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How Much Does It Cost?

Depending on where you live in the United States air conditioners may be a nice to have feature for your home or they may be a lifesaver. I’m originally from Michigan and the further north you go up in that State the less likely you are find air conditioners and if you do find them they are usually an older window unit that is rarely used. Most of the time it just doesn’t get cold enough up there. On the other side of the coin, if you’re in Miami then an air conditioner has to be a necessity to escape the constant heat and humidity.

The question on how much air conditioners cost can be a tricky one as there are a lot of factors that can go into it. It’s not as easy to say that all air conditioners are two-thousand dollars. No, there are many questions that we need to ask you first before we can give you an educated estimate on what to expect.

What Kind of Air Conditioner Are You Looking For?

The biggest question is what kind of air conditioner are you looking for? There are four main kinds of air conditioners and each one has it’s own set of Pros and Cons. Let’s take a look at each one now and you can then determine what you are looking for.

Window Air Conditioners

  • Window air conditioners are right up there with central systems as one of the most common air conditioners on the market. These are the units you see hanging from high rise apartment buildings and from older farmhouses. Window units provide a great alternative air conditioner for those that cannot afford a large central system. Most of the time these window units are a tenth the cost of a central system and they are also much easier to install. Nearly anyone can install one of these whereas with a central system you will need a trained professional.
  • The downside with these are the visual appeal and also the power. Most of the time a window unit just doesn’t look the best hanging out of a home. You also end up losing access to one of your windows.
  • Along with that, window units are not meant to cool entire homes. Instead, they are more focused for specific rooms or living areas. While some the larger models can cool up to one-thousand square feet you will find that most models cool between one-hundred to five-hundred square feet.

Portable Air Conditioners

  • Portable air conditioners are very similar to window units. They both have a very easy install process. With window units all you have to do is mount the unit, secure it, and there you go. Portables are only slightly different. Instead of mounting the unit all you have to do is route an exhaust pipe through one of your windows. The pipe comes with sealers as well so that you can block the entire window to prevent hot/cold air from getting in/escaping.
  • Portables again are again about the a tenth the cost of traditional central air systems. They can be a bit more expensive then window units, but not by much.
  • These units are great if you want to cool your home room by room, or if you want to cool your living room during the day and your bedroom at night. The portability makes it easy to changes rooms.

Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioners

  • I am a big fan of ductless air conditioners. They offer a great alternative for those of you who want the power of a central system but not the expense. Along with that, they give you that extra step up from a window or portable air conditioner.
  • Ductless Mini Splits are quite a bit more expensive then a window or portable unit. They are about a third or half the price of a central system.
  • Please note that when buying these systems you will most likely need professional installation before you can operate. This will result in additional install expenses. I would not recommend installing one of these yourself unless you know what you are doing.
  • Ductless systems have much more power than a window or portable unit and they also look much better. A window system is hanging out your window and it looks unattractive. A portable unit takes up floor space and has to have the exhaust routed across your floor and out your window. Ductless systems actually mount to your wall and only need a two to three inch hole through the wall for the refrigerant tubing. Most people barely even notice it’s in the room.
  • A lot of ductless systems also come with a built in heat-pump and electric heating coils. That means along with an air conditioner you also get heating. This is a great feature and works amazingly well for detached recreational rooms. We have a garage I’m thinking about finishing the loft in. A ductless system would be a great solution for climate control.

Central Air Conditioners – (ARTICLE COMING SOON)

  • These are the most common air conditioners and the ones that you are most likely familiar with already. These are the large central systems that you see on the outside of homes. They intake the warm air in your home through various intake vents throughout your home and then disperse the cold air back through your home through the output vents.
  • While these are the most common air conditioners they are also the most expensive. Be prepared when quoting these systems out and be ready to pay quite a bit.
  • Also note that with central systems you are going to need a professional HVAC technician to install. While the actual unit can be quite expensive you also have to pay for the install which can add up quite a bit to the total cost of the system.
  • The good news is that central systems can last a long time. Most units end up lasting around fifteen years, some even up to twenty years.

Conclusion

You may have noticed that there was a link above on each type of air conditioner. Those links will take you to the cost break down for each type of air conditioner. So, instead of writing one gigantic large article for you to read through you can make the decision on what kind of system you need, click the link, and get the answer you need.

I hope this article was able to give you the answers you need and if you have any further questions on the matter please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Changes Coming

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

United States Climate Alliance

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

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

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

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

The US Market

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

United States Climate Alliance

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

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

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

What Comes Next?

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

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

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

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

States in the alliance are:

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources:

 

VERSUS RefrigerantHQ

When people think air conditioners they either think of the traditional split system that you find in most homes or they think of the window air conditioners that you see mounted in apartment buildings, in older homes that do not have duct work routed in them, or in homes in the northern part of the country that normally don’t have a need for air conditioners.

