News

Every time I see a story like this I find my stances on Ammonia and R-717 use shifting and shifting. If you were to ask me a few years back what I thought about Ammonia being used in refrigerant applications I would have said that I’m all for it. After all, it is one of the most energy efficient refrigerants out there. But now, as I have come across story after story about Ammonia leaking due to an accident, a fire, or poor maintenance my faith in the proper use of this has waned.

When Ammonia refrigerant does leak it is a big deal. It is not like an R-22 leak. Sure, with R-22 you’re releasing Chlorine into the atmosphere and potentially damaging the Ozone but no one around is in immediate danger. (As long as you are in a ventilated area.) Ammonia, or R-717, is toxic. That means if breathed in it can be deadly. The repercussions of mistakes or poor maintenance can affect a lot of people.

On April 18th, 2018 in the city of Dawson, Georgia there was yet another refrigerant Ammonia leak. This time it occurred at the Tyson Chicken processing plant. While it is difficult to find the exact specifics as to what happened what I have gathered is that somehow the Ammonia leaked and ignited not only causing it to be air born but also causing a fire. Firefighters were able to contain the fire and the leak. The Tyson plant is shutdown all of this week and some of next while the cause can be investigated and the damage can be repaired.

In this instance luckily, there were no fatalities or injuries were reported. However, just like with other Ammonia leaks many buildings were evacuated and nearby schools didn’t even hold classes on the 19th due to precautions. I’m always puzzled how this happens. How are their schools this close to an industrial plant? Take a look at the picture below to see just how close they are. Who is in charge of city planning there? One of these buildings had to come first.

Tyson Food Plant: Dawson, Georgia
Tyson Food Plant: Dawson, Georgia

Ammonia Leaks in the Past Six Months

As I mentioned above my confidence in Ammonia refrigeration has lessened as of late. My concern is not about the performance or cost of R-717 but over the safety to those working at the facilities and those living around them. Let’s take a quick look at some of the Ammonia refrigerant events that have happened within just the past six months. I’m sure this isn’t all of them but this should give us an idea of the actual danger that comes with using Ammonia.

  • Last fall in a small town in British Columbia, Canada an Ammonia leak occurred at a local Ice Rink. This leak did not go well and at the end of it there were three fatalities. Since this happened there has been a lot of pressure and oversight on Ammonia refrigeration systems. Inspections have stepped up and some business owners have begun looking at alternative refrigerants so that they can move away from R-717. This story can be found by clicking here.
  • Another incident that occurred less than a month ago was at a meat processing plant in South Carolina. In this example there were no injuries or fatalities but nearby citizens were awoken by police alerts at two in the morning. Not a fun way to wake up. This story can be found by clicking here.

Conclusion

I’ve said it before in other articles and I’ll say it again here folks. I believe we need to stop using hazardous or toxic refrigerants such as R-717. Yes, I know that it is one of the most energy efficient refrigerants out there but let me ask you is it really worth it? Or, should we begin moving towards alternative refrigerants that are still climate friendly but that do not have the risk that comes with toxic refrigerants such as Ammonia.  If the argument is climate over safety then I’m going to side with safety.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Just a few days ago, on April 13th, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they will be delaying the SNAP Rule 20 HFC phase downs that were announced back in the summer of 2015. This announcement may not come to a surprise to a lot of you, that is if you have been following the drama over the past year on HFC refrigerants and the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20.

When the initial rule was announced in 2015 by the EPA the industry was somewhat surprised but like with most phase downs/phase outs there was plenty of time on the clock before the real changes had to take place. Contractors, distributors, and manufacturers all slowly got ready for the move away from HFCs. Everything was going as expected, but then in the summer of 2017 a Federal Court overturned the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20. (My article on this from last year can be found by clicking here.) This ruling turned everything on it’s head and put the industry in a wave of uncertainty. While there was a wave of appeals filed by Honeywell, Chemours, and other groups they were all overturned or ruled against. It was towards the beginning of 2018 that the reality began to set in. The EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 was dead, and now this week the EPA has all but confirmed it. See the below excerpt from the EPA’s published note:

This notice provides guidance to stakeholders that, based on the court’s partial vacatur, in the near-term EPA will not apply the HFC listings in the 2015 Rule, pending a rule making. – Source

This motion suspends all of the rules that were laid out in SNAP Rule 20. Some of these were just around the corner too such as the vending machine move away from R-404A that was to start in January 1st, 2019.  Another one was the upcoming unacceptable use of R-134a in new 2021 automotive model years. I won’t get into every detail on the rule but if you want to read more about it click here to be taken to the EPA’s official fact sheet.

Along with the court ruling and loss of appeals there were also many industry advocate groups such as National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) pushing for a delay to these rules. NAMA was founded all the way back in 1936 and now represents the twenty-five billion dollar United States’ convenience industry. They aim to provide education, research, and advocacy for the industry. In fact, NAMA lobbied so well that they had an in person meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency even before the court ruling came down in August of last year. It was these groups along with pressure from the courts that finally led to this announcement from the EPA.

Conclusion

For a lot of people there just wasn’t enough time for manufacturers and companies to come up with solid alternatives that was cost effective, safe, and that still met the EPA’s guidelines. The good news here is that by having the Environmental Protection Agency publicly come out and comment on the court ruling and their rules they are able to remove the sense of uncertainty that has clouded the industry since last summer. The planned SNAP Rule 20 is no longer valid. Today, we are waiting in limbo to see what the EPA proposes next but at least we know that the EPA has recognized the ruling.

No one is for sure what the Environmental Protection Agency will decide in the future. Will there be a new rule to phase out these high Global Warming Potential refrigerants? Does the EPA even have that authority anymore due to the court ruling in August? Or, is all of this movement just a reaction to the court’s ruling? Another part of good news here is that the EPA will be holding a stake holder’s meeting scheduled on May 4th of this year. This meeting will be designed to get input from the various industries so that the EPA can come up with a new set of HFC refrigerant rules in the near future.

Besides going through the EPA there are a couple of other options out there to phase down or phase out HFC refrigerants. We could have the State Department push the ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Senate and we could  fall back to the tried and true Montreal Protocol. Or, the other option is to replicate what California has done and have HFC regulations and rules by each state.

Either way folks don’t be fooled into thinking that HFCs are going to stay around for a while. Their time has come and passed. We are slowly entering into the world of HFOs and Hydrocarbons. All of these bumps in the road are just that, bumps. We will still get to our destination.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

Spring is beautiful. Trees are blooming, birds are chirping, and we rarely have to wear winter coats. It’s nice outside! Finally, there are days when you don’t have to run your HVAC system. If you have another type of space heater you’re probably not using that either. Soon, however, you’ll need to consider your cooling situation. And the perfect time is now.

This is because those 100 degree temperature days can come out of nowhere. Instead of being caught off guard, let’s take a look at some cooling options. Your HVAC system might be your go-to. However, there are portable and window air conditioners are great solutions as well. Before considering which might be best for you, you first need to understand the differences between the two. You’ll then learn functionality and features of each to decide which is best for you. There are a few points to consider here. They are:
• Defining each of the systems.
• Comparing the features of each system.
• Choosing the right air conditioner.
• Knowing where to buy it.

What is a Portable Air Conditioner?

DeLonghi America PACAN120EW 12000BTU Whisper Cool Portable Air Conditioner
PACAN120EW 12000BTU Portable Air Conditioner

A portable air conditioner is named as such for a reason: it’s portable! Think of a unit which can be moved from room to room or home to home. Portable air conditioners sit close to a window. This allows it to remove warm air from the room through a hose connected to the unit.

Portable air conditioners typically have a removable tray which collects moisture. Over time, this tray needs to be removed and the liquid should be flushed down a drain. Some high-end models, however, evaporate moisture out of the exhaust hose, along with the warm air. The Whynter ARC-122DS Elite is a great example of a higher end portable air conditioner which automatically evaporates moisture. You can learn more about portable air conditioners by clicking here.

What is a Window Air Conditioner?

Koldfront WAC10002WCO 10,000 BTU
Koldfront WAC10002WCO 10,000 BTU

A window air conditioner can also be viewed as a type of portable unit. However, it’s a stationary one. They are literally installed in an open window. The trick to window air conditioners is finding the right size. Having a proper setup means that the unit should fit perfectly. This will allow the cool air to stay in the room, thereby saving energy and money. The hOme 5000 BTU Window-Mounted Air Conditioner is a popular choice due to its ideal fit in bedroom windows. Make sure you measure your window before purchasing.

Installing a window air conditioner is not difficult, provided you follow the instruction manual. Once ready to run, you’ll find that the unit seems like a permanent fixture. They are great, in part, because they don’t take up much space due to being in the window. You can learn more about window air conditioners by clicking here.

Comparing the Two

There are multiple benefits to each unit. Some of the benefits overlap. For example, each type of air conditioner is relatively inexpensive. The average price is a few hundred dollars. In contrast, central air conditioners cost thousands of dollars. Portable air conditioners are slightly more expensive than window air conditioners. However, the price difference is minimal and may not be a major deciding factor with which unit to choose from.

The noise level varies with portable air conditioners. You can generally expect them to be quieter the price goes higher. Window air conditioners, on the other hand, are usually louder. This is due, in part, to the rumbling of the unit up against the window sill. Securing the unit in place will help to minimize the noise it produces.

Window air conditioners commonly come with an Energy Star rating. But that doesn’t mean portable air conditioners can’t be energy efficient. Portable units are commonly assigned an Energy Efficient Ratio (EER) rating. The higher the EER is, the more efficient the portable air conditioner will be. That being said, window air conditioners are generally known to be more energy efficient.

Which You Should Choose

Efficiency, price, versatility—these are the factors you’ll consider before choosing a unit. If you think you’ll be moving the unit from room to room you might want a portable air conditioner. If you are looking to save space in a room you might want a window air conditioner. If you want the easier unit to install you might choose the portable air conditioner. If you are looking for an efficient model you might choose a window air conditioner.

These factors might seem clear-cut to you. Or, you may want a mix of the features. At the end of the day, you’ll need to pick which one is best for your situation.

Where to Buy Them

My favorite place to shop is Amazon. I’m able to easily compare models and types without leaving my home. And you can too. For portable air conditioners, a great starting point for you would be here. If you are interested in window air conditioners, you will want to shop here.

Make sure you read customer reviews. It’s one of my favorite ways to research a new product I’m considering buying. You can also look at the star rating for a quick idea of how good the product is. If you are energy conscious, make sure you look at the BTU number of the unit. As the number goes higher it will be able to produce more energy.

Conclusion

Reading this has made you better prepared to face to face a hot summer. It’s important to note that, even if you have central air, you’ll want to get it checked before a hot an humid day. You may not have used your air conditioner since last year and you’ll want to make sure it’s working properly.

Consider also that both portable and window air conditioners use less energy than a central air conditioner. If you only need to cool one or two rooms in your home, either unit might be a great money-saving solution. If you have any further questions about portable or window air conditioners don’t hesitate to contact me.

What Is It?

Anyone who has ever dealt with an air conditioning system, even in the smallest of manners, has most likely heard of the TXV. It’s one of those things like Superheat and Subcool that are essential to understand when working on a unit. But what is the TXV? How does it affect the system? When did it come about? We’re going to dive in folks to all of this, answer those questions, and maybe more. Let’s take a look.

What is the TXV?

TXVs, or Thermostatic Expansion Valves, is a metering device found in most air conditioning systems around the world. The goal of this valve is to control the amount of liquid refrigerant being fed into the system’s evaporator and to also control the amount of Superheat in a system. Depending on who you are or who you are working with you may hear TXVs be called the generic name of ‘metering devices.’

Refrigerant TXVThe TXV is located on the liquid line between the condenser and the evaporator. In most cases it sits right outside the evaporator ensuring that no extra liquid gets in and potentially floods the evaporator. When working perfectly the TXV is a precise instrument that increases the overall efficiency of your system.

As I stated above TXVs were designed to improve energy efficiency on air conditioners. This is done by metering the amount of refrigerant. TXVs were NOT designed to control humidity, capacity, head pressure, air temperature, suction pressure, or anything else. Again, it is just controlling the amount of refrigerant allowed into the evaporator.

The TXV achieves this by doing a couple of things. First, it looks at how fast the refrigerant is moving through the evaporator and how fast it is boiling off back into a gas form. It does this by looking at the temperatures of the refrigerant gas as it leaves the evaporator and the pressure inside of the evaporator. These recordings are kept in a temperatures sensing bulb built into the TXV. If metering needs to occur then a pin is moved in our out automatically in the valve to control the flow of refrigerant based off of the data that the TXV received.

When this pin is applied inside the TXV a few things begin to happen to the liquid refrigerant that is now stagnat. The pressure on the refrigerant slowly begins to drop. As this drop occurs an amount of the refrigerant converts to gas. (This is the standard response during pressure drops.) This now low pressure liquid and gas mixture moves into the evaporator and then completely boils off into it’s gaseous state.

Refrigerant TXV

TXV Failure Causes

Like with anything on an air conditioning system Thermostatic Expansion Valves can break. The question now is when they are broken or when they are failing how can we tell and why did they break? What should we look for? Below are a few examples of failures that can occur on your TXV:

  • Build up of wax on the inside of the TXV. This can happen due to the wrong oil being used in the system.
  • Containment or particulates getting stuck in the TXV. This can happen due to a few reasons, one of them is your compressor failing and burning out.
  • Orifice inside the TXV freezing and filling with ice due to excessive moisture within the system.
  • If at one point your compressor was flooded with refrigerant than your system’s excess oil may bog down the TXV. This can also happen if you just have too much oil in your system.
  • The Thermostatic Expansion Valve may be adjusted too far closed or open for it to work effectively.
  • Lastly, but still very important, is that there may just be a manufacturer’s defect on the TXV.

Remember that a system with a faulty TXV is going to display the same symptoms as a faulty liquid line. This is because the TXV is in fact part of the liquid line. So, when checking for failures it is best to check every component in the liquid line including the TXV, the drier, any solenoids, and valves.

TXV Failure Symptoms

Ok folks, so we now know what a TXV is and how it can fail but the question now is what are some of the signs that a TXV is failing? What are the things to look for? First, let’s remember that a failure on a TXV is one of two things. First it is either too restricted and it is not letting refrigerant into the evaporator. Second, it is not restricting enough and you are having excess refrigerant being fed into your evaporator.

Let’s look at the first example first where not enough refrigerant is being fed into the evaporator. Symptoms of this can be the following:

  • Low pressure on your evaporator.
  • High evaporator and compressor Superheat temperatures.
  • Low amperage from your compressor.
  • Short cycling on the low pressure control.
  • A higher than normal discharge temperature.
  • Low condenser pressure. (Head)
  • Higher than normal condenser Subcool temperatures.

Ok, now let’s look at the second example when too much refrigerant is being fed into your evaporator. When this happens the evaporator can no longer keep up and some of the liquid refrigerant may in fact work it’s way towards your compressor. If liquid refrigerant moves into your compressor the liquid will settle at the bottom of the compressor along with the oil. All of this can cause premature failure in your compressor. Trust me folks, compressors aren’t cheap. The thing to keep in mind here is that if you do have a compressor failure then there was a reason for that. It may have not been a faulty compressor but instead something further on down the line, in this case the TXV.

Conclusion

Remember folks, nowadays the Thermostatic Expansion Valve is one of the most important things for technicians to check, monitor, and review. Couple this with checking Superheat and Subcool then you will have a pretty darn good idea what is going on with your system.

Thanks for reading and I hope this was helpful,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

What Is It?

Being able to measure refrigerant Subcool and Superheat are essential for diagnosing and correcting an air conditioning or refrigeration unit. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misunderstanding as to what exactly Superheat and Subcool actually are and even less understanding on how to measure it. There are so many novice technicians that get ‘stumped’ on a system without even checking Subcool or Superheat temperatures…. or if they did check them they checked in the wrong section. These same people then end up calling for help from experienced technicians, but as they soon find out one of the first questions anybody will ask when diagnosing a unit is what are the Subcool and Superheat temperatures? These two temperatures can tell you so much about a system.

While this article isn’t going into all of the technical details behind each temperature I will do my best to do a high level explanation of Subcool. Click here for an explanation of Superheat.

What is Subcool?

To understand Subcool we first have to understand the refrigerant cycle and how it flows through a system. I won’t get into every technical detail here of a air conditioning system. If you want a full rundown click here to be taken to our ‘Understanding Refrigerants,’ guide. In the case of Subcool we need to follow the cycle at the point where refrigerant enters through the condenser.

When refrigerant enters the systems condenser it is in it’s gaseous, or vapor, state. While in the condenser heat is removed from the gas until that refrigerant reaches it’s saturation condensing temperature. When this point is reached the refrigerant gas turns back into a liquid. Once your refrigerant has turned to liquid while going through the condenser your Subcool can be found. The term Subcool refers to any temperature that is below the saturation condensing point of the refrigerant. Let’s say I have a saturation temperature of eighty degrees and the line temperature is at seventy-seven degrees. We now know that we have a three degree Subcool.

The efficiency of your system depends on how much liquid refrigerant is fed into your evaporator. If your refrigerant is being fed into the evaporator and it is NOT Subcooled then you are feeding refrigerant gas into your evaporator. If you are feeding gas into your evaporator then the system will act as if it is restricted and your cooling capacity and efficiency will plummet dramatically. In most systems the condenser acts like a metering device as to how much liquid refrigerant can be fed into your evaporator. If your system is suffering from poor Subcool then you can determine nearly right away that something is wrong with your condenser.

How to Check Subcool

Determining Subcool is similar to how we found Superheat. Just like with Superheat Subcool is a calculated value by taking the difference between two temperatures. First you must find the actual temperature of the refrigerant vapor and then you need the saturation or boiling point of that same refrigerant. The saturation point can be found by using the high side manifold on your gauge set. This will allow you to measure the pressure of the condenser.  Once you have this pressure you can then convert it to a temperature either using your gauge or a PT conversion table.

Secondly, you need to take your thermostat or thermometer and measure the liquid line temperature for your next reading. The liquid line is located between the condenser and the evaporator. In order to get the most accurate reading you should take the temperature as close to the evaporator as possible and before the metering device. (If your system has a metering device.)

Here is where one of the key differences between Superheat and Subcool come into play. With Subcool the gauge/saturation temperature is going to be higher then your line temperature. (Remember, with Superheat your line temp should always be higher then gauge.) Once you have these two readings you then do the math. For example. Let’s say we have a saturation temperature of eighty-seven degrees and our line temperature is at seventy-nine degrees. We now have a Subcool reading of eight degrees.

Conclusion

As I mentioned in the introduction of this article I did not plan to dive deep into every little thing about Superheat or Subcool. I would prefer to save the really technical stuff for the guys who have already done their homework and have it mapped out quite well already. If you have more questions on these topics please refer to the links below. They provide a wealth of information on the topics and will give you more information then you would ever need.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson
RefrigerantHQ

What Is It?

Summer is quickly approaching. And Kansas can get hot! Temperatures in the three digits are not uncommon. Therefore, we have to be ready before those days arrive. You need to make sure your cooling systems work well before it’s too late. Otherwise, hot days will be uncomfortable for you and your family. One way to keep the home cool in the summer is to use a portable air conditioner.

If you aren’t familiar with these systems you’re in the right place. There are more cooling options out there than a central cooling system. Or a fan. Learning about portable cooling systems might be the perfect solution for your home. There are a few points to consider when learning about portable air conditioners. Four of them are:
  • The difference between portable versus central air.
  • Portable cooling can lower your monthly bills.
  • These systems only require low maintenance.
  • When you should buy a portable unit.

Portable Versus Central Air

Central air systems are one of the more common cooling solutions in a home. Because portable cooling units are lesser known, we have to learn what differentiates the two.

Central air units are larger and found outside of the home. They are connected as part of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. These units are controlled by a central thermostat. Central air units are more complicated than portable air conditioners when it comes to maintenance. This is because they normally require a trained service technician. It’s recommended these systems be tuned up once a year. The service bills add up over time. However, a central air unit might be the better option if you want to cool the entire home at the same time.

Portable air conditioners are smaller and installed inside of the home. Their goal is to provide cooling to one room, instead of cooling to the entire home. Because they play a smaller role than a central system, portable air conditioners are less expensive. They are also versatile. Moving them to a different room is a possibility. You can even bring them to another home if you move! This normally isn’t possible to do with a central cooling system.

Lower Your Energy Bills

The ability to cool one room instead of the entire home has its benefits. Chief among them is the money you can save on your monthly energy bill. Constantly running a central air system can become quite costly. However, there might be rooms in the home that are mostly unoccupied. Do those rooms need to be cooled in the summer? The answer might be no. You can instead run a portable air conditioner in only the room or rooms you want cooled.

Portable air conditioners are so efficient you might find yourself using central cooling less and less. Older central cooling systems tend to not work that great. You might find yourself maxing out the thermostat to get your home cooled. This will result in maxing out your energy bill! If your current central air system isn’t pushing out the proper amount of cool air you might want to consider owning a portable air conditioner. It would be much more cost effective to purchase a portable cooling unit than to replace your outside cooling unit. It’s also more convenient. You won’t have to schedule major work to your home. You can even have a portable cooling unit shipped to your house!

Low Maintenance

Earlier, I talked about how central cooling units require routine and sometimes expensive maintenance. You need to schedule an expert to inspect your system. You might even have to take off work to be home! Your vacation days can be better spent somewhere else. A portable air conditioner requires neither of those when it comes to maintenance. Keep your vacation days! A portable cooling unit is easy to install and maintain. All you do it push a couple buttons and it works! Low maintenance is required with these systems. Let’s talk about what that entails.

DeLonghi America PACAN120EW 12000BTU Whisper Cool Portable Air Conditioner
PACAN120EW 12000BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Portable air conditioners are famously hassle-free. The only maintenance you’ll have to do is drain any moisture that is collected over time. Different units might have different ways in which you’ll do it. But it will likely involve removing a tray that contains the moisture. After that, you’ll simply pour it down a drain. Once you’ve done that, simply put the tray back and continue using the portable cooling unit. It’s that easy! Some premium units, such as the DeLonghi America PACAN120EW, do not even require you to drain the moisture. This is because it has a built-in moisture evaporator. You can find this model on Amazon.

When to Buy a Portable Air Conditioner

Now you know that portable air conditioners are inexpensive, save money on energy bills, and can be transferred from room to room. They also require little or no maintenance versus a central cooling unit. So, when would you buy one? The answer is if these facts make sense for you and your situation.

Everyone wants to save money. This is arguably the biggest deciding factor when thinking about buying a portable cooling unit. Another factor is the versatility option. You can move these units from one room to another. You can even bring them with you to another house. Still, another factor is not being ready to replace an old HVAC system yet. Newer HVAC systems might be expensive. but portable air conditioners are not. If your current HVAC system isn’t working well you should consider opting for a portable cooling unit.

Where to Buy One

You can find portable air conditioners in many places. My favorite place would be Amazon. You can shop without leaving the comfort of your own home. You can also easily compare models and read reviews of each of them. Before you choose a unit you should know the square footage of the room you want to cool. Follow my guide by clicking here. The article pertains to window units. However, the information about BTU strength is interchangeable with portable air conditioners. Feel free to reach out to me here if you need help choosing a portable air conditioner.

R-125, or Pentafluroethane, is one of the most prominent refrigerants in use across the world. It can be found in your grocery store, your office buildings, and even your home air conditioner. If supply runs out or there is a price constraint then it is felt across the world. It is truly astounding how one refrigerant can have such an impact across the industry.

Now, some of you may be thinking to yourself well I’ve never come across R-125 in the field, how can it be one of the most popular refrigerants? Well folks, R-125 is one of the key ingredients in a large amount of refrigerant blends. In fact, R-125 can be found in nearly twenty different types of blended refrigerants. Including some of the ever popular R-404A and R-410A refrigerants that we see and use daily. Along with those it is also found in R-402A, R-402B, R-408A, R-417A, R-419A, R-421A, R-421B, R-422A, R-422B, R-422C, R-422D, R-424A, R-426A, R-428A, R-434A, R-437A, and R-507[A].

 

 

 

The Rise & Incoming Fall of R-125

R-125 came to prominence at around the same time the world was phasing down and phasing out the Ozone depleting CFC and HCFC refrigerants. (R-12 or R-22 Freon.) The world needed an alternative solution that wasn’t going to affect the Ozone, that was non-toxic, non-flammable, and that kept an obtainable price point. The solution was HFC refrigerants. Just as R-12 and R-22 were the ‘Kings’ of their refrigerant classifications, I consider R-125 the ‘King’ of HFC refrigerants. As I pointed out above it’s found all over the place. This quick transition away from CFCs and HCFCs resolved the problem of the Ozone but now as the world began to use HFCs everywhere a new problem emerged.

Instead of worrying about the Ozone we now had to worry about Global Warming Potential from ‘Super Pollutants.’ These Super Pollutants were chemicals or artificial products that could get trapped in the atmosphere and that were much more potent then any naturally occurring element. To measure these chemicals the Global Warming Potential scale was invented.

Like with every scale a baseline is needed and in this example we used Carbon Dioxide as our baseline measurement of one. R-125’s Global Warming Potential, or GWP, is rated at three-thousand four-hundred and fifty. That means that R-125 is over three-thousand times more potent then Carbon Dioxide. When released or vented these gases get stuck in the atmosphere and directly contribute to Global Warming. HFC refrigerants are a great example of Greenhouse Gases.

Due to the impact and extremely large GWP that R-125 and all of it’s blends contain there has been a push from all countries and governments to phase down and eventually phase out these high GWP refrigerants. I’m sure most of you have heard of a lot of these by now. There have been agency regulations, legislation, and there was even an amendment added to the Montreal Protocol known as the Kigali Amendment to phase out HFC refrigerants. Just look at the bad wrap R-404A has gotten as of late. Many many customers and manufacturers are switching away from 404A and over to lower GWP HFC alternatives, HFO alternatives, or even over to Hydrocarbons.

Everyone wants to stop using R-125 as quickly as we can to prevent any more gases from being trapped in the atmosphere. 404A and the other lesser used blends are first on the list, but while the push for R-410A to be phased down hasn’t really come yet I can assure you that it will be coming soon. The days of R-125 and it’s use in blending are numbered.

Pricing & Shortages

The problem with R-125 being used in so many refrigerant blends is that when there is a price increase or a shortage then that shortage ripples across the industry and moves it’s way down the ladder towards the blends like 404A and 410A.

As an example, there was a worldwide shortage of R-125 during the summer of 2017. The majority of R-125 is sourced from China and something happened over the spring and summer of 2017 that caused the shortage that we all felt in our pocket books. I spent some time researching why this happened. The most common explanation that I found is that the chemical Flurospar experienced a forty percent price increase towards the beginning of 2017. (Flurospar is a main ingredient in the R-125 refrigerant.) This price increase caused a direct effect on the price of R-125 raising it by one-hundred and thirty percent. The price increase on Flurospar was blamed on China’s strengthening of environmental laws that directly affect the mining industry. So, because China wanted to become more environmentally conscious we all paid the price.

Depending on where you were in the world when this shortage hit you could have seen your prices raise by forty or fifty percent on 125 blends. In some cases though, especially over in the European Union, prices shot up hundreds of percents.

At this point there is no telling what will happen in 2018 on R-125, but if you ever wanted to make a guess as to what the refrigerant price will do over the summer then there is no better barometer than R-125.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

As we all know the refrigerant and air conditioning industry is highly seasonal. Depending on the intensity of that season we could see prices climb and climb like we have in the past. Sometimes these price increases don’t even begin to drop back to baseline levels until October or even November. While there are always other factors in play for refrigerant pricing like tariffs or phase downs I would say the biggest factor is seasonality.

Here’s the thing though it’s all a guessing game. No one knows for sure what the weather is going to bring for next Spring or Summer. Sure, you can read the Farmer’s Almanac and all that to get an educated guess but even then it’s still a guess. When I was a buyer for Kenworth Trucks we would end up buying ALL of our air conditioning parts and R-134a refrigerant in the month of February. There was a few reasons we did this. The first was that the product was at it’s cheapest at this point. There was very little demand and buying up ensured the best price. The other reason was more of a gamble. We would purchase a few trailer loads of R-134a (About sixteen-hundred cylinders.) at the cheapest off-season price we could get. We did this in hopes of a hot and brutal Summer. As the temperatures got warmer we would watch the market and raise our selling price accordingly. On particular bad Summers we would start out making ten percent on 134a and end the summer making fifty percent margin all because we had that lower cost product we bought up back in February. On the other hand if we had a cold Summer then we ended up sitting on all that of inventory. In some cases we actually saw prices drop in the summer below what we paid and we ended up selling at a loss. Like I said, it’s a gamble.

Spring 2018

Look at this Spring so far in 2018. Now I don’t know where you are at in the country, or outside of the country, but over here in Kansas City we have had one hell of an unusual Spring. Usually by this time I’m grilling some burgers and watching my girls play in the backyard. Instead it’s been so cold we’ve been cooped up for most of the day. In fact just last Sunday we had snow in the afternoon. (I mowed our ten acres during that snowfall, not a fun time!) Today was our first truly nice day with temperatures rising into the seventies. But, even with that beautiful day the upcoming forecast calls for more snow on Saturday and Sunday. The temperatures are dipping back down into the twenties overnight and thirties for the day. I’m seeing reports of this all over the Country.

My parents, who run a local plant nursery, have seen a lot of their plants die from the aggressive frost this year. Usually this time of year they’re selling plants left and right but traffic has been substantially down. It has just been too cold to do much. I like to use them as my barometer as to what will be coming in the Summer months. If they’re selling plants and trees like crazy in March then I know it’s going to be a good year. So far, it’s been a quiet season due to this darned cold. Doesn’t bode well.

On the refrigerant side of things I am not meeting my 2018 budget. While I am still up from last year I had much higher hopes for March and this April so far. Most of us in this industry wish for a long and hot Summer season. The hotter the temperature the more the machines run and the higher chance of failures. Failures mean sales and refrigerant usage. While this increased demand is good for business it is bad for the price of refrigerant.  As we are getting closer and closer to May and June I am starting to believe that we will have a much colder summer then usual. That means less service calls and less work. It’s always tough to see technicians just hanging around the shop waiting for a call.

If I was to put a guess on what refrigerant pricing will do this Summer when it comes to seasonality then I would say that we’re going to stay relatively flat demand and price wise. If we’re going to have the Summer I’m thinking of then there isn’t going to be much demand out there. If you’ve already bought up for the season then I can only hope that we can see the price go up. However, if you haven’t yet then you might just buy enough to get you through and wait and see what this Summer brings.

Let’s all hope for a nice and hot Summer. While I hate those one-hundred degree days here, my business loves them!

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

 

What Is It?

Being able to measure refrigerant Subcool and Superheat are essential for diagnosing and correcting an air conditioning or refrigeration unit. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misunderstanding as to what exactly Superheat and Subcool actually are and even less understanding on how to measure it. There are so many novice technicians that get ‘stumped’ on a system without even checking Subcool or Superheat temperatures…. or if they did check them they checked in the wrong section. These same people then end up calling for help from experienced technicians, but as these guys soon find out one of the first questions anybody will ask when diagnosing a unit is what are the Subcool and Superheat temperatures? These two temperatures can tell you so much about a system.

While this article isn’t going into all of the technical details behind each temperature I will do my best to do a high level explanation of Superheat.

What is SuperHeat?

