Hello all. It’s been a while since I’ve written on RefrigerantHQ. I’ve still been watching the industry but as of recent the news has been rather slow and my time has been rather hectic. In the past two months I’ve changed jobs, purchased a new home, and am in the process of selling our old home. All the while my daughters started school and my son has started walking. It has been difficult to carve out time to write for this site.
The good news is that things have begun to settle back down. I am getting into a groove at the new job and all of the housing changes are nearly wrapped up. Today I found that I had some extra time so I wrote an article on R-22 and the wrapping up of the summer season. As you all know, this was the last season before the R-22 phase out goes into place in January. If you’d like to read the article please click here.
As the next month goes by I should have more time to work on the site and start continual updates again. I’m anxious for the weather to get colder again so that I am forced to spend more time indoors working on the website! If any of you have article ideas please feel free to reach out to me. The more the better.
Today the HFC R-404A is one of the most commonly used refrigerants in the United States and in the world. You can find it most commercial refrigerators/freezers, in vending and ice machines, in refrigerated transport, and in specific industrial applications.
404A was originally implemented as a replacement option for the now banned CFC R-502. R-502 was widely used throughout all of the applications we mentioned above until 1995/1996 when it was phased out entirely due to it’s Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP). While 404A has been around for decades it’s future may be short lived due to it’s high Global Warming Potential (GWP).
In this post we are going to take an in-depth look at R-404A. In our first section we’ll cover all of the facts, then the pros/cons, points of note, and the history of R-404A.
Name - Scientific:
Blend of R-125, R-143a, & R-134a
HFC Refrigerant - Blend
R-125 Pentafluroethane (44%)
R-143a 1,1,1-Trifluoroethane (52%)
R-134a 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane (4%)
Phasing Down Across The World
Will Be Phased Out in 10 Years
Low to Medium Temperature Systems
Supermarkets, Gas Stations, Vending/Ice Machines
Refrigerated Transport & Industrial Refrigeration
CFC R-502, R-12, & R-22
Ozone Depletion Potential:
Global Warming Potential:
Global Warming Risk:
A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Class 1 -No Flame Propagation.
Synthetic Oil - Polyol Ester Oil or POE
-46.6° Celsius or -51.88° Fahrenheit
72.14° Celsius or 161.852° Fahrenheit
3.735 MPA or 541.716 PSI
Auto ignition Temperature:
Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.
Colorless Liquid & Vapor
Faint Ethereal Odor
EPA Certification Required:
Yes, 608 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Require Certification to Purchase?
Yes, 608 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Knowing the pressure and the temperatures associated to the machine you are working on is essential to being able to diagnose any possible issues. Without knowing the temperatures you are more or less walking blind. These pressure checks give you the facts so that you can move onto the next step of your diagnosis. Instead of pasting a large table of information here I will instead direct you to our specific R-404A refrigerant temperature page. This can be found by clicking here.
R-404A Pros & Cons
Regardless of what refrigerant you are looking at they all have their own pros and cons. There is no perfect refrigerant. There may never be. Ammonia for example is deemed one of the best refrigerants in the world… but it’s extremely toxic and can be deadly in high amounts.
R-404A has it’s own pros and cons. Let’s take a look at some of them:
R-404A provided an immediate replacement product for both R-12, R-22 and R-502. This allowed the world to stop using Ozone depleting refrigerants. R-404A operated at comparable physical and thermodynamic properties that R-502 did which made transitioning to new systems or retrofitting older systems a much easier task.
404A is rated as an A1 from ASHRAE. That means that it is non-toxic and non-flammable. While this may not seem like a big deal for HFC refrigerants, this rating is becoming more and more important when it comes to looking for a more environmentally friendly replacement refrigerant.
The biggest con with R-404A is it’s extremely high Global Warming Potential (GWP). It’s GWP rating is three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty. This number makes it one of the absolute highest GWP refrigerant that is widely used in the world today.
In some applications 404A is not the most efficient. There are other refrigerants that can save five to ten percent efficiency. (R-134a for example.) The lost efficiency with 404A can translate into more energy and more money spent when compared to other refrigerants. Refer to our ‘R-404A Potential Replacements’ section for some of these more efficient refrigerants.
Notes on R-404A
Just like with our other facts sheets I’d like to take some time in this section and go over some facts and other points of note on R-404A refrigerants:
R-404A began seeing usage in 1996 after the phase out of CFC R-502 due to it’s Ozone Depletion Potential.
R-404A is a ternary refrigerant blend consisting of the HFC R-125 (forty-four percent), HFC R-143a (fifty-two percent), and HFC R-134a (four percent).
R-404A is used across a variety of low and medium temperature applications including super market freezers/refrigerators, vending machines, ice machines, refrigerated transport, and industrial refrigerant systems.
Starting in 1996, 404A was the primary refrigerant for the above mentioned applications for over twenty years.
R-404A is non toxic and non flammable and has an A1 rating from ASHRAE. Note that if 404A is pressurized after being mixed with air the chance of flammability increases. You should never mix 404A with air under.
R-404A is heavier then air and will displace oxygen in a room if a large enough quantity is leaked. This can be said for various types of refrigerants though and is not unique to 404A.
When charging systems with R-404A the refrigerant must be in a liquid state. If done in a gaseous state you risk damaging the entire system.
In some cases R-404A can replace R-22 systems when the proper retrofitting is done, but this may not make sense in the long run due to my next point.
R-404A is being phased down and in some cases completely phased out due to it’s high Global Warming Potential and it’s detrimental effect on the climate.
In many cases R-404A is the first HFC refrigerant targeted for phasing down HFCs due to it’s extremely high GWP of nearly four-thousand.
Some refrigerant manufacturers and distributors have already announced they will no longer be making or selling R-404A.
Europe will input a ban on any new stationary 404A systems in the year 2020. (Along with any other refrigerants that have a GWP higher then twenty-five hundred.)
Along with the ban on new systems the European Union has also issued import and production limits on R-404A.
Due to these production/import limits Europe has seen crazy prices come on R-404A. At some points in the past few years it rose over seven-hundred percent in one season.
Prices in the United States have remained relatively stable the past year or so, but in 2017 there was a large increase due to a shortage of flurospar in China.
R-404A Possible Replacements
In the initial switch from CFC/HCFCs over to HFCs in the 1990’s there was a rush to find a quick and fast alternative refrigerant. Before HFCs a lot of supermarkets were using both R-12 and R-502 for their systems. (R-12 was used for the refrigerators and R-502 was used for freezers.)
At the time the world switched over to R-404A there was little other choice and most business owners and contractors consolidated their refrigerators and freezers over to one refrigerant to simplify things. That is why you see 404A nearly everywhere in these types of applications.
When we do completely phase out R-404A it will not be like it was in the 1990’s again. No folks, this time we are going to go about it smarter. (This is me being optimistic.) Instead of superseding every machines and application to a new specified refrigerant we will be looking at each application specifically an determining the best refrigerant for it’s needs. This is why we’ll see R-290 propane used in some 404A applications and an HFO refrigerant used in a different 404A application. When it’s all said and done we should see a diversified refrigerant market in place of the standard 404A that we see today.
At this time it’s impossible to list every 404A alternative or option out there. Things are always changing and evolving. The ‘perfect’ replacement may be discovered one month from now.
All that being said, let’s take a look at some of the possible R-404A replacements listed below. Just keep in mind that none of these are a ‘fix all’ solution. These refrigerants range from natural refrigerants, to HFOs, and the occasional HFC.
To understand the history of R-404 we first have to travel back to the 1960’s. It was then that the CFC refrigerant R-502 was invented. R-502 was a blended refrigerant using HCFCs and CFCs. It was comprised of of R-22 (48.8%) and R-115 (51.2%). This new refrigerant R-502 offered a lower discharge temperature and improved capacity when compared to R-22.
Once invented R-502’s usage exploded across low and medium temperature applications. Over the next thirty years R-502 was the dominant refrigerant for a variety of applications including super market refrigerators/freezers, industrial refrigeration, vending machines, and in refrigerated transport.
For thirty-five years R-502 reigned supreme, but like all good things it had to come to an end. In 1995 and 1996 R-502 was phased out for all new machines. 502 was just another one of the many CFC and HCFC refrigerants that have been phased out over the past twenty to thirty years.
These refrigerants were phased out due to the chlorine that they contained. When the refrigerant was vented or leaked it would move into the atmosphere where the chlorine would damage the Ozone Layer. While there wasn’t an official ‘hole’ in the Ozone there was a thinning of the layer above Antarctica. The Ozone layer protects us from radiation and a thinning of said layer can result in a whole host of problems including various cancers.