Most people do not think about portable units, let alone ductless units when considering a new air conditioner for their home. Their go to is usually the window unit. In this article we’re going to do a quick look at the benefits and cons portable and ductless mini split air conditioners as well as what type of system is going to be the best for you.

BTUs

First thing’s first. Before we get into what the differences between these two types of air conditioners it is best to understand the sizes that air conditioners come in. If you’ve already done some research on your own then you may have noticed that air conditioners come with a BTU rating. BTUs, or British Thermal Units, are a measurement of the air conditioner’s ability to remove heat. The higher the number the more power your unit will have.

Global Air 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Global Air 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Don’t fall into the trap though that bigger is always better. If you get an air conditioner that is too big then you will be paying extra expense on energy cost as well as the possibility of ending up with hot and cold spots throughout the room due to dehumidification issues. On the inverse of this, if you purchase a unit that is much smaller then you need then the air conditioner will be running constantly causing you to pay more in energy bills. On top of that your room will never fully reach the desired temperature.

The typical rule of thumb when determining the right BTU size for your room is thirty BTUs per square foot of space to be cooled. Finding out the square footage of your room is relatively easy. All you have to do is measure the width and length of the room and multiply the numbers together. So, as an example let’s say we have a twenty by twenty room. If we do the math we have a four-hundred square foot room. In this example we would need a twelve-thousand BTU air conditioner.

Portable Air Conditioners

Ok, so now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s really look at these systems. We’re going to start out with portable systems. Portable air conditioners are just that, portable. What that means is that they can be moved from one room to the other. This makes these units very easy to move with you across the house. If you are looking to cool different rooms throughout the day then this would be the unit for you.

The setup and install is very easy. All you need to do is select the area you that you want cooled, place your unit, and then route the exhaust pipe to the nearest window. When the pipe is routed you will then fit your window with the seal to ensure no hot/cold air escapes. Once this is done all you have to do is turn it on and set the desired temperature.

Portable air conditioners are an ideal system for those that need an air conditioner every once and a while. I’m originally from Michigan and if you go far enough north in Michigan you’ll find many houses that don’t even have air conditioning installed. Most of the time they just have a furnace or a wood burning stove. There are times however where the summer gets exceptionally hot for a few days or a week out of the year. This is where a portable system would be ideal.The setup is quick and easy and before you know it you have your room being cooled off.

The price on portable air conditioners usually aren’t too bad. Depending on the size of the model you purchase you could spend a few hundred dollars all the way up to one-thousand. It’s up to you if you think you need that larger unit or if you want a system with a lot of bells and whistles.

Now there are a few downsides of portable systems as well. The first is that they can get in the way. The unit will be in your room along with the exhaust hose running to your window. This can annoy some people and depending on where you have it positioned it may not look the most appealing.

Another thing to to consider is that the sizing of portable units are typically smaller than that of a multi-split system. I see portable units more orientated to cooling a room or two, but not an entire home. Portables are a temporary measure and shouldn’t be used as a full time air conditioner all the time. If you are looking for something like this then you may want to go the mini split route.

A portable system will most likely not last as long as a ductless system. As I mentioned earlier, I see portable units as a temporary system or a gap fill during a really hot month. If you are looking for longevity in a system then you’ll want to go the ductless mini split route.

Ductless Mini Splits

The ductless, or mini split systems, can be a great addition to your home. I like to think of these types of products as an in between. You have your standard and traditional split systems that you see in most homes and then you have your window or portable air conditioners as well. The ductless systems give you that in between that allows you to get a powerful air conditioner without having to spend several thousands on a traditional split system.

PIONEER Ductless Air Conditioner
PIONEER Ductless Air Conditioner

With a ductless system you can get much more power or BTUs then you would with a standard portable air conditioner. Most portable units began to taper off around fifteen thousand to eighteen thousand BTUs. A reputable ductless system can go as high as thirty-six thousand BTUs. That is nearly double the power of a portable or even a window unit.

Along with the extra power of a mini-split system you also get a much more efficient system. Air conditioner efficiency is measured by what’s known as Energy Efficiency Ratio or it can also be measured by Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. These two numbers provide a measurement on how efficient your air conditioner is. When looking at portable air conditioners the typical SEER you’ll see is around ten to twelve. Ductless mini split systems are whole other story with a SEER number coming in around fifteen to twenty, and in some cases even as high as twenty-five. That means that a ductless system is significantly more efficient then your standard portable air conditioner which will result in you saving energy costs month after month of use.

The last Pro that I’ll mention on ductless systems before we move on to the Cons is that most of these systems come with a built in heat pump and electric heater. That means that not only will you have your air conditioner throughout the summer but you’ll also have a heating supplement throughout the winter. If it gets too cold outside for the heat pump then the electric coils will kick on and you’ll be just as toasty.

