors who have stockpiles on hand or purchasing form a certified refrigerant reclaimer.

Because of this upcoming rule change on R-22 the market in 2019 is unpredictable. No one knows for sure what’s going to happen. Could this six percent increase be the start of a snowball effect? Will the price keep going up and up this year as more and more people buy up everything they can? There was a time in 2017 where R-22 cylinders hit seven-hundred dollars a cylinder. Will we repeat this year? Or, is this six percent increase an anomaly or correction and the price will stabilize for the upcoming spring season?

Conclusion

Refrigerant pricing is unpredictable. Sure, I have written many articles trying to predict what will happen in the next year… and sometimes I’m right and other times I am way off. One thing I am certain of though is that these winter months are the absolute best time to buy. Prices are deflated and the demand is quite low. As spring edges closer the prices will begin to rise.

I remember back in the day when I was in charge of purchasing R-134a by the trailerload. We would always wait until the first week of February to place our orders. We’d do our negotiations in the middle/end of January and then send our purchase orders over that first week in February. Most of the time this ensured that we had a competitive price throughout the entire season and we didn’t have to scramble in the hot months to try and find a source of R-134a.

If you are interested in purchasing refrigerant please don’t hesitate to reach out to me by filling out the contact information below or by visiting our bulk refrigerants page. Please remember that we only sell in pallet and trailerload quantities. A pallet typically contains around forty cylinders.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Question

This is a question we get a lot here at RefrigerantHQ and I thought I would take some time today to lay it all out and answer everyone’s questions. First, let’s take a look at R-22 Freon itself. R-22 is an HCFC refrigerant, also known as a HydroChloroFluroCarbons. These HCFC refrigerants along with CFC refrigerants were some of the very first mainstream refrigerants seen across the world.

R-12 and R-22 along with other CFC/HCFC refrigerants were invented back in the 1930’s as the result of a partnership between the DuPont company and the General Motors corporation. These new refrigerants checked all of the boxes for them to be a mainstream refrigerant. Other competing refrigerants such as Ammonia, Carbon Dioxide, and Hydrocarbons all had their own problems that limited their application usage. It could be their toxicity, their flammability, their operating pressures, or just their overall cost. Either way they were not feasible for widespread use.

The CFC and HCFC refrigerants were the key to a global refrigerant and air conditioning world. It didn’t take long for their usages to explode across the globe. By the time the 1980’s hit there were air conditioners and refrigerators all across the globe and they were nearly all using CFC or HCFC refrigerants like R-22.

It was at this same time that a team of scientists began to notice that the Ozone layer was beginning to weaken and that there was a hole forming. The Ozone layer is a layer in the Earth’s Stratosphere that acts as a shield from ultraviolet radiation. Without it we would all be exposed to much more intense radiation that could result in increases of skin cancers and other ailments.

Alarmed at their findings the scientists alerted their governments about the problem. This eventually led to a global meeting of hundreds of countries in Montreal, Quebec. During this meeting a treaty was signed by all countries. This treaty became known as the Montreal Protocol. The treaty aimed at phasing down and phasing out various types of chemicals and agents that were contributing to the damage of the Ozone layer.

Included in these chemicals to be phased out were CFC and HCFC refrigerants such as R-22. The first refrigerant to be phased out was R-12. In the early 1990’s the phase out began. At that time R-12 was used widely in automobiles. There was a set model year where there would be a hard stop across the country. When that date came no new vehicles would be using R-12 and would instead be transitioned over to the HFC refrigerant R-134a. (R-134a does not harm the Ozone layer.)

As time went on there were other refrigerants phased down and eventually banned. On January 1st, 2010 is when the scheduled phase down of R-22 began. Like with other phase downs the steps would be gradual. R-22 was used ALL over the country in nearly every home and commercial air conditioner. To completely remove R-22 from the country would take time.

While the phase down plan began in 2010 it would not end for another ten years. Yes, the final stage of the phase down for R-22 is January 1st, 2020. On this date no new R-22 refrigerant can be manufactured or imported into the United States. In the between years there have been restrictions to what’s allowed to be imported or produced but the solid stop hard date is 2020.

Conclusion

In conclusion folks R-22 was banned from the US due to the damage that it caused to the Ozone layer when the refrigerant was vented into the atmosphere. The Chlorine within this HCFC refrigerant is what did the damage. Today’s refrigerants like HFC refrigerants do not contain Chlorine and thusly no longer do any damage to the Ozone.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

It’s a matter of human nature. If something is banned or outlawed there will be an illegal trade or black market set up. It’s the way of the world. Unfortunately, the same thing can be said when it comes to CFC and HCFC refrigerants such as R-22.

It was discovered earlier this year that traces of R-11 and R-10 were being found in the atmosphere again. After some research from various countries the origination point was found to be in eastern Asia. It was eventually pinpointed to China. Rogue companies in China had setup shop creating foams and refrigerants using the illegal refrigerants. Luckily, these were one-off companies and not the country of China behind the emissions. Once they were found and identified arrests were made. The question now though is who is buying these illegal refrigerants? How are they getting through the ports?

Last month in Pakistan we have one example. A sharp eyed customs official in Karachi received a tip stating that illegal refrigerants were being smuggled through his port. With that in mind this customs official noticed something odd about a recent refrigerant shipment. The shipment was classified as R-32 and had large stickers all of over it stating it as R-32. Along with that there were multiple labels stating that the shipment was flammable. Come to find out, this flammable label has been used in the past to deter customs officials from physically reviewing the product.

The customs official decided to open the shipment and test some of the refrigerant. The test came back, and lo and behold, it was R-22. The product was destined to a company called ‘M/S Cool Corporation.’ The shipment originated in, you guessed it, China. From China it was shipped to Dubai and then shipped over Karachi. I don’t know much about international shipping, but it seems odd to ship it to two different ports. This could have been another way to mask the origin.

Here’s the thing though folks. This wasn’t just a small shipment of R-22 that was trying to sneak through. No… this was one of the largest smuggling shipments that I’ve heard of. The total R-22 shipment weighed in at nearly forty-thousand pounds of refrigerant. (18,000 kilograms.) Now, I don’t know the typical Pakistani price on R-22 but if we go off the United States price right now of around eleven dollars per pound then we can assume that this shipment was worth around four-hundred and forty-thousand dollars. That is a huge number and could have resulted in enormous profit if it hadn’t been caught. For now, the shipment is in Pakistani custody until a determination has been made what to do with it.

Conclusion

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article refrigerant smuggling is a booming business and it seems that most of it’s origins can be traced back to China. Now, it doesn’t seem like China condones this behavior but they also don’t seem to be doing a lot to stop it either.

The good news is that even with this smuggling the Montreal Protocol is still seen as a success. Just recently there were a few articles published stating that the Ozone is making a decent recovery and that it may be completely healed in another forty to fifty years. If we want this trend to continue then the world, and China, has to become more vigilant on illegal CFC and HCFC production and trading.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Source

 

How Much Does It Cost?

The term Freon is used all over the country to describe the refrigerant that is used in their home, commercial, or vehicle air conditioner. Even though it is used by man the term Freon is actually antiquated and is very rarely used within the HVAC industry. Chances are your air conditioner that you are using right now doesn’t contain Freon.

In fact, the word Freon is actually a brand name from the DuPont, now Chemours, refrigerant company. Yes, that’s right. Freon is just like Coca-Cola or Pepsi. Freon is a brand of refrigerant. There are many brands of refrigerant out there today but the reason we associate Freon with everyone is that Freon was the first mainstream refrigerant that can be traced all the way back to the 1930’s. At that time DuPont and General Motors teamed up together to form R-12 and R-22 refrigerants. These new refrigerants were the first mass produced and widely used refrigerant and air conditioning technologies in the world. DuPont branded these new refrigerants under their trademarked brand name, ‘Freon.’ The Freon refrigerants exploded in popularity and just a few decades later they could be found in nearly every home and office across the country.

All of this changed in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when a team of scientists discovered that these Freon refrigerants contained Chlorine and Chlorine was leaking into the atmosphere and damaging the Ozone layer. Realizing this, hundreds of countries signed what’s known as the Montreal Protocol. This protocol phased out CFC and HCFC refrigerants across the globe. Included in these phased out refrigerants were DuPont’s ever popular ‘Freon’ brand name.

So, What Kind of Refrigerant Do I Need?

Ok, so the old Freon refrigerants are nearly gone nowadays. Yes, there are still some R-22 units out there and some people still need them but R-22 machines were phased out in 2010 so that means at their youngest an R-22 unit is already nine years old. They are quickly approaching the end of their life. The term Freon will be going away with it. So, now the question is what kind of refrigerant do you need? Let’s take a look:

Automotive Application – Nowadays nearly every vehicle is using R-134a refrigerant for their vehicles. In recent years a new refrigerant known as HFO-1234yf is being used on newer models. If you car is a few years old you will need to check if it takes 1234yf or not. Otherwise you are fairly safe to assume that your car is taking R-134a.

Home or Commercial Air Conditioner – These ones can be a little tricky. Depending on when you got your unit you most likely either have an R-22 unit or a R-410A unit. As I said before R-22 was phased out in 2010 for new units. R-410A has been around since 2010 but it’s popularity didn’t really take off until the 2010 deadline hit for R-22.

Refrigerators and Freezers (Home and Commercial) – The go to refrigerant for these applications has been R-404A. There are some other alternatives out there such as CO2 (R-744), R-502, and some other new HFO refrigerants coming out soon.

Conclusion

I hope that this article was able to answer your questions on refrigerant pricing and to also open your eyes on the wide variety there is within the refrigerant industry. There are two things that I want you take from this post. The first is the relative price per pound of the refrigerant you need and the second is the understanding that your contractor needs to make money too. Sure, you might know his price but you should not haggle down to zero. You should negotiate to a fair price that allows profit but also prevents gouging.

Lastly, if you are unsure what type of refrigerant your system needs please check the label/sticker on the machine. Normally it will state the refrigerant that it takes. However, if you still can’t find it then you can either contact the manufacturer or you can call a HVAC professional out to take a look. This is never something that you want to guess at.

Thanks for reading and visiting my site,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

How Much Does It Cost?

Most people couldn’t care less about the pricing of refrigerant. I’m sure you didn’t care at all until your air conditioner broke down. Now you have a contractor at your home or office looking over the damage, or perhaps you have already received a quote from them and you are a little surprised by how much they are charging for refrigerant. Whatever your reason is for reading this article we are going to do our best to answer your question and to give you a fair estimate on what the going price per pound on some of the most common refrigerants on the market place today.

First and foremost, let me first explain that there are hundreds of different types of refrigerants out there. No two refrigerants are the same or work the same either. The air conditioner that you are using is designed specifically for a certain refrigerant and no others. The science of refrigeration and air conditioning all boils down to basic chemistry and understanding when a refrigerant changes states either from gas to liquid or liquid to gas. Each machine is designed to accomdate that refrigernat’s specific saturation point. If you were to add the wrong refrigerant to your air conditioner you could damage or even destroy the system. You wouldn’t put diesel into a gasoline sedan would you? The same principle applies.

In this article we are going to go over some of the most popular refrigerants out there today, their applications, and where they can be found. It will be up to you to determine exactly what refrigerant you need for your repairs.

So, What Kind of Refrigerant Do I Need?

As we mentioned above, there are hundreds of varying kinds of refrigerants out there. A lot of times this can be overwhelming and confusing to a laymen as to what kind of refrigerant they need. The good news here is that for most applications there are only a select few refrigerants that are used here in the United States. In this section below we are going to highlight the most commonly used refrigerants, what their applications are, and what their price per pound is. The price per pound section will have a link to the exact price per pound on that refrigerant.

Let’s dive in and take a look:

  • Automotive Application – Nowadays nearly every vehicle is using R-134a refrigerant for their vehicles. In recent years a new refrigerant known as HFO-1234yf is being used on newer models. If you car is a few years old or brand new then you will need to check if it takes 1234yf or not. Otherwise you are fairly safe to assume that your car is taking R-134a. For those of you who are into restoring classic cars you’ll find that you may end up needing R-12 Freon.
  • Home or Commercial Air Conditioner – These ones can be a little tricky. Depending on when you got your unit you most likely either have an R-22 unit or a R-410A unit. As I said in previous articles, R-22 was phased out in 2010 for new air conditioners. R-410A has been around since 2000, but it’s popularity didn’t really take off until the 2010 deadline hit for R-22. When it comes to cost though you better hope you have a R-410A unit rather than R-22. The difference in price between the two refrigerants is astonishing.
  • Refrigerators and Freezers (Home and Commercial) – The go to refrigerant for these applications has been R-404A. There are some other alternatives out there such as CO2 (R-744), R-502, and some other new HFO refrigerants coming out soon but today if you were having to recharge one of these you are most likely going to run into 404A.

Conclusion

I hope that this article was able to answer your questions on refrigerant pricing and to also open your eyes on the wide variety there is within the refrigerant industry. There are two things that I want you take from this post. The first is the relative price per pound of the refrigerant you need and the second is the understanding that your contractor needs to make money too. Sure, you might know his price but you should not haggle down to zero. You should negotiate to a fair price that allows profit but also prevents gouging.

Lastly, if you are unsure what type of refrigerant your system needs please check the label/sticker on the machine. Normally it will state the refrigerant that it takes. However, if you still can’t find it then you can either contact the manufacturer or you can call a HVAC professional out to take a look. This is never something that you want to guess at.

Thanks for reading and visiting my site,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

How Much Does It Cost?

Well folks it is that time of year again. Today is the first cold day over here in Kansas City. We’re not supposed to get over fifty degrees today. This is the first sign that winter is coming and it’s not going to get any warmer for quite some time. So, while the wind blows outside I am here sitting at my desk sipping my coffee and thinking about refrigerant.

Yes, yes, that is what we do here at RefrigerantHQ. Even during the cold weather months we still take the time to look at what the market is doing what will be happening next year. In fact, this is the best time for us as the selling season has come and gone. Fall and Winter are our slow months where everyone catches their breath and prepares for the upcoming Spring and Summer.

Over the past three years we have taken the time to write what’s known as our refrigerant price per pound articles. With each year that has passed the success of these articles have only grown and grown. Our intention here is to provide homeowners and business owners an idea of what the actual cost is on refrigerant so that when the time comes and you need a recharge of refrigerant you are ready.

Now before we go any further into this post I first want to give you a warning that I can be rather long winded. All of this information is good and relevant to your situation, BUT if you are just looking for a basic price per pound price then I suggest you just scroll on down to our ‘Price Per Pound’ section. However, if you’re looking to learn a bit more about your air conditioner then by all means keep reading.

Know This Before Purchasing

Purchasing refrigerant from your contractor isn’t always black and white. There are different factors that need to be considered before you purchase. In this section we are going to take a look at each of these:

You Are Paying For Expertise

Ok folks, so the information that I am going to give you in our ‘Price Per Pound’ section is very nearly, if not exactly, the cost that your contractor is paying for their R-22 refrigerant. What that means is that you can expect a markup. After all, the technician and the HVAC contractor need to make money as well. This is a specialized trade and requires trained expertise in order to succeed in. Thinking that you can do this yourself is never a good ideas as there are a lot of intricacies that need to be accounted for. As an example, let’s go through and ask a few simple questions that a technician would either have to do or consider:

  • Do you know how to flush your system?
  • Do you know what refrigerants can be vented?
  • Do you know what the Superheat and Subcool are for R-22?
  • Are you 608 certified with the EPA to handle HCFC refrigerants?
  • Do you know how to find, let alone fix, a refrigerant leak?

All of these questions and more are what you are paying your contractor for. Remember that they need to make money too, but there is also a fine line between having profit and gouging. Reading this article, and reviewing the price per pound, will allow you to be educated and give you the power to negotiate the price of refrigerant.

Your AC Unit is a Closed System

Refrigerant Cycle in a Closed System
Refrigerant Cycle in a Closed System

Even before you have a contractor come to your home and look at your air conditioner you should be aware that air conditioners are what’s known as closed systems. What that means is that the refrigerant in your air conditioner moves back and forth between different cycles and it, in theory, never runs out or needs refrigerant refilled.

If you find that your unit is low on refrigerant or is completely out do NOT just refill your machine with a new refrigerant. I repeat do NOT do this. Your system does not need a top off. It does not need just a little bit more refrigerant to get by. No. If you are running out of refrigerant that means that somewhere in the refrigerant cycle there is a leak. Your unit is leaking refrigerant and will continue to leak refrigerant until a repair is made. If you dump more refrigerant into it without fixing the leak you are literally throwing money down the drain. Potentially a lot of money too if yours is an R-22 unit.

I like to think of it as a above ground pool. If you get a puncture in the pool lining water will leak out. Sure you can always add more water but it’s not fixing the problem. Adding more refrigerant doesn’t fix the problem either. It’s just prolong the inevitable and wasting money.

Old R-22 Machines

For those of you that do not know, R-22 refrigerant is being phased out across the United States. This is due to the Chlorine that the HCFC R-22 refrigerant contains. When R-22 was released into the atmosphere the Chlorine would work it’s way up to the Ozone layer where it would eventually cause damage. HCFCs and CFC refrigerants were a large contributor to the hole in the Ozone that we all heard about back in the 1990’s. The initial phase out of R-22 started eight years ago. In 2010 no new machines could be manufactured or imported into the United States that used R-22. Then, in 2015, import and manufacturing restrictions were put on R-22. Finally, in 2020 no new R-22 could be manufactured or imported into the US.

All of these restrictions has caused the price of R-22 to skyrocket. In 2017 a thirty pound cylinder for R-22 was going for nearly eight-hundred dollars. Today, the price has settled down quite a bit, but it is still quite high for a refrigerant. The price may again climb and climb as we go through the last summer of R-22. If I had an R-22 unit that needed repairs next summer I would highly recommend you consider scrapping the unit and purchasing a new air conditioner that uses the HFC refrigerant known as R-410A Puron. This refrigerant is going to be around for quite a while and will allow you to leave the expensive R-22 prices behind you.

R-22 Alternatives & Reclaim

Ok, this is the last bit before we get onto our price per pound folks, I promise! We mentioned above that the price on R-22 can be quite high nowadays. Well, in order to get around that high price many companies have come out with what’s known as R-22 alternatives. These alternative refrigerants are designed to work with existing R-22 systems with only slight changes needed. The premise of this is to purchase an R-22 alternative that is much cheaper then standard R-22 refrigerant. Sometimes you can be looking at a few hundred dollars cheaper per cylinder of refrigerant. Our top alternatives here at RefrigerantHQ are Chemour’s MO99 and Bluon’s TDX-20. If you are receiving a quote it cannot hurt to ask if they offer conversions over to MO99 or to Bludon TDX-20. You could then compare the two quotes and see if the cheaper refrigerant offsets the cost to convert your air conditioner over.