Scientists noticed this thinning in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Once the seriousness of the problem was revealed world leaders got together in Montreal and signed a treaty that most all of us know by now, The Montreal Protocol. This treaty aimed at phasing down and eventually completely out Ozone damaging chemicals. This included insulation, pesticides, refrigerants, and many other applications.
When R-502’s turn for phase down came in 1995 a new alternative refrigerant needed to be chosen. At this time the world turned towards HFC refrigerants. One of the very first phase outs was R-12 for automotive applications. It’s replacement was the HFC R-134a. It was a logical move to use R-404A as R-502’s replacement as 404A was an HFC and it partly blended from R-134a.
Once R-404A was implemented in the 1990’s it was the standard bearer for the next thirty years. But now, just like R-502, it’s time has come.
Today, as I write this article in 2019, R-404A is being phased down and in some cases completely out across the world. The European Union has import and production limits set on R-404A and have plans to completely phase it out over the next few years.
This time though folks the phase out has nothing to do with the Ozone Layer. This time it has to deal what’s known as Global Warming Potential (GWP). GWP is a measurement of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps within the atmosphere. The higher the number the worse the product is for the environment. Like with every scale there has to be a zeroing measurement. In this case it is Carbon Dioxide (R-744). The GWP on R-744 is one. The GWP on R-404A is nearly four-thousand.
That number alone is why the world is pushing to get rid of R-404A as fast we can. Out of all of the HFCs R-404A is one of the absolute highest when it comes to GWP. While the European Union has already begun taking steps of a complete phase out the United States is quite a bit behind.
Originally, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule in 2015. This new rule was under the EPA’s SNAP and was titled, ‘Rule 20.’ This new rule aimed at phasing down HFCs across the country. They did this by deeming certain refrigerants would no longer be acceptable in specific applications. As an example, one of the stipulations was that R-134a would no longer be acceptable in 2021 model year vehicles. R-404A, along with R-134a, was one of the prime targets in these new regulations.
Over the next few years the industry moved on expecting these changes laid out in Rule 20 to take effect. It was in the summer of 2017 that a surprise ruling by a federal judge overturned all of the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20. The judge ruled in favor of Mexichem and Arkema (Two refrigerant manufacturers). While other companies, such as Chemours and Honeywell, appealed the ruling they eventually got nowhere and the judge’s ruling stood. It went as far as going to the Supreme Court but the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
Now, as of 2019, there is no set phase down schedule of R-404A or other HFC refrigerants. The only bright spot is what’s known as the ‘United States Climate Alliance.’ This alliance formed after Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord. Their goal is to have a gathering of states that will enforce their own climate policy.
Regardless of the politics across the United States and the world we can all be assured of one thing: R-404A is going away. When exactly it goes away is a different story though. Within the United States I predict us having a patchwork of different laws and regulations across the various states. While this is disorganized and confusing it does have some positive effects as well.
With the lack of a central federal policy on HFCs we have states taking matters into their own hands. If enough states get on board with these HFC phase down changes then air conditioning and refrigerator manufacturers will eventually throw in the towel on HFCs and began transitioning over to lesser GWP refrigerants. After all, it wouldn’t make sense to make a system that could only be sold in half of the country. Instead these companies will start manufacturing based on the states that have HFC phase down policies. This will allow them to still sell into all fifty states and prevent them from doing double work.
As we mentioned in our potential replacements section, there is not yet a perfect R-404A replacement option. Instead, we are having a variety of refrigerants show up as replacements for specific R-404A applications. As an example, instead of 404A in vending machines we will start using propane or isobutane. But, these refrigerants will not work for refrigerated transport or in larger charged systems.
Among these alternatives to 404A a war is brewing between natural refrigerants and HFO refrigerants. While HFOs have significantly lower GWP then HFC refrigerants they are still not perfect and still do have a GWP that is higher then the neutral carbon dioxide point. It is this reason why groups are pushing to skip HFOs and go with natural refrigerants entirely. At this time there is no saying what refrigerant will win the ‘war,’ but the predicted outcome I see is a good mix between the two. We’ll see all of the smaller to medium charged systems start using natural refrigerants and the larger systems still using fluorinated refrigerants such as HFCs and HFOs.
There may come a time in the not too distant future that a ‘perfect’ 404A alternative is discovered. But, for now, we are all stuck with our patchwork of alternative refrigerants. If you haven’t run into some of these already it’ll only be a matter of time.
Well folks, that about covers it for R-404A. I tried to cover absolutely everything that I could when it came to this refrigerant. If you find that I missed something or that if something is inaccurate please reach out to me and let me know.
Over the nearly two-hundred years refrigerants have been around there have been a variety of types and classifications. In the very beginning in the eighteen-hundreds we started with the simplest, and cleanest, of refrigerants known as natural refrigerants.
These natural refrigerants consisted of naturally occurring elements throughout our wold. These could be carbon dioxide, ammonia, air, water, or oxygen. Also, under this natural refrigerant umbrella were what’s known as hydrocarbon refrigerants. These were your propane, isobutane, ethane, methane, and many more. These refrigerants were the foundation of today’s modern day refrigerant classifications known as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs).
While most of our everyday refrigerants used today fall into one of the categories we mentioned above there are some outliers that simply don’t fall into the ‘standard’ classifications that we are used to today. In this article we’re going to take a brief look at some of these outliers and what refrigerants fall under them. For a more in-depth guide we will also be producing refrigerant fact sheets on each of these individual refrigerants.
H – Halon/Haloalkane Refrigerants
Halon refrigerants were one of the building blocks of modern day refrigerants we see today. Earlier I had mentioned that natural refrigerants along with hydrocarbons were the very first refrigerants used in the world. Well, the next step towards progress were halon refrigerants.
Now, technically, all of the main refrigerant classifications that we use today such as CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs, and even HFOs can be considered halon refrigerants. But, these classifications are compounds containing one or more kind of halogen. A standard halogen refrigerant is not compounded.
The basic halon chemicals were used primarily as a fire extinguishing agent. In recent years halon is no longer manufactured either due to the toxicity that they can present or due to the detrimental effects on the Ozone.
While I could include every CFC, HCFC, HFC, and HFO in this section I am NOT going to as I have already covered them in broader separate articles. The refrigerants below are the ones that I could not classify into one of those larger groupings:
HCC – Hydrochlorocarbon
I had to do some research on this category. There wasn’t much to be said about actual refrigerants. These types of chemicals have a wide range of applications from insulation, fire extinguishing, to pesticides, and all the way to wood varnish.
The one piece of the puzzle I did find here is that R-20 Chloroform was a necessary building block to create R-22. Yes, when chloroform is mixed with hydrogen fluoride we get chlorodifluoromethane, also known as the HCFC R-22. With this knowledge, we can say that HCC refrigerants were an essential in modern day air conditioning and refrigeration.
That being said, there was and still is a lot of concern with HCCs. Depending on the type of chemical within this family the toxicity can be deadly. There are recorded birth defects and other abnormalities. Remember hearing about DDT pesticides? Well, they came from HCCs.
While I couldn’t find a practical refrigerant application for HCCs I wanted to still list them below. From what I have found they were mainly used elsewhere and when they were used as refrigerants it was as a blend rather then a primary application.
I know I’ve said it already folks, but PCC and PFC are the building blocks of modern day refrigerants. Just look at the name PFC. Take off the ‘per’ and you get the name we are all familiar with, ‘Fluorocarbons.’
Within these categories exists R-10 or Carbon Tetrachloride. This was used as a refrigerant in the early eighteen-hundreds and was a precursor to R-11 and R-12. Along with that other refrigerants within this category have been used in blends to create other refrigerants. As a few examples, R-116 Hexafluoroethane is used to create refrigerants R-508A and R-508B. R-218 Octafluoropropane is used to create R-413A.
Again, I couldn’t find an active record of these being used as refrigerants. Instead,they were used in blends to create other refrigerants that we have all seen before.
A lot of you may be familiar with Olefin refrigerants already through the most popular classification of hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs). The most common HFO you’ll see today is the R-1234yf which is used in automotive applications. While HFOs may sound new and different if you look at things from a chemistry perspective HFOs are not that different then the HFCs we use today.