There are two big downsides to ductless mini split systems. The first is the cost. We mentioned earlier that portable systems can be a couple hundred up to a thousand dollars. A mini split system will usually START at around five-hundred dollars and can top out at around fifteen-hundred dollars, sometimes even more. This price can scare a lot of folks away from purchasing a ductless system, but there is still more expense after that.

Along with the high price point of ductless systems the installation can be quite difficult. So difficult in fact, that it is recommended to hire a professional HVAC technician to come to your home and install the system. A mini split system comes with three main parts that you will have to install. The first is what’s known as the air handler. The air handler is what is mounted on the inside of your home either on your wall, floor, or ceiling. This is the unit that intakes the hot air and releases the cold air into your home. The second part is known as the condenser. The condenser is the largest of the parts and has to be mounted on the outside of your home. Some users opt for a concrete platform while others opt for mounting brackets drilled into the side of their home.

Here is where things begin to get a bit tricky. The third component of your ductless system is the copper refrigerant tubing. This is the pipeline that the refrigerant will flow through back and forth between the condenser and the air handler. Remember folks, that air conditioning is an endless cycle of the refrigerant flowing back and forth and changing states from liquid to vapor and vapor to liquid. Installing the tubing can be difficult as you have to ensure that you do not bend or break any of the copper tubing. If you do so then your system will be leaking refrigerant and will not be able to cool your home. On top of that, you will have to drill a two to three inch hole in your wall for the refrigerant pipe to be routed to the condenser. You will then have to secure the pipe to the condenser and the air handler and make sure that there is no possible leakage.

We’re still not done yet though folks. Most ductless systems come pre-charged with nitrogen instead of refrigerant. The nitrogen will have to be vacuumed out of the system and then replaced with the refrigerant. Before that is done though, it is best to check your lines and connection points for any leaks. The most common practice here is to take soapy water in a spray bottle and spray it against the connection points. If you see any bubbles then you have a leak. Otherwise, you’re good.

Now it comes time to vacuum out the nitrogen and replace it with the appropriate refrigerant. If the wrong refrigerant is used then you can permanently damage your air conditioner. Also, as of January 1st, 2018 HFC refrigerants are now highly regulated and you will need to be 608 certified in order to purchase.

See why we need a professional HVAC technician? A professional install will end up costing you even more on top of the cost of the ductless system. You could be looking at a few hundred dollars, or something much higher depending on who you have come out to install.

Conclusion

So folks, what will it be? What do you believe is the best fit for your home? Are you looking for just something to get you through a few hot weeks? Then I would suggest the portable. Or, are you looking for something that will get you through the summer and even provide some heat during the winter? If that’s the case then I suggest you purchase a ductless model. Check out our recommended products below:

Our preferred portable air conditioners are:

  1. Honeywell MN10CESBB 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
  2. Black & Decker Portable Air Conditioner in Various BTU Sizes
  3. Honeywell MN12CES 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Our preferred ductless mini split air conditioners are:

  1. Pioneer Ductless Wall Mount in Various BTU Sizes
  2. Senville Ductless Wall Mount in Various BTU Sizes

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

R-134yf

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

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

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

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

R-134a

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

So, for this repair we would be looking at:

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

R-134yf

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

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

Difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

What Is It?

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

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

R-134a Refrigerant
R-134a Refrigerant

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

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

The HFC Phase Downs

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

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

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

Prices & Purchase Restrictions

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

VERSUS RefrigerantHQ

Most everyone has heard of and seen window air conditioners. For years they have been the end all be all for consumers who want relief from the heat but either can’t afford a traditional split system air conditioner, or perhaps their home just doesn’t have the duct work installed to route the central air. Window air conditioners also offered a relatively low price as well as an easy install. In most cases the install could be done in around a half-hour. All there is to it is setting up the mounting bracket, mounting the air conditioner, securing it, and then extending the curtains to block the rest of the window. With the smaller window units this can be done with one person, but with the larger BTU sizes you may need a second person to help while you secure the air conditioner.

A mini-split system, or a ductless air conditioner, are quite a bit different then your window units. With a mini split you get a mix between the window unit and a traditional split system. I like to think of these systems as the in-between or the compromise. With the mini split you get quite a bit more power then you would find in a window air conditioner. In some cases the split systems can go as high as thirty-six thousand BTUs. (That’s enough cooling power to cool around twelve-hundred square feet.)

Along with the extra power of a mini-split system you also get a much more efficient system. Air conditioner efficiency is measured by what’s known as Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) or it can also be measured by Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). These two numbers provide a measurement on how efficient your air conditioner is. When looking at window air conditioners the typical SEER you’ll see is around ten to twelve. Ductless mini split systems are whole other story with a SEER number coming in around fifteen to twenty, and in some cases even as high as twenty-five. That means that a ductless system is significantly more efficient then your standard window air conditioner which will result in you saving energy costs month after month of use.

There are two big downsides to ductless mini split systems. The first is the cost. A window air conditioner can be as cheap as one-hundred dollