HFCs

United States Climate Alliance

Back in September of this year the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they would be removing their HFC rule that went in place back in September of 2016. This rule, which can be found by clicking here, applied Section 608 CFC/HCFC leak controls and regulations to appliances using HFC refrigerants that contained over fifty pounds of refrigerant. Basically, it passed on the same regulations that we had on CFC/HCFC refrigerants over to HFCs. With the introduction of this proposed rule there was also a forty-five day comment period for individuals, companies, and yes… States to comment on. The deadline for this comment period was yesterday, the 15th. Lo and behold, a nicely written ‘comment’ was sent to the EPA on the 15th.

This comment, actually a letter, was created by what’s known as the United States Climate Alliance, or USCA. This alliance is a mixture of various States that came together when the Trump Administration announced that they were pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. These sixteen States include New York, Washington, New Jersey, Oregon, and California. In fact, the letter was signed and sent by the Attorney General of California, Xavier Becerra. The letter, which can be found by clicking here, requests that the EPA withdraw it’s proposed rule changes and keep current regulations intact.

The argument for this withdrawal is that the EPA has not provided sufficient evidence or legal reasoning for the reversal of their 2016 rule. I’ll tell you right now that I am trying to remain neutral here but the EPA has provided reasoning as to why they are rolling back these leak regulations. The reasoning is simple. The Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol were all designed to phase out Ozone depleting refrigerants. These are your CFCs and HCFCs such as R-12, R-22, and R-502. The Clean Air Act was not intended to phase down or regulate refrigerants that do not harm the Ozone layer. Yes, HFCs do contribute significantly to Global Warming due to their high Global Warming Potential but there is a distinction here between Global Warming and a damaged Ozone layer. This distinction is the reasoning that the EPA is using for their roll back. This reasoning though is not sufficient for the States in the Climate Alliance.

Rather you like it or not, the truth is that the initial 2016 rule should not have been issued based off of the Clean Air Act. It was a stretch and everyone knew it. It was done because it was easy, but just like building a house: If you don’t have a good foundation then your house is going to crumble. The same thing has happened again and again on HFCs. We have had Federal Courts overturning EPA HFC regulations and now the Trump controlled EPA  is looking at overturning HFC regulations based off of Ozone depleting laws. All this could have been preventable by going through Congress.

Another point that I noticed while reading this letter from California is that there are many references and out right assumptions that the Ozone will be affected if these regulations are rolled back. That is simply not the case. It looks to me like they are trying to muddy the waters here so that when a laymen reads through this they end up believing that the Ozone is in danger yet again. Please do not take my criticism here as a favor for one side of the other, instead I am just bringing forward the facts from both sides.

Conclusion

Now that the comment period is over I imagine that we will have to sit and be patient as the Environmental Protection Agency reviews any and all comments on their new rule… including this letter from the Climate Alliance. At this time what the EPA will decide is unknown, but if I was to put money on it then I would say that they are going to move forward with rescinding the leak regulations. You may not agree with it, but that is where the winds are blowing today.

On top of that, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the refrigerant purchase restrictions on HFCs be removed soon as well. Even though this purchase restriction has only been in effect since January of this year it was a holdover from the Obama EPA and may end up on the chopping block as well.

If the EPA does decide to remove these regulations then the burden of regulation will fall to the States just like it has with the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20. There have already been a few States that have announced their own HFC phase down plans. Depending on what the EPA decides we may see many more join this Climate Alliance and work to phase down HFCs at the State level.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

Pricing Prediction

Here it is in the middle of November and we’ve already had two snow storms here in Kansas City. As I write this article this morning the snow is still coming down. Luckily, I have the day off and am able to stay inside and watch the snow fall. Over the past few weeks here at RefrigerantHQ we have been focusing on our refrigerant prediction articles for the 2019 year. Most everyone was interested in our R-22 thoughts, and a bit of you read the 410A. I know that R-404A is a smaller market, but it still has it’s uses and is still kept the back of a technician’s van… even if it’s going to be phased out soon.

Last year in our 2018 prediction article we said that prices would be around one-hundred and sixty dollars a cylinder. Well folks, just like we were with R-410A… we were way off again. Today the price on a pallet of 404A is between eighty to ninety dollars a cylinder. So, the cost is about half of what I predicted it would be. This just goes to show you how much of a guessing game this all is. Again, like with R-410A, our increased cost prediction came from the shortage of Flurospar that we saw in the spring of 2017. For those that do not know, Flurospar is a key ingredient when manufacturing the refrigerant R-125 and R-125 is a key ingredient in the blended refrigerant R-404A. (R-404A is a blend of R-125, R-143a, and R-134a.) So, when Flurospar prices go up so does the cost of R-404A. Back in 2017 the shortage occurred due to environmental regulation changes in China. This was a one time change and the industry needed to adapt. For now, the market seems to have adjusted and the shortage has come to an end.

The question now though folks is what will the pricing do next year? Will R-404A keep going lower? Will it stay put? Or, will we see it climb back to the higher priced levels that most of are used to?

Considerations

I’ve mentioned this countless times before, but when I do a prediction article I like to take into consideration certain factors. I don’t like to just throw a dart on the board. No, instead I like to do an analysis and take a look at the marketplace. Once we determine these factors we can then determine what the market will do. Or, at the minimum, we can provide an educated guess. For those of you who read my R-410A prediction article you may notice that some of these considerations are the same for R-404A. That is by design folks. Remember, that R-125 is a key ingredient in both refrigerants. The key difference is that 410A is much more popular then 404A and that 404A is one of the first global targeted refrigerants to be phased down.

Let’s take a look at some of the considerations that can affect the R-404A price next year.

Repeal of EPA’s SNAP Rule 20

I’ve written about this extensively over the past few months, but in August of last year a Federal Court overturned the EPA’s planned phase down of HFC refrigerants across the country. While there were many appeals done over the past year each one of them has failed. That includes an appeal to the Supreme Court. What we are left with now is a patchwork of States putting together their own HFC phase downs. The reason I mention this as a consideration is that R-404A was one of the first targeted HFCs to be phased down. This is due to the extremely high GWP of 404A. (Three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty-two.) Most everyone was expecting the 404A phase downs to begin very soon, but now everything is in question and that can cause price instability.

Flurospar Shortage

I mentioned this earlier in our previous section. If we travel back about eighteen months ago this was a HUGE deal. The majority of the world’s Flurospar comes with mines in China. During the spring and summer of 2017 there were governmental regulation changes that affected the efficiency and overall output of the mines. This lower output is what accounted for the world’s shortage. In my previous analysis I assumed this shortage would carry into 2018, but I was incorrect. Will we see a shortage though in 2019? It is impossible to say. The only thing I can point to is the overall stability of the Flurospar market over the past year.

Chinese Refrigerant Imports

Back in 2016 there was an anti-dumping tariff instigated against Chinese HFC refrigerant blends. Included in this tariff was R-404A. I won’t get into all of the details here, but essentially there was a tariff put on R-404A. (For more information on the tariff click here to be taken to TheCoolingPost.) Here’s the thing though folks, this tariff was installed on ONLY the R-404A blended refrigerant and NOT the components of the blend. In other words R-404A was taxed but R-125, R-143a, and R-134a was not. (Well, R-134a was taxed, but through a different tariff.)

Refrigerant distributors took advantage of this loophole and began importing mass quantities of R-125. Once imported they would then blend the refrigerants in their own facility. The dumping of cheap HFC refrigerants continued. This mass import of Chinese product has attributed to the lower cost of R-404A that we are seeing today. Tom Lenz of Lenz Sales & Distribution said,

The price on 404A has been relatively stable over the past few months. Most of the time it stays right above 410A at around fifteen to twenty dollars higher. (A cylinder) Some distributors mix in house while others buy in bulk from China.

Trump & His Tariffs

Most of the country has felt the effects of the various tariffs that the Trump Administration has issued over the past year. This could either be through your employer or just paying for basic things. In my day job I had to travel to Belgium a few months back to work with our corporate office. The reason for the trip? Trump’s Tariffs and how to enact them throughout the company. Whatever your politics are, we can definitely say that these tariffs have had an impact. Refrigerant, for the most part, has been left unscathed on these tariffs. With all of these imports coming from China though, how long is it before a tariff is enacted? What if one is enforced on R-125? How will that effect the marketplace? Inevitably it will lead to higher prices, but how much?

Prediction

I’ve been doing these refrigerant pricing articles for nearly four years now and over those years I have been able to gather a historical pricing tracker on R-404A. This tracker allows us to see trends and possibly what’s to come next.

  • 2015 – $90.00 – Source
  • 2016 – $110.00 – Source
  • 2017 – $200.00 – Source
  • 2017 (Winter) – $175.00  – (Ebay.com)
  • 2018 (Fall/Winter) – $80-90 a cylinder.
  • 2018 (Fall/Winter) Retail – $150.00 – (Ebay.com)

Our previous articles had focused more on the retail side of pricing as you can see from the above historical records. However, this year I wanted to focus more on wholesale pricing. That is why I included the $80-$90 a cylinder section for 2018. The question now on everyone’s mind is what will 404A do next year? Like with my other articles I have consulted with experts and distributors within the industry for their thoughts. The consensus that I received was that the price would remain relatively stable over this winter and into the summer of next year. The only wildcard out there that I am aware of are Trump’s Tariffs. If he installs a tariff on refrigerants, say R-125, we could see price rise substantially. If no tariffs are instigated then I could see the price remain stable.

Our prediction on R-404A next year is right around the same price we have today between eighty to ninety dollars for a twenty-four pound cylinder.  The market should remain stable throughout next year, especially due to the EPA’s Rule 20 being rescinded. Chad Schnuelle of Refrigerants Inc said,

It seems that 404 has been rather stable for the past two years. I checked my purchase history and it has not moved over twenty dollars per 24lb cylinder since January of 2017. Again, I feel the Chinese market still dictates the USA market. In my opinion I feel the only factor that may change the price will be if refrigerants are added to the Trump tax.

Conclusion

I want to close this article by stating that this was a prediction and it is just that, a guess. No one knows for sure what will happen to the R-404A market next year and if they say they do then they’re lying. It’s a complete guessing game. I can only provide my analysis on the matter and go from there. Lastly, I want to mention that this is one man’s analysis on the market. We here at RefrigerantHQ are not liable for any business losses or gains when it comes to buying and selling R-404A.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Owner

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?

Hello folks, and welcome to RefrigerantHQ. As I write this article in early November the cold has just now set in. We even have some snow expected in a few days over here in Kansas City. Right now I am watching this cold day from my living room window. I can see the leaves blow by while I sip on my coffee. While I stare out my window I can’t help but think about refrigerant. Yes, you heard me right. Over here at RefrigerantHQ we always have refrigerant on the mind and today with this no article is no different.

Over the past few years here at RefrigerantHQ we have taken the time to write what’s known as our ‘Price Per Pound’ articles. These articles break down the cost of refrigerant so any laymen can understand it. It takes away that hidden cost and brings it out into the light. The goal of these articles is to arm the homeowner or business owner with enough knowledge so that when they receive a quote for R-404A they know where the price should be. This prevents people from being gouged and overcharged, especially during the dead heat of summer.

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-404A 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-404A?
  • Are you 608 certified with the EPA to handle HFC 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.

Purchase Restrictions

Up until last year there were a lot of homeowners and business owners who were purchasing their own R-404A refrigerant cylinders. They would do this either through big box stores or through online outlets like Amazon or Ebay. This all changed on January 1st, 2018. On that day the Environmental Protection Agency enforced a new rule known as ‘Refrigerant Restrictions.’ These restrictions already existed on HCFC and CFC refrigerants but they were now moved over to HFC refrigerants as well. This included R-404A. What this means is that you are no longer legally able to purchase R-404A unless you are 608 certified with the EPA. Now, there are a few slight exceptions to this such as:

  1. Providing the vendor you are buying from with an intent to resale form. What this means is that you state that you will NOT be using this refrigerant yourself but that you intend to resell it to another party. In this case the legal record keeping requirements would be passed onto you.
  2. The other exception is that if you purchase small cans of refrigerant that are under two pounds of refrigerant or less. This works great for automotive applications but can be difficult when trying to recharge your system with only a few pounds of refrigerant at a time.

If you do not meet the above exceptions and you try to purchase R-404A you will be asked for your 608 license number. If you cannot provide one then you will not be allowed to purchase. For more on the Refrigerant Sales Restriction click here to be taken to the Environmental Protection Agency’s official website.

R-410A Price Per Pound

Alright folks, now that we have that out of the way let’s dive in and find the true price per pound of R-404A refrigerant. Let me paint a picture for you. Let’s say your air conditioner/refrigerator/freezer is no longer working due to an unknown failure. When the technician comes out he identifies the problem and quotes you for the repair. The problem though is that the failure of your air conditioner caused all of your refrigerant to leak out. Now on top of your part replacement you also need to pay for a full refrigerant recharge.

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-404A market price. It’s so simple. All I do is just go to Ebay.com and search for R-404A cylinders.  By doing this I can see what the going rate is per pound of R-404A. As I write this article today I can see that R-404A is priced between one-hundred and forty to one-hundred and sixty dollars for a twenty-four pound cylinder. Now, let’s do some simple math to get your price per pound. Let’s take the higher amount of one-hundred and sixty dollars just to be safe.

$160 / 24lb cylinder = $6.67 per pound.

There you have it folks, $6.67 for one pound of R-404A 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-404A:

R404A Refrigerant 24 lb Cylinder NEW Sealed

$100.00
End Date: Friday Dec-14-2018 18:59:03 PST
Buy It Now for only: $100.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

24 lb. cylinder R404A R-404A Refrigerant Freon New / Factory Sealed

$160.00
End Date: Friday Nov-23-2018 8:20:14 PST
Buy It Now for only: $160.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

R404A, R-404a, FREON Refrigerant Disposable Cylinder, 28.6 Refrigerant 404A

$175.00
End Date: Sunday Dec-9-2018 3:37:35 PST
Buy It Now for only: $175.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Conclusion

There you have it folks, that is the true cost per pound of R-404A 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

How Much Does It Cost?

It’s that time of year again folks. The leaves are falling off the trees, Halloween has passed, and we are having our first cold day of the year over here in Kansas City. While I watch the cold day from my window I sit at my desk drinking some coffee and thinking about refrigerant. Yes… that’s right. I’m thinking about refrigerant at this time of year. That’s just what we do here at RefrigerantHQ. While the refrigerant market may die down around this time of year the articles still need to be published.

Over the past few years here at RefrigerantHQ we have taken the time to write what’s known as our ‘Price Per Pound’ articles. These articles break down the cost of refrigerant so any laymen can understand it. It takes away that hidden cost and brings it out into the light. The goal of these articles is to arm the homeowner or business owner with enough knowledge so that when they receive a quote for R-134a they know where the price should be. This prevents people from being gouged and overcharged, especially during the dead heat of summer.

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 technician is paying for their R-134a refrigerant. What that means is that you can expect a markup. After all, the technician and the dealership 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 idea 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?
  • Are you 609 certified with the EPA to handle HFC 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 technician 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 bring your car into the dealership to look at the 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.

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.

R-134a Price Per Pound

Ok, now we are ready to take a look at the price per pound of R-134a. First, let me paint a picture for you. Let’s say the air conditioner on your new vehicle went out and you just went past the warranty period. What can you expect repair wise? Well, you will need to repair and replace the part that failed but you will also most likely need to have the refrigerant recharged for your vehicle. But, what price should you pay?

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-134a market price. It’s so simple. All I do is just go to Ebay.com and search for R-134a cans.  By doing this I can see what the going rate is per pound of R-134a. As I write this article today I can see that R-134a is priced between one-hundred and forty to one-hundred and sixty dollars for a thirty pound cylinder. Now, let’s do some simple math to get your price per pound. Let’s take the higher amount of one-hundred and sixty just to be safe.

$160 / 30lb cylinder = $5.33 per pound.

There you have it folks, $5.33 for one pound of R-134a refrigerant. Now, please keep in mind that these prices CAN change. 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-134a:

R134A Refrigerant 30 lb Cylinder NEW

$100.00
End Date: Friday Dec-14-2018 19:02:50 PST
Buy It Now for only: $100.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Partial Forane Atofina R-134a Refrigerant 30lb Cylinder 17.10 Lbs Gross Weight

$138.95
End Date: Monday Nov-19-2018 12:15:49 PST
Buy It Now for only: $138.95
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Automotive Refrigerant 30 Lb. Cylinder (R-134A-30)

$139.99
End Date: Monday Nov-26-2018 11:31:49 PST
Buy It Now for only: $139.99
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Now each car is different and the amount of refrigerant that they need can be different as well. Some only require one pound and others upwards of eight to nine pounds. It is always best to check your owner’s manual or your dealership to see how much you need. In our example we’re going to call it three pounds of refrigerant to get a complete fill up of your vehicle.

3 pounds of refrigerant * $5.33 per pound = $15.99 for a complete fill up.

Conclusion

There you have it folks, that is the true cost per pound of R-134a 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 dealership’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.

If you do find that you are being gouged and the dealership won’t budge then you may be able to run by a local auto-parts store to see if they have any 134a cans in stock. If they do, then you could save some money by providing the refrigerant to the dealership.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

How Much Does It Cost?

Hello folks and welcome to RefrigerantHQ. As I write this article today Halloween has just passed and the weather has already begun to get cold. We’re expecting snow in just a few days here in Kansas City. All of this is happening outside and here I am sitting at my desk, sipping on some hot cocoa, and thinking about refrigerant. Yes, I know that sounds rather odd… but that is what we do here at RefrigerantHQ. Refrigerant all the time. Today I am thinking about R-410A. What can we expect from it next year? What will consumers be paying for it?

Over the past few years here at RefrigerantHQ we have taken the time to write what’s known as our ‘Price Per Pound’ articles. These articles break down the cost of refrigerant so any laymen can understand it. It takes away that hidden cost and brings it out into the light. The goal of these articles is to arm the homeowner or business owner with enough knowledge so that when they receive a quote for R-410A they know where the price should be. This prevents people from being gouged and overcharged, especially during the dead heat of summer.

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-410A 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-410A?
  • Are you 608 certified with the EPA to handle HFC 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.

Purchase Restrictions

Up until last year there were a lot of homeowners and business owners who were purchasing their own R-410A refrigerant cylinders. They would this either through big box stores or through online outlets like Amazon or Ebay. This all changed on January 1st, 2018. On that day the Environmental Protection Agency enforced a new rule known as ‘Refrigerant Restrictions.’ These restrictions already existed on HCFC and CFC refrigerants but they were now moved over to HFC refrigerants as well. This included R-410A. What this means is that you are no longer legally able to purchase R-410A unless you are 608 certified with the EPA. Now, there are a few slight exceptions to this such as:

  1. Providing the vendor you are buying from with an intent to resale form. What this means is that you state that you will NOT be using this refrigerant yourself but that you intend to resell it to another party. In this case the legal record keeping requirements would be passed onto you.
  2. The other exception is that if you purchase small cans of refrigerant that are under two pounds of refrigerant or less. This works great for automotive applications but can be difficult when trying to recharge your system with only a few pounds of refrigerant at a time.

If you do not meet the above exceptions and you try to purchase R-410A you will be asked for your 608 license number. If you cannot provide one then you will not be allowed to purchase. For more on the Refrigerant Sales Restriction click here to be taken to the Environmental Protection Agency’s official website.

R-410A Price Per Pound

Alright folks, now that we have that out of the way let’s dive in and find the true price per pound of R-410A refrigerant. Let me paint a picture for you. Let’s say your air conditioner is no longer working due to an unknown failure. When the technician comes out he identifies the problem and quotes you for the repair. The problem though is that the failure of your air conditioner caused all of your refrigerant to leak out. Now on top of your part replacement you also need to pay for a full refrigerant recharge.

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-410A market price. It’s so simple. All I do is just go to Ebay.com and search for R-410A cylinders.  By doing this I can see what the going rate is per pound of R-410A. As I write this article today I can see that R-410A is priced between ninety-five and one-hundred dollars a cylinder. Now, let’s do some simple math to get your price per pound. Let’s take the higher amount of one-hundred just to be safe.

$100 / 25lb cylinder = $4.00 per pound.

There you have it folks, $4.00 for one pound of R-410A 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-410A:

R-410A Refrigerant 25LB CYLINDER Original Brand+NEW

$85.00
End Date: Monday Dec-17-2018 15:01:05 PST
Buy It Now for only: $85.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Forane R-410A Refrigerant 25 lb Pink Cylinder R410A

$89.00 (0 Bids)
End Date: Wednesday Nov-21-2018 19:00:57 PST
Bid now | Add to watch list

Ok, so now that we have the cost per pound of R-410A 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 $4.00 per pound number we came up with earlier = $48.00 for a completely fill up of your unit.

Conclusion

There you have it folks, that is the true cost per pound of R-410A 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

Over the past few weeks we have been writing RefrigerantHQ’s pricing prediction on various refrigerants for 2019. We have covered some of the most popular refrigerants out there including R-22, R-134a, and R-1234yf. Today’s prediction article will be focusing on R-410A Puron. Most everyone’s mind has been on R-22 and what’s going to happen next year with the 2020 phase out deadline. With all of this change it is easy to forget about Puron, but the 410A market share is only growing and it’s pricing impacts can have a substantial effect on contractors and consumers. After all, R-22 is on it’s last legs and it is not going to be around much longer. Sure there are other alternative refrigerants out there but like it or not R-410A is the king right now.

Looking back at my prediction on R-410A from last year I have to say that I was way off. I had predicted a 2018 summer price at around two-hundred dollars per twenty-five pound cylinder. While that may have sounded crazy, we should consider what we saw in the 2017. Last year there was a shortage in the chemical known as Flurospar. Flurospar is a key ingredient in fluorinated refrigerants like R-125. (R-410A is a fifty percent mixture of R-125 and R-32.) This shortage of Flurospar created a rippled effect on the supply chain and caused the price of 410A to skyrocket over the summer season and into the fall and of 2017. Last year’s prediction was based off of that pricing trend. I assumed that the shortage would continue. That is where I came up with my two-hundred dollars a cylinder number.

What actually happened was quite different. In the early months of 2018 the price per cylinder was around ninety dollars per twenty-five pound cylinder. It had come down quite a bit from the previous summer’s price. What was surprising though was that the price kept on going down even as we got into the hotter months. Usually as the summer months come we see a slight or large increase in refrigerant pricing due to the increased demand. This year however we saw the opposite. The price for a R-410A cylinder dropped by near twenty-five dollars. It went from around ninety dollars to sixty-five. That is nearly a thirty percent dip in price. One of our distribution contacts stated that R-410A was more volatile then R-134a this year. That is quite the change as R-134a is usually all over the place.

The question now though folks is what will the pricing do next year? Will R-410A keep going lower? Will it stay put? Or, will we see it climb back to the higher priced levels that most of are used to?

Considerations

I love doing analysis. It is what I do at my day job and it is why I write these kinds of articles. It can be fun to dig into the details and all of the factors that can affect pricing. When doing a pricing analysis like this I like to first provide the reader what considerations that I took and reviewed to come up with my pricing prediction. These help the reader understand my point of view and where I am coming from. Let’s take a look at some of them now:

Flurospar Shortage

I mentioned this earlier in our previous section. If we travel back about eighteen months ago this was a HUGE deal. The majority of the world’s Flurospar comes with mines in China. During the spring and summer of 2017 there were governmental regulation changes that affected the efficiency and overall output of the mines. This lower output is what accounted for the world’s shortage. In my previous analysis I assumed this shortage would carry into 2018, but I was incorrect. Will we see a shortage though in 2019? It is impossible to say. The only thing I can point to is the overall stability of the Flurospar market over the past year.

Chinese Refrigerant Imports

Back in 2016 there was an anti-dumping tariff instigated against Chinese HFC refrigerant blends. Included in this tariff was R-410A. I won’t get into all of the details here, but essentially there was a tariff put on R-410A. (For more information on the tariff click here to be taken to TheCoolingPost.) Here’s the thing though folks, this tariff was installed on ONLY the R-410A blended refrigerant and NOT the components of the blend. In other words R-410A was taxed but R-125 and R-32 was not. Doesn’t make much sense if you ask me.

Refrigerant distributors took advantage of this loophole and began importing mass quantities of R-125 and R-32. Once imported they would then blend the refrigerants in their own facility. The dumping of cheap HFC refrigerants continued. This mass import of Chinese product has attributed to the much lower cost of R-410A that we are seeing today.

Trump & His Tariffs

Most of the country has felt the effects of the various tariffs that the Trump Administration has issued over the past year. This could either be through your employer or just paying for basic things. In my day job I had to travel to Belgium a few months back to work with our corporate office. The reason for the trip? Trump’s Tariffs and how to enact them throughout the company. Whatever your politics are, we can definitely say that these tariffs have had an impact. Refrigerant, for the most part, has been left unscathed on these tariffs. With all of these imports coming from China though, how long is it before a tariff is enacted? What if one is enforced on R-125? How will that effect the marketplace? Inevitably it will lead to higher prices, but how much?

R-410A & Reclamation

With the end of R-22 coming in just about fourteen months the industry will be relying more and more on refrigerant reclaimers. These reclamation facilities can process this used R-22 refrigerant, clean it, and then issue it back out into the world for reuse. This is the ONLY way for ‘new’ R-22 to be found after that January 1st, 2020 deadline. Remember, once the stockpiles of R-22 run out reclamation is all that is left.

Why am I talking about R-22? Well reclamation for R-22 is key for having a stable supply. With R-410A it is quite different. Reclaiming R-410A refrigerant, at least at this time, is not feasible. There is no profit in it. I was discussing this very matter with Chad Schnuelle of Refrigerant Inc just today. He stated that:

It is too cheap to sell reclaimed R-410A in the market and make a decent margin because of the fractionating factors. It’s a two component refrigerant blend of R32 and R125 with a 50/50 mix ratio. If there is a leak in a system one component bleeds off faster than the other. This means we have to add that component back in to get the 50/50 blend once we reclaim it.

So a reclaimed R-410A refrigerant actually has new refrigerant in it. This adds an extra layer of cost. Having that extra cost and then trying to compete with virgin R-410A at the rock bottom prices it is right now is nearly impossible. If the price of R-410A begins to rise, or if we get new tariffs instated like we mentioned above then the possibility of more reclaimed on R-410A market is there, but for now it remains out of reach.

Prediction

I’ve been doing these price prediction articles for a few years now and it has given me a unique opportunity to see the trend in pricing of R-410A over the years. Before I get into my prediction let’s take a quick look to see how the pricing has climbed over the years. Keep in mind that these prices are based off the standard 410A twenty-five pound cylinder. The prices are obviously lower if you are purchasing larger quantities.

  • 2015 – $90.00 – Source
  • 2016 – $100.00 – Source
  • 2017 – $150.00 – Source
  • 2018 – $90.00 (Winter)
  • 2018 – $65.00 (Summer/Fall)
  • 2018 – $80-$90 (Retail on E-Bay.)

Looking at the above numbers we can really begin to see the deep dive in pricing that occurred this year. There was a time where a price between ninety to one-hundred dollars was pretty standard no matter what season it was. Now with today’s dirt cheap price of around sixty-five dollars a cylinder it is tough to say what will happen next. In an effort to help myself with this prediction I reached out to a few refrigerant distributors before writing this article. I wanted to know what they thought of the market this year and what they thought next year would bring. Each of them said more or less the same thing. Prices will be low, but stable. In other words folks, this sixty-five dollars price per twenty-five pound cylinder is here to stay at least for 2019.

That’s right, our thoughts for 2019 R-410A pricing is the exact same price it is today. Last year I high balled it and got burnt so this year I am going to play it safe and take the advice of our distributors. Our official prediction is that the price will hover between sixty-five dollars to seventy-five dollars a cylinder. There will be some moving back and forth due to seasonality and all of that but for the most part the price will be stable. At this time the only wildcard that I know of is if Trump adds a tariff on R-410A or one of it’s components. If this happens then the pricing point is anyone’s guess.

Conclusion

I want to close this article by stating that this was a prediction and it is just that, a guess. No one knows for sure what will happen to the R-410A market next year and if they say they do then they’re lying. It’s a complete guessing game. I can only provide my analysis on the matter and go from there. Lastly, I want to mention that this is one man’s analysis on the market. We here at RefrigerantHQ are not liable for any business losses or gains when it comes to buying and selling R-410A.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Owner

Yes and No

Most of you are familiar with what’s known as the Refrigerant Sales Restriction. This restriction comes directly from the Environmental Protection Agency and aims at preventing novices and do-it-yourselfers from purchasing and handling refrigerant. By preventing these laymen from handling refrigerants we in theory shrink the amount of refrigerant that is leaked into the atmosphere.

This restriction was especially critical in the beginning stages of phasing out CFCs and HCFCs refrigerants such as R-12, R-22, and R-502 in the 1990’s and 2000’s. These refrigerants contained chlorine and chlorine was directly attributed to the damaging and thinning of the Ozone layer. Each time one of these refrigerants was vented into the atmosphere rather intentionally or by mistake damage was done. By imposing the sales restriction, imposing a host of other regulations like leak requirements, and by slowly phasing down chlorine refrigerants the Ozone was allowed time to repair.

HFC Restrictions

In the summer of 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency came out with a new set of rules from their Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP). This new rule, deemed Rule 20, was aimed at phasing down the popular HFC refrigerants across the United States. Along with this new rule it was announced towards the beginning of 2017 that the EPA’s Refrigerant Sales Restriction would be carried over to HFC refrigerants as well.

You see, in the past you couldn’t buy CFC and HCFC refrigerants without a 608/609 license but you could still purchase HFCs. They didn’t require a license. That meant I could have walked into an Autozone and picked up a cylinder of R-134a without any licensing required. Well, all that changed this year folks on January 1st, 2018. That is when the new purchase restrictions went into place by the EPA. This move was expected by many in the industry and not a lot of folks were shocked by it.

What did surprise us though was a court’s ruling in August of 2017. When the EPA introduced their SNAP Rule 20 there were two companies, Mexichem and Arkema, that filed a lawsuit stating the EPA had overstepped it’s legal bounds. I won’t get into all of the details in this article, but the short version is that Arkema and Mexichem won the suit and the EPA’s Rule 20 was tossed out. There were appeals. There was even one to the Supreme Court, but none of them worked out.

Earlier this year the EPA announced that they were withdrawing their Rule 20 regulations and that they were looking into forming a new rule. Along with that it was announced by the EPA that they were rescinding their HFC leak regulations. Lastly, it was announced that the EPA was considering removing the sales restrictions on HFC refrigerants. There is nothing official here on if this will happen or not, but the EPA is definitely considering it.

Restrictions: Yes or No?

The HFC sales restriction may only last for the 2018 year and then may fade away. The question though is, is this good or bad? What repercussions will there be?

About five years ago I had a small side business that sold individual or multiple refrigerant cylinders online through stores like Amazon or Ebay. It was mostly R-410A and R-134a cylinders shipped to individuals across the country. There wasn’t a lot of money in it, but it gave me that entrepreneurial experience. Before the HFC restriction was in place there were dozens of places for individuals to purchase refrigerant cylinders. You could walk into a Sam’s Club and purchase a few cylinders of R-134a. There were online shops, dealerships, and retailers all selling refrigerant.

While this made things easy for consumers it also made it very easy for people who did not know what they are doing to get a hold of large quantities of refrigerant. If they made a mistake, which they would, then that large thirty pound cylinder of refrigerant would get vented into the atmosphere. And while HFCs do not damage the Ozone they are a Green House Gas and they do contribute to Global Warming.

So, by creating a sales restriction we can limit the amount of refrigerant that is vented and help reduce potential Global Warming problems but we also have the side effect of hindering business and do-it-yourselfers from working on their own equipment.

Conclusion

If I was to wager on what will happen I would bet that the restriction will go away soon. The current EPA and Presidential Administration has been very against nearly everything the EPA has done over the past few years and this appears to be no different. If the restriction is removed we will see the availability to purchase refrigerant online and through retailers come back and we will also see a slight increase on refrigerant price due to the flood of all of the do-it-yourselfers purchasing again.

What do you think the best outcome is?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

States to the Rescue

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Changes Coming

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

United States Climate Alliance

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

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

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

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

The US Market

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

United States Climate Alliance

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

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

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

What Comes Next?

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

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

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

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

States in the alliance are:

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources:

 

R-134yf

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

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

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

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

R-134a

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

So, for this repair we would be looking at:

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

R-134yf

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

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

Difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

What Is It?

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

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

R-134a Refrigerant
R-134a Refrigerant

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

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

The HFC Phase Downs

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

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

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

Prices & Purchase Restrictions

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

New York

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

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

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

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

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

States’ Rights

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson
RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Hello 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

 

R-134yf

A reader reached out to me today and told me that I had to watch a YouTube video. I pulled it up not really knowing what to expect. It definitely surprised me. The video is a do-it-yourself guide on how to convert your vehicle’s R-1234yf system over to R-134a. Yes, you read that right. I didn’t have that backwards. We have end users actively converting HFO systems back over to HFCs. I am sure most of us knew this would be happening on one off bases here and there but I didn’t expect to see a full do-it-yourself guide for everyone to watch and learn.

As most of you know, I began my career in the heavy-duty diesel industry. I remember back in 2007 when a new regulation went into effect for our trucks. All new vehicles were to be equipped with a Diesel Particulate Filter, or a DPF. Along with that you had a new fluid to add to your vehicle every so often called Diesel Exhaust Fluid. The point of this was to reduce the pollutants of semi-trucks that move all over the country’s roads. (After all, trucking is the life blood of the country.) While most fleets adapted to the change without issue there were guys out there, mainly owner-operators, that decided they didn’t like the DPF on their new truck. These guys came up with their own work-around that completely bypassed the particulate filter. It wasn’t legal, it wasn’t right, and it caused a ton of damage to the vehicle. But hey, they got their work around and got to do it ‘their,’ way.

We’re seeing a very similar thing here. People assume that R-1234yf and R-134a can be interchangeable. Yes, the pressures between the two refrigerants are very close to each other, but they are NOT exact. Click here to see a pressure comparison chart, courtesy of Lexissecurities.com. (Third page down) As you can see, the two refrigerants meet at thirty degrees Celsius, but after that they differ. Like with any air conditioning equipment the parts on your 1234yf vehicle are specifically manufactured to take 1234yf and no other refrigerants. Contaminating your system with a foreign refrigerant will at best case shorten the life of your compressor and other components. At worst, it will permanently damage your system causing an entire replacement.

When watching this video you’ll notice that he had to get a specific adapter just so he could insert the R-134a refrigerant into the system. This should have been a red flag. There is a reason why there are two different fittings between R-1234yf and R-134a. It is to prevent accidental contamination. I’m not sure why these adapters exist, but there must be a market for them or else they wouldn’t be found in auto parts stores or online. On the upside here, in this video the narrator did go through the trouble of vacuuming out the remaining R-134a from his system. So, we don’t have a contamination of mixed refrigerants… we just have all of the wrong refrigerant.

The video in question can be found below:

The Why?

Now there is one main reason for someone to do this: Money. Yes, it’s all about money and savings folks. R-1234yf is not easily found in stores at this time. Yes, it is available at online sites like Amazon.com and also through certain auto-parts stores but it is hit and miss. While the availability is a problem it is not the main gripe from end-users. R-1234yf is significantly higher in price then it’s predecessor R-134a. Let’s do a comparison real quick just to show the price difference. We’ll use Amazon.com as a point of reference just to make things easy:

  • R-134a: Three twelve ounce cans are for sale right now at $19.95. (Price can change at any time.) Let’s do some math now and break this down by price per ounce. $19.95 / 36 ounces = $00.55 per ounce for R-134a.
  • R-1234yf: Four eight ounce cans are for sale right now at $168.99. (Price can change at any time.) Let’s do some math now and break this down by price per ounce. $168.99 / 32 ounces = $5.28 per ounce for R-1234yf.
  • That is an eight-hundred and sixty percent increase in price between the two refrigerants.

Now, we can begin to see the end-users’ reasoning here. That is one hell of a price increase. Now if we couple that with the fact that not many stores handle 1234yf we find that most car owners end up having to go to the dealership for air conditioning repairs. I can only imagine the mark-up on 1234yf. Ok so, we understand the end-users reasoning but now we need to look at the consequences of converting a system over to R-134a.

Consequences

As with any action there are always consequences. In the case of this moving a vehicle from 1234yf over to 134a we have two distinct consequences:

The first is that by doing this switch you are actively harming the environment. The point of 1234yf is to reduce the overall Global Warming Potential (GWP) of vehicles and the refrigerants that they use. R-134 has a GWP of fourteen-hundred and thirty times that of Carbon Dioxide. Inversely, R-1234yf has a GWP number of four times that of Carbon Dioxide. Beginning to see the difference here? If you switch your unit back to 134a you are actively harming the environment.

The second reason, and the one that will most likely get everyone’s attention, is the Federal Government. Yes, that’s right folks. This isn’t just about the environment. If you convert your vehicle over like what was done in this video you are actively breaking Federal Law under Section 203 of the Clean Air Act. What was done in this video is known as ‘tampering,’ with a vehicle’s emissions control device.

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

That is quite the fine and if you get caught doing this that extra mark-up at the dealership might not seem so bad. Also, see the below excerpt from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. Trust me in saying this folks, the Federal Government does not fool around with this stuff. Ask yourself is it really worth it?

Tampering. The CAA prohibits anyone from tampering with an emission control device on a motor vehicle by removing it or making it inoperable prior to or after the sale or delivery to the buyer. A vehicle’s emission control system is designed to limit emissions of harmful pollutants from vehicles or engines. EPA works with manufacturers to ensure that they design their components with tamper-proofing, addresses trade groups to educate mechanics about the importance of maintaining the emission control systems, and prosecutes cases where significant or imminent harm is occurring. – EPA.Gov Source

Conclusion

I am hoping that this isn’t the start of a trend. Remember folks, that the whole reason we’re moving away from R-134a is to reduce Greenhouse Gases and slow Global Warming. By having end-users actively retrofitting their systems back to R-134a we are defeating the entire purpose of this phase down. Now, I wasn’t really around for the whole R-12 phase out. (I was only seven in 1993.) so I don’t know if this was common place in the early stages of the R-12 phase out or not. Regardless, it needs to stop.

I’m hoping that writing this article we can grab the attention of other users out there who are thinking about doing this conversion and steer them away from the cliff. Sure, you might save a little bit of money upfront but you have to ask yourself is it really worth it in the long term? Also, maybe it’s time we get some 1234yf recharge kits out there so that we can prevent these types of retrofits in the future. If they have access to a recharge kit then maybe they will not go down the path of 134a.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

R-134a Refrigerant

In order to understand the full history of R-134a we first have to look at it’s predecessor. Before R-134a there was R-12. R-12 was one of first mainstream refrigerants used throughout the world. In fact, R-12 is where the brand name of Freon comes from. In order to trace back it’s origins we have to go all the way back to the 1930’s and a partnership between General Motors and the DuPont company. Through this partnership the two companies were able to invent a safe, reliable, and cost efficient class of refrigerants known as CFCs and HCFCs.

These new classifications of refrigerants were revolutionary. Before these came to the marketplace the world only had access to basic refrigerants such as Hydrocarbons and Carbon Dioxide. These previous refrigerants were either not very efficient,  operated at too high of pressure (Like CO2), or they were just not safe. One of the most popular refrigerants back then was R-717, or Ammonia. Ammonia is toxic when we are exposed to it and having an Ammonia operated refrigerator was a not something consumers wanted inside their home.