Just like their HFC counterparts HFOs contain Hydrogen, Fluorine, and Carbon. The one real difference between these two refrigerants is that HFOs are unsaturated. In other words they have at least one double bond of carbon. These double bonded molecules are known as Olefins or Alkenes. This is where the name Hydrofluroolefins comes from. HFOs may have been around for a while there was never a demand for them. HFCs were the favored refrigerant when CFCs and HCFCs went away in the 1990’s. It was in the early 2000’s that things began to change to favor HFOs.
While you may have all heard of HFOs before chances are you haven’t heard of the other classifications of Hydrochlorofluoroolefin (HCFO), Chlorofluoroolefin (CFO), and Perfluoroolefin (PFO). At this time these newer Olefin classifications are rarely used, but that may change in the future.
Let’s take a look at some of the other Olefin refrigerants:
HCFO – Hydrochlorofluoroolefin
R-411A (Mixture of R-1270, R-22, and R-152a)
R-411B (Mixture of R-1270, R-22, and R-152a)
R-411C (Mixture of R-1270, R-22, and R-152a)
CFO – Chlorofluoroolefin
PFO – Perfluoroolefin
R-1218 Hexafluoropropene trimer
For the most part folks the refrigerants mentioned in this article have either been retired due to environmental or toxicity concerns. The only exception to this rule that I am aware of are the Olefins classification. These refrigerants are still fairly new to the world and have a relatively minimal impact on the environment.
Even today there are so many homeowners and companies hanging onto their old R-22 systems. Sometimes it takes a heated negotiation just to convince a homeowner to switch from R-22 over to R-410A. Now imagine trying to convince a billion dollar company to switch all of their systems away from R-22. You think it would be an easier discussion. You would think that the company would want to get the obsolete units out of rotation and start using a more climate friendly solution.
Well folks, this wasn’t the case with Trident Seafoods out of Seattle, Washington. Trident is one of the largest seafood processing companies in the northwest and Alaska. Between the years 2009 through 2016 Trident violated the Environmental Protection Agency’s leak restrictions on Ozone depleting refrigerants. Leaks in their R-22 systems went untreated for years. They also failed to document services and repairs on two-hundred and eighty-nine separate occasions. On top of that they used uncertified technicians and inadequate recovery tooling.
Because of their lack of maintenance Trident was directly responsible for leaking over two-hundred thousand pounds of R-22 into the atmosphere. These leaks occurred on their various fishing and transport ships.
It was announced today that the Environmental Protection Agency and Trident Seafoods had come to a preliminary agreement. Trident would pay a nine-hundred thousand dollar fine for violating the Clean Air Act. They would also pay for twenty-three million dollars worth of retrofits to prevent these incidents from occurring again. Quite a lot of expense and fines all because this company didn’t follow proper regulations or that they didn’t want to invest in new refrigerant systems.
As a result of this ruling Trident will be retiring or retrofitting twenty-three r-22 systems across fourteen ships. These retrofits will remove one-hundred thousand pounds of r-22. The removal of all of this R-22 is the equivalent of one-hundred and forty-three thousand passenger cars being removed from the roads.
Along with the retrofitting Trident Seafoods will conduct routine leak inspections and fix any leaks in a timely manner in accordance to EPA standards. They will also have a third party auditor to review their leak inspection procedures. This way we don’t have a repeat.
EPA regulations state that owners or operators of industrial refrigerant equipment that contains over fifty pounds of ozone depleting refrigerants have their leaks repaired within thirty days. Along with that, these leak repairs have to be documented in full. Lastly, only 608 certified technicians are able to open and work on these systems.
While this settlement is still subject to public comment and court approval it is easy to see the type of punishment companies can receive if they fail to comply with the Clean Air Act and the EPA standards.I’m actually surprised the fine and repercussions wasn’t higher. The amount of refrigerant that was leaked is staggering. Rather Trident thinks it or not, they got off easy.
It was announced today via press release from the Chemours company that their new plant located in Ingleside, Texas (Outside of Corpus Christi) is now manufacturing R-1234yf refrigerant. This factory is by far one of the largest and now that it is live the capacity of HFO-1234yf being produced in the world has tripled.
Today the overall demand for 1234yf is still quite low in the United States. In the European Union volume is beginning to pick up due to their mandatory phase out of R-134a. While there are automotive manufacturers here in the US that are switching their vehicles over to yf it is not yet mandatory. Because of this, we are seeing a slow transition cycle.
Along with the slow change over we also have to keep in mind that if a new vehicle with 1234yf rolls off the floor today that same vehicle may not need an air conditioning repair for another four years. The standard amount of time for a new vehicle to need air conditioning repair is between five to six years. So, even though we had a lot of manufacturers and models switch to yf in 2015 we are still a ways out before the demand of yf is heightened due to automotive repairs.
The good news here though is that with this new plant live and producing yf here in the United States we should begin to see the price dip. Yf still continues to be one of the most expensive modern day refrigerants on the market place. Today it ranges between sixty to seventy dollars a pound. (R-134a is about three dollars a pound.) With the increased supply coming into the market we may begin to see this price drop. Well, at least until the demand starts to climb, then we could see prices level back out.
While we mostly know R-1234yf as the new automotive refrigerant it is also important to note that it is used in other various HFO refrigerant blends such as R-455A and R-513A. As more HFOs are developed in the future we may begin to see the versatility of yf expand. If this happens then we could see another effect on the overall demand of the refrigerant. Regardless of the other application market, we can all be certain that the automotive demand is more then enough to satisfy the needs of this production plant.
In my opinion the launching of production of yf at this plant was a bit too early. Now, I didn’t find anything that specifically said that Chemours was going to be producing at maximum capacity or if they were going to slowly start production to meet market needs. I am assuming that they are going to start slow and adjust as the market requires. Either way though, I just don’t see the demand yet. Perhaps Chemours is preparing for the future but if you ask me I would say we are still a few years out before we really see the demand for 1234yf pick up.
In the short term, a savvy investor may have an opportunity if the prices of 1234yf begin to drop due to oversupply. One could wait for the price to bottom out, buy up a few pallets, and then sit on it and wait for the prices to climb. Remember though folks, it’s always a gamble. If the prices do fall whose to say that they’ll go back up? We could be looking at a new normal price point wise on yf with this new plant.
Greetings folks! I hope everyone had a great January and was able to stay warm during the Polar Vortex. Kansas City didn’t get it as bad as some other areas as we only got down to negative five. (Only!) I apologize for not updating the past few weeks but we all need a little R and R every now and then.
As most of you know I came from the automotive industry, specifically trucking. While in this industry I was responsible for purchasing R-134a for our dealerships. After doing this for a few years I found that the absolute best time to buy is right now. Yes, January and February are the best time to purchase refrigerants rather it be R-134a, R-410A, R-404A, or anything else.
There are a few reasons you should consider buying right now. As the year progresses and we get into the spring and summer months the price on refrigerants steadily begins to creep up. This is due to demand and the hotter weather. As we all know, more demand equals higher pricing. This is why it makes sense to buy most of your company’s yearly demand in the down season while the prices are still quite low.
That being said, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing in November or December either. Depending on the year you could see the high summer prices extend even to the fall months. With some years I’ve seen exceptional pricing last all the way to mid November. The demand and the pricing that followed finally begins to die down in December and is pretty much non-existent in January. This causes the price to drop to it’s lowest point.
Even though January has the absolute best prices a lot of companies will wait until the magical month of February. This may be due to the pricing being right around the same and that we’re another month closer to spring and summer. That’s one less month of sitting on expensive inventory.
Late last month we had a trucking company go through our bulk purchasing program. After some negotiations they ended up buying a full trailer load of R-134a from us. For those that don’t know, a trailer load consists of twenty pallets of forty cylinders each. (Eight-hundred cylinders.) Just about a week later we had another trucking company purchase just under five trailer loads. That’s nearly four-thousand cylinders.
All of these large purchases are designed to give companies the best price in the market, to insulate them from seasonal price increases, and to also fill their demand for the entire season.
It’s not all a bed of roses though folks. There is a risk to purchasing like this. Refrigerant is a commodity and it’s pricing can change with just the snap of a finger. In previous articles I equated it to the price of oil. We always see in the news that oil prices are going up and down every week or even every day. While refrigerant isn’t as volatile as oil is, it is important to know that the prices can go down or up at any moment.
While it is fairly standard for prices to go up during prime season it is not always the case. There are a variety of reasons that prices could actually go down in the hot months of summer. It could be oversupply across the country. Or, it could be a very mild summer and the need for air conditioning just isn’t there. Whatever the reason is, you should know that there is the possibility of prices going down as well as going up in prime season.