The other option you have is to purchase what’s known as reclaimed refrigerant. If you find that the quoted price on R-22 is just too high you can always ask your contractor if they have reclaimed R-22 refrigerant available. A reclaimed refrigerant is one that was removed from an existing system, put in a recovery tank, taken back to the contractor’s warehouse, shipped out to a certified refrigerant reclaimer, and then purchased again by that contractor. In other words, it is like recycled refrigerant. It’s been used before, but it has now been refurbished. If your contractor does have these available you may be able to get a ten to twenty percent break on your refrigerant price.

R-22 Price Per Pound

Alright, onto the good stuff. Let’s say your air conditioner is no longer working and need a repair. You receive a quote for the repair but you also receive a quote for the refrigerant recharge. Unfortunately, the repair that was needed most likely drained all of your refrigerant. Now, I could tell you the price today, which I will in a bit, but I will also give you kind of a cheat sheet that I like to use when gauging the R-22 market price. It’s so simple. All I do is just go to Ebay.com and search for R-22 cylinders.  By doing this I can see what the going rate is per pound of R-22. As I write this article today I can see that R-22 is priced between four-hundred and fifty to five-hundred dollars a cylinder. Now, let’s do some simple math to get your price per pound. Let’s take the higher amount of five-hundred just to be safe.

$500 / 30lbs = $16.67 per pound.

There you have it folks, $16.67 for one pound of R-22 refrigerant. Now, please keep in mind that as I said above these prices can change at any given time. To give you a bit more help I have also included a feed from our Ebay partner below that shows you the current market price of R-22. (You used to be able to purchase on Amazon.com as well, but it has since been removed due to illegal online sales.)

30 lb.New R-22 Virgin Refrigerant FACTORY SEALED FREE SAME DAY SHIPPING by 3pm!

$375.00
End Date: Sunday Nov-17-2019 19:00:22 PST
Buy It Now for only: $375.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Ok, so now that we have the cost per pound of R-22 now let’s determine how many pounds that you need to recharge your air conditioner. Now the typical rule of thumb is between two to four pounds of refrigerant per ton of your air conditioner. (You should always check the exact specifications of your machine, but most of the time the two to four pound guideline will be sufficient.) Most home air conditioners are between one ton and five tons. (Anything over five tons is considered a commercial grade unit.) So, let’s get on with our math problem. Let’s pretend that you have a middle of the road three ton air conditioning unit that is on the fritz with no refrigerant in it. In order to refill your unit entirely you will need the following:

4 pounds of refrigerant * 3 ton unit = 12 pounds of refrigerant needed.

12 pounds of refrigerant times the $16.67 per pound number we came up with earlier = $200.04 for a completely fill up of your unit.

If you want to learn more about R-22 as a refrigerant then I highly recommend viewing our R-22 Fact & Info Sheet by clicking here.This sheet goes into all of the details on R-22 including it’s history, where we are at today, what’s expected in the future, and a frequently asked question section on R-22.

Conclusion

There you have it folks, that is the true cost per pound of R-22 refrigerant. I have said it already in the beginning of this article but I want to emphasize again that you may not pay the price we mentioned above due to your contractor’s markup. They deserve to make money as well and they deserve to be paid for their expertise. Just keep this article in the back of your mind so that when you do receive a quote you can ensure that you are receiving an accurate and fair price.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

 

Pricing Prediction

It’s that time of year again folks. Summer is gone, the leaves are turning, and we’ve already had our first frost here in Kansas City. If you got up early enough you could even see some snow falling a few days back. As this year comes to a close it has me thinking about what next year has in store for the refrigerant market, especially R-22.

As most of you know next year is the last hurrah for the HCFC R-22 refrigerant. This is due to the phase out coordinated by the Environmental Protection Agency. This phase out started back in 2010 by preventing any new appliances from using R-22. Then, as the years passed the import and production restrictions set in. The January 1st, 2020 date that is quickly approaching (Only fourteen months away) is the last straw. On this date there will be NO production or importation of R-22. That’s it. Finis.

What that means is there will only be two future sources of R-22 refrigerant for consumers. The first is the backlog of inventory on the market. This is all the inventory that companies bought up on in prediction of this looming 2020 deadline. The other source is whats known as refrigerant reclamation. I won’t get into it too much here but reclamation is taking previously used dirty R-22 refrigerant and putting it through a certified refurbishing process. I’m an automotive guy and I see this reclaimed R-22 just like I see a remanufactured part. You get that savings, but you also get that understanding that it was previously used in a different application. Personally, I have no problem with buying reman or buying reclaimed refrigerant. If it goes through a certified EPA process, what’s the worry?

Now, there is a third option out there that a lot of you may already be familiar with. Alternatives to R-22. There is a whole market out there dedicated to alternative refrigerants for R-22 applications. They could be a drop-in replacement or it could be retrofit. The point of these refrigerants is to give consumers a choice, and a lot of times save the customer money. There were times where the price of R-22 went through the roof and alternatives began to take off. But now that the price has begun to crash the alternative market has begun to shrink as well.

Past & Present

To fully understand the R-22 market and what we predict it will do next year we first have to look at the past and the present. No, this isn’t a Charles Dickens novel. Along with the 2010 and 2020 dates another big part of the R-22 phase out occurred in 2015. This is where production and import limits were shrunk. This sudden loss of supply caused the price to climb and climb. In the summer of 2017 the price had gone over seven-hundred dollars for a thirty pound cylinder. Seven-hundred dollars. That’s twenty-three dollars a pound.

Over these years companies and investors watched the price of R-22 go up and up. Some of the lucky ones bought up in 2014 and 2015 and held onto it when that high price hit. Others thought that the price was going to keep going higher. So, they bought. They bought with the hope of the price reaching eight-hundred, nine-hundred, maybe even over a thousand a cylinder. This wasn’t unheard of. Back in the 1990’s when R-12 was phased out there were times where it did reach one-thousand a cylinder. (Nowadays it’s about six-hundred a cylinder.) The problem is that this buy up was a gamble. No one truly knew what was going to happen. Would the price continue to climb as it did in 2016 and 2017? Or, would it began to settle back down and level off?

2018

What actually happened in 2018 was quite unexpected. Many people thought the price would go down and level off, but no one predicted that the price was going to be cut in half. Yes, in half. The price for R-22 in 2018 was slashed by fifty percent. That seven-hundred dollar price is now three-hundred and fifty. Actually, it’s even lower then that. Depending on how much you buy you could get cylinders for as low as three-hundred and twenty-five dollars.

While contractors and consumers were rejoicing at this price drop there were many distributors panicking. Those guys who thought they were making a good gamble back in 2016 and 2017 are now stuck with a high priced product in a low priced market. One extreme example of this is Hudson Technologies. Hudson is a refrigerant distribution company based out of New York and they bought up A LOT of R-22 refrigerant during 2016-2017.

The graphic below is from Google but it provides a great illustration of the rise and fall of R-22 pricing. At the peak of R-22 pricing in summer of 2017 we saw a stock price of $9.30. Now, a little over a year later and with the price of R-22 more then cut in half we now see a stock price of $0.84. That is a HUGE drop. On top of the stock value loss Hudson also wrote off fourteen million dollars of R-22 inventory in their second quarter. Keep in mind too that the fourteen million is NOT all of their R-22 inventory. No, that is a cost adjustment so that they can be more competitive in the market place.

Hudson Stock 10/16/2018
Hudson Stock 10/16/2018

The Why?

Before writing this article I talked to a few leaders in the refrigerant industry to get their thoughts on what exactly happened here. The consensus that I received was that R-22 has a price ceiling. There is only so high it can go. If it goes above that point, like it did in 2017, then the lower priced alternative refrigerants began to take over the market.

If you think about it it makes perfect sense. Would you buy a generic product if the brand name was right about the same price? Of course not. But, if that brand kept going up and up in price then that generic product begins to look more and more appealing. Along with the price going too high for R-22 due to speculation and over purchasing by distributors we also have to consider that the number of R-22 alternatives on the market today have exploded. I won’t list them all here but a few of the most popular ones are Chemour’s MO99 and Bluon’s XTD-20. Along with the amount of choices out there these alternative suppliers have also made it easy by offering drop-in or near drop-in replacement products.

The good news though for your R-22 investors is that as the price of R-22 goes back down the demand for alternatives will began to erode. It’s a balancing act that a lot of folks found out the hard way.

2019 Considerations & Prediction

Ok folks, so now we’ve gone through what’s happened over the past few years when it comes to R-22. Now it’s time to take a look at what considerations I will be taking into account for my prediction for 2019. In my day job I am a software analyst. I look at the details of a program or problem and figure it out through careful analysis. I love digging into the details like that. I take the same approach here when it comes to my prediction.

My predicted price for R-22 next year is based off of these specific considerations:

  • The price was cut by fifty percent this year and many people say that it can’t go lower.
  • The ‘newest’ R-22 machine is from 2010 or earlier. So, that puts the machine at nearly nine years old. A typical home’s air conditioner lasts between ten to fifteen years. Some of these R-22 will start to be replaced with R-410A. This will shrink demand and lower price.
  • When we hit 2019 there will be less then a year before total phase out of R-22 begins. This could drive price higher due to people wanting to buy before the cut-off.
  • In my opinion the market is saturated. Too many people have bought too much R-22 and now with this price drop they are just trying to offload, take the write-off, and be done. This can keep prices low.
  • There is a refrigerant reclamation industry but I honestly don’t see this having much impact until at least 2021 or 2022. Unfortunately, most folks won’t go the reclamation route until it’s a last resort and with the over supply of R-22 on the market I don’t see reclamation making much of a dent.
  • The last factor is the alternative refrigerants. As I mentioned above these refrigerants are in a careful balancing act with the price of R-22. If R-22 goes too high then the alternatives take over and cause the R-22 price to shrink back down. I foresee these alternatives contributing to a lower R-22 price.

Prediction

From my conversations within the industry it seems to be that the ‘sweet spot’ for R-22 is right under five-hundred dollars a thirty pound cylinder. That price allows consumers to still purchase the refrigerant without everyone running towards the cheaper alternatives. If that five-hundred target doesn’t happen then I have seen others state that between four-hundred and four-hundred and fifty a cylinder is enough to deter alternatives and still make a profit. This price is what the distributors want, but what will actually happen?

As far as what will occur next year, it’s tough to say. My prediction is that we will see this very low price of around three-hundred and thirty a cylinder maintain throughout the winter months of 2018/2019. Then, as we inch closer to spring I expect to see a slow uptick in pricing. When we get into spring, say April or May, we could see R-22 prices at around three-hundred and sixty to three-hundred and seventy-five dollars a cylinder.

Moving into summer I could see prices climb upwards to four-hundred dollars. The absolute highest I see is four-hundred and twenty-five a cylinder and that would be at the peak of summer. As summer wanes and the fall begins to set in I could see price of R-22 maintaining right around that four-hundred to four-hundred and twenty-five dollar price. This price will continue onwards until we hit that January 1st, 2020 deadline. From here it’s hard to say. Will the price stay flat, or will it rise slightly? Time will tell.

Conclusion

I want to take the time here in this conclusion to state that this article is a prediction. It is by no means an indicator on what will happen in the industry. This is one person’s opinion, but I hope that it was able to help you forecast for next year.

Please note that RefrigerantHQ or myself are not liable for any investment losses or earnings from R-22 refrigerant based off of this article.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Owner.

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

 

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