Because of the revolution CFC and HCFC refrigerants caused R-12 along with R-11, R-22, and R-502 were found all over the world in various applications. By the time we got into the 1970’s the product was everywhere ranging from automobiles, refrigerators, freezers, ice machines, vending machines, industrial plants, refrigerated trucks, and on and on. It was in the 1980’s that a team of scientists out of California realized that all of the Chlorine that was in CFC and HCFC refrigerants were causing damage to the Ozone layer. When vented or leaked the refrigerant would drift up and into the atmosphere. It is there where the Chlorine would do it’s damage. Eventually it got so bad that a thinning of the Ozone layer began to form over the Arctic. The scientists noticing this sounded the alarm and the world’s governments took action by creating the Montreal Protocol.

The Montreal Protocol is a treaty that was signed in the late 1980’s by more then one-hundred countries. It’s goal was to rid the world of using Ozone depleting substances like CFC and HCFC refrigerants. This treaty was enacted in countries all over the world. The first target was CFC refrigerants such as R-12. In 1992 R-12 was phased out of the automotive market in the United States and was replaced with the newer HFC refrigerant known as R-134a. R-134a had the benefit of not containing Chlorine so with its usage there would be no danger to the Ozone layer. The next refrigerant to go was the CFC refrigerant known as R-502 in the mid 1990’s. As time went by there were other CFC and HCFC refrigerants phased out but the big change didn’t happen until 2010.

R-134a

As I mentioned above 1993 was the beginning of R-134a usage. Since then it has ballooned and grew so that every vehicle around the globe was using it. It was a rare occurrence to find something other than R-134a or R-12 used in vehicles. The only exceptions that you would find were with refrigerated transport trucks such as ice cream trucks. In these instances you would either see a mixture of R-134a and R-404A or a straight R-404A system. Along with R-134a there were many other HFC refrigerants that began to take root. Some of these were R-404A and R-410A. (404A was used for supermarket freezers, ice machines, vending machines, and refrigerated transport. R-410A was used for home and commercial air conditioning.)

It was in the early 2000’s that a new problem was discovered with the currently used HFC refrigerants. Instead of refrigerants harming the Ozone layer the concern became the refrigerants impact on Global Warming. You see refrigerants are seen as a Greenhouse Gas. A Greenhouse Gas is a gas that can be released and get trapped in the atmosphere. These trapped gases cause Global Warming to accelerate. In order to measure a chemical or products risk for Global Warming a new scale was created called Global Warming Potential. The baseline measurement for this scale was Carbon Dioxide, or R-744. CO2’s GWP is one.

The downside of HFC refrigerants is their very high Global Warming Potential. As an example, R-404A has a GWP of three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty-two times that of Carbon Dioxide. Can you begin to see why these are seen as a problem? It was around 2010 when the push to begin phasing down HFC refrigerants began. Everyone’s first target was R-404A as it had the absolute highest GWP of them all. Depending on the applications 404A was to be replaced with Hydrocarbons, lower GWP HFC refrigerants, or the new HFO refrigerant line from Chemours and Honeywell.

Next in everyone’s sights was R-134a. While 134a didn’t have near as high as a GWP of 404A it still had a large number coming in at one-thousand four-hundred and thirty. At first the push to phase out 134a was stalled as there wasn’t a good substitute out there. After some time the two main refrigerant innovators Honeywell and Chemours came out with a new refrigerant under their HFO line known as R-1234yf. This new refrigerant worked very similar to R-134a but had a GWP of only four. That’s a heck of a difference! The only concern with this new refrigerant was that it was rated as an A2L refrigerant. What that means is that it is slightly flammable. (Remember, R-134a isn’t flammable at all.)

The European Union jumped at the chance for a 134a alternative. They enacted legislation called the ‘MAC Directive,’ to prevent R-134a from being used in new vehicles as of the 2013 model year. While this directive didn’t come out and mention R-134a by name it did state that no refrigerants with a GWP greater then one-hundred and fifty could be used in new automobiles. Europe switched over to 1234yf and the demand for R-134a began to die down. One thing to mention here though is that because 1234yf is slightly flammable there was some debate on rather or not it was a safe product to use. The German car company Daimler ran test after test to ensure it’s safety. In one of these tests Daimler claimed that when the refrigerant tank ruptured during an accident the refrigerant ignited and caused a fire to occur. The video can be seen below. In the video there is a test with 1234yf leaking and then there is a test with R-134a leaking. The video speaks for itself.

There were many disputes from numerous companies and organizations from all over the world to on test. Daimler claimed that the new refrigerant was unsafe for use. For a time it seemed like German Automakers were going to fight HFOs tooth and nail. They had their hearts set on R-744 CO2.  Since these first tests there have been numerous court battles and fines issued by the European Union but still Germany persisted against 1234yf. Here is the neat part, Daimler began to pursue a different alternative refrigerant for their automobiles, R-744. Yes, that’s right CO2 for vehicles. Over the years Daimler has been testing and innovating with CO2 and as I write this article today they even have some vehicles on the road with it.

Here in the United States we began going through the same route as Europe, just a little bit behind schedule. In the summer of 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new rule to their SNAP program. This rule called ‘Rule 20,‘ was aimed at phasing down and out HFC refrigerants including R-134a. This regulation aimed at preventing vehicle manufacturers from using R-134a in new vehicles as of model year 2021. These regulations were on the books until August of 2017. At that time a court overturned the EPA’s regulations stating that they had overreached their authority. Since then in the United States there is not a formal R-134a phase out date. This has caused a lot of confusion and unknowns within the automotive refrigerant industry.

1234yf is the future and there isn’t much we can do to get away from it. Auto manufacturers all over the world have begun to switch their new models over to 1234yf. In fact since 2015 the pace of vehicles beings switched over has grown and grown. The chances are high that if you buy a new vehicle today that it’s going to contain 1234yf refrigerant. The question now is when will 134a be phased down within the United States?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