Let’s look at a worst case scenario. Say your company bought a trailer load of refrigerant this week and you got what you believe was an aggressive price. As the months go by and summer arrives you begin to notice that you are getting priced out of the market. Your competitors are quoting fifteen to twenty percent lower then you. You are now stuck with overpriced product. Do you sell at a loss? Do you buy some at the lower price and hold onto your current inventory? Do you write off the cost difference as a loss and move on?
While the above scenario isn’t a pretty picture I can assure you that the other end of the spectrum is. Imagine for a moment that you purchased a trailer load product at ninety dollars a cylinder. Then, as summer arrives, the price goes up and up until it hits over one-hundred and fifty dollars a cylinder. Now you are in a great position to make a killing and still undercut some of your competition.
Whatever you decide to do with your company’s refrigerant needs this year just remember that there is no right or wrong answer. No one knows for certain what will happen within the market this year. There are always going to be winners and losers. Here’s hoping you’re on the winning side!
If you are interested in purchasing please contact us and we’ll do our best to get your an aggressive price.
The New Year has only just begun and already we are seeing refrigerant price changes coming to the market. Earlier today one of my contacts within the refrigerant industry reached out to me to share price increases that are coming down the pipeline. While so far these changes are from one or two manufacturers, I have seen from experience that other manufacturers typically follow suit. These price increases or decreases have reasoning behind them such as raw materials costing more, a shortage on materials or refrigerant, unexpected increased demand, logistics/freight issues, or a whole host of other possible issues. The point though is that if one manufacturer is experiencing a price increase then the others will usually be close behind them.
Now when I do articles like these that go into upcoming pricing changes I make sure to leave things anonymous to not only the source of the information but also to the company that has announced the pricing increases. It is not my place to share and publish internal company documents. By doing it this way I can protect myself and my business as well as still provide you, the reader, the much needed information on upcoming price changes.
Ok folks, without further ado let’s dive in and take a look at the changes that were announced. Yesterday, a mailer was sent out by a leading refrigerant manufacturer. This mailer stated that as of next week, January 8th, prices would be going up six percent on HFC and HCFC refrigerants. The increase targets all of the most commonly used refrigerants today including R-22, R-134a, R-410A, R-404A, R-507A, R-407A, and R-407C.
While six percent doesn’t sound like a lot it really depends on the refrigerant that you are looking at. R-134a right now is trending between eighty to ninety dollars for a thirty pound cylinder. Six percent of that would be around five dollars more a cylinder. Not too much of an increase. However, if we take that same logic and look at R-22’s price which is hovering around four-hundred to four-hundred and fifty a thirty pound cylinder we can begin to see a larger impact. Lets take the four-hundred dollar price as an example. With that base price we’re looking at around twenty-four dollars more per thirty pound cylinder. Now we can begin to see a slight impact.
One more thing folks on these increases. The announced price increase on HFCs have only been from one manufacturer. The R-22 price increase though has now come from two different and distinct refrigerant manufacturers. Just like I stated above, most manufacturers are in tandem with each other and have their ears to the ground watching the trends. The chances are R-22 is going to go up around six percent across all manufacturers.
2019 is a big year for R-22 as this is the LAST year that any quantity can be physically produced or imported into the United States. When January 1st, 2020 hits that’s the end. Fin. No more. The only way to acquire R-22 then is either purchasing from distributors who have stockpiles on hand or purchasing form a certified refrigerant reclaimer.
Because of this upcoming rule change on R-22 the market in 2019 is unpredictable. No one knows for sure what’s going to happen. Could this six percent increase be the start of a snowball effect? Will the price keep going up and up this year as more and more people buy up everything they can? There was a time in 2017 where R-22 cylinders hit seven-hundred dollars a cylinder. Will we repeat this year? Or, is this six percent increase an anomaly or correction and the price will stabilize for the upcoming spring season?
Refrigerant pricing is unpredictable. Sure, I have written many articles trying to predict what will happen in the next year… and sometimes I’m right and other times I am way off. One thing I am certain of though is that these winter months are the absolute best time to buy. Prices are deflated and the demand is quite low. As spring edges closer the prices will begin to rise.
I remember back in the day when I was in charge of purchasing R-134a by the trailerload. We would always wait until the first week of February to place our orders. We’d do our negotiations in the middle/end of January and then send our purchase orders over that first week in February. Most of the time this ensured that we had a competitive price throughout the entire season and we didn’t have to scramble in the hot months to try and find a source of R-134a.
If you are interested in purchasing refrigerant please don’t hesitate to reach out to me by filling out the contact information below or by visiting our bulk refrigerants page. Please remember that we only sell in pallet and trailerload quantities. A pallet typically contains around forty cylinders.
As most of you know we here at RefrigerantHQ are taking the time to put together what’s known as our fact and information sheets on each specific refrigerant that is out there. So far we have touched on quite a few HFC and even HFO refrigerants. But are good friends from days past, CFCs, have been neglected. I would be amiss if we forgot one of the most influential refrigerants out there, R-12. There may be some debate to this statement, but I believe that R-12 was and is the mother of all refrigerants. It was the foundation refrigerant and gave us the building blocks to other refrigerants that we see used every day around us.
But, what is R-12? What is the history behind this influential refrigerant? What is the significance of the Freon brand name? In this article we will answer these questions and more. Like with our previous fact sheets we will start this out with a table that goes over all of the upfront facts about R-12 Freon refrigerant. Let’s dive in and take a look!
Name - Scientific:
Phased Out Across The World Due to Montreal Protocol
Why Phased Out?
Due To R-12 Damaging Ozone Layer
Is Already Phased Out
Very Wide Range of Applications - Can't Cover Them All!
Refrigerators, Freezers, Ice Makers, Water Coolers
Mobile Refrigeration Including Automotive & Refrigerated Transport
Large Centrifugal Chillers, Open Drive AC, & Process
Misc High, Medium, or Low Temp Refrigerant Systems
Previous Hydrocarbons and Natural Refrigerants
Various Refrigerants, But Mainly R-22 and R-134a
Ozone Depletion Potential:
Global Warming Potential:
A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Class 1 -No Flame Propagation.
N/A - Not Flammable
Mineral Oil, also known as Alkyl Benzene.
-29.8° Celsius or -21.64° Fahrenheit or 243.3° Kelvin
111.97° Celsius or 233.55° Fahrenheit or 385.12° Kelvin
Critical Pressure (Absolute):
Atmospheric Lifetime (Years)
Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
All Shut Down Due to Phase Out (Maybe in China Still!)
Colorless Liquid & Vapor
Ether Like At Very High Concentrations
EPA Certification Required:
Yes, Section 608 Certification Required To Use
Require Certification to Purchase?
Yes, Section 608 Certification Required To Purchase
I mentioned at the beginning of this article that R-12 is the ‘mother’ of all refrigerants. This is because R-12 was the very first mainstream refrigerant that saw usage and development around the world. Before the arrival of R-12 there was a mish-mash of natural refrigerants being used with hit and miss results. Either the refrigerant being used was toxic like R-717 (Ammonia), the refrigerant operated at too high of a pressure like R-744 (Carbon Dioxide), the refrigerant had a high flammability rating like R-290 (Propane), or the refrigerant was just too expensive for widespread usage. The invention of R-12 provided an answer to the price question as well as the safety question. Because of this, it’s usage exploded. I won’t get into all of the details here, but will save the more in-depth discussion about R-12’s history in our next section.
For now folks, let’s take a look at some of the most notable facts about R-12:
First and foremost, you should know that R-12 has been completely phased out in the United States and across the world. This refrigerant was phased out due to it’s Ozone Depletion Potential or ODP. The short version of what happened here is that when R-12 was vented or released into the atmosphere it would not break down as it made it’s way up to the stratosphere. Instead, the Chlorine in the chemical composition would stay intact and eventually cause damage to what’s known as the Ozone layer. This layer acts as a shield from ultraviolet rays from the sun. If this layer was gone or severely weakened then the radiation would begin to come through and cases of skin cancer and other diseases would begin to surface much more frequently. That’s the tamest of the scenarios of a damaged Ozone. R-12 along with other CFC and HCFC refrigerants were banned to prevent any further damage to the Ozone and to allow the Ozone layer to heal.
I mentioned this earlier but R-12 was the first refrigerant that was actually safe to use. It can be traced back to the 1930’s and back then there just wasn’t a ‘good’ refrigerant to use. Sure, there were some refrigerant and air conditioning applications that could be found, but they were rare and they had a high risk of failure. In some cases this risk of failure was also a risk to your safety. R-12 came around and provided consumers and businesses with a safe and cheaper alternative refrigerant.
R-12 has a relatively low boiling point at only -29.8° Celsius or -21.64° Fahrenheit. If you compare this to some of the other refrigerants out there such as R-22 (-40.7° C), R-744 (-78.0° C), or R-410A (-48.5° C). You can begin to see the significant difference here between R-12’s boiling point and other refrigerants. This low boiling point was also a key factor in the varying applications that R-12 was used for. Due to the wide range of applications, the low boiling point, the low price, and the safety features R-12 exploded in growth across the globe.
The end of R-12’s reign began in the 1980’s and went into the early 1990’s. I mentioned the Ozone layer problem above. Well, all of this started in the early 1980’s and came to it’s conclusion in the early 1990’s when the last step of phasing out R-12 began. This last step was in automotive applications. If you were to have bought a car in 1991 or 1992 you would have most likely had R-12 refrigerant. However, if you were to purchase a vehicle in 1994 or 1995 then your vehicle would have been using the new HFC R-134a refrigerant.
Today, in 2019 R-12 is very difficult to find. If you do find it the chances are it is a rusted out cylinder that may have been damaged. Any R-12 cylinders left in circulation today are products that someone squirreled away twenty or thirty years ago. Now, if the refrigerant was stored properly in a climate controlled warehouse without exposure to moisture then it most likely still has virgin pure R-12 refrigerant in it. However, if it has been exposed or damaged then the quality may be compromised. Most of the time these cylinders can be found on EBay.com, but make sure that you are section 608 certified with the EPA before you purchase. You will have to provide your certification number.
Along with the increased rarity of R-12 you will also notice that price has gone through the roof. A thirty pound virgin cylinder in good condition may be closer to one-thousand dollars. Some of the damaged cylinders we mentioned above may be around five-hundred to six-hundred dollars. Be sure to pay attention when purchasing some of these as in most cases the cylinder has been opened and some of it has already been used. So, you may end up only getting twenty or twenty-five pounds out of your thirty pound cylinder.
The good news is that today very little people actually need R-12 Freon. Most of the applications have been retired and scrapped. The only exception that I know of in today’s world (2019) is automotive restorers. My father as an example restores classic cars as a hobby. Most of the models he works on are from 1950’s and air conditioning wasn’t as prevalent then. But, let’s pretend you’re working on my dream restoration car, a 1981 F-150. In this case you would have to make a decision on rather to use the original air conditioning system and get your hands on a few cans of R-12. Or, you could install or retrofit over to an R-134a system. Besides these exceptions, I don’t see another need for R-12 being used in the world today.
The last point that I want to make is that in recent years (2018-2019) we have had reports of R-11 and other CFC refrigerants being found again in the atmosphere. This is odd as all of these were phased out twenty years ago. How are they being found again? In one specific instance the R-11 traces were able to be traced to a province in China. A company in China was actively producing R-11 foam and refrigerants for use throughout the country and for exports. The Chinese Government denied any affiliation with this company and have since gone after the company.
R-12 Refrigerant History
In the early 1900’s the world was looking for a solution for refrigeration and air conditioning. There had been numerous experiments and trials on differing refrigerants ranging from Ammonia, Carbon Dioxide, Propane, Sulfur Dioxide, and Methyl Chloride. Each one of these refrigerants were able to provide cooling and refrigeration but they all had potential downsides. It could have been safety concerns through toxicity or flammability, high pressure, or an inflated price point. There needed to be a more viable refrigerant introduced into the marketplace.
It was in the 1930’s that a partnership was formed between two companies: General Motors and DuPont. This partnership organized by Charles Kettering of General Motors was geared towards solving this problem. Over the new few years Thomas Midgley Jr, along with a few other team members, pushed forward with the invention of ChloroFluroCarbons (CFCs) and HydroChloroFluroCarbons (HCFCs). Out of these inventions two primary refrigerants came: R-12 and R-22. The introduction of R-12 showed the world that a refrigerant was possible that was safe, economical, and easily adapted to various applications.
In just a few decades R-12 and R-22 were found in nearly every home and business across the world. The explosive growth of refrigerant and air conditioning continued to propel forwards for decades and decades. All of this came to a head in the 1980’s when a team of scientists based out of California realized that the Chlorine found in these ever popular refrigerants were causing damage to the Ozone layer. What would happen is a machine would either develop a leak, or the refrigerant would be vented, or the machine would be scrapped entirely and refrigerant would leak out. This leaked refrigerant would work it’s way up into the atmosphere and stagnate in the Stratosphere. There the Chlorine found in R-12 would degrade and harm the Ozone layer. All of this got so bad over the decades of CFC and HCFC use 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.
In today’s world R-12 is a very rare occurrence. Most machines and systems that were using it have since been retired. Like I mentioned in a previous section, the only use cases that I know of in the year 2019 are those folks who are restoring classic automobiles. Even in these cases though I believe most people are going the retrofit route and changing their systems over to R-134a. The cost of R-12 is just too expensive and we all know that a fully restored classic car is never entirely original. There are always aftermarket parts that find their way in.
While R-12 Freon refrigerant is a thing of the past we should always remember where we came from. In today’s world HFC refrigerants are being phased out just like their CFC and HCFC cousins. The refrigerant industry is constantly evolving and changing. In another twenty years the world may be using something completely different then we are today. The thing to keep in mind though is that we approach 2030 we should take the time and honor the R-12 invention from a one-hundred years ago that got us to this point.
Hello all. I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a good upcoming New Years. I took most of the last week off of work and working on RefrigerantHQ. Sometimes it is nice to take a step back and spend some relaxing time with the family.
During this time I was thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in 2019 for RefrigerantHQ. 2018 was a great year for the website and we saw a lot of growth. In 2017 we ended the year at three-hundred and seventy-thousand views. While there are still a few days left in 2018 I can safely say that we will end this year at five-hundred and forty-thousand views. That is nearly fifty percent year over year growth. Not a bad number if you ask me!
Breaking these same numbers down per day we find that we are averaging around fifteen-hundred views per day for the 2018 year. This was again a nearly fifty percent year over year increase. Obviously, our best month this year was in July at just over one-hundred thousand visitors and our worst month this year is this month at around twenty-thousand views.
We also saw significant growth in our mailing list subscribers. We started 2018 at just over six-hundred subscribers and we are now over sixteen-hundred. We aim to have over twenty-five hundred by the end of 2019.
Along with the growth we mentioned above RefrigerantHQ has also begun to be noticed by those within the industry. Towards the beginning of the year we were invited to a refrigerant trade show put on by the SHECCO company. While we appreciated the invitation we were not yet in the position to began attending trade shows.
Please remember that RefrigerantHQ is a hobby of mine and I still have my full-time employment to balance as well as my wife and kids. There are times where it can be tough and I have yet to find the time to attend some of these trade shows. However, as the years progress and growth continues you may begin to see a RefrigerantHQ presence at industry trade events.
Throughout the year we have received story leads and topic ideas from various folks including some of the larger names within the industry such as Chemours and Honeywell. If you have any topic ideas feel free to reach out to me and let me know. The more the better!
This summer we had a lunch meeting with ITW Sexton, also known as Sexton Cans. Sexton, based out of Decatur, Alabama, is the company that is behind the refrigerant cans that you find in automotive stores and dealership shelves. Their products are DOT and ISO certified and they stand behind their quality.
Lastly, earlier this month we met with some folks from Harp International. Harp is a global distributor of refrigerants based out of the United Kingdom. During their visit to Americas they booked an extra flight in Kansas City to meet me for lunch. We had a few beers in downtown Kansas City and talked about the wonderful topic of refrigerants for a few hours. They were good contacts to establish and I look forward to meeting with them in the future. I occasionally travel to Brussels for my day job, so we might just have to arrange a visit!
2019 & The Future
The future of RefrigerantHQ is growth, of course. But, what kind of growth? I’ve been thinking about this for a while as I plan out how I want to grow the website. This time last year I thought adding community forums would be a good way to grow and also offer another feature for my readers. After piloting this for around six months I found that it just wasn’t worth it. The forums became overrun with spam and fake messages and then towards the end of July the forums allowed hackers to infiltrate my site. The site was down for a week while I made frantic repairs.
Looking towards next year one goal that I have in mind is to create more and more of our Refrigerant Fact Sheets. These posts focus on providing anything and everything to do with a specific refrigerant. The goal here is to have a one stop place to answer any question on a refrigerant. Eventually, we will have a fact sheet for every popular refrigerant out there… and maybe for every single refrigerant.
Along with the fact sheets we will also be keeping up with the latest refrigerant news here in the United States. This includes regulation changes, pricing changes, supply and demand, tariffs, and everything else. We want to be the place you go to for the latest news and changes within the industry. If over the next year you know of a story or article that should be written please do not hesitate to reach out to me either via e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook. Chances are we will review the story and write it up for our subscribers.
Also, if you feel like something is missing from the website or there is something that you are always looking for online and can never find please let me know. I’m always looking for that next big idea within the industry.
Next year our predicted view count should surpass seven-hundred thousand. My optimistic goal is to hit over eight-hundred but the seven-hundred number is more then reasonable and should be easily accomplished. This traffic will be a mix from all corners of the industry including manufacturers, distributors, contractors, technicians, and even end-users.
I’ve mentioned this earlier and in previous posts, but my goal with RefrigerantHQ is to turn it into a full fledged refrigerant magazine and for it to turn into a full time income source. Today there are multiple revenue streams that are helping me reach this goal.
I have considered offering advertising on my website as well from various sponsors throughout the industry. While I have had a few inquiries I have yet to sign with a company. At this point I am uncertain if this is the business model I want to move forward with. Time will tell.
If any of you have other ideas for potential revenue streams I am open to suggestions.
Thanks for reading and I hope you and your family have a great New Year!
R-12 refrigerant is one of the founding fathers of the refrigeration and air conditioning world. While there were many other refrigerants that came before the invention of R-12 there were none quite up to par and none that had all of what R-12 had to offer. But, before we get into why the refrigerant was banned let’s first take a look at some of it’s history and where it came from.
Prior to the 1930’s there were various types of refrigerants being used across the country and the world. These could range from Ammonia, Carbon Dioxide, and various other Hydrocarbons such as Propane and Isobutane. While these refrigerants did work and did provide users with a colder room or storage area they also came with various problems.
These problems could range from all over. In some cases the refrigerant was toxic if breathed in large quantities like Ammonia. In others the refrigerant was too flammable for safe use like Propane and Isobutane. While Carbon Dioxide was not toxic or flammable it’s downside was that it required an immense amount of pressure for it to complete the refrigeration cycle. Each of these refrigerants were used as a mish mash across different industries. There was not one industry leader.
All of that changed in the early 1930’s when the DuPont corporation formed a partnership with General Motors. It was during this partnership that a series of new refrigerants were invented. These new refrigerants fell under the classifications of CFCs and HCFCs. One of these newly invented refrigerants was R-12 Freon.
R-12 was one of the first refrigerants that checked all of the boxes. It was efficient. It was safe. It was non-flammable. It didn’t require immense operating pressure. All of these factors caused the amount of use of R-12 and other CFC/HCFCs to explode over the decades.
By the time 1980 hit R-12 and other CFC/HCFC refrigerants were found all over the globe. R-12 was found in nearly every car that had air conditioning. It was at this same time that a team of scientists began to notice that the Ozone layer was beginning to weaken and that there was a hole forming. The Ozone layer is a layer in the Earth’s Stratosphere that acts as a shield from ultraviolet radiation. Without it we would all be exposed to much more intense radiation that could result in increases of skin cancers and other ailments.
Alarmed at their findings the scientists alerted their governments about the problem. This eventually led to a global meeting of hundreds of countries in Montreal, Quebec. During this meeting a treaty was signed by all countries. This treaty became known as the Montreal Protocol. The treaty aimed at phasing down and phasing out various types of chemicals and agents that were contributing to the damage of the Ozone layer.
One of the first targets of global phase down was none other then R-12 refrigerant. At that time R-12 was used widely in automobiles. There was a set model year where there would be a hard stop across the country. When that date came no new vehicles would be using R-12 and would instead be transitioned over to the HFC refrigerant R-134a. (R-134a does not harm the Ozone layer.)
It was almost like ripping off a band aid. Rip it off and get it over with. That’s exactly what we did by transitioning over to the R-134a HFC refrigerant. All of the older vehicles that were using R-12 would eventually breakdown and retire. It was the beginning of the end of R-12. Within a decade or two the last remaining R-12 cars would be off the road. Sure, there will still be those collectors out there who drive vintage R-12 systems but the amount is negligible.
In conclusion folks R-12 Freon was banned due to the damage that it caused to the Ozone layer. The Chlorine found in CFC refrigerants like R-12 would not break down in the atmosphere when vented or leaked. The Chlorine would then erode the Ozone bit by bit. By having R-12 no longer in use we have begun to see the Ozone heal. Hopefully in another generator all of the damage from the 20th century will be undone.
This is a question we get a lot here at RefrigerantHQ and I thought I would take some time today to lay it all out and answer everyone’s questions. First, let’s take a look at R-22 Freon itself. R-22 is an HCFC refrigerant, also known as a HydroChloroFluroCarbons. These HCFC refrigerants along with CFC refrigerants were some of the very first mainstream refrigerants seen across the world.
R-12 and R-22 along with other CFC/HCFC refrigerants were invented back in the 1930’s as the result of a partnership between the DuPont company and the General Motors corporation. These new refrigerants checked all of the boxes for them to be a mainstream refrigerant. Other competing refrigerants such as Ammonia, Carbon Dioxide, and Hydrocarbons all had their own problems that limited their application usage. It could be their toxicity, their flammability, their operating pressures, or just their overall cost. Either way they were not feasible for widespread use.
The CFC and HCFC refrigerants were the key to a global refrigerant and air conditioning world. It didn’t take long for their usages to explode across the globe. By the time the 1980’s hit there were air conditioners and refrigerators all across the globe and they were nearly all using CFC or HCFC refrigerants like R-22.
It was at this same time that a team of scientists began to notice that the Ozone layer was beginning to weaken and that there was a hole forming. The Ozone layer is a layer in the Earth’s Stratosphere that acts as a shield from ultraviolet radiation. Without it we would all be exposed to much more intense radiation that could result in increases of skin cancers and other ailments.
Alarmed at their findings the scientists alerted their governments about the problem. This eventually led to a global meeting of hundreds of countries in Montreal, Quebec. During this meeting a treaty was signed by all countries. This treaty became known as the Montreal Protocol. The treaty aimed at phasing down and phasing out various types of chemicals and agents that were contributing to the damage of the Ozone layer.
Included in these chemicals to be phased out were CFC and HCFC refrigerants such as R-22. The first refrigerant to be phased out was R-12. In the early 1990’s the phase out began. At that time R-12 was used widely in automobiles. There was a set model year where there would be a hard stop across the country. When that date came no new vehicles would be using R-12 and would instead be transitioned over to the HFC refrigerant R-134a. (R-134a does not harm the Ozone layer.)
As time went on there were other refrigerants phased down and eventually banned. On January 1st, 2010 is when the scheduled phase down of R-22 began. Like with other phase downs the steps would be gradual. R-22 was used ALL over the country in nearly every home and commercial air conditioner. To completely remove R-22 from the country would take time.
While the phase down plan began in 2010 it would not end for another ten years. Yes, the final stage of the phase down for R-22 is January 1st, 2020. On this date no new R-22 refrigerant can be manufactured or imported into the United States. In the between years there have been restrictions to what’s allowed to be imported or produced but the solid stop hard date is 2020.
In conclusion folks R-22 was banned from the US due to the damage that it caused to the Ozone layer when the refrigerant was vented into the atmosphere. The Chlorine within this HCFC refrigerant is what did the damage. Today’s refrigerants like HFC refrigerants do not contain Chlorine and thusly no longer do any damage to the Ozone.
Refrigerant is something that is never thought about. Even though it can be found literally in every building, car, and grocery store today. After all, something has to keep us and our food cold. The very rare time that when we do think of refrigerant is when we are faced with an expensive bill to repair our air conditioner.
Often times when faced with an air conditioner repair the costliest part is the actual recharging of refrigerant. Depending on what type of refrigerant your system uses you could be looking at a hundred dollar recharge or somewhere around five-hundred dollars. When consumers receive these quotes from their contractors a lot of them go into sticker shock and wonder if they can save some money by taking matters into their own hands.
First, let me stop you right there. Your HVAC contractor are trained professionals. They have gone to school for this knowledge and most likely have years of experience. Yes, the quote they may be providing is expensive but you also need to consider that they are running a business and need to make a profit themselves.
Ok, now that that is out of the way let’s take a look if you are able to purchase refrigerant. The short answer here is, no… no you are not able to purchase refrigerant. It didn’t always used to be this way. In fact, prior to 2018 end users who were not certified were able to purchase HFC refrigerants such as R-410A, R-134a, and R-404A. This all changed though on January 1st, 2018 when the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new regulation that passed the purchase restrictions found on CFC and HCFC refrigerants over to HFC refrigerants.
In today’s world the only way you can purchase CFC, HCFC, and HFC refrigerants is by being Section 608 of the Clean Air Act certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. This certification was designed to only allow professional HVAC technicians from handling and using refrigerant. This was done due to the harmful effects that refrigerants can have on the environment. CFC and HCFC refrigerants such as R-12 and R-22 actively damage the Ozone layer when they are vented into the atmosphere. HFC refrigerants such as R-410A and R-404A have what’s known as a high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. A high GWP product actively contributes to Global Warming and Climate Change when they are vented into the atmosphere either by mistake or intention.
All this being said, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for those of you who wish to purchase HFC refrigerants like R-410A. It was announced in October of 2018 that the EPA was looking at rescinding the January 1st, 2018 purchase restrictions on HFC refrigerants. While nothing official has been announced yet we may see a time where HFCs are no longer regulated in not too distant future.
Today though folks there is not a legal way for you to purchase refrigerant. The only exception here is if you are purchasing cans of refrigerant that are under two pounds and even in this instance only certain refrigerants can be bought this way.
A lot of the times when your air conditioner goes out the most expensive part of the repair is recharging your system with refrigerant. Sometimes this bill can be a couple hundred dollars and other times closer to-five hundred. With this high priced bill facing them a consumer sometimes considers purchasing the product on their own.
The term Freon is used commonly across the country as a generic term for refrigerant. What you may not know is that Freon and refrigerant aren’t exactly the same and they are not interchangeable. Instead, the word Freon is a brand name of refrigerant. Let’s think of it this way. “I’m going to go purchase a car.” Now, let me say that a different way, “I’m going to purchase a Ford.” Just as Ford is a brand of car the term Freon is a brand of refrigerant. Make sense now?
Now the question is can you purchase Freon? Well, first thing’s first, you need to determine what kind of refrigerant your air conditioner takes. The refrigerant type for your air conditioner will be on a label on the unit outside your home. If you are not able to find it there you can also look up your make and model number online to determine what refrigerant is needed. A lot of times in today’s world you’ll find that your air conditioner doesn’t even take Freon but instead takes a refrigerant known as Puron.
Regardless of what refrigerant it takes you are unfortunately not able to purchase it without being licensed and certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. If your air conditioner does take Freon, or R-22, then you will need to be Section 608 Clean Air Act certified with the EPA. The same can now be said if your system takes R-410A or Puron. In the past, prior to 2018, you were able to purchase Puron and other HFC refrigerants without a license. However, new EPA regulations went into affect on January 1st, 2018 that prevented sales and handling of HFC refrigerants to non-certified people.
These regulations were put in place due to the environmental damage that HFC refrigerants like R-410A, R-404A, and R-134 cause. These refrigerants have what’s known as a high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. The higher the GWP the more damage a refrigerant can do to the climate. The aim is that by regulation the goverment can limit who can purchase and handle these high GWP refrigerants and that the amount of refrigerant gases vented into the atmosphere will be lessened.
While this law has only been effective for less then a year there is already talk from the Trump ran EPA to reverse this policy and to allow un-certified end users began to purchase HFC refrigerants again. This is all still preliminary but if this regulation does get rescinded then you will be able to purchase HFC refrigerants like Puron again without any license required.
If you do find that your system takes R-22 Freon refrigerant then you are out of luck. R-22 is an HCFC refrigerant and is strictly regulated. There is no talk of rescinding this regulation as R-22 will be completely phased out by the year 2020.
The term or name Freon is commonly used all over the country to describe what is inside your home or vehicle’s air conditioner. While we have all heard of this term before many of us do not really know what Freon is, where it comes from, or how it works. First, let me explain that the term Freon refers to the refrigerant that is inside your air conditioner. Freon and refrigerant though are not inter-changeable. In fact, the name Freon is a brand of refrigerant.
Confused yet? Well, let’s put it this way. When you want a soda you may either say, ‘I want a soda,’ or you may say, ‘I want a Coke.’ There are two distinct differences here. The term soda is a generic name for various types of cola. The name Coke is referring to a specific brand of soda called Coca-Cola. The same logic can be applied to the term Freon and refrigerant.
The reason the Freon brand is so commonly used and referred to in today’s world is that the Freon brand was the first mainstream refrigerant that was used across the world. The Freon refrigerant was invented all the way back in the 1930’s through a partnership with the DuPont company and General Motors. Together the companies synthesized the first CFC and HCFC refrigerants known as R-12 and R-22. These new classes of refrigerants were trademarked by DuPont under the brand name Freon.
The moment these new refrigerants were invented they began to take off in popularity. That was because they checked all of the boxes of what the world was looking for in a refrigerant. Past refrigerants such as Ammonia, Carbon Dioxide, and Hydrocarbons all had their own problems associated with them. They were either dangerous to operate due to their toxicity, they operated at too high of pressures and caused constant failures, or the refrigerant was just too expensive to use in mass. The Freon branded refrigerants changed all of this and put refrigeration and air conditioning within reach of the common man.
The Fall of Freon
Fast forwarding nearly fifty years into the future into the 1980’s and Freon appliances can be found all across the globe. Air conditioning is found in all of the newest homes and refrigerators/freezers are everywhere. It was around this same time that a team of scientists discovered that there was a hole forming in what’s known as the Ozone layer. This Ozone layer protects us from ultraviolet radiation, without it skin damage and cancers would begin to skyrocket. After some research it was discovered that the primary cause of this hole was the releasing or venting of gases into the atmosphere that contain Chlorine.
Freon refrigerants such as R-12 and R-22 were under the CFC and HCFC classifications. Each of these classifications contained Chlorine. So, with the rise and popularity of refrigeration and air conditioning growing so did the problem with the Ozone layer. In an effort to fix the damage and prevent any further destruction form occurring a group of countries gathered together in Montreal and signed a treaty known as the Montreal Protocol. This treaty aimed at phasing down CFC and HCFC refrigerants and replacing them with either HFC refrigerants, Hydrocarbon refrigerants, or Natural Refrigerants. The Chlorine refrigerants had to go.
The first to be removed was the CFC R-12. R-12 was found in various applications but the most impactful was the vehicle air conditioning sector. After 1992 all vehicles had to switch away from R-12 and over to the new HFC refrigerant known as R-134a. This was the first real test of phasing down refrigerants. As the years rolled by more and more CFCs and eventually HCFC refrigerants were phased down and eventually phased out entirely. Some of these include R-11, R-502, and R-22. That last one, R-22 is a big one as well. R-22 was found in nearly every home and commercial air conditioning unit in the world. Here in America the phase down began in 2010 and will finish in 2020. Like with most phase downs it is a gradual staggered approach.
While the term Freon is still used all over the place today the fact of the matter is that actual Freon using systems are nearly gone. Sure, there are still some antiques out there and there are still some older R-22 machines still chugging along but as each year passes these machines age and age. After a certain amount of time they will have to be retired and then the world will have no more Freon containing systems.
But, don’t worry folks, I’m sure the name Freon will still be around for decades to come. It is one of those brand names that has just stuck in everyone’s head. However, if you are talking to an HVAC technician and you wanted to be correct in your refrigerant name then you should check your air conditioner. If it says that your unit takes R-22 refrigerant then you can get away with calling it Freon. If you find that your system is using the HFC R-410A refrigerant then the brand name for this product is actually Puron.
Either way, if you say Freon most people are going to know what you’re talking about even if it isn’t one-hundred percent correct.
The refrigerant and air conditioning industry isn’t going away. In fact, just the opposite is happening. As more and more of the world becomes wealthier and people’s lives improve the amount of air conditioners, refrigerators, and freezers will grow. One statistic I read said that India is expected to purchase over one billion air conditioners over the next decade. That number is absolutely insane to think about. While all of these new air conditioners provide us with great comfort, they also have a negative effect on the environment.
Any of you who have been in the industry for just a short while know just what kind of effects refrigerant can have on the Earth. In the 1980’s the Montreal Protocol was introduced in an effort to phase down Ozone depleting CFC and HCFC refrigerants such as R-12, R-22, and R-502. Today the Ozone is recovering and things are beginning to look brighter. If this hadn’t have happened the amount of CFCs and HCFCs in the world would only have grown and the damage to the Ozone could have been irreversible.
