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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.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

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

Freon

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

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

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

Do You Have a Freon R-22 System?

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

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

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

Price

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

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

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

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

Sealed System

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

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

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

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

Repair or Replace?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

R-1234yf

I read an article earlier this week on counterfeit 1234yf refrigerant being caught at a port in Poland. This refrigerant was no doubt bound for the Western European market. Polish authorities, in co-ordination with Honeywell, seized the counterfeit shipment and had it destroyed at the purchaser’s expense. As most of you know R-134a was phased out entirely in new vehicles within the European Union. While there was not a specific refrigerant chosen as a replacement most of the market moved towards this new HFO known as R-1234yf. It had a low Global Warming Potential, it had no Ozone Depletion Potential, and it was only slightly flammable. It seemed like the perfect solution.

This was great news to the big refrigerant manufacturers Honeywell and Chemours (DuPont). These two companies hold patents on 1234yf. This patent is not expiring anytime soon. In essence, these two companies have a monopoly on the automotive market within the European Union. There is an alternative refrigerant, CO2/R-744, that was developed by the German company Daimler… but it is still in it’s infancy stages and is not widely used in new models yet.


After writing this article I was informed that I was mistaken when it comes to the patents on 1234yf. There are various patents that are held on 1234yf and they fall into two categories. The first is known as the process patent and the other is known as the application patent.

The process patent is a patent on the recipe that is used to create HFO 1234yf. Honeywell holds a patent here, but there are other ways to create 1234yf. So, outside companies can produce 1234yf legally and hopefully come in at a competitive price point.

The application patents are just that. They are patents on the certain applications that 1234yf can be used in. Honeywell for example holds patents using 1234yf in automotive applications. So, while other companies can produce 1234yf we are still at a bottleneck with the application patents. The good news is that these may expire earlier then the 2030 date that I had mentioned earlier.


The price on R-1234yf is a whole other story. Typically, you could get a pound of R-134a for around three-dollars. This is what folks were used to and what they expected to pay if they needed an air conditioning repair. R-1234yf however is in a whole other ballpark. Your typical price per pound on this product could range from fifty to seventy dollars a pound.  That is nearly a two-thousand percent increase in price to businesses and customers.

So, now let’s look at this critically. We have a very high priced product, a product that is produced by a select few companies, and it is a product that EVERY vehicle within the European Union needs. I’m sorry folks, but these three points means that this is a prime candidate for counterfeit or fraudulent product to hit the market. This is just human nature. Yeah, there is a risk if these folks get caught but there is also a huge reward: profit. Think if this counterfeit product hits the market at twenty percent less then the genuine Honeywell/Chemours product. Customer gets a significant savings and the business behind it makes a killing.

In order to stop this fraudulent product Honeywell has been working with various governments within the European Union and even with China. There was a publicized incident last year in the Czech Republic where fraudulent 1234yf was found at a port. The year before Honeywell and the Chinese government prosecuted a person involved in the production and sale of counterfeit 1234yf. This individual received nine months in jail. There was another incident reported by the CoolingPost last month. This time a shipment was seized at a Polish port.

Most of this product either comes in to a Eastern European country’s port or it travels by road from China, into Turkey, into Bulgaria, and then to whatever western country they wish. Just like with previous counterfeit refrigerant, the product is coming from China. These are most likely the same guys who were producing counterfeit R-22 a few years back when R-22’s price had hit record highs. It was also the Chinese that was found to be violating the Montreal Protocol by still widely producing and using R-11. It is not a surprise that they are diving into the fraudulent HFO market.

Honeywell states that they are going after these fraudulent 1234yf products to protect consumers and to protect their equipment.  They may very well have the interests of protecting consumers but, in my opinion, all this is is Honeywell protecting their monopoly and aggressively going after anyone tries to infringe on their market. Whatever their motivations are they are going to have one hell of a game of whack-a-mole on their hands. The Chinese have been very lackadaisical when it comes to enforcing regulations and preventing illegal products from being manufactured and sold. For every company that Honeywell goes after another one will pop right back up.

Who knows folks, maybe this product is one-hundred percent clean and is made to the same specifications that Honeywell/Chemours have set forward. Even if it was though it would still be targeted and destroyed for patent infringement.  I won’t make a lot of friends by saying this, but I am not a fan of this monopoly. No two companies should control the entire automotive refrigerant market.

Conclusion

While we haven’t felt the pressure of this high priced HFO product here in the United States I can assure you folks that it is coming and it is coming sooner then you think. Earlier this year I did an article on the number of cars using 1234yf. The numbers were staggering. In 2019 nearly sixty percent of new vehicles use R-1234yf. In just a few years that number is expected to climb to ninety percent. R-134a is being phased out here in the United States as well and the only real alternative at this time is 1234yf.

This trend only really started to hit US automotive manufacturers back in 2015. Most automotive companies state that it takes an average of five to six years for a vehicle to need an HVAC repair. Next year is when we may really start to see that sticker shock when folks begin bringing in their vehicles for an air conditioning repair. We could have a simple compressor replacement and recharge price increase by hundreds of dollars.

Don’t get me wrong folks, I am not advocating for any illegal product. Frankly, it is not safe and you never truly know what you are getting. That being said, there definitely needs to be more competition introduced into the 1234yf marketplace.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

7-Eleven, the world’s largest convenience store with sixty-eight thousand stores, has announced a partnership with Honeywell and their Solstice refrigerant line. Specifically, 7-Eleven has announced that they will be switching their condensers away from R-404A and over to the Solstice N40 refrigerant in the United States and Canadian markets. That is nearly twelve-thousand stores. This was the next logical step for 7-Eleven as last year they began a similar transition in their Japanese market. This switch was mandated by law, but it must have gave 7-Eleven the encouragement to switch additional stores over in North America.

I’m not an expert on supermarket or gas station coolers, but I noticed that when I was reading about this that they only intend to replace the condensers and not the rest of the machine. I am assuming that these are cascade systems that are being replaced and that the other refrigerant used is more climate friendly such as R-744. If any of you know of a different approach that they could be using feel free to let me know. It is always good to learn something new!

The replacement refrigerant known as Solstice N40, or R-448A, is a newer refrigerant from the Honeywell corporation. This refrigerant is a zeotropic blend between numerous refrigerants and is classified as an HFC/HFO mixture. It contains twenty-six percent of HFC R-32, twenty-six percent of HFC R-125, twenty-one percent of HFC R-134a, seven percent of HFO R-1234ze, and twenty percent of HFO R-1234yf. Just by the numbers I would call R-448A an HFC refrigerant rather then an HFO.

R-448A is designed as a replacement for R-404A in supermarket systems and can be used as a retrofit as well as on newer models. The retrofit is fairly simple and has been described as a near drop in replacement for R-404A. Notice I said ‘near.’ There are still some slight adjustments that have to be made before it can be used in an 404A system. 448A is meant for low and medium applications commonly found in super-markets, gas stations, vending machines, and other smaller systems.

It has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of one-thousand two-hundred and seventy-three. While that is still quite a high GWP it is nowhere near it’s predecessor. R-404A has a GWP of three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty-two. By making the switch to R-448A 7-Eleven will see a nearly sixty percent reduction of GWP. It is also more efficient then R-404A. In the lower temperature applications users can expect to see five percent in energy savings. With the medium temperature systems users can see up to fifteen percent in energy savings.

Lastly, it is safe as well with an A1 rating from ASHRAE. That means it is non-flammable and non-toxic. The flammability rating is a big deal as so many newer refrigerants nowadays seem to sacrifice safety for environment. Take R-1234yf for example, it’s predecessor R-134a was not flammable at all. 1234yf on the other hand is rated as 2L or slightly flammable. It is good to see that a next generation refrigerant is able to tackle both GWP and public/technician safety.

Conclusion

While 7-Eleven moves forward with this new refrigerant the question that I have on my mind is how long will this refrigerant last? Yes, it is a definite improvement over the HFC R-404A but it still has a GWP of over one-thousand. This refrigerant may last for a while and companies can all give themselves a pat on the back for becoming more environmentally friendly, but chances are that they will have to be switching refrigerants again in another five to ten years due to the pressure of getting rid of high GWP refrigerants.

If it was me I would either hold off on replacing/updating my HFC equipment, or if I had to update then I would opt for a natural or hydrocarbon refrigerant such as R-744 or R-290. At least with these you know that you do not have the risk of phase down looming around the corner. If there is one thing business owners can’t stand it is uncertainty.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

United AirLines

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

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

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

The Investment

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources:

Update

Hello all, hope everyone had a great Fourth of July. I took my girls out to my city’s gathering for the night while the wife stayed home with my son. It turned out to be a good night and just a few minutes after the show thunderstorms rolled in. It was perfect timing and the girls fell asleep on the way back to the house. Memories in the making.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the refrigerant industry over the past few weeks and I have to say it has been rather slow when it comes to news stories. I’ve been looking for something exciting to write about and it just hasn’t shown up. The only promising lead I have seen come across my alerts is that the state of Delaware has announced they will begin phasing out HFC refrigerants as well. In this case instead of going through the State Congress the governor of Delaware has given the responsibility over to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. (DNREC – The equivalent of the EPA for the state of Delaware.) The DNREC has until March of 2020 to propose HFC phase down regulations.

This now brings the total up to seven states that have passed laws or are working on regulations that will phase out HFC refrigerants. Many more states that are part of the Climate Alliance are expected their own plans to phase down HFCs as well. I hate writing smaller news stories so I didn’t feel like this one warranted it’s own update. If you want to read more on this topic though you can click here and be taken to the hydrocarbons21.com website. They did a story on this a few days ago.

One thing that I did want to mention to everyone is that I will be starting a new full-time job on Monday the 8th. For those of you who do not know, RefrigerantHQ is a hobby of mine that I work on during the evenings and weekends. I had a great opportunity fall into my lap that will allow my expanding family to purchase a larger home.  My new job will be in the same field that I work today, software and website development.

As always with a new job the first few months can be rather hectic as you try to learn and absorb everything that you can. I have every intention to make time for RefrigerantHQ over these next few months, but if you notice the updates have slowed a bit this is why.  Once I get acclimated and have become accustomed to things I foresee the usual updates that you have all seen over the past years.

Thank you all for reading and as always, if you have any article ideas please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Thanks again,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

China

It was announced today that the 2022 Olympics that will be held in Beijing will be using a combination of R-744 Carbon Dioxide refrigerant and an HFO refrigerant known as R-449A. In both instances this will be the first time that China has used these alternative more environmentally friendly refrigerants. R-744 will be used for the speed skating, figure skating, short track venues, and ice hockey training areas. The HFO refrigerant R-449A from Chemours will be used in the ice hockey and curling arenas.

This decision was made due to careful collaboration between the city of Beijing, the International Sports Federations, and the International Olympic Committee. Along with this decision Beijing has also announced that they will be joining the United Nation Sports for Climate Action Framework. This organization was launched by the United Nations in December of 2018 and aims to set a clear set of goals for sports communities around the world to follow.

While other sports organizations have signed up like the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024, it is a great achievement to have China on board with using these climate friendly refrigerants. In the past China has been reluctant to change. This may be the first step towards progress.

As you all know, R-744 has a Global Warming Potential of one and zero Ozone Depletion Potential. It is in essence a climate neutral refrigerant. The HFO refrigerant, also known as Opteon XP40, is a blended HFO refrigerant comprised of HF R-32, HFC R-125, HFC R-134a, and HFO R-1234yf. It is far from a climate neutral refrigerant as it has a Global Warming Potential of fourteen-hundred. While yes, this number seems high, it is substantially lower GWP then some of the HFC alternatives out there like R-404A and R-507.For example, the HFC R-404A has a GWP of nearly four-thousand. Just by making this switch there is a significant savings to the climate.

Conclusion

Many folks are excited about this news as it shows some of the first steps towards the Chinese market moving away from climate damaging HFC refrigerants. China, just like the United States, has NOT ratified the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol. This amendment aimed at phasing down HFC refrigerants over a staggered year period. It is very similar to the original Montreal Protocol steps that were used to phase out CFC and HCFC refrigerants. So far there have been seventy-three countries that have ratified the Kigali agreement.

An optimist may claim that this could be a sign that China will be ratifying the Kigali Amendment soon. If you were to ask me though I would say that it is not likely to happen for quite some time. Even if China does ratify the Kigali would they even honor the agreement?

Late last year and this year it was found that China was in defiance of the original Montreal Protocol. China had been found to be producing R-11, a CFC, in large quantities. Their government denied knowledge of the events and stated that it was rogue companies creating and distributing these refrigerants.

If the Kigali Amendment gets ratified would we see these behind the scenes tactics arise again?  It could be that this gesture towards the Olympic Committee is being made for temporary appeasement just so that China can host the games. Or, it could be genuine. There is just no good way to tell.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

alert

On April 4th, 2019 a suit was filed by the HFC Coalition to the International Trade Commission (ITC). This suit aimed at stopping the dumping of HFC blended refrigerants such as R-410A, R-404A, and R-407C. The ITC’s decision on rather or not to review the suit was set for a deadline in May, but it was then pushed back to July. We were all expecting a decision to come next month but it was announced at the tail end of this week that the ITC has decided to accept the case and began the inquiry.

There have already been anti-dumping tariffs on HFC blends for a few years now, but the ITC’s ruling back then stated that only the blended refrigerant could be subject to the tariff. The components of these blends were not subject to the tax. So, businesses could import R-32 and R-125 refrigerants from China and face no penalties. These same businesses would then blend the refrigerant here in the States and then circumvent the tariff.

This oversight by the International Trade Commission has led to what we have today. Dirt cheap prices on some of the most common HFC refrigerants used. In essence, the initial levying of tariffs on blended refrigerants had very little impact. Everyone was getting around the tariff by importing components. It was like nothing had changed.

This is where the new suit filed in April comes into play. This case targeted the components of these blended refrigerants. On the original announcement of the suit prices on HFC blends went up nearly forty to fifty percent. As the dust began to settle prices slowly sank back down to pre-suit levels. Now though, the ITC has announced that they will hear this new case.

The Inquiry

As I said previously, the Department of Commerce has decided to began an inquiry on HFC refrigerant components. Originally, everyone had thought that the inquiry would be solely focused the blending process of the components. So, if you imported the components and then blended them into an HFC blend that is tariffed then you would be subject to the tax.

To my surprise though there were four inquiries announced this week. Let’s take a look:

  1. The first inquiry is what we just mentioned above. This is the blending of the components within the United States and circumventing the tariff. If the ITC agrees then a tariff would be installed on the blending process if the components are sourced from China.
  2. The next is what’s known as unfinished blends. I’ll be upfront with you here, I don’t know one-hundred percent what this is but my educated guess is that this is Chinese refrigerant companies blending the refrigerants but NOT to the exact levels to meet the anti-dumping blended requirements. In other words, they get it close to R-410A… but not all the way. This process would also be taxed if the ITC approves.
  3. The next inquiry is similar to our first point. This has to deal with importing components and blending them in a different country. The difference here though is that this is referencing India in particular. In this scenario, China exports the refrigerant components to India and then India blends them to create the blended HFC. This was yet another work around that companies found as the country of origin is India… even though the goods came from China. If approved anti-dumping would be installed in this scenario as well. While the initial inquiry only states India that does not mean that other countries are exempt. Say for example, China imports components into Vietnam and they blend there. If a decision is made here let’s hope it applies to all countries.
  4. The last change is on the blended refrigerant R-421A. This refrigerant blend actually doesn’t have a tariff on it because the product is patented. Patented refrigerants were excluded from the previous anti-dumping order. R-421A is quite similar to the more popular blended refrigerant known as R-407C. So, folks were importing the non-tariff R-421A and then finishing the blend to create R-407C. To give an example here, R-421A is comprised of R-125 (58%) and R-134a (42%). R-407C is comprised of R-32 (23%), R-125 (25%), and R-134a (52%). The only thing missing between these two refrigerants is R-32 and that is easily enough imported in without a tariff. If the ITC rules in favor then these patented blends will see tariffs installed on them as well.

Call these work around what you want. Maybe they are clever loopholes found by hard working businessmen. Or, maybe, they are skirting the edge of the law and they should all be stopped. However you feel, it is all coming to a head now. Now that this inquiry has begun there is a great amount of uncertainty in the market. What will happen? Will they rule in favor of all four? Just some, or none at all?

Pricing Impact

The official inquiry by the Department of Commerce will be hitting the public register on Monday. From that date onwards, June 17th, there will be a three-hundred day period for the ITC to make their decision. Here’s the scary thing though folks. If the ITC decides to impose tariffs in any of the ways we described above then those tariffs could be retroactive. This is huge and this is the main reason we are seeing prices go haywire.

Look at this way. Let’s say I am a business owner and I am going to import a trailerload of R-32 and R-125 into the United States next week. The product comes in, I blend it to R-410A, and then sell all of the product a few months later. I could face a tariff on ALL of that imported product nearly a year after I had imported and sold it. The ITC has the power to make this ruling retroactive and because of that the importing of HFCs has become a lot less attractive. Business owners could be looking at an over one-hundred percent tax on product they already sold.

Everyone who saw this coming bought up on as much product as they could and now that the inquiry has begun prices have begun to rise. A few major manufacturers have already announced their price increases. The question now though is will these manufacturers put limits on what quantities businesses can buy as well? Or, will the high prices be enough?

If you were smart enough to buy ahead you can now make a killing since the import market has all but dried up. Let’s take a look at some of the pricing trends we’re seeing now since this inquiry began just a few days ago:

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

  • Fall 2017 – $140
  • Fall 2018 – $65
  • Jan 2019 – $68
  • Feb 2019 – $56
  • Mar 2019 – $49
  • Apr 2019 – $100 – News of possible tariffs
  • May 2019 – $78
  • June 2019 – $65 – Before Inquiry
  • June 2019 – $100 – After Inquiry
    • I will state that the $100 is with some vendors. I have seen some say one-hundred and fifty and even some at one-hundred and eighty dollars a cylinder.

R-404A – Twenty-Four Pound Cylinder Pricing:

  • Fall 2017 – $175
  • Fall 2018 – $80
  • Jan 2019 – $70
  • Feb 2019 – $58
  • Mar 2019 – $50
  • Apr 2019 – $105 – News of possible tariffs
  • May 2019 – $89
  • June 2019 – $60 – Before Inquiry
  • June 2019 – $105 – After Inquiry

R-407C – Twenty-Five Pound Cylinder Pricing:

I don’t have as much pricing information on this product but I can still show you the pricing swing that took place this month:

  • June 2019 – $85 – Before Inquiry
  • June 2019 – $105 – After Inquiry

Conclusion

With the announcement of these inquiries this week there is now a lot of uncertainty introduced within the market place. It is difficult to say what will happen with pricing now. In the earlier announcements there was still hope that the ITC wouldn’t take up the case, but now that it is official we may see prices stay at these levels, or even go higher. It could go as crazy as two-hundred dollars plus a cylinder late this summer for some of the more popular HFC blends. But, we just don’t know for sure.

After all, it’s been an unseasonably colder summer for most of the country. I just took a bike ride earlier today in seventy-four degree weather. That is unheard of in Kansas in the middle of June. It should be close to one-hundred degrees. I know New England and other areas are experiencing the same thing. This colder weather may act as a buffer to this pending inquiry and help insulate the pricing situation until a decision is made next year.

If you are looking to purchase refrigerant please check out our bulk purchasing page by clicking here. In many cases we can get you the best and most aggressive priced product on the market.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Also, check out our other earlier articles on this same topic:

Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

A few more dominoes fell this week in the HFC phase down across the United States. I had reported a few weeks ago that Washington State’s HFC phase down had passed the legislature and just needed the signature from the governor. Well, Governor Jay Inslee signed bill HB 1112 this week. This adds yet another state to the ever growing list that has begun phasing down HFC refrigerants. We now have California, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, and now Washington State phasing down HFC refrigerants. There are other states as well considering their own legislation.

So far all of these state planned phase downs have been modeled after the original Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20 and 21 from 2015. The same holds true for another state that announced their intentions to phase down HFC refrigerants: Vermont. Yes, Vermont has announced that they are intending to phase down HFC refrigerants as well through their new bill ‘S. 30.’ The bill passed the legislature last week and is expected a signature from the governor soon.

With an effective date of July 1st, 2019 Vermont is wasting no time. Just like with the other states Vermont begins their phase down by targeting R-404A applications and larger cold storage warehouses. 404A is always the first target as it has an extremely high Global Warming Potential. It’s the low hanging fruit of the HFC refrigerants. As the years progress Vermont will target other applications and HFC refrigerants through a staggered approach. The end goal of Vermont’s HFC phasedown is to see a forty percent usage reduction based on 2013 levels by the year 2030.

Vermont, along with twenty-three other states, is part of what’s known as the United States Climate Alliance.’ This alliance was formed when the Trump Administration pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. The goal of the alliance is to create a coalition of states that work together to fight Climate Change and Global Warming. Their thinking is if the Federal Government isn’t going to do anything then the states will have to.

The other states in the Climate Alliance are all expected to follow suit in the coming years. This all started with California and then we began to see the snowball effect take hold as New York and other New England states announced they were planning HFC phasedowns. Nearly half the states in The Union are part of this Climate Alliance and it’s only a matter of time before more HFC phase down announcements are made. What state will be next?

Conclusion

The Federal Government’s positions on HFC phase down has been a mystery for the past few years. The EPA’s SNAP Rule was thrown out by the courts. The Kigali Amendment went into effect at the beginning of this year but the United States never ratified the treaty. The EPA may announce something soon, but it is unclear what this announcement will be.

I’ve said this before in other HFC phase down articles but as more states are added to the list eventually manufacturing companies are going to be forced to move away from HFCs… even if there isn’t a Federal mandate. If enough states phase out HFCs then manufacturers will either have to produce two different models (One for HFC states and one for non-HFC states), or the manufacturers will have to do a complete switch over to lower GWP refrigerants. If I was in their shoes, I know what I would choose.

Regardless of what happens, we can all be assured that over the next ten years the usage of HFCs will be going down and we will seem them being replaced with either natural refrigerants, hydrocarbons, or HFOs. The industry is getting more diversified and that means more specialized training to deal with these varying refrigerants.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

How does it work?

There is nothing more frustrating then finding that your air conditioner isn’t working during a hot summer’s day. As I write this article it’s a few days before Memorial Day and it’s already starting to get hot here in Kansas City. For those of you who don’t know, it can get damn hot here in Kansas during the summer. I’m talking one-hundred plus degrees. If and when your air conditioner stops working it can be even more perplexing when you go out to check on your air conditioner only to find ice all over the machine.

To a lot of folks this just makes things more confusing. The air conditioner is obviously working… as there is ice all over the machine, but why isn’t that cold air moving to your home and why is the machine iced over? That folks is what we are going to tackle in this article. A frozen air conditioner is actually one of the most common questions that HVAC technicians receive and in most cases it can be resolved rather quickly and painlessly.

Ice Ice Baby

Frozen Air Conditioner
Frozen Air Conditioner

Yes, yes… I know. It’s a horrible song and it also shows my age. First thing is first, when it comes to ice on your air conditioner it doesn’t matter if it your traditional split system air conditioner, a ductless system, or even a window air conditioner. All of these different types of air conditioners work in the same way and they all be corrected in the same fashion. When your air conditioner does freeze you will notice frost, and maybe even chunks of ice, on the copper lines leading to your outdoor unit. You may also see that frost and ice transition over to your outside system as well. That being said, please also note that some slight frosting on the copper tubing that carries the refrigerant from the inside to the outside system is common and usual. It is when you notice heavy frosting or even ice accumulation that you need to start figuring out what is going wrong.

Troubleshooting/Correcting

The first step in trying to troubleshoot your frozen air conditioner is turning the system off. If your air conditioner is still running while frozen then the ice and frost are only going to build up. If the ice is really bad you may even turn your thermostat to heat in an effort to speed up the thawing process. Some folks even take a battery powered hair dryer to thaw the ice. It is very important to note here that the ice should not be forcibly chipped off the copper lines and the air conditioner itself. Using tools could harm the lines and the air conditioner itself and end up costing you a whole lot more money then you need to. In some cases you can use water to slowly pour over the copper lines to help speed up melting. Do NOT pour water on the air conditioning unit itself as you could run into water damage and do not dump boiling hot water on the frozen lines. It is best to be patient and wait for the ice to melt.

While you are waiting for the ice to melt it is best to find the condensation drainage pipe and make sure that it isn’t blocked this is one of the main reasons why air conditioners freeze over. If the drainage pipe is blocked then you could have quite a bit of water with nowhere to go. This has happened to me in the past where my basement got slightly flooded due to the condensation line being clogged. Once I cleaned the pipe the water problem went away. When dealing with a window air conditioner it is best to tilt the unit slightly backwards so that the melting ice can drain safely out and away from the unit. Also, if you feel that water/ice had formed inside the ducts near your air conditioner you may consider opening these up and suctioning out water with a shop vacuum. (You would only need to review the central most ducts near your indoor air conditioner.)

Once the ice has melted and the water problem is gone you can try turning on your air conditioner again. In most cases you will find that the air conditioner will fire back on and began running without issues. In other instances, there could be a legitimate problem with your air conditioner and you may end up with iced lines again.

The Why

While your air conditioner may be running again after you cleared the ice there is most likely an underlying problem that will need to be addressed. There can be multiple causes as to why your air conditioner froze. I will try to cover them all here but if I missed something please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Let’s take a look at the most common reasons:

  • Air Filters – Hopefully this was the cause of your frozen air conditioner as this is the easiest and cheapest one to fix. I’ll admit that I am completely guilty of forgetting to change my air conditioner filter. There was a time I went nearly six months. Not changing this filter regularly will result in poor airflow due to all of the dirt and grime that gets stuck to the filter. This poor air flow will restrict the amount of hot air that your evaporator coils receive. Without the needed hot air your evaporator can freeze. By either cleaning or replacing your filter with a new one you may be able to prevent this from happening again and only be twenty or thirty dollars. Lately, I’ve taken to ordering my air filters online through Amazon as it’s much easier and I can even set on a reoccurring purchase that occurs every few months. When the new filter comes in the mail I know it’s time to swap them out.
  • Low Refrigerant – Each air conditioner has as specific amount of refrigerant that it is optimized for. If the system has a lower then needed amount of refrigerant the evaporator can end up running too cold. Please note that correcting this isn’t just as simple as adding new refrigerant. The air conditioning system is an endless closed cycle. In a perfect system refrigerant should not escape. If you are low on refrigerant that means that you have a leak somewhere in your system. This leak will need to be repaired before you put more refrigerant in. If not, then you are just throwing money down the drain and you will run into the same problem down the road. Depending on the type of air conditioner you have this could be a somewhat expensive repair to an extremely expensive one. The newer air conditioners (Since 2010) use a refrigerant known as R-410A. This isn’t too expensive, but it will still cost you to refill your entire system. Now, if your air conditioner is from before 2010 then chances are it is using a refrigerant known as HCFC R-22. This refrigerant is currently phased out and can be extremely expensive to refill your system.
  • Closed Vents – A lot of homeowners like to close vents in rooms they are not using. This is seen as a way to save money. This is all true, but if you close too many vents in your home then that cold air has nowhere to go and could end up freezing some of your lines or your air conditioner itself. Try opening up all of your vents when you turn on your air conditioner again. Watch to see if the problem occurs again. If it doesn’t, then try closing one or two vents, then watch your system again. Rinse and repeat until you determine what the ‘perfect’ number of closed vents is for your home.
  • Thermostat – There could also be a problem with your thermostat. If it is not reading the temperature in your home correctly then this could result in your air conditioner running all day and night. Not only is this going to cost you quite a bit on your power bill but it could also result in your air conditioner freezing. An overworked air conditioner could result in a freezing system.
  • Drainage – Your air conditioner’s primary job is to remove heat. It doesn’t necessarily create cold air but instead just removes the heat from the home. During the hot summer days the heat is removed as well as the humidity. When humidity is removed from the air water is formed. This is called condensation. I’m sure you’ve seen this before as this is where the water comes from that drains into the vent in your basement. If the drainage line is blocked then the water will either flood your basement or it will end up freezing as it’s stuck in the air conditioner. This frozen water will freeze in the drainage pipe and then work it’s way all the way back up to your evaporator coil. If you don’t see any water coming from your drainage pipe, especially in the hottest parts of the summer, then that very well may be your problem. This problem occurs in more humid climates like the south or like in Kansas where I live at.
  • Blower Motor / Fan Speed – For those of you who do not know, the cold air from your air conditioner comes from the fan or blower motor blowing air against the cold evaporator coils. (The evaporator coil is the inside part of your air conditioner that sits above your furnace.) The blowing air then becomes quite cold, but if the fan is not strong enough some of the coldness on the evaporator coils remains and could result in a frozen system. This can be solved by either increasing the speed of your blower motor or by installing a new more powerful blower motor. A new motor can get expensive, so I would try the other solutions here before you get to this step.
  • Ductwork – While this isn’t as common as the other possible reasons we mentioned above it is a possibility. If you have gone through your home and opened all of your closed vents and are still having an issue with freezing then it may be worth looking at the interior of your ducts. Do they look overtly dirty? Is there accumulation? It may make sense to have your ducts professionally cleaned. Along with looking at dirty ducts you may also inspect all of the routing of your ducts to ensure they are in working order. Ensure that they do not have any punctures, holes, or gaps. In most homes you can inspect vents via the attic. If you do end up going into the attic please take care and ensure that you are walking correctly through your attic. There is nothing worse then causing a whole other problem when trying to fix an existing one!
  • Window Unit Tilting – When you install a window air conditioner you need to ensure that the unit is slightly tilted. The tilt should be that indoor portion is slightly higher then the outdoor section. This will allow the water from condensation to drip out. If it is not tilted then you can end up with the same problem that we discussed earlier. The water will freeze and clog your drainage line. The good news is that troubleshooting a window air conditioner is much easier then a traditional split system air conditioner.