Superheat lets you know if the correct amount of refrigerant is being fed into the evaporator. If your Superheat temperature is too high then not enough refrigerant is being fed in. This can result in poor system performance and loss of energy efficiency. However, if you find that the Superheat temperature is too low then you know that you have a surplus of refrigerant being fed into your evaporator. This result can be a sign that you are getting liquid refrigerant into your compressor. This isn’t a good thing! The liquid refrigerant inside a compressor can mix in with the oil at the bottom of the shell. This can result in poor lubrication to your compressor and may result in premature failure. Compressor failures are not cheap to fix.

To understand Superheat we first have to understand the refrigerant cycle and how it flows through a system. I won’t get into every technical detail here of a air conditioning system. If you want a full rundown click here to be taken to our ‘Understanding Refrigerants,’ guide. In the case of Superheat we need to follow the cycle at the point where refrigerant enters through the evaporator. At the point of entry into the evaporator the refrigerant is a liquid. While it is in the evaporator and heat is added the liquid slowly begins to turn into a vapor once it reaches it’s boiling point. (Also known as saturation temperature.)

Once the refrigerant has boiled to a vapor then any temperature above and beyond the boiling point is known as the Superheat. In other words, Superheat is any temperature of a gas that is above the boiling point for that liquid.  The reason that Superheat is so important to measure is that it can give you a direct indicator as to what is wrong with the system.

Checking & Calculating Superheat

Checking and finding Superheat is relatively simple.  Superheat is a calculated value by taking the difference between two temperatures. First you must find the actual temperature of the refrigerant vapor and then you need the saturation or boiling point of that same refrigerant. The temperature that you measure on the refrigerant SHOULD be higher then what your boiling point/saturation point is on the refrigerant. If it is not, then you have no Superheat. Superheat can be determined by subtracting the boiling point/saturation point of the refrigerant from the actual temperature of the refrigerant vapor. As an example, if we had forty-five degrees boiling point and your actual refrigerant temperature is at sixty-seven degrees then you have a Superheat of twenty-three degrees.

To get your saturation or boiling point temperature you will need to use the low side on your gauge set to measure the pressure of the evaporator.  Once you have this pressure you can then convert it to a temperature either using your gauge or a PT conversion table.

In order to get the most accurate reading on your refrigerant vapor it is best to take the temperature on the suction line as close to the Condenser as possible. Once you have your temperatures you do the math and presto you now have your Superheat.

Conclusion

As I mentioned in the introduction of this article I did not plan to dive deep into every little thing about Superheat or Subcool. I would prefer to save the really technical stuff for the guys who have already done their homework and have it mapped out quite well already. If you have more questions on these topics please refer to the links below. They provide a wealth of information on the topics and will give you more information then you would ever need.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson
RefrigerantHQ

I am proud to say that RefrigerantHQ has been mentioned in quite a few different websites in their ‘Top HVAC Websites,’ section. These various post are a great way for an audience on one site to discover a related site that they may have not known about in the past. Thanks to these posts I have seen an increase in traffic so I thought that I would return the favor by compiling a best of here as well.

My website, RefrigerantHQ, is a niche within a niche. Yes, I see my site as part of the HVAC industry but as you all know we tend to focus only on the refrigerant or air-conditioning side of the world. While there are many top ten or top whatever sites in the HVAC industry I thought that I would take the time today and put together a top listing of all of the best refrigerant sites out there. The sites listed below are all highly regarded and respected. Most of the time when I am writing an article I will either get the idea from one of these sites or I will refer to them as a source. Let’s take a look.

#1) – Cooling Post

The Cooling Post is a website based out of the United Kingdom. Like my website they tend to focus only on the refrigerant and air conditioning aspect of the industry. I have them ranked as number one in my listing as they provide a great, steady, and late-breaking news on the industry. Chances are if something has happened the Cooling Post will have an article about it. I try to reference them as much as a I can as a reputable source. If you haven’t already subscribed to their newsletter then I would highly recommend doing so! It is sent out twice a week and there is usually always an interesting topic related to our niche.

#2) – ACHRNews

I’m sure most of you have heard of ACHRNews. They have been around as a magazine for nearly one-hundred years. While they focus on anything and everything in the heating and cooling world they do offer very detailed articles and updates on the refrigeration side of things as well. Their subscription base looks to be mainly composed of contractors and technicians.

Depending on the article these guys can either cover a broad topic or they dive down into the weeds and details of certain applications. I would suggest subscribing if you are a small business owner or someone who is just looking to keep up with all of the changes in the HVAC industry. Personally, I use ACHRnews as a reference and a source for quite bit of my articles as well.

#3) – RACPlus

RAC is out of the United Kingdom just like the Cooling Post is. RAC is another website and magazine dedicated to the refrigerant and air conditioning world. While some of their stories may be European Union centered I can assure you that they do a variety of international stories including covering the United States. Just today I signed up for their monthly print magazine and I’m looking forward to diving into it when the first edition arrives.

While I have used RAC as a source in the past I do not see them as often as I see the previous Cooling Post and ACHRnews. That’s not to say that they don’t provide great articles, they do, but sometimes it is not the exact kind of story that I am looking for on my site.

Something kind of neat that I would like to mention here is that they are putting on a ‘2018 Cooling Awards,’ program. The official link can be found by clicking here. There are many different categories to win. The 2017 winners can be found by clicking here.

#4) – SHECCO

Shecco is an interesting company. They are a company dedicated to advancing and promoting natural refrigerants. Instead of having one centralized site they run a variety of websites, magazines, and publications. As an example, R-744.com is owned and ran by Shecco. This website is anything and everything related to CO2 refrigerants. Another website of theirs Ammonia21.com is, you guessed it, dedicated to Ammonia (R-717) in refrigerant applications.

On top of their various websites they also host an annual tradeshow out of Long Beach, California. 2018’s show is this June and there are expected to be around four-hundred and fifty experts, policy/law makers, and end users attending. Registration for the event can be found by clicking here. While I was planning to attend this year I now found that I am unable due to a family medical issue. I’m hoping for next year!

Shecco’s various sites:

#5) – iiar

Iiar is another advocate group for natural refrigerants including Ammonia. This site is more a lobbying group. I say this as their address is in Virginia and their board of directors are all come from various large companies across the United States as well as outside of the US. I would take most of their articles with a grain of salt. This website provides occasional news and updates on natural refrigerants and I have used them as a source or reference a few times, but nowhere near as much as the previous sites.

#6) – ClimateControlNews

Again, this isn’t a site that I have used very often but they do provide informative articles and updates. Climate Control News is based out of Australia which is great as I usually don’t see too much news coming from over there. Most of the time I only end up reading about western changes either from the United States or the European Union. This website actually gave me the idea for a story I did the other day about a new refrigerant phone application that will soon give us the first accurate measurement on how much charge is left in a dying or scrapped air conditioning system. (Story can be found here.)

#7) – LindeGas

While this isn’t a news or magazine site I find myself using Linde’s website quite often when I am looking for specific facts about a certain refrigerant. For example, if I didn’t know the exact GWP of R-134a or the ASHRAE safety classification then I simply go to Google and type in, “Linde R-134a.” Bam, I get exactly what I needed. (Example of their R-134a page here.)

As you can see from the above link, this page gives you a break down of all applications 134a can be used for, GWP, Ozone depletion potential, oil requirements, and much more information. This is my go to site when looking for refrigerant specifics.

Honoralbe Mention – ACRJournal

My honorable mention here is the ACR Journal out of the United Kingdom. While I haven’t personally sourced from them I can say that after browsing their site they look to have some good articles. I did notice that they haven’t updated for a month or two, so you won’t get as much news from them as say a Cooling Post subscription but it may still be worth your time to look this site over.

Conclusion

Well folks, that’s my listing of top refrigerant sites for  2018. Now I know that I have missed some sites. It’s bound to happen. I’m hoping that if you run a site or if you know of a site that wasn’t included in this listing to please send the information my way. If I feel that it fits into this listing then I will edit the article and add your suggestion. The goal here is to provide a great and ever building list for everyone to source from.

Reader Recommendations:

Thanks for reading and I hope this list was helpful,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Earlier today I was reading a very interesting article on a new App that was created for the refrigerant industry. This App that was developed and designed for the Australia market is built to collect, store, and send data. This is how most Apps work, but here’s the difference. This App focuses on refrigerants.

The goal of the App is for technicians to measure and record how much charge, or refrigerant, is left in an end of life system. Today, no one really knows what the average amount of refrigerant is left in these soon to be discarded systems. The speculation is that at least half of a charge, if not more, remains in the unit. But, now instead of guessing Refrigerant Reclaim Australia (RRA) has come up with this App for the techs to use when doing a removal or install.

With the data logged by techs all over the country the RRA will be able to aggregate it and come up with a scientific number to charges left in end of life air conditioners, chillers, and everything else. This information is key. Some of you may not know this but my day job is in Information Technology and Software Development so the moment I saw this story I felt like I HAD to write it.

Speaking from someone who deals with large sets of data regularly I cannot emphasize enough how valuable this information will be once collected. Data is the new gold folks. There is a reason companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google collect anything and everything they can. Imagine in a few years or so of having accurate refrigerant data like this. A government or entity could accurately give phase down goals and numbers instead of guessing at it. Just ask the European Union how that guessing game is working out for them!

One thing that you may be asking yourself is how they can ensure that the information is actually logged into the App? Well, what’s the best way to get someone to do something no matter what industry you are in? Incentives! The RRA will be putting users of the App into weekly drawings of a two-hundred dollar vouchers to various outlet stores. On top of that there are also two grand prizes of five-thousand dollars to be claimed.

Conclusion

I was really impressed when I read this story. It’s a smart, innovative, and easy way for technicians to record the data on each and every machine that they work on. While I haven’t personally used the App I am hoping that the GUI is easy enough to interpret and use. There is nothing more frustrating then when trying to use a program only to find out that it is not user friendly and is burdensome to use.

As an IT guy and a refrigerant guy I have to say that I am excited about what is to come over the next few years. What other Apps will be created and invented? There are so many possibilities out there. The option of having any and all information within arms reach on your phone in this industry will be huge. There are so many misconceptions or just things that are flat out wrong. Combating these will push this industry further into the future and I believe Apps are the way to do it!

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Everyone in the industry knows of Chemours and their former parent company DuPont. Chemours was known as the ‘billion dollar startup,’ back in 2015 when they split from DuPont and formed an entirely new company. Ever since then they have grown and have become an aggressive competitor. Along with Honeywell, Chemours is one of the largest refrigerant manufacturers, producers, and researchers in the world. In fact, they and Honeywell are responsible for the new line of HFO refrigerants. (Chemour’s brand is known as Opteon Refrigerants.)

Today I was notified via Twitter that Chemours had made a new acquisition. I have to say that my mind wandered a bit trying to think of who it could be. A distribution network? A reclaimation company? Instead of guessing I looked across Google for any updates. It wasn’t hard to find the news.

Chemours purchased a much smaller company out of Indiana known as ICOR International. ICOR is an innovator in the refrigerant world. Instead of making due with the status quo during all of these phase downs and phase outs they took it upon themselves to come up with alternative refrigerants that could be used in existing machines and that would also be environmentally friendly. As I write this article there is not yet any information on the details of the purchase, how much was paid, what the terms are, or anything like that yet. I am not sure if this information will be released to the public or not.

 

About ICOR

ICOR International was originally known as Indianapolis Refrigeration and in 1995 they incorporated and changed their name to ICOR International. They got their start at around the time the R-12 phase out had begun. When the R-12 phase down began in the early 1990’s all of this was new. It was the first major phase down of a refrigerant and there just weren’t a lot of solutions or alternative options out there. Around this same time ICOR developed their own R-12 refrigerant known as ‘Hot Shot.’ This new refrigerant nearly duplicated the characteristics of R-12. This gave consumers and business owners another option which was needed, especially when being faced with the ever increasing cost of R-12. This ‘Hot Shot’ brand of ICORs can also be used to replace other common refrigerants such as R-134a, 401A, 401B, along with many more.

History repeated itself when the R-22 phase down began. A lot of you may have already heard of ICOR’s R-22 alternative known as NU-22, or a newer version known as NU-22B. Again, ICOR’s goal here was to establish a solid alternative refrigerant to the HCFC R-22. Like with most R-22 alternatives out there their product offers a near drop-in replacement, larger capacity, and improved efficiency. I would have to say that this brand was a solid success within the marketplace. Why else would Chemours be so interested in purchasing?

Along with these innovative refrigerants ICOR provides your everyday common refrigerants like 404A, 410A, 125, and others. They are also a provider of Hydrocarbon refrigerants such as R-290 (Propane) and R-600a (Isobutane.) As HFCs are phased down across the world the demand for Hydrocarbons will be growing.

Conclusion

Like with a lot of acquisitions Chemours is purchasing ICOR and their brand name more than anything. They get their alternative refrigerants as well as any new projects that they had been working on. Yes, they also get their distribution network, customers, and overall business but I have to believe that Chemours already had this part of their business established. It is the brand that sells folks.

What I am wondering here is that is this the beginning of a trend? There are a lot of ‘mom and pop,’ small refrigerant innovators and manufacturers out there in the United States. Is this purchase of ICOR the first in a set of dominoes to be gobbled up by Chemours and Honeywell? The jury is still out on how this purchase and any future purchases will affect the industry but with most things as of late we are seeing a trend of consolidation.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Not everyone has lost hope since the Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20 was overturned by a federal court last August. This SNAP Rule 20 was the EPA’s planned phase down and phase out of HFC refrigerants across the United States. This Rule had been the law of the land for nearly two years before this sudden court ruling put everything into a tailspin. Now, no one knows for sure what is going to happen.

There have been a series of appeals by Honeywell and Chemours, there have been bills introduced in the United States’ Senate, and there is talk about ratifying the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. All of this though is merely conjecture and so far none of them have proven to be a promising alternative. So far the appeals have failed, the Senate Bill is stalled and most likely won’t pass due to Trump and Republican controlled Houses, and Trump hasn’t indicated one way or the other if he will be pushing the Kigali Amendment for Senate ratification. The question now though is what happens next?

States to the Rescue?

With all of this uncertainty now coursing through the industry there are some states that have taken it upon themselves to enact their own rules and regulations. I’m a big States Rights guy in the first place and so I am hugely in favor of this. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) will have more powers for regulations on refrigerants based on two new State Senate bills SB1383 and SB1013. (They were both introduced by State Senator Ricardo Lara.)The goal of both of these bills are to reduce the usage and consumption of the ‘Super Pollutants,’ known as HFC refrigerants. These include the ever so common refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, R-507A, R-410A, along with other HFCs.

For the most part both of these new bills actually mimic the Federal Government’s original EPA SNAP Rule 20 plan. There are slight changes here and there but the overall aim remains the same.  (The EPA SNAP Rule 20 fact sheet can be found by clicking here.) Under the SB 1383 California must reduce their HFC emissions by forty percent below 2013 levels by the year 2030. While this goal may seem a bit extreme it is worth noting that this goal is significantly less than the Kigali Amendment that is still in limbo. (Kigali wanted an eighty-five percent reduction by 2036.) This SB 1383 bill is the first step into reducing the usage, imports, and production of HFC refrigerants within California. An excerpt from the bill is below:

This bill would require the state board, no later than January 1, 2018, to approve and begin implementing that comprehensive strategy to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants to achieve a reduction in methane by 40%, hydrofluorocarbon gases by 40%, and anthropogenic black carbon by 50% below 2013 levels by 2030, as specified. The bill also would establish specified targets for reducing organic waste in landfills. – California Senate Bill 1383

This bill will be accomplished by stopping manufacturers from using HFC refrigerants in new machines and applications as well as retrofitting existing machines over to cleaner refrigerants. These applications where HFCs can no longer be used include supermarket refrigerators and freezers, food processing machines, self-contained refrigeration units, and vending machines. Like with most phase downs there is ample time for businesses and contractors to adapt to these changes. Remember, the deadline is 2030, so there are nearly twelve years for everyone to adapt.

Another rule, SB1013, restricts the use of HFC refrigerants in air conditioners and refrigerant applications. This bill gives CARB a few powers to wield. One of the most important of these powers is that it gives CARB the ability to grant incentives and benefits to businesses that move away from HFCs towards climate friendlier options like Hydrocarbons or HFOs. An excerpt from the bill is below:

This bill would establish the Fluorinated Gases Emission Reduction Incentive Program, to be administered by the state board, to promote the adoption of new refrigerant technologies to achieve short- and long-term climate benefits, energy efficiency, and other cobenefits, as specified. The bill would authorize moneys from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to be allocated for incentives offered as part of the program. – California Senate Bill 1013

Conclusion

Even though the rest of the country is still somewhat in a shroud of mystery on HFCs, California has taken their first step forward. With these two bills California has begun moving away from HFC refrigerants and towards the future of Hydrocarbons and HFOs. The good news is that many businesses have already begun planning for the phase down of HFCs so while the court’s ruling in August was a surprise I have a feeling that many companies were already prepared and are now just continuing on like the phase down is occurring anyways. HFCs are going away, it’s just a matter of time.

California has always been a trend setter and the first of many. The question now is will other States begin to follow suit? These changes may go the route that Net Neutrality went late last year. Even though the regulation was overturned by the FCC there have been many States that have begun adopting their own policies. As I said earlier, I am a big fan of State powers over Federal power and by having these States move forward with their own HFC laws we will achieve the same goal of phasing down HFCs across the country.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

While I love writing about the standard everyday refrigerant applications that we see in our homes and at the grocery stores I always find it interesting to dive into some of the more obscure or niche types of refrigerant applications. In this article we’re going to take a look at the types of refrigerants that are used in the ice rinks around our country and around the world.

Ice rinks are just one of those things the general population just doesn’t think about. They are just there, that’s all there is to it. But, if we go back thirty years ago ice rinks were rarely found in the warmer climates. In fact, most of them were located in Canada, northern Europe, or in the northern parts of the United States. (I’m originally from Michigan, and I can attest that the colder climates are much better!) In today’s world though we are seeing ice rinks as far south as Houston and New Orleans. That’s not even mentioning the ones in Saudi Arabia. This explosive growth is thanks to not only changes in refrigerants but also changes in components such as compressors, evaporators, and condensers.

The question  though is that with all of this new growth what kind of refrigerant are these chillers and ice rinks using? What should they be using, and what will they be using in the future?

The Contenders

Now, if you were to ask me realistically what the best refrigerants to use in ice rinks are today I would tell you that there are only two to three that we should look at. But, for arguments sake I am going to do a quick walk through on all of the options that are out there. If I miss some I apologize but after my research this evening this is what I have found.

R-22

Ok, folks we all know our good friend R-22. R-22 is an HCFC refrigerant that can be traced back nearly eighty years. R-22 began to be phased down in 2010 due to the Chlorine that it contained and the affect that it had on the Ozone layer. In 2020 we hit a very important deadline. Once 2020 hits no new R-22 can be manufactured or imported into the United States. The only source for it will be already existing product or reclaimed refrigerant from reclaimers or distributors.

Here in America R-22 became kind of the default refrigerant used in ice rink applications. But, now with this phase out the price of R-22 has skyrocketed to the point of refilling a damaged unit becomes extremely expensive. Managers or owners of ice rinks with R-22 systems need to find an alternative solution not only because their systems are aging  but also due to the incoming phase out. They need new systems, but what should they use?

R-717 (Ammonia)

Over in the European Union instead of using R-22 for their ice rinks they opted for using R-717, or Ammonia. Ammonia is rated as one of the most energy efficient refrigerants on the market today. R-717 is a hydrocarbon refrigerant and dates back just as far back as R-22. The pros of Ammonia are it’s energy efficiency which means much lower monthly power bills, it has no Ozone depletion, and  it has zero Global Warming Potential. This is a very climate friendly refrigerant. The EU has had great success with as well as Canada. All sound too good to be true? Well, it is folks.

The downside of Ammonia is that it is rated as a B2L safety rating from the ASHRAE Safety Group. The 2L means that it is slightly flammable. That’s not the big deal though, my big concern is the B. The B states that this refrigerant is toxic if you are exposed to it. This stuff can be deadly folks. Fatalities have occurred during a leak event. Is saving the climate worth the risk to our own safety? I think not.

R-744 (Carbon Dioxide)

R-744, or Carbon Dioxide, is one of my best picks for an ice rink application. It has been around forever and can be traced back to one of the very first refrigerants. It has no Ozone depletion and a Global Warming Potential of one. In fact R-744 is the baseline measurement for GWP. (So you know you’re good there.) It is non-toxic and non-flammable so there is not a safety risk to workers or to patrons.

The downside of CO2 is that it operates at a very high pressure when compared to other refrigerants. In the beginnings of refrigerants and air conditioning CO2 was used widely but systems experienced repeating failures on compressors and other components. These failures ended up being costly to repair and when Freon came on the market everyone jumped ship over to R-12 and eventually R-22.

Over the years the technology has improved and we can now use a CO2 system even with it’s high pressure. While these systems work great they have to come with custom components that can withstand the higher operating pressures. That means more cost. Installing one of these systems new can be very costly but if you can afford the upfront payment then it is highly worth it. You get a great system as well as a system that will stand the test of refrigerant phase downs and phase outs. No government is going to phase out CO2 as there is no reason to. This is ONE of the three refrigerants that I would recommend for an ice rink.

R-404A

While the HFC R-404A is a better option then R-22 it is by far not a good option to use to either retrofit or to outfit a new chiller for an ice rink. I’m sure most of you are familiar with 404A so I won’t get too much into this but just to say that 404A has one of the highest Global Warming numbers out there. It comes in at an astounding three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty-two. That is a huge number and there has been immense pressure from around the world to phase out HFC refrigerants.

R-407F (Honeywell’s Genetron Performax LT)

R-407F, or Genetron Performax LT, is an HFC blended refrigerant from Honeywell. It consists of three refrigerants: R-32, R-125, and R-134a. It was designed as a replacement for current Ozone depleting HCFCs like R-22 and also for high GWP HFC refrigerants such as R-404A, R-134a, or R-410A. It operates very closely to the efficiency levels and operating ratios of R-22. It is also non-toxic and non-flammable so safety is not a concern.

The big seller on this refrigerant is that it is a near drop-in replacement for R-22. That is a HUGE deal especially to those owners who are struggling with an aging R-22 system and just can’t afford to install a new CO2 or Ammonia unit. Using the R-407F as a retrofit option will save the owner a ton of money and also result in very little downtime during the conversion. In most cases only the O-rings and seals need to be replaced before the system can be charged with 407F. (Source from Honeywell’s website.) Less downtime means less business lost.

 

The downside on the Genetron Performax LT refrigerant is that this is an HFC refrigerant and has a GWP number of one-thousand six-hundred and seventy-four. That’s only about one-hundred GWPs lower than R-22. That means that there will still be pressure to phase these types of refrigerants out over the next few years. Anything with a high GWP is a target for phase down or phase out.

Overall this is a great refrigerant for those ice rink owners who are in a tight spot and can’t afford to do a large system conversion over to R-744 or R-717. Just be aware that this refrigerant is a patch or a band-aid that may only last ten years or so.

R-449A (Chemour’s Opteon XP40

R-449A, or Opteon XP40, is a new HFO refrigerant blend comprised of R-32, R-125, R-1234yf, and R-134a. This refrigerant, like Honeywell’s R-407F, was designed as a replacement product for R-22, R-404A, and R-507. The difference here is that this an HFO refrigerant rather than an HFC. HFO’s are the new lines of refrigerant being developed by Honeywell and Chemours. The XP40 is non Ozone depleting and has a GWP number of one-thousand two-hundred and eighty-two. That’s about five-hundred less then R-22 and four-hundred less then Honeywell’s R-407F HFC. It is non-toxic and non-flammable so safety is not an issue. Along with that the Opteon XP40 is actually more energy efficient then CO2.

Again, the downside here is the high GWP number that I mentioned earlier. A high GWP number means that the refrigerant very well may be targeted for phase down or phase out. While this is more efficient then CO2 I wouldn’t use that as a selling point as CO2 will be around forever and a high GWP refrigerant may not be. I think this is a great refrigerant for those of you in a bind but I do not see this refrigerant lasting in the long run due to it’s somewhat high GWP number.

Conclusion

My first and best suggestion for someone looking for a new system would be to go with the R-744 or CO2. Yes, it’s a large upfront cost to handle but once you get past that point and you then have the peace of mind knowing that your system and unit is phase down/phase out proof and that it will stand the test of time. If you are looking for a solution that doesn’t require taking on the cost of a whole new system then I would recommend either Honeywell’s R-407F or Chemour’s R-449A. Both of these refrigerants give you a great replacement product that will keep your current R-22 systems moving along for another decade or so.

 

While Chemours offers an HFO refrigerant under their R-449A refrigerant I am still waiting for an announcement on a more viable HFO refrigerant with a much lower GWP. As of today I do not believe such refrigerant exists but I’m hoping that in the future we have a good competitor to go up against Ammonia and Carbon Dioxide.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

When I first started writing articles about R-717 Ammonia being used in ice rinks and in industrial refrigeration I tried to keep an open mind. However, over the past year or so I have become less and less confident with R-717 systems. I try to make my articles unbiased and to show the Pros and Cons to both sides but this is proving more difficult with R-717. Maybe I need some of you to re-convince me to the benefits of this refrigerant but as of today I am very skeptical of it’s practical applications.

Ammonia has been used as a refrigerant for nearly ninety years. While the applications have varied over the years it has always been around. It is highly regarded as the most efficient refrigerant available due to it’s low boiling point. To give an example R-717’s boiling point is -28 degrees Fahrenheit. While R-22’s boiling point is -41.62 degrees Fahrenheit and R-410A’s boiling point is -55.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Compare R-717 and R-22 and that’s a forty-eight percent difference in boiling point. Along with that low boiling point you also get no Ozone depletion and a very low Global Warming Potential. I can see why this refrigerant is used but we have to be aware of the downsides. R-717 is toxic and is also slightly flammable. It is rated as a B2L from the ASHRAE group.

Greenwood, South Carolina

Today, March 25th, the Department of Health and Human Services is on the scene of an Ammonia leak in Greenwood, South Carolina. Upon finding the leak and determining how large it was a half-mile radius was evacuated for precaution. Local citizens were awoken by police alerts on their phone and at their door to evacuate the area at two this morning. Later that morning police and firefighters walked through the affected areas taking samples to ensure that the air quality had returned to normal. The all clear was given this morning as well. Luckily, this leak was handled correctly.

While the exact cause of the leak has not been released I did find that it came from a food processing plant known as Carolina Pride Foods. (Their website can be found by clicking here.) This plant is a meat processing and manufacturing center. In the past I have toured a few meat processing plants and just as anyone would assume, they need to be refrigerated as well as have a freezer section. Heck, it’s so cold there you have to wear jackets, mittens, and hoods just to walk around for any matter of time. Using R-717 as their main refrigerant logically makes sense due to the energy efficiency. (In fact you’ll see these used in most industrial applications like this.)

Luckily, with this leak in South Carolina there were no fatalities. However, this latest incident was very familiar to a leak at an ice rink that occurred in Canada towards the end of 2017. A leak occurred and a large radius was evacuated just like in today’s story. The difference though was that proper precautions were not taken in Canada and it resulted in three fatalities. This tragic event has caused a lot of business owners and contractors to reconsider using Ammonia in future applications. I wrote a story about this event that can be found by clicking here.

Conclusion

While today’s event ended well and with no injuries I still am quite skeptical on the reasonable application of R-717. If this stuff leaks, which all systems will at some point, then disaster can occur. Today Ammonia seems to have a monopoly on industrial refrigeration and a fair slice of the market on ice rinks especially over in the European Union. Here’s the thing though, even with it’s danger and risk to public safety the R-717 market isn’t expected to shrink over the next few years. In fact, just the opposite. With all of the pressure around the world to phase out or phase down Ozone depleting or high Global Warming Potential refrigerants the industry has only two options to turn two: HFO refrigerants from Chemours and Honeywell or Hydrocarbons such as Ammonia.

The question on my mind folks is when does saving the environment become more important then safety? Should we keep switching units over to Ammonia in an effort to reduce Global Warming, or should we begin switching to HFC alternatives until a more suitable refrigerant that provides low GWP and is non-toxic arrives into the market place?

I looked through Honeywell and Chemour’s website going over their Solstice and Opteon HFO lines but I did not see anything specifically referencing industrial applications. I’m wondering if the rush to find an alternative to R-717 is on the back burner because it doesn’t actually affect the climate whereas all of the other HFC refrigerants are affecting Global Warming. So, again, I feel like safety is taking a backseat to Global Warming.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

I came across an article the other day referencing a refrigerant that I hadn’t heard much about. My curiosity was peaked so I began researching the product, what it was, and what possibilities existed. The refrigerant’s official name is R-458A but most of you may know of it as Bluon TDX 20. The TDX 20 is a relatively new refrigerant that has only been around for a few years now. It was designed as a replacement for R-22, R-404A, and R-507A.

If there’s anything the market needs right now it is a safe, cheap, and easy alternative refrigerant for the aging R-22 machines out there. R-22 isn’t coming down in price folks and if anything it is going to jump even higher as we inch closer to that 2020 total phase out. We’re going to be left with three choices fairly soon. The first is scrounging around for reclaimed R-22 refrigerant, second is talking your customer into purchasing a new R-410A unit, and the third is alternatives. But, are there good alternatives out there? And are they legal?

The Details

Now, I know that there are a lot R-22 replacements out there but a lot of them have not been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact I know of a few stories of refrigerant manufacturers selling unapproved SNAP refrigerants. I can assure you that it never ends well for them. One company out of Wichita ended up paying a one-hundred thousand dollar fine for selling unapproved R-404A alternatives. (Link to the article here.) This is where things can get tricky. You do not want to be responsible for using an unapproved alternative. Before using ANY alternative to R-22 you have to make sure that it is approved by the EPA’s SNAP. There are so many people out there looking to make a quick buck during this R-22 phase out and a lot of them do not care about established laws.

The good news here is that Bluon’s R-458A is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to be used in commercial air conditioning, industrial process refrigeration, retail food refrigeration, as well as residential air conditioning including heat pump applications. In fact it was approved just last year on July, 21st, 2017. The link to the EPA’s official approval can be found at the bottom of this article in my sources header.

The TDX 20, or R-458A, is non Ozone depleting which is already a markeable improvement when compared to R-22. R-458A has a Global Warming Potential of one-thousand six-hundred and fifty. While that number is still quite high it is lower than R-22’s one-thousand eight-hundred and ten. (Nine percent better.) This refrigerant is also non-flammable and non-toxic. It receives an A1 for it’s safety rating. All of these facts are pretty standard but there is a very unique feature to this refrigerant that you don’t see elsewhere. TDX 20 is a blended HFC refrigerant made up of FIVE varying refrigerants. Yes, you heard me correctly. Five different refrigerants are blended to make R-458A. Some of these refrigerants you may very well recognize form dealing with other blends.

Bluon’s TDX 20 consists of 20.5% of R-32 (Difluromethane), 4.0 percent R-125, (Pentafluroethane), 61.4% R-134a (Tetrafluroethane), 13.5% R-226ea (Heptafluropropane), and 0.6% R-236fa (Hexafluropropane). These five varying refrigerants actually results in a five to twenty-five percent energy savings when compared to a standard R-22 application.

Something else that I noticed during my research is that this refrigerant actually comes with a warranty. You don’t see that everyday in this industry. From what I have read the refrigerant comes with a one year warranty on new machines and a ninety day warranty on existing machines. Now like with most warranties, any claim is subject to Bluon’s approval. More on Bluon’s warranty policy can be found by clicking here.

Retrofitting

The thing that really caught my attention on this R-22 alternative is that it is a drop-in replacement. Now I’ve seen the words drop in and retrofit thrown around a lot over the past couple years. If there is any confusion on the difference let me explain. A drop-in is just that. You take out the old refrigerant and put in the new alternative. After that you are done. With a retrofit you will have change or replace key components of the machine in order for it to safely use your new alternative refrigerant. Retrofits are where things can get quite expensive for you and the customer.

The R-458A is a simple drop in. There are no equipment modifications required. In fact all there is to it is removing the old R-22, vacuuming out the system, and then recharging the unit with the TDX 20 replacement product. On a standard residential unit the job will take around three to four hours to complete. (Obviously, larger units will take more time.) Now, what I gave you above was a quick step process but please be aware that there are some more steps to a full conversion. If you are looking for a guide then I highly recommend watching the Bluon HVAC offical retrofitting video found below. They made it look easy!

Conclusion

So after writing this article about Bluon’s refrigerant I was only left with one question that I couldn’t get an answer for. What is the price on this product? Is it the same or even higher than R-22? If so, then why bother with it? To me the only thing this refrigerant is missing is a great price point and as I write this it very well may but I honestly couldn’t find much information about pricing. From the literature that I have read the product is marketed as significantly less expensive then R-22, but I am still wondering how much less expensive. Is it negligible, or is there a significant savings to the customer?

Lastly, before closing this article I wanted to reiterate that if you are converting a unit from R-22 over to R-458A to please please please re-label the machine once you are done with your work. There is nothing worse then coming to a site and beginning to work on a unit only to find that there is a completely different refrigerant in the machine then what the label says. Just like they teach us in elementary school, ‘Think of others!’

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson
RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Most everyone knows that over the past few years the European Union has been experiencing a large shortage as well as price hikes on HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A. While the shortages on R-134a can be traced back to the MAC Directive that took place on 2017, the shortage on R-404A and R-410A comes from the European Union’s F-Gas Regulation that went into effect January 1st, of 2015. This F-Gas regulation aimed at phasing down HFC refrigerants across the EU. It accomplished this by limiting the total amount of HFCs in the marketplace and by also banning these refrigerants from use in new applications.

While the intent of this law was clear the overall transition away from HFCs has been very rough for the EU. Not everyone was ready and not everyone had planned fro these phase downs. The old, ‘I’ll worry about it tomorrow,’ syndrome. These phase downs, as intended, have caused widespread shortages of 404A and 410A throughout the European Union. In fact last summer some countries saw a seven-hundred percent increase in price on 404A. Think about that for a moment folks. If you were buying a jug of 404A at ninety-dollars at the beginning of the season you would end up paying six-hundred and thirty dollars later on that season. Imagine trying to quote that to a customer. Imagine trying to absorb that extra cost. This was not sustainable. Solutions had to be found.

The intended solution here was to use more environmentally friendly refrigerants such as hydrocarbons, HFOs, or more friendly HFC refrigerants. Some of the machines running today can be retrofitted to accept some of these new alternative refrigerants, but not all of them can. Some contractors who are desperate for an alternative when dealing with a 410A unit that needs recharged have turned to using R-32 as a cheaper solution. Here’s the thing folks, these contractors are not retrofitting anything on these existing units. No, they are vacuuming out the remaining old 410A and replacing it all with R-32. They are putting this R-32 as a drop in replacement for 410A.

R-32 & The Retrofits

R-32 is an HFC refrigerant made from Difluromethane. It is being marketed as an alternative to R-410A and R-404A due to their high Global Warming Potential. For those of you who do not know R-32 makes up fifty percent of the R-410A blend that we use so much today. (The other component is R-125.) R-32’s GWP is set at only six-hundred and seventy-five and it has no Ozone depletion risk. When compared to R-410A’s two-thousand and ninety there is a remarkable improvement. The downside of R-32 is that it is classified as lower flammability where as R-410A is not flammable at all. While R-32 systems can and are being used across the world it is very important to note that an existing R-410A system cannot be retrofitted over to accept R-32 refrigerant. As I mentioned previously, there is a large difference between a retrofit and a drop in replacement. With a retrofit the system is brought up to necessary conditions to handle the new refrigerant. With a drop in replacement nothing is done except exchanging the refrigerant.

The contractors out there who are looking for a cheaper solution have been dropping in R-32 in place of R-410A. R-32 has not been approved for a direct retrofit on an R-410A system. Retrofitting a system to another refrigerant that hasn’t been approved is ignoring all of the specifications and components that are on that machine.  Remember that a R-410A unit is designed specifically to take the higher pressures of the 410A refrigerant. Using an unapproved refrigerant in place of 410A can have unintended consequences.

One of these side effects that has already been documented is premature compressor failure. This happens as the R-32 refrigerant operates at a higher discharge than R-410A. In some instances compressors have failed after only a few months of running with R-32. Then before you know it you are back in front of that customer with another expensive bill for them to pay. The other side effect of doing this drop in replacement, and a much more dangerous one, is flammability. R-410A is rated as an ‘1’ in the flammability measurement. This means that there is not a risk for ignition with R-410A. However, the R-32 refrigerant is rated as a ‘2’ on the flammability scale. The ‘2’ means that it has a ‘lower flammability’ rating. So, while it is not rated as a ‘3’ like Propane it is still rated as a flammable refrigerant. The R-410A system does NOT have the proper safety requirements to handle a flammable refrigerant.

The last one of these possible side effects to mention is that if the installer or technician doesn’t label the retrofitted unit as an R-32 unit and there is a leak later on down the road the future technician is going to assume that 410A is in the system. This is as big deal. Because of this assumption the tech isn’t going to take the proper precautions when dealing with a flammable refrigerant. There have been instances where a retrofit had occurred but it was not labeled correctly. This incorrectly labeled unit could directly lead to the deaths of future technicians. In one example two technicians lost their lives four years ago in Australia when attempting to repair a unit that had been retrofitted over to R-290. (Propane.) The Propane ignited due to it not being handled properly. One of these techs were smoking during the repair, which should never be done, but I can only hope that if this unit was labeled properly that this accident could have been avoided. A link to my article on this can be found by clicking here.

This event I mentioned above and the possibility of future events are why countries like the United Kingdom and Italy are now cracking down on unapproved retrofits.

United Kingdom & Italy

The United Kingdom’s Federation of Environmental Trade Associations (FETA) has come out against retrofitting R-410A units over to R-32. They stated a lot of the reasons and logic that I mentioned above. It is not safe. On top of FETA coming out against these retrofits REFCOM has also warned against them. REFCOM is one of the United Kingdom’s leading refrigerant certificate providers. While they do not have the 608/609 sections we have here they have their own certifications that techs have to go through and REFCOM is one of the leading providers. These two prominent names have come out against this dangerous practice and I can only imagine that there will be more to follow from the United Kingdom.

Over in Italy the Italian refrigeration association known as Assofrigoristi has announced that they will pursue fines and even jail time to installers that retrofit existing R-410A applications over to R-32. The jail terms could last up to three months and the proposed fine could be up to 5,200 Euros. (About $6,500 dollars.) All of that is not even counting what could happen if an accident comes from a retrofitted unit that your company changed over. Talk about liability.  Italy is not playing around with this folks.

If this trend continues into the summer season over the European Union then I could definitely see more countries voicing their opinions on the matter and maybe even enacting their own laws similar to what Italy has done.

Conclusion

At best these actions can permanently damage your customers air conditioner as well as void their manufacturer’s warranty. At worst, you could be responsible for injuries or deaths to future technicians who attempt to repair the retrofitted unit. Everyone understands that there is shortage of HFC refrigerants in the European Union but is it worth saving your customer a bit of money? Stick through the hard times of this phase out and know that it is not forever. With each passing year more and more machines will be using the alternative refrigerants. Hopefully, over time the demand of HFCs across the EU will begin to shrink and these crazy prices will begin to drop again.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Good morning folks and welcome to RefrigerantHQ!  As I write this article it’s a nice cold March Sunday morning. Things haven’t begun to warm up yet for the upcoming refrigerant season but everyone knows that it is just around the corner. In fact April is really the beginning. It is the point where we begin to see maintenance calls start to come up and then slowly but surely as the days and weeks pass we inch closer and closer to summer and to those long, but profitable, days.

Something new this year that a lot of people may have overlooked is that HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, R-410A are now subjected to the Environmental Protection Agency’s refrigerant sales restriction regulation. What that means folks is that you are no longer able to purchase these types of refrigerants unless you are section 608 or section 609 certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. For more on the refrigerant sales restriction please click here to be taken to the EPA’s official site.

While these restrictions are new to HFC refrigerants those of you who have been in the industry for a while know exactly what I am talking about. In the past CFC and HCFC refrigerants were subjected to the EPA’s refrigerant sales restriction as well. So, if you wanted to purchase one of these refrigerants you had to go through the training and the certification.

This change on HFC refrigerants caught a lot of the do-it-yourselfers off guard. A lot of the larger companies knew this was coming and had prepared for it by getting their techs and purchasers already 609 certified back in 2017. These garage mechanics and other do-it-yourselfers are now finding that they do not have a way to purchase thirty pound cylinders of 134a any longer.

It should be noted that there is an exception to these rules for the weekend warriors out there. People who are not certified to handle refrigerants can still purchase two pounds or less canisters at their local stores. So, if I needed to recharge my Camry then all I would need to do is go to my local parts store or Amazon.com and purchase a few cans of R-134a. This can be done without a license. So, there is hope!

However, if you are confident that you need a license or certification then keep on reading folks and I will do my best to guide you along the process.

Section 609 Certification

Section 609 is in fact the easier license to get on refrigerants. 609 deals strictly with the automotive side and covers refrigerants such as R-12 and R-134a. So, if you are a mechanic or an at home repair guy then 609 is what you will need. Today there are more than one million people certified under this section 609. There are a few ways for you or your employees to become certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. Some of these options are listed below:

  • A licensed 609 certification trainer comes to your place of employment, puts on a class, and then hands out testing to each attendant. After the tests are completed they will then be mailed to MACS Worldwide to be graded. If passed you will then receive your license through the mail. In my experience these work great as a ‘lunch and learn.’ Cater in a lunch, bring in a trainer, and get your staff qualified in just an hour.
    • A 609 trainer can either be from an outside party like a vendor/salesmen or it could be a designated person at your company. I have seen both. A good trainer will go over all of the details and help attendees with questions that they are unsure of. Ideally, most everyone should pass this test.
  • The other option is to go directly through MACS Worldwide. MACS is the primary provider and manager of 609 tests and license granting. They started their program only a few years after the 609 rules were introduced back in 1990. Ever since 1992 MACS has been the leader in granting 609 tests and certifications. Review the links below to read up a bit more about them, order a study book, and even order a test.
  • Please note that for each of these scenarios it will take twenty dollars per person in order to take a test.