While the Ozone is doing better now the next big concern is the extremely high Global Warming Potential, or GWP, of HFC refrigerants such as R-404A, R-134a, and R-410A. Each of these refrigerants comes with a high GWP and when one of these refrigerants is vented or leaked into the atmosphere they contribute and accelerate Global Warming. There have been various efforts to move away from these high GWP refrigerants. Over the past few years we have seen the new HFO class of refrigerants be introduced. We have seen various recipes of HFCs come to market all offering lower GWP alternatives. Along with that many businesses have opted for the classic refrigerants such as Ammonia, Carbon Dioxide, or Hydrocarbons. Whatever refrigerant is chosen, the end goal is the same: Reduce Global Warming Potential of refrigerants and do it as soon as possible.
The Global Warming of refrigerants is already a problem and with exponential growth predicted in the future decades it is only going to grow. The question now though is what can we do change direction? How can we provide air conditioning and refrigeration to the world without destroying the world in the process?
The Global Cooling Prize
In an effort to answer this question it was announced this month that Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines/Records, will be offering a three million dollar prize to an individual or company that invents a better more climate friendly residential air conditioner. This initiative known as the ‘Global Cooling Prize,’ is aimed at incentivizing people from around the globe and get everyone’s gears turning.
The goal is have a cooling technology that has five times less impact then current air conditioning technology. This impact can be a mix of GWP and kilowatts used. So, if you shrink the GWP by a significant amount and the power consumption only slightly you’ll still be able to qualify. There’s one more catch though folks, the new air conditioner can’t be more then twice as expensive as the existing ones on the market place. After all, you don’t want to price it out of reach of the average consumer.
As I was reading all of this criteria I thought to myself… well this will be easy. Let’s just use Ammonia! Haha. There’s no GWP to worry about here and no Ozone depletion either. Top it all off, Ammonia is an extremely efficient refrigerant so your power consumption would go down as well. Something told me that it wasn’t going to be that easy and after I read a bit more I saw a some fine print about refrigerant toxicity being a consideration as well. There’s goes my three million dollars!
There are many conditions and considerations that need to be taken into account for before a submission can be entered for this contest. You can read all about the specifics and qualifications to enter by clicking here. One example that the GlobalCoolingPrize site uses is R-290 or Carbon Dioxide. See below excerpt:
A solution that uses R290 refrigerant (GWP 3) achieves a 99.9% reduction from the baseline GWP. If it also consumes 4x less electricity than the baseline, it achieves a 75% reduction from the baseline electricity. This when combined together using the assigned 80%-20% electricity refrigerant weighting would result in combined impact of 80% reduction from the baseline i.e. it achieves a 5X climate impact. Therefore, this proposed solution will receive 100 points. Similarly, if the proposed solution is powered by solar PV mounted on it without exceeding the overall unit volumetric sizing criteria and uses zero GWP, it achieves a combined impact of 100% from the baseline and will receive 200 points.
This isn’t going to be an easy contest by any means folks, but the real hope here is to revolutionize the air conditioning industry. Don’t let the fact that refrigerant giants like Chemours and Honeywell haven’t come up with a solution already deter you. A lot of the times these giant companies get their blinders on and only see tunnel vision. Some of the most interesting innovations come from outside of the box, or even outside the company thinking.
One great example of this is what Daimler did when the European Union was phasing down R-134a. All the EU said was that refrigerants over XYZ Global Warming Potential would no longer be allowed. So, what did everyone do? They all switched to the new HFO 1234yf. YF was the easy solution and most everyone took the easy route. Not Daimler though. No, they went their own way and pioneered the way on using R-744, Carbon Dioxide, for vehicle air conditioning.
My point is folks that with enough dedication and creativity we very well may see a solution for this and that is exactly what this contest hopes to inspire. I know I could do a lot with three million dollars. Now I just need to think of an idea…
Well folks we are quickly approaching the end of another year. I’ve always heard it said by those older then me that time flies and the saying holds truer with each year that passes. I’m only thirty-two today but I swear I was twenty yesterday. It was a challenging year for my family and I and we are looking forward to the new year. As we all began to prepare for 2019 and decide what goals we want to tackle we should also stop to consider the changes that we can expect within the industry.
Rather you like it or not, the refrigerant and air conditioning industry are always changing rather it be through new technology advancements or through mandatory phase outs on Ozone or high Global Warming Potential refrigerants. Some of these next year changes are coming directly to the good old Section 608 of the Clean Air Act. Yes, yes… we’re all familiar with 608 certification, but were you aware that revisions have been made and are going into effect in just over a month from now?
I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t aware of the changes. I like to think I keep a pretty good eye on the industry and what’s happening within it but yet somehow I missed this as well. The changes in question have to deal with record keeping, leak rates, and retrofit/retirement timetables in the retail food sector. Some of you may not even work with these types of systems, but it’s never a bad thing to learn something new. Those of you who do work with these types of systems though, even if it’s once and a blue moon, should continue reading.
Originally when the leak rate changes were introduced they were thought to be applied to CFC, HCFC, and HFC refrigerants. While this is still the case today, the EPA did announce last month that they were considering removing the leak regulations on HFC refrigerants. This proposed rule was able to be commented on by the public and a ruling from the EPA is expected shortly. In the interim, we are going to treat these changes to 608 like they are affecting both HFCs and CFC/HCFC refrigerants.
I had mentioned earlier that I wasn’t aware of these 608 changes coming in 2019. Well, I was made aware by a company that most of you are familiar with: Bacharach. The Bacharach brand is known for their high quality tools ranging from recovery machines, vacuums, refrigerant monitors, and most famously: Their leak detectors such as the H-10 Pro. If I’m not mistaken this is one of the highest regarded detectors in the business.
Going back to the subject at hand, a representative at Bacharach informed me of the upcoming 608 changes and also provided me with their ‘EPA Section 608 2019 Refrigerant Compliance Checklist & Guidelines,’ sheet. This sheet that Bacharach put together aims at answering any and all questions on the upcoming changes to 608 for next year as well as providing you and your business a checklist to ensure that you are prepared for next year. I was asked to share this sheet with my readers and after reading it myself I am more then comfortable in doing so. It is very well put together, provides you the needed information, and goes through each change point by point.
If you would like your own free copy of the sheet please click here to be taken to Bacharach’s official website.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The future is looking very bright for those pursuing a career in the HVAC/R field as technicians, installers and electromagnetic engineers. TheBureau of Labor Statistics, estimates industry growth of 15 percent through 2026. By all accounts, it appears jobs will be there for well-trained graduates of HVAC/R training programs.
However, the numbers are not all so rosy when it comes to gender diversity in the mechanical trades workforce. In fact, women only make up an estimated1.2 percent of the industry workforce and only around seven percent of HVAC installation and repair companies are owned by women.
By comparison, women are spending around the same amount or more on schooling for careers with a lower starting salary. For example, 93 percent of dental assistants are women and earn at least $10,000 less per year than HVAC technicians.
Attracting Women to a Fulfilling Career in HVAC/R
There’s simply no excuse for the industry to be around 98 percent dominated by men. That’s why more trade schools and industry professionals are working to bring more women into the field. Increasing gender diversity in the field is a key goal for schools likeRSI, The Refrigeration School in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Refrigeration School, and others like it throughout the country, are offering scholarships for women interested in the skilled trades and launching promotions campaigns to make more women aware of opportunities in the skilled trades.
Making the Case for Women in HVAC
Career stability and higher earning potential than women-dominated industries are only the beginning. Women pursuing a career in HVAC can expect a faster-track to the job market and more affordable schooling.
Hands-on and career focused: Educational programs provide hands-on, career focused training unlike traditional four-year institutions. Earning a diploma or certificate to become an HVAC/R technician typically takes between six months to one year to complete.
Growing job market: The need for technicians is growing across the country. The rate of growth is classified by the BLS as “much faster than average.” This means HVAC technicians can expect plenty of job openings, especially in the Southwest and warmer climates.
Affordable education: As noted in the resource below, four years at a public university costs about $112,000. A comparable education at a private college can run as much as $236,000! Trade school, on the other hand can be completed for around $16,600.
The Next generation of Leadership in HVAC/R
Entering a male-dominate field can have its challenges, but many women are finding success and enjoyment in the field. It’s time for more women to break into this rewarding field. From entry-level HVAC technicians to the corporate level, there is a huge need for female leadership.
There’s lots of potential and opportunity for women looking to enter the heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration field. They will play a crucial role in building the industry, bringing new ideas and increasing gender diversity in an overwhelmingly male-dominate profession. Check out the infographic below as well provided to us by the RSI, The Refrigeration School.
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