Conclusion

If after going through all of these possible reasons you are still having problems with an air conditioner that is accumulating frost or ice then it may be time to contact a professional. Remember, that a continuing freezing air conditioner can permanently damage your air conditioner. If the problem persists then it is worth contacting a local HVAC contractor to look over your system. Hopefully, the problem is not severe and your technician can resolve the issue, but in more extreme cases you may end up needing an entirely new air conditioner.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

When I write articles I pull information from my gained experience but I also consult with various other websites to ensure that the information I am giving you is accurate and factual. That being said, here are the sources that I used to write this article. These are all great websites and I would especially like to point out my first source, ASM-Air.com. This site has a whole host of information, pictures, and videos on anything and everything air conditioning.

RefrigerantHQ's Pressure Charts

R-134a is the most common refrigerant found in automobiles today. It has been in use since the early 1990’s and now, in 2019, we are beginning to see it’s popularity wane with the rise of the new HFO refrigerant known as R-1234yf. That being said, there are still millions of cars on the road that use R-134a and there will be continue to be for at least another decade or more.

When something does go wrong with your car’s air conditioner  a lot of folks are not sure what to do or where to even start. One of the very first steps is to check the pressure of your system. Understanding the pressure that your system is at as well as knowing what the saturation point is of R-134a will allow you to properly diagnose what is wrong with your system. Remember, that air conditioning is basically changing the pressure on the refrigerant until a state change is reached. If your pressure is off then that could point you in the right direction.

With the facts behind you can then begin to determine if your compressor is at fault, perhaps your condenser, or it could be something as simple as your blower motor needing replaced. Without knowing the pressure in your system and the corresponding saturation point then you are in essence going in blind when you attempt to troubleshoot your air conditioning system. I can assure you that when you take your vehicle into a dealership that the pressure and temperature are one of the first things they check when troubleshooting.

For more information on R-134a click here to be taken to our official ‘R-134a Refrigerant Fact and Information Sheet.’ This fact sheet goes into anything and everything you’d ever want to know about R-134a. There’s quite a bit to read, but if it is definitely worth your while if you’re interesting learning more about this HFC refrigerant.

Our R-134a pressure chart can be found below:

°F°CPSIKPA
-49-4518.4126.9
-48-44.418124.1
-47-43.917.6121.3
-46-43.317.3119.3
-45-42.816.9116.5
-44-42.216.5113.8
-43-41.716.1111
-42-41.115.7108.2
-41-40.615.2104.8
-40-4014.8102
-39-39.414.499.3
-38-38.913.995.8
-37-38.313.492.4
-36-37.81389.6
-35-37.212.586.2
-34-36.71282.7
-33-36.111.478.6
-32-35.610.975.2
-31-3510.471.7
-30-34.49.867.6
-29-33.99.364.1
-28-33.38.760
-27-32.88.155.8
-26-32.27.551.7
-25-31.76.947.6
-24-31.16.343.4
-23-30.65.739.3
-22-30534.5
-21-29.44.329.6
-20-28.93.725.5
-19-28.3320.7
-18-27.82.315.9
-17-27.21.510.3
-16-26.70.85.5
-15-26.10.10.7
-14-25.60.42.8
-13-250.74.8
-12-24.41.17.6
-11-23.91.510.3
-10-23.31.913.1
-9-22.82.416.5
-8-22.22.819.3
-7-21.73.222.1
-6-21.13.624.8
-5-20.64.128.3
-4-204.631.7
-3-19.4534.5
-2-18.95.537.9
-1-18.3641.4
0-17.86.544.8
1-17.2748.3
2-16.77.551.7
3-16.1855.2
4-15.68.558.6
5-159.162.7
6-14.49.666.2
7-13.910.270.3
8-13.310.874.5
9-12.811.377.9
10-12.211.982
11-11.712.586.2
12-11.113.190.3
13-10.613.895.1
14-1014.499.3
15-9.415103.4
16-8.915.7108.2
17-8.316.4113.1
18-7.817117.2
19-7.217.7122
20-6.718.4126.9
21-6.119.1131.7
22-5.619.9137.2
23-520.6142
24-4.421.3146.9
25-3.922.1152.4
26-3.322.9157.9
27-2.823.7163.4
28-2.224.5168.9
29-1.725.3174.4
30-1.126.1180
31-0.626.9185.5
32027.8191.7
330.628.6197.2
341.129.5203.4
351.730.4209.6
362.231.3215.8
372.832.2222
383.333.1228.2
393.934.1235.1
404.435241.3
41536248.2
425.637255.1
436.138262
446.739268.9
457.240.1276.5
467.841.1283.4
478.342.2291
488.943.2297.9
499.444.3305.4
501045.4313
5110.646.6321.3
5211.147.7328.9
5311.748.9337.2
5412.250344.7
5512.851.2353
5613.352.4361.3
5713.953.6369.6
5814.454.9378.5
591556.1386.8
6015.657.4395.8
6116.158.7404.7
6216.760413.7
6317.261.3422.6
6417.862.7432.3
6518.364441.3
6618.965.4450.9
6719.466.8460.6
682068.2470.2
6920.669.7480.6
7021.171.1490.2
7121.772.6500.6
7222.274.1510.9
7322.875.6521.2
7423.377.1531.6
7523.978.7542.6
7624.480.2553
772581.8564
7825.683.4575
7926.185586.1
8026.786.7597.8
8127.288.4609.5
8227.890620.5
8328.391.8632.9
8428.993.5644.7
8529.495.2656.4
863097668.8
8730.698.8681.2
8831.1100.6693.6
8931.7102.5706.7
9032.2104.3719.1
9132.8106.2732.2
9233.3108.1745.3
9333.9110758.4
9434.4112772.2
9535114786
9635.6115.9799.1
9736.1118813.6
9836.7120827.4
9937.2122.1841.9
10037.8124.2856.3
10138.3126.3870.8
10238.9128.4885.3
10339.4130.6900.5
10440132.8915.6
10540.6135930.8
10641.1137.2946
10741.7139.5961.8
10842.2141.7977
10942.8144992.8
11043.3146.41009.4
11143.9148.71025.3
11244.4151.11041.8
11345153.51058.3
11445.61561075.6
11546.1158.41092.1
11646.7160.91109.4
11747.2163.51127.3
11847.81661144.5
11948.3168.61162.5
12048.9171.21180.4
12149.4173.81198.3
12250176.51216.9
12350.6179.11234.9
12451.1181.81253.5
12551.7184.61272.8
12652.2187.41292.1
12752.8190.21311.4
12853.31931330.7
12953.9195.81350
13054.4198.71370
13155201.61390
13255.6204.61410.7
13356.1207.61431.4
13456.7210.61452
13557.2213.61472.7
13657.8216.71494.1
13758.3219.81515.5
13858.9222.91536.8
13959.42261558.2
14060229.21580.3
14160.6232.51603
14261.1235.71625.1
14361.72391647.8
14462.2242.31670.6
14562.8245.71694
14663.3249.11717.5
14763.9252.51740.9
14864.4255.91764.4
14965259.41788.5
15065.6262.91812.6

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Owner

alert

In the beginning of this year I got into the habit of writing refrigerant pricing updates as I saw them coming. Most of these have been fairly benign with a few percent increases here and there. It was last month though that I wrote a pricing update that had pricing doubling on some of the most popular refrigerants in just a matter of days. The article can be found here.

This huge jump in price can be tied to a new suit filed with the Department of Commerce. This suit which was filed by the HFC Coalition aimed at installing anti-dumping tariffs on HFC components. For those of you that do not know, a few years back there were anti-dumping tariffs put on some of the most popular HFC refrigerants used today: R-410A and R-404A. These tariffs targeted Chinese product that was being unloaded in the United States at ultra low prices.

The problem with these tariffs though was how they were written. The tariffs themselves ONLY applied to R-410A and R-404A. Remember folks, that these two products are blended refrigerants. While the tariff was on the finished product it wasn’t on the components to make the blend. So, your refrigerants like R-125 and R-32 were immune from the anti-dumping. This resulted in a halting of imports of R-410A/R-404A and instead we saw massive importing of the components to blend these refrigerants. This flood of refrigerant components caused the price to stay pretty much were it was before the anti-dumping tariffs were installed. Nothing had changed except now distributors were blending Chinese refrigerants in the United States.

The Suit

I won’t get into all of the details here as it would be repetitive from my last article. Instead I’ll give a short summary and then move onto the update. In order to prevent these low prices and the continuing flood of Chinese refrigerants a suit was introduced to the Department of Commerce. This suit aimed at solving the problem when it comes to HFC refrigerant blends by adding a tariff to ANY HFC components that were used to create a blend within the United States. In other words, you can import R-125 all day long but the moment you use R-125 to create R-410A then you have to pay a tariff.

This suit was filed in early April and originally a decision was to be made today May 20th, 2019. Well, the deadline came and went and there was still no decision made. Instead the Department of Commerce issued a statement saying:

“According to 19 CFR 351.225(c)(2), “{w}ithin 45 days of the date of receipt of an application for a scope ruling, the Secretary will issue a final ruling under paragraph (d) of this section or will initiate a scope inquiry under paragraph (e) of this section.” However, “unless expressly precluded by statute, the Secretary may, for good cause, extend any time limit.” We have determined that additional time is required to review and assess the HFC Coalition’s request. Thus, in accordance with 19 CFR 351.302(b), we are extending the time-period for initiating a formal anti-circumvention inquiry by 45 days, until July 3, 2019.”

So, the can has been kicked down the road and we are now left with even more uncertainty. Before I get into pricing I want to make sure everyone understands that IF the DOC decides to take this suit up on July 3rd then EVERY blended refrigerant from July 3rd up until the decision date of the suit could be retroactively taxed the tariff. So, if I imported a heap of R-125 and R-32 in August, mixed them as 410A, and then sold them in September then I could be liable for tariffs… even if the DOC’s decision doesn’t come until February of 2020.

Pricing Update

That clause I just mentioned above is why we saw prices go crazy last April. The price of HFC refrigerants seemed to jump overnight when news of this hit the industry. Everyone was buying up as much as they could from their distributors and the distributors were buying as much as they could from China before a decision was made to accept the suit or not. In some cases we saw prices double.

Today however, I have good news. The prices on HFCs have begun to settle down. It’s hard to say exactly why this is but it appears that the initial shock of tariffs on components have worn off. Or, it could be that everyone and their brother have bought up so much that the demand has ultimately died down. Whatever the reason is prices have gone down since May. While we are still not near where we were before, we are in a much better spot then we were a month ago.

In my last article I did a break down of pricing on R-410A and R-404A. Let’s take a look again but with this week’s prices:

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

  • Fall 2017 – $140
  • Fall 2018 – $65
  • Jan 2019 – $68
  • Feb 2019 – $56
  • Mar 2019 – $49
  • Apr 2019 – $100 – News of possible tariffs
  • May 2019 – $78

R-404A – Twenty-Four Pound Cylinder Pricing:

  • Fall 2017 – $175
  • Fall 2018 – $80
  • Jan 2019 – $70
  • Feb 2019 – $58
  • Mar 2019 – $50
  • Apr 2019 – $105 – News of possible tariffs
  • May 2019 – $89

Conclusion

As you can see, we are moving downwards… but it is very tough to say what will happen in the future. There is still a lot of uncertainty in the industry and it is anyone’s guess as to what the Department of Commerce will decide on July 3rd.

One other point to mention here is that there was some talk on the latest tariffs from the Trump Administration. These tariffs are unrelated to the anti-dumping tariffs but are instead retaliatory taxes in the ongoing trade war between the United States and China. They were to be twenty-five percent on selected harmonized codes.

At first I understood that HFC refrigerants, and components, were affected by this tariff. But now, I have heard that an exemption was made specifically for HFC components. I have searched online trying to find specific information but it is quite murky, and I have not been able to find anything concrete. If any of you have further information on this topic please reach out to me and I will update this article.

Thanks for reading and hope everyone has a great Memorial Day! I’ve got a barbecue with my name no it. Cheers!

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

facts

R-744 Carbon Dioxide is one of the oldest refrigerants in the world. Its first usage can be traced all the way back to the nineteenth century. Before the popularity of CFC and HCFC refrigerants Carbon Dioxide was one of the most widely used refrigerants. Chances are if you went to a movie theatre in the 1920’s then you were experiencing an R-744 air conditioning system.

When R-12, R-22, and other HCFC/CFC refrigerants began to rise to prominence we began to see a large decline in R-744 usage. This was due to its extremely high operating pressures which caused numerous part failures. The newer artificial refrigerants were much easier to maintain. In today’s world, as we progress through the twenty-first century we have begun to see resurgence in R-744. This is due to the detrimental effects that CFC, HCFC, and HFC refrigerants have had on the environment. Carbon Dioxide on the other hand is climate neutral with zero Ozone Depletion and a Global Warming Potential of only one.

If you haven’t run into an R-744 system yet you soon will as its popularity grows with each passing year. In this article we’re going to take a deep dive and take a look at everything there is to know on R-744. If I miss something please let me know!

The Facts

Name:R-744
Name - Scientific:Carbon Dioxide
Name (2):744
Name (3):CO2
Name (4)R744
Classification:Natural Refrigerant
Chemistry:CO2
Status:Active & Growing
Future:Will Be Used All Over World in Various Applications
System Type:SubCritical (Cascade) & TransCritical
Application:Vehicle Air Conditioning & Transport Refrigeration
Application (2):Commercial Refrigerators & Freezers
Application (3):Commercial Vending Machines & Plug-Ins
Application (4):Industrial Refrigeration
Application (5):Ice Rinks
Replacement For:R-22, R-134a, R-404A, and other HFCs
Ozone Depletion Potential:0
Global Warming Potential:1
Global Warming Risk:Very Low
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 1 - No Flame Propagation
Lubricant Required:POE & PAG Oils
Boiling Point:−78 °C (-108.4 °F; 195.15 K)
Critical Temperature:31.04 °C or 87.87 °F
Critical Pressure:7,380 kpa
Triple Point:4.2 bar (60.9 psi) and -56.6 °C (-69.8 °F)
Temperature Glide:None
Molar Mass:44.009 g·mol−1
Density (2):1101 kg/m3 (liquid at saturation −37°C)
Melting Point:−56.6 °C; −69.8 °F; 216.6 K
Vapor Pressure:5.73 MPa (20 °C)
Heat Capacity:37.135 J/K mol
Manufacturers:Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
Manufacturing Facilities:All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.
Form:Gas
Color:Colorless gas
Odor:Low concentrations: none.
Odor(2):High concentrations: sharp; acidic
EPA Certification Required:No
Require Certification to Purchase?No
Cylinder Color:Unknown
Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

R-744 Pressure Chart

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-744 refrigerant temperature page. This can be found by clicking here.

R-744 Applications

Let me first start out by saying that R-744 is a very unique refrigerant, more so then others.  R-744 is a natural refrigerant. But, unlike other natural refrigerants, there is not a safety concern. With hydrocarbons you have the flammability risk, with Ammonia you have the toxicity risk, but with CO2 the safety risk is minimal. Along with it being a safe natural refrigerant it also is very versatile. It is mainly used in a transcritical refrigeration system but it can also be used in subcritical systems when done through a cascade. On top of that R-744 can be used as a secondary fluid refrigeration system. (For more information on transcritical systems please click here to be taken to a recently written article on the topic.)

Between these different types of refrigeration there are a wide a range of applications such as vending machines, supermarket refrigerators/freezers, industrial refrigeration, refrigerated transport, automotive air conditioning, heat pumps, and even in sports arenas for ice rinks. In this section we are going to take a look at each of these applications:

Vending Machines

One of the first targets in the global HFC phase down was R-404A. As you know, 404A was used in a variety of applications including vending machines. In the early 2010’s there was a push from a variety of companies, including Coca-Cola, to switch their vending machines away from 404A and over to R-744 Carbon Dioxide. Now, as I write this article CO2 vending machines are found all over the United States. One of the initial struggles of these systems was finding qualified technicians as these vending machines operate as a transcritical system rather then subcritical. The good news is that as the years go by and the amount of these transcritical machines grow then the technicians will become more seasoned and experienced with working on these kinds of systems.

Supermarket Refrigerators/Freezers

The grocery store refrigerators and freezer market didn’t switch over as fast as vending machines but there is significant progress being made. While R-744 isn’t necessarily the preferred refrigerant to use in these applications there are some companies moving forward. Depending on the application supermarkets will either use a stand alone plug-in unit that is very similar to a vending machine or they will use one system that connects to all of the various refrigerators and freezers.

When it comes to using R-744 the type of application will determine if the unit will be a subcritical cascade or a transcritical system. If we look at a stand alone refrigerator/freezer then we would be dealing with a standard transcritical system. This would operate very similar to how vending machines do. On the other hand, if we look at some of the larger systems that are all connected then we would be looking at a cascade system. A cascade system uses two or more refrigerants. In the example of R-744 we would find R-744 on the low temperature side of the cycle. By having R-744 isolated to the low end of the system we can prevent the refrigerant from going past the critical point and keep it subcritical. The other refrigerant used for the high side of the system can vary. It could be Ammonia, Propane/Isobutane, or even an HFC or HFO refrigerant.

Industrial Refrigeration

The term industrial refrigeration can be quite vague and can encompass a variety of applications from chillers, to chilled warehouses, to heat extraction, and so much more. In the past, before R-22 was phased out it was one of the top refrigerants used in these larger scale operations. When R-22 was phased out some companies switched over to the HFC R-404A/R-134a only to find that these refrigerants were going to be phased out soon as well.

In Europe, in Canada, and in other countries R-717 or Ammonia is one of the top picks when it comes to industrial refrigeration such as meat packing plants. Ammonia is chosen as it is highly regarded as the most energy efficient refrigerant out there. The downside, of course, is that Ammonia is toxic and can also be slightly flammable. Whenever you see a story in the new stating that a plant had to be evacuated due to a refrigerant leak the chances are that it is Ammonia is quite high. There are many instances of this occurring here in the United States and in most cases everyone is fine. We just have to ensure that the proper precautions are followed.

While R-744 may not be as efficient as Ammonia it has another thing going for it. It’s not toxic. That being said though it appears that the use of R-744 plants and chillers is still quite rare. I spent some time looking around online trying to find stories on R-744 plant usage but wasn’t able to find anything. It seems that Ammonia still has a strong hold on the industry but as technologies change and as HFCs become completely phased out we may begin to see more active R-744 industrial applications. If you know of some active R-744 plant applications please reach out to me and let me know.

Refrigerated Transport

When I hear the words refrigerated transport I instantly think of trucking. That’s most likely because I came from the trucking industry. I remember going through pallets of R-404A for our carrier refrigerated trucks. In the case of R-744 though the refrigerated transport we are discussing is naval transport or refrigerated shipping containers. It’s not just produce or meat being refrigerated on cargo ships though. No, in some cases cruise liners have installed CO2 systems to cool their larger refrigerators and freezers. Again, I looked around for any mention of R-744 being used in refrigerated cargo transport on trucks but saw no mention of it. This may still be down the road.

Automotive Air Conditioning

This one is definitely unique. If we rewind about ten years ago there were two refrigerants to choose from for automotive air conditioning. The first was the ever popular HFC R-134a. I am sure most of you are familiar with this refrigerant. You can buy cans of it at your local O’Reillys. At this time though a new refrigerant was introduced to the automotive sector. This refrigerant known as R-1234yf, was an HFO refrigerant invented between a partnership of DuPont and Honeywell. YF was to be the refrigerant of the future. It would replace R-134a and it would be used in every car from now on.

Most of the world was on board except for Germany. The German automakers had tested with YF and found that it was flammable. In one instance during a simulated collision the lines ruptured and spilled the refrigerant onto the hot engine block. The refrigerant ignited and caused a fire. This one test scared the German automakers, especially Daimler, away from using YF. While the rest of the world pushed forward with YF Daimler set off on their own to create the first automotive R-744 application.

Years later they achieved their goals and we now have German made cars using CO2 as their refrigerant. There is now no risk of flammability with their cars and they are still being environmentally friendly. I love hearing this story again and again as it’s a prime example of forging your own way and still coming out on top.

Heat Pumps

Japan has put forth a lot of focus on R-744 heat pumps. CO2 heat pumps can produce a much higher temperature output then a traditional HFC heat pump system. This is thanks in part due to the transcritical process. These heat pumps can heat water all the way up to one-hundred and ninety-four degrees Fahrenheit. (Source) The adaption of CO2 based heat pumps is moving forward, but it has been slowed due to the extremely high operating pressures and the breakage of components. (The same story we have seen in other CO2 applications.) In the future we will most likely begin to see CO2 heat pumps in mini-split air conditioner systems. Perhaps, down the road, we may even see them in traditional split air conditioning systems.

Ice Rinks

From my experience a typical ice rink uses either Ammonia, R-22, or an HFC such as R-134a or R-404A. What refrigerant is used seems to depend on what country you are in. Outside of America the standard refrigerant has been Ammonia. As we discussed earlier in this article Ammonia is widely seen as the most efficient refrigerant. When dealing with such a large application like an ice rink efficiency is a must. The downside of course, is the toxicity. The toxicity is especially important when it comes to a public area like ice rinks. It’s not just technicians or employees who are at risk but you also have the general public.

Here in America we are always hesitant to use the more ‘dangerous’ refrigerants such as Ammonia or Hydrocarbons. Because of this hesitation we instead went the route of R-22 for our ice rinks and hockey arenas. Now though, with R-22’s phase out coming to a close in 2020 ice rink owners are looking for alternative refrigerants. Sure, there are HFC and now even HFO alternatives that can be used in these applications but each of these alternatives still have a higher then neutral Global Warming Potential (GWP). The problem with these refrigerants is that they will not stand the test of time when it comes to climate impact and phase outs.

If I was an arena owner or manager I would only seriously be considering two options. The first is Ammonia like I discussed earlier. This comes with it’s own risks but you get the low cost and energy savings. The alternative is R-744 Carbon Dioxide. R-744 has it’s own Pros and Cons which I’ll get into in our next section, but the big selling point is that you get a climate neutral refrigerant that is safe to the public in case a leak occurs. While R-744 systems aren’t widely found in the world today, they are growing. An article I was reading from 2016 had this quote, ”

“Today the number of CO2 ice rinks is growing rapidly. There are now 25-30 CO2 ice rinks in the world,” he says. 20-25 of these CO2 ice rinks are in North America, 20 of which are in Canada (mostly in Quebec) and three in Alaska, according to EKA.” – Source

R-744 Pros & Cons

As we all know, there is no perfect refrigerant. Each one has its own individual upsides and downsides. It could have a great efficiency but also end up being very flammable. Or, it could be non-flammable and non-toxic but have very high Global Warming Potential. The point I’m making here is that there isn’t a perfect one out there and there may never be. In this section we’re going to take a brief look at the various Pros and Cons of using R-744 as a refrigerant. I pulled this information from all over the web, but one site in particular stuck out to me. This article from Emerson has an entire page dedicated to R-744 Pros and Cons. It can be found by clicking here and then scrolling to page twelve.

Let’s take a look at the Pros and Cons of R-744:

Pros

  • R-744 is seen as the ‘perfect’ natural refrigerant as it is climate neutral and there is not a flammability or toxicity risk.  It is rated as an A1 from ASHRAE. While it is non-toxic there is still risk if a leak occurs in an enclosed area as R-744 will displace the oxygen in the room and could cause asphyxiation. It is always best to have a leak detector with you so that you can detect the problem early before anything major occurs.
  • Overall, R-744 is more energy efficient and has better heat exchange then a standard HFC based system. While it may not be as efficient as Ammonia this gap between the two refrigerants is shrunk as the evaporator temperature drops. Carbon Dioxide also has a low compression pressure ratio which can improve volumetric efficiency. In some cases CO2’s volumetric efficiency is four to twelve times better then Ammonia. (Source – under Pressure & Temperature.)
  • I mentioned this earlier, but the biggest selling point of R-744 is that it is climate neutral. It has no Ozone Depletion Potential and it’s Global Warming Potential is one. In fact, R-744 is the zero basis for the whole GWP scale. This is a huge Pro as if there is one thing that business owners are looking for it is stability and consistency. R-744 is never going away due to it being so climate friendly.
  • One Pro to R-744 operating at such a high pressure and being such a dense gas is that the overall size of the parts and components is smaller and the overall charge required for a refrigerant cycle is lessened. In some cases the compressor can be up to ten times smaller than an ammonia compressor. As far as refrigerant charges, one example I read from manufacturing.net stated that to cool a two-hundred thousand square foot warehouse you would need forty-thousand pounds of Ammonia but with CO2 you would need less than seven-thousand pounds.
  • Carbon Dioxide is readily available and the price for this refrigerant is much less then HFC refrigerants that we see today. This is a welcome relief from the instability of prices on HFCs and HCFC refrigerants that we all know about.

Cons

While R-744 is the ‘perfect’ natural refrigerant in theory there are a lot of downsides.

  • The biggest one is for Carbon Dioxide to be used as a refrigerant it has to run under extremely high pressure. As an example, R-744 operates at ten times higher pressure then R-134a. Because of this extremely high pressure everything has to be custom built for an R-744 system so that it can withstand the high operating pressure. This includes the pipes, components, and everything else that goes along with the machine. If lesser components are used then you pose risk of constant failure due to the pressure.
  • If you wish to use R-744 as a stand alone refrigerant not in a cascade system then you will have to be running it as what’s known as a transcritical system. This is because R-744’s critical temperature point is only eighty-eight degrees Fahrenheit. There are many cases where the ambient temperature could be between eighty to one-hundred degrees. If your critical point for R-744 is only at eighty-eight degrees then how can you expect to remove the heat? (You can read more on the topic of transcritical refrigeration by clicking here.)
  • Suffice to say, a transcritical system and a high operating pressure system means two things.
    • The first is that there is increased expense for these systems. Not only do you have to pay for high pressure rated materials and parts but you also have to pay for a transcritical system. This setup is different then your standard subcritical system. The good news here is that with each year that passes technology improves and the cost of these higher pressure parts goes down.
    • The second is the increased complexity. The higher the complexity means less available qualified technicians. It may be a struggle to find qualified R-744 technicians, at least here in the United States. Each year though this is getting better as more and more businesses are adopting R-744 systems.
  • I mentioned efficiency in our Pros section earlier. The reason I mention it again is that the efficiency of R-744 is highly dependent on the type of system it’s being used in and the surrounding climate. I mean, think about it for a moment. We could have a subcritical cascade system for a supermarket in Miami. Or, we could have a transcritical ice rink in British Columbia. In each example we’re using R-744 but we now have two entirely different systems as well as two entirely different climates. Because of these variety of systems and applications it is difficult to measure one single efficiency measurement.

R-744 Past/Future

History

I am a big fan of history and can never get enough of reading historical books or watching documentaries. If you don’t understand the past then how can you understand the present or even the future? While refrigerant history might not be as interesting as other historical topics it is still good to understand it. R-744 can be traced back all the way back to the nineteenth century. In fact it was one of the very first refrigerants to ever be developed and used across the world. Experiments in refrigeration began in the late seventeen-hundreds and began to pick up speed in the eighteen-hundreds. It was in 1850 that Carbon Dioxide was first proposed as a refrigerant by Alexander Twinning. In 1869 one of the very first ice machines invented used Carbon Dioxide. Then in 1897 the first Carbon Dioxide refrigerator was introduced. More and more inventions and innovations followed.

In the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s there were a few mainstream refrigerants that we saw. These were your natural and hydrocarbon refrigerants such as Ammonia, Propane, Isobutane, and Carbon Dioxide. At this time Carbon Dioxide was found in all kinds of applications ranging from display cabinets, cold storage areas, market places, home/commercial kitchens, movie theaters, hospitals, trains, and even on cargo transport ships. The other natural refrigerants weren’t used as widely as Carbon Dioxide due to their safety concerns.

It seemed that R-744 was going to reign supreme as the main refrigerant in the world. This held true until the 1930’s. It was then that a partnership was formed between General Motors and DuPont. This partnership was made with one goal in mind: To create a cheap, safety, and reliable refrigerant. While Carbon Dioxide was safe it had it’s own problems. Just like we mentioned in our Pros and Cons section R-744 systems had numerous failures due to the extreme pressure that they operated under. The technology just wasn’t there to prevent these failures either so these air conditioners and refrigerators would bey very expensive to maintain.

After some time the General Motors & DuPont partnership came out with a new artificial class of refrigerants known as CFCs and HCFCs. Some of the refrigerants in this new classification were R-12 and R-22. These new refrigerants checked all of the boxes. They were safe. They were cheap. They were reliable. There was no more constant failure due to high operating pressures. At first, the adoption of these refrigerants was slow but that was only because of the manufacturing speed of the product. It was in the 1950’s that an innovation was done that greatly increased the speed of manufacturing CFC and HCFC refrigerants.

Once the supply could be met the demand skyrocketed. It wasn’t long until CFC and HCFC refrigerants were found all over the world in various applications. They could be your home air conditioner, your automobile, your refrigerator, or your local grocery store. They were everywhere. In the 1960’s there were a few more CFC/HCFC refrigerants invented, including R-502, that led to even more explosive growth.

With the growth and dominance of these new refrigerants it seemed that R-744 had taken a backseat. It was cast aside when the newer refrigerants came to market due to the high pressure that it operated at. There was no reason to use this expensive refrigerant anymore due to the mass production and reliability of R-12, R-22, and R-502. At least for a while, R-744 had reached it’s peak. It was in the 1980’s that things began to change.

The Ozone

It was in the 1980’s that a problem was discovered. Two American scientists, Mario Molina and Shepwood Rowland, from a California university were the first to notice Chlorine’s effect on the atmosphere. (Remember now folks, all of these CFCs and HCFCs contain Chlorine.)

These two scientists found that when a CFC refrigerant was exposed to ultra-violet irradiation that the Chlorine atom would detach itself from the CFC molecules. The remaining residue is oxidized resulting in the creation of a Chlorine oxidized molecule and a new residue. The Chlorine atom and Chlorine oxidized molecule move their way up to the stratosphere. Within the stratosphere there is a layer called the Ozone layer. This Ozone layer protects the Earth from ultra-violet rays and irradiation. What these scientists found out is that all of this Chlorine from CFC and HCFC refrigerants was working it’s way to the stratosphere. When it reached the stratosphere the Chlorine began to attack and weaken the Ozone layer.

Over decades of using CFCs and HCFC refrierants Chlorine began to accumulate in the stratosphere and overtime a hole began to form in the Ozone layer. Now, I say hole but this wasn’t a hole per-say. Instead, there was a weakening of strength in the layer. So, while there was not a hole the thickness of the Ozone was decreasing and decreasing rapidly thanks to the CFC and HCFC refrigerants.

The Ozone prevents harmful UVB wavelengths of ultra-violet light from passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. Without it, or with a weakened version of it, a variety of bad things could happen. Some of these include a much higher increased chance of Skin Cancer, more severe sunburns, more chances of cataracts, and a whole host of other problems.

After discovering the weakening of the Ozone layer nations banded together in what is seen as one of the greatest and most effective treaty’s every made. In 1986-1987 the Montreal Protocol was created and signed by over one-hundred nations across the world. This Protocol was an international treaty designed to protect the Ozone layer and to completely phase out the chemicals responsible for the weakening of the Ozone. The treaty went into effect in 1989.

Soon after that date marked the beginning of the end for CFC and HCFC refrigerants across the globe. The industrialized countries, like America, began to phase out the refrigerants first. R-12 was phased out in the early 1990’s along with all of the rest of the CFC refrigerants. The HCFC refrigerants such as R-22 or even R-502 were given a bit more time. Heck, R-22’s true phase out didn’t even begin until 2010.

Out with the old and in with the new, so they say. The refrigerants that were proposed to replace CFCs and HCFCs were known as HFCs, or Hydroflurocarbons. These refrigerants contained no Chlorine so there was no chance of them hurting the Ozone layer. Some of these refrigerants include popular refrigerants today known as R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A. But, now these refrigerants are under fire for their increase to Global Warming.

R-744 Present & Future

As I mentioned above HFCs were seen as the world’s savior from the Ozone depleting refrigerants. But, HFCs had their own problem. Instead of the Ozone this time it was Global Warming. These HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, R-410A are known as ‘Super Pollutants,’ or ‘Greenhouse Gases.’ In order to measure their impact on the environment each of these refrigerants were given a Global Warming Potential number. The higher the number the more damage the refrigerant causes to the world. As a zero based scale for this measurement our old friend R-744 was used. Carbon Dioxide has a GWP of one. In comparison, R-404A has a GWP of three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty-two. Obviously, there is a large difference here.

I’m writing this article in 2019 and over the past ten years or so there has been a worldwide push to phase down and in some cases phase out HFC refrigerants completely. In order to phase out HFC refrigerants we have to have a replacement refrigerant. In some cases companies and countries have turned to a new classification of refrigerants known as HFOs. These HFO refrigerants are again synthetic products created by Honeywell & Chemours (Formerly DuPont). The problem with HFOs though is that they still have Global Warming Potential. Yes, not as high as HFCs… but the numbers are still there. Along with the GWP risk they also have a slight flammability risk. To me, I do not see HFOs being sustainable. I imagine the world will decide to phase them out in another ten or twenty years.

So, what is the solution you may ask? It’s R-744! Well, R-744 and other natural refrigerants. Technology has changed significantly since the last time R-744 was used widely. It’s been almost one-hundred years since we saw the mainstream use of Carbon Dioxide and now with nearly a century behind us the technology has significantly reduced the chance of component failures due to high operating pressures. We are now able to create efficient and stable R-744 systems without a large risk of failure.

While the cost of implementing R-744 systems is still quite higher then a traditional HFC system the costs have been coming down. This holds especially true in recent years as the push to innovate R-744 systems increases substantially with the phasing down of HFCs. While we are not there yet the costs are quickly shrinking the gap between HFCs and R-744.

There are many companies pushing forward with R-744 systems. Most of these are on smaller systems such as vending machines, but we all need to take baby steps. One company in particular, Coca-Cola, has installed hundreds of CO2 vending machines across the country. Along with Coca-Cola there are other grocery store chains out there using cascade R-744 systems mixed with other refrigerants such as Ammonia or lower GWP HFCs. We are even beginning to see R-744 uses in automobiles with the innovations that Daimler has made. As we completely phase down HFCs over the next ten years we will see more and more usage of R-744. It’s time has come again!

Conclusion

Well folks, after all of that I feel like we have covered our bases when it comes to R-744.  If you only take a few things away from this article let them be this. First, R-744 is a growing market across the world and you will begin to see more applications. It doesn’t matter what section of the industry you specialize in. R-744 is so adaptable that it’s only a matter of time before you come across it.

Secondly, since R-744 has no Ozone Depletion Potential and a Global Warming Potential of only one you can be safe in assuming that Carbon Dioxide will never be phased down our across the world. It is a natural refrigerant that has been used for over one-hundred years and it will continue to be used for another one-hundred years or more.

If you find that you’re still looking for more on R-744 then please check out our sources section below. This is where we pulled most of our data from and in some cases these websites can have a ton of information.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

RefrigerantHQ's Pressure Charts

Regardless of what system you are working on rather it is a home air conditioner, a vehicle’s air conditioner, a supermarket refrigeration system, or a large scale industrial application they all have one thing in common: Pressure.

Yes, as we all know one of the very first steps when it comes to diagnosing a refrigeration or air conditioning system is determining the various pressures that the system is operating at. Besides a simple visual inspection knowing the operating pressures of the machine is crucial. Having these facts along with the saturation point, the subcool, and the superheat  numbers for the refrigerant you are working on are essential when it comes to really understanding what is going wrong with your system.

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

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

R-744 Carbon Dioxide Pressure Chart

For those of us here in the United States coming across an R-744 Carbon Dioxide application may still be a rare occurrence. But, the world is changing and the popularity of this natural refrigerant is increasing. Along with the popularity the vast array of applications is increasing as well. You can find R-744 being used in vending machines, automobiles, supermarkets, and even in ice-skating rinks. The sheer versatility of R-744 and its climate friendliness is the reason we have seen such growth in its uses.

While we had mentioned earlier the concept of ‘subcool,’ it is important to note that in most cases R-744 applications do not have a subcool. This is because most R-744 systems operate as a transcritical system. Most refrigeration/air conditioning systems operate in what’s known as a subcritical process. This is your standard process that we are all used to. The difference with a R-744 application is that its operating temperatures can exceed the critical point temperature.  Carbon Dioxide’s critical temperature is just under eighty-eight degrees Fahrenheit. That eighty-eight degrees mark can easily be at or below the ambient temperature and when this occurs is when a transcritical system is required.

For more information on transcritical systems you can click here to be taken to our overview. The pressure and temperatures for R-744 can be found below:

°F°CPSIKPA
-68.8-5662.26429.3
-65.2-5469.13476.6
-61.6-5276.45527.1
-58.0-5084.25580.9
-54.4-4892.54638.0
-50.8-46101.33698.6
-47.2-44110.66763.0
-43.6-42120.53831.0
-40.0-40130.96902.9
-36.4-38141.98978.9
-32.8-36153.611059.1
-29.2-34165.871143.6
-25.6-32178.771232.6
-22.0-30192.341326.1
-18.4-28206.61424.5
-14.8-26221.561527.6
-11.2-24237.251635.8
-7.6-22253.691749.1
-4.0-20270.91867.8
-0.4-18288.911992.0
3.2-16307.752121.9
6.8-14327.412257.4
10.4-12347.962399.1
14.0-10369.372546.7
17.6-8391.72700.7
21.2-6414.982861.2
24.8-4439.213028.2
28.4-2464.423202.1
32.00490.653382.9
35.62517.943571.1
39.24546.293766.5
42.86575.753969.7
46.48606.364180.7
50.010638.134399.8
53.612671.124627.2
57.214705.354863.2
60.816740.885108.2
64.418777.755362.4
68.020816.035626.3
71.622855.765900.3
75.224897.036184.8
78.826939.956480.7

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

A Look

A few weeks ago I did an article on transcritical refrigeration. In that article I stated that I knew very little on the subject, but as I wrote the article I was able to teach myself a bit about it and understand the principles behind the transcritical system.

Well today we are going to be doing the same type of post except this time on cascade refrigeration systems. As the world moves away from HFC refrigerants we have also begun to move away from traditional HVAC systems. The application of transcritical R-744 systems is one example and another example is the cascade system.

As most of you know each refrigerant has its upsides and downsides. Along with climate friendliness, flammability, and toxicity, there are also refrigerants that are better for lower temperature applications and there are some better at higher and medium temperature applications. A cascade system takes advantage of this by using two different refrigerants, one for high side and one for low side. (In some more complicated cases there can be more than two refrigerants used.)

These two refrigerants operate independently and each have their own boiling points. The refrigerants run through their own cycles and then are joined together by the heat exchanger. At the heat exchanger the high/medium temperature refrigerant is used to cool the condenser of the lower temperature refrigerant. Another way to look at it is the condenser for the lower temperature system acts like the evaporator of the higher temperature refrigerant. In fact, the condenser in the lower temperature side is coupled to the evaporator on the higher side. So the evaporator on the higher side removes the heat released by the condenser in the lower cycle. The website hvacrschool.com provided a great diagram on the flow which can be found by clicking here.

Cascade systems exist when we are working with two large temperature differences. Say for example, the ambient temperature is seventy-degrees but you need a desired temperature of negative fifty degrees. (Cascade systems are used a lot in laboratories and research institutes.) Now, with a normal system this extreme temperature difference would not be achievable. This is where the cascade system comes in handy as you are able to bridge the temperature difference when you have two different refrigerants. Using this method certain cascade systems can achieve temperatures as low as negative two-hundred degrees Fahrenheit.

The advantages of cascade systems are twofold. First, as we mentioned above, cascade systems can achieve drastically low temperatures that traditional refrigerant circuit systems just can’t reach. Along with the cold temperatures cascade systems can be more energy efficient than the standard systems. This is done by choosing the most efficient refrigerant for both high side and low side applications. This allows for maximum efficiency and a savings on operating costs per month.

The downsides to a cascade system are rather obvious. First, they can be more expensive to build then a traditional system. This may come into play if the business owner is looking to install a cascade system in their place of business. (An example of this will be in our next section.) The other downside is that while cascade systems still pretty much follow the traditional refrigerant circuit they can be a bit more complicated to diagnose then your standard system.

Future Use of Cascade Systems

While cascade systems were mainly used for lab work in the past we are beginning to see a growth of these applications in less traditional areas. An example of this is seeing a cascade system installed in a supermarket freezer/refrigerator section. Back in 2016 Whole Foods installed a cascade refrigeration system for their new Santa Clara, California store. This cascade system is comprised of propane (R-290) and Carbon Dioxide (R-744).

The system contains nearly three-hundred pounds of propane charge, BUT, the propane never leaves the roof of the building due to it being a cascade system. Inside the building the harmless and non-flammable CO2 is used (Seventeen-hundred pounds of CO2 used).

This system is a prime example of using a cascade system in place of a climate damaging HFC system such as R-404A or R-134a. With this cascade system, Whole Foods was able to use switch their entire store over to natural refrigerants while still remaining efficient and keeping their customers safe and secure. There are also instances where a split system of Ammonia (R-717) has been used.

This investment was a great way for Whole Foods to future proof their refrigeration system. Neither one of these refrigerants are going to be phased out as they have no impact on the climate rather it be through Ozone Depletion or Global Warming Potential. R-744 and R-290 will be around forever. While yes, the downside may have been a heavier investment then a traditional system, Whole Foods can sleep easy knowing that their system will be in compliance for decades to come.

Conclusion

As HFC refrigerants begin to see further decline across the country we will begin to see more and more cascade systems applied. The good news is that if you understand the basic refrigeration circuit then you’ll find that a diagnosing a cascade system isn’t much different.

To learn more about cascade systems I recommend you visit the source articles that I have linked below. This is where I got my information from. I also specifically recommend the articles from RSES.org. While these articles are older they still provide a wealth of information on cascade systems and how they work.

Lastly, if you see anything that appears to be inaccurate or if I forgot something key on cascade refrigeration please reach out and let me know and I will correct as soon as I can.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

R-1234yf

The other day I was trying to find a comprehensive listing of which cars were using the newer R-1234yf HFO refrigerant. Over in Europe YF refrigerant is now the standard for all new vehicles. (In some cases R-744 is used as well.) R-134a is no longer used due to its high Global Warming Potential.

A few years back the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new SNAP Rule known as ‘Rule 20.’ This new rule stated that a lot of the most popular HFC refrigerants would no longer be acceptable in new applications. One of the refrigerants and applications listed was R-134a for all 2021 vehicle model years.  This all but dictated that automakers would have to use 1234yf in all of their new vehicles.

Well, as you all know, Rule 20 by the EPA was overturned by Federal Courts. The EPA had overreached their authority and had their proposed rules thrown back in their face. Having this rule thrown out left the future of R-134a uncertain. We all knew that 134a wasn’t going to be around forever. It did have a high GWP and it did need to go… but now there was no government mandate to do so.

Most everyone thought as the years passed by auto manufacturers would begin to switch to 1234yf without a government mandate. After all, it was the cleaner option and other states such as California and New York have begun to phase down HFC refrigerants.  It only made sense to protect yourself and make the switch over now.

Top Selling Cars in 2019

All that being said I was curious exactly what automakers and models of cars are now taking the HFO 1234yf refrigerant. How many of them are still holding onto the past? Since I couldn’t find an exact list I took a different approach.

I googled for a listing of the top selling cars of 2019. What I found was a listing of two-hundred cars from a website called ‘goodcarbadcar.net.’ The listing had sales volume, dollars, etc. I was only interested in the ranking though. What was the number one car sold, number two, etc.

Now that I had my listing I cut it down to the top fifty and then begin going to work. My goal here was to find out what refrigerant each of these 2019 model year cars were using.  Some of these were harder to find than others. In most cases I googled the year, make, model, and ‘owner’s manual.’ Usually I could find the manual and then find the refrigerant type in there.

In other cases I found the manual but the manufacturer kept the type of refrigerant a secret. In fact nearly anything to do with the air conditioning system was kept secret. The most I could find was to either ‘Check Under The Hood,’ for the refrigerant type, or to contact your dealer for maintenance questions. In these circumstances I Googled around a bit more and did my best to fill in the blanks.

The completed table can be found below. Overall, I couldn’t find the refrigerant type for eight vehicles. (If you know what they are please reach out to me and I will update the table.) But, for the others that I did find it painted a pretty clear picture of the refrigerant market today for new vehicles.

Let’s look at the facts first. For the top fifty selling cars in the United States only fifteen of them are still using R-134a. The other twenty-seven are using R-1234yf. Even if we give the missing ten cars the benefit of the doubt and state that they are all using R-134a we are still looking at over fifty percent market share of R-1234yf within the United States. Some folks will say as high as sixty or even seventy percent market share.

Even if it’s just fifty percent that is still a HUGE number and it is only going to continue to grow. Each year more and more auto manufacturers make the switch to 1234yf. You may have noticed that in the table some Makes have a mixture of R-134a and R-1234yf. This is most likely them testing the waters with YF. They want to see if everything works as it should before they go all in on YF.

RankMakeModelRefrigerant
1FordF-SeriesR-1234yf
2DodgeRam PickupR-1234yf
3ChevroletSilveradoR-1234yf
4NissanRogueR-134a
5ChevroletEquinoxR-1234yf
6HondaCR-VR-1234yf
7ToyotaRAV4R-1234yf
8ToyotaCamryR-1234yf
9ToyotaCorollaR-134a
10HondaCivicR-1234yf
11HondaAccordR-1234yf
12FordExplorerR-134a
13FordEscapeR-1234yf
14ToyotaTacomaR-1234yf
15JeepGrand CherokeeR-134a
16NissanSentraR-134a
17ToyotaHighlanderUnknown
18NissanAltimaR-1234yf
19JeepWranglerR-134a
20JeepCherokeeR-134a
21SubaruOutbackR-1234yf
22FordFusionR-1234yf
23SubaruForesterR-1234yf
24GMCSierraR-1234yf
25MazdaCX-5R-134a
26JeepCompassR-134a
27HyundaiElantraR-134a
28DodgeGrand CaravanR-134a
29ChevroletTraverseUnknown
30ChevroletMalibuR-1234yf
31ChevroletColoradoR-1234yf
32HondaPilotR-1234yf
33Toyota4RunnerUnknown
34FordTransitR-134a
35GMCAcadiaR-1234yf
36FordEdgeR-1234yf
37HyundaiTusconR-1234yf
38HyundaiSanta FeR-134a
39VolkswagenTiguanR-1234yf
40SubaruCrossTrekR-134a
41KiaSoulR-1234yf
42GMCTerrainUnknown
43ToyotaTundraUnknown
44NissanVersaR-134a
45BuickEncoreUnknown
46ChevroletTraxUnknown
47DodgeJourneyR-1234yf
48KiaSorentoR-1234yf
49LexusRXUnknown
50ChevroletCruzeR-1234yf

Conclusion

This table provides us with concrete evidence that R-1234yf is taking over the automotive market. If you haven’t come across it yet then I can assure that you will soon. From what I have read the average age of a vehicle that needs an air conditioner repair is between five to six years. So, at that fifty percent market share that we have today we could be looking at half of all vehicle AC repairs being done on YF systems by the year 2025.

R-134a is going the way of R-12. In another ten or fifteen years it’s going to be rare to find an 134a vehicle and when your vehicle does take R-134a you may have to pay a pretty penny to get a recharge. (Just look at how expensive R-12 is nowadays.) The only good news here folks is that there isn’t a mandatory phase out of R-134a yet… so the prices will still stay quite low for the foreseeable future.

The big problem that a lot of end users have with 1234yf is not that it’s a new refrigerant. No, the problem is the cost.  The cost of a pound of R-134a can hover between two to four dollars per pound. The cost of R-1234yf can hover between sixty to seventy dollars per pound. That’s nearly fifteen times more than the cost of R-134a. You can see an example of this cost from our Ebay partner by clicking here.

Because of this huge cost increase there has been a rash of end users manually converting their YF systems back over to R-134a. Hell, there is even an adapter out there for it… Rather these folks like it or not R-1234yf is here to stay and with each passing year the amount of vehicles using it is growing.

For more information on R-1234yf check out our ‘R-1234yf Refrigerant Fact Sheet,’ by clicking here.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

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