Section 608 Certification

608 is where things get a little bit more complicated and where the ‘meat and potatoes,’ of air conditioning is. If you’re going to be working on anything other than vehicles than you need your 608. 608 comes in four different types of EPA level certification and each one contains it’s own specialized section.

  • Core Test – The core test is necessary for all technicians to take rather you are going for sections 1, 2, or 3.
  • Type 1 608 Certification – This covers small appliances that are manufactured, charged, and hermetically sealed with five pounds or less of refrigerants.
  • Type 2 608 Certification – This covers high pressure and very high pressure appliances. Some example high pressure refrigerants are as follows: R-12, R-22, R-114, R-500, and R-502. Also note that this type 2 certification will allow you to legally purchase and handle R-410A refrigerant.
  • Type 3 608 Certification – This covers low pressure appliances with some example refrigerants being R-11, R-113, and R-123.
  • Universal Certification – Just as it sounds a universal certification can be obtained by passing certification for all types 1, 2, and 3. If you are going to be working in the industry then I would suggest going for the universal and just to cover your bases. The worst thing that can happen is having to turn down a job because you are not certified to handle that type of refrigerant.

Unlike 609 the 608 certification is much harder to achieve. Unfortunately, most 608 certifications have to be taken in person at a certified training facility. These training facilities can be a third party company, your trade school or college, or your employer. Depending on how large your employer is they may put on their own 608 training courses. It should be noted that you are able to take the type 1 section 608 certification online. Click this link to learn more.

If you are looking to achieve a higher level 608 certification and am not quite sure where to go then I would suggest a few things. Contact your employer first to see if you can get free training and certification. If they do not offer that then check with your local trade schools. Lastly, if you are still not finding a provider then check out this link to the EPA’s website for featured training areas.  

Lastly, check out this resource for a free 608 practice test. This should definitely help you out and get you prepared for the real thing!

Intent to Resale

There is one more option for users to purchase refrigerants without having a certification license. While this won’t help the at home mechanics it will help those of you who are purchasers or resalers. If you are purchasing refrigerant from a wholesaler you can provide them with a formal letter stating that you are intending to resale the product and that you or your company will not be using the refrigerant. According to the EPA’s website“(The) EPA recommends that wholesalers obtain a signed statement from the purchaser indicating that he or she is purchasing the refrigerant only for eventual resale to certified technicians.” This covers you as a purchaser and also covers the seller. Once this is bought please be aware though that it will be up to you or your company to track all of the refrigerant sales.

Conclusion

Well folks, that about covers it for refrigerant licensing. I hope that this guide was able to answer your questions on what license to get, how to get it, and where to get it. I have a feeling most of you will be looking at that 609 certification over the 608. Either way though, when you are dealing with refrigerant remember to be safe and to be certified!

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

I was reading a story the other day on how the General Motors company is facing a class-action lawsuit due to faulty air conditioning systems installed on their newer model vehicles. (2014-2017.) The alleged suit states that the compressor as well as the condenser lines prematurely fail and cause refrigerant to leak out. This leaking refrigerant is ether leaked out under the hood, or worse, leaked into the cabin.

The two plaintiffs that started this lawsuit are suing due to the faulty systems and they are also claiming that General Motors knew about the failures in the first place but chose to ignore them and to get the cars on the marketplace. This all started when the two plaintiffs in this suit noticed that their air conditioners were no longer working at all or were blowing hot air. After taking their vehicles to the dealerships a repair was done and extra bracket was installed to secure the system. (Why wasn’t the bracket part of the system int he first place?) To top it off both plaintiffs had to pay for their air conditioning repairs out of their own pocket. In both instances their vehicle was barely out of warranty.

As I mentioned above there are two main defects that are being claimed in this lawsuit. The first is the line leading from the compressor to the condenser. The aluminum tube either becomes disconnected from a rubber hose connect or the aluminum simply began to degrade and eventually rupture causing refrigerant to leak out. The other problem and or complaint was that the condenser ‘could’ crack after only a short amount of use. Again, this would cause refrigerant to leak out of the system.

At this time the lawsuit is still pending and I have not been able to find an official word from General Motors on the topic.

The Consequences

In this General Motors example the only thing that was lost here the customer’s hard earned money. While that is never a good thing it is important to realize that things could have been much worse. When something like this happens, no matter how small it is, I always find my mind wandering to the what if scenarios. What if these faulty lines or condensers were using R-717 refrigerant instead of R-134a or R-1234yf? R-717, or Ammonia, is rated as a ‘Class B,’ on the toxicity levels for refrigerants. What that means folks is that Ammonia is toxic if breathed in. So, now let’s pretend we have this minor leak or fault in the air conditioning system but with an Ammonia based system. This minor failure has turned into a huge problem and may even endanger people’s lives.

This is what scares me so much about toxic refrigerants such as R-717. Yes, I understand that it is one of the most efficient refrigerants on the market but is the efficiency and cost savings really worth the risk? Now, I know that at this time there isn’t an automotive/mobile application that is using Ammonia but I wanted to point this out nonetheless. There are other applications on the market today such as ice rinks that do and have been using Ammonia for decades. In fact just last year there was a leak on an Ammonia based system up in Canada. The leak occurred due to component failures, just like they usually do. The difference here is that in this scenario three people lost their lives. On top of that large swaths of a city block had to be evacuated due to the leak. I won’t get into all of the details on the article but if you are interested in reading more please click here. This example is exactly why I fear Ammonia. Maybe I am wrong in my fear but to me it just doesn’t seem safe.

So with all of that in mind let’s now think about this. HFC refrigerants such as R-404A, R-134a, and R-410A are slowly being phased down or out across the world. But what alternative refrigerants will we be using? Is there a set plan yet? There are many people who are looking at Hydrocarbon refrigerants such as Ammonia for a solution. After all it’s very energy efficient and has a very low Global Warming Potential.  But, do we really need refrigerants like this in use, especially in public places like an ice rink?

I understand that we are being environmentally friendly here by using low GWP refrigerants but is our health worth saving the climate? I know what I would say when given this choice. We could develop the safest system in the world to go with Ammonia refrigerant but even the safest and most reinforced units will eventually fail either due to wear and tear over time, a faulty component, or negligence. It just takes one engineer or mechanic to miss something on a system like this and then tragedy could occur. In this case, the culprit could be General Motors.

Conclusion

While I am a fan of hydrocarbon refrigerants and other alternatives I feel we should all be vigilant and aware of any toxic refrigerants gaining popularity especially in larger markets. R-717 is used extensively today on the industrial refrigeration side of the market but there are also some more visible applications as we discussed above. In some circles of the world R-717 is seen as viable alternative to R-22. If you ask me, I think we should stick with CO2.

The other side of this coin is R-290, or Propane. While Propane isn’t toxic it is, as you know, highly flammable especially to novices who are not familiar with the product. R-290 is becoming more popular just like Ammonia is. We’re seeing Propane in home air conditioning units, super market freezers, and vending machines. While it is not as dangerous as a toxic refrigerant the danger is still there.

I will ask this question again. Is it worth the risk? Or, should we stick with HFC refrigerants that are tried and true until there is a better and safer alternative? In a few years time I would predict seeing a whole host of options and alternatives from the HFO refrigerant line and these will be much safer WHEN a leak does occur.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

As most of you know I search Google and other search engines a few times a week looking for anything new or changing in the refrigerant industry. This is where most of my ideas for articles and stories come from. During these searches and alerts I always always always come across Craigslist ads trying to sell refrigerant. I don’t care what city you are located in. Chances are that if you go to Craigslist and search for a refrigerant that you are going to find a seller, if not multiple sellers. These sellers just want to unload their product and chances are they don’t even know what they have on hand. (Everything is Freon!) The last thing these sellers are going to ask an interested buyer is their Environmental Protection Agency certification number. (Either 608 or 609.) They just want the sale and they are not going to muddy the waters by following that pesky Federal Law. In fact, most of these ‘transactions,’ are cash only and there is no mention of certification numbers or intent to resale documentation. These people think that by flying below the radar that they will not be caught. Time will only tell.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. No, this has been happening for years. The difference here is that in past years the only refrigerants you really had to worry about obtaining a 608/609 number on were CFCs and HCFCs like R-12 and R-22. While R-22 was and is still popular the large majority of Craigslist transactions were on HFC refrigerants. But now, with the passage of the new regulations in January 0f this year, all HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A cannot be purchased without providing a valid 608/609 EPA certification number. So, folks that means that every time one of these transactions are completed that the seller is in violation of Federal Law. While it is the seller who is breaking the law I would not want to be on the other end of this transaction. After all, why were you paying for refrigerant in cash in the back of a Wal-Mart parking lot? There’s no good answer there folks. A plea of ignorance isn’t going to help you.

I understand the need and I understand the demand. The supply has been more or less cut off to the average Joe since January of this year. I also understand that just by simply writing this article nothing is going to change. I can pick a random city today search refrigerant and find dozens of classifieds out there. The point of this post is to educate and to hopefully stop potential buyers from making a bad decision. If you need refrigerant that bad then you either need to take the time to become certified or hire a trained professional to handle the job.

Getting Certified

So how do you go about this the right way? How do you become certified? As I brought up above there are two main types of certifications: 608 and 609. A 609 certification is strictly meant for automobile air conditioning. While a 608 certification is meant for everything else. Most do-it-yourselfers who want to purchase refrigerant lean towards the automotive side of the industry.

I will point out that obtaining a license to purchase and handle R-134a is much easier than the other refrigerants. The 609 certification can be handled right at your desk. All you have to do is go directly through MACS Worldwide. MACS is the primary provider and manager of 609 tests and license granting. They started their program only a few years after the 609 rules were introduced back in 1990. Ever since 1992 MACS has been the leader in granting 609 tests and certifications. You can review the links below to read up a bit more about them, order a study book, and even order a test. (Please note that for each of these scenarios it will take twenty dollars per person in order to take a test.)

Obtaining a 608 certification isn’t as easy as going to a website. No, in most cases you will either need to go through a training class through your employer or through a local community college or education center. Before that though you first need to determine what kind of 608 you need. Do you go for the small application application? Larger applications? Or, the universal? If you are thinking about making a career in HVAC then I would highly suggest going with the Universal application just so that you have all of your bases covered in case something pops up down the road. Some resources on 608 certifications can be found by clicking the links below:

Conclusion

In conclusion folks before you go out and start scouring for refrigerant across classified websites stop and think. Do I really need this? Is it worth the risk? Or, should I hire a professional to take care of my problem? If you are still persistent that YOU should do it then take the time and do it right. Get certified. Understand how it works. Then perform your repair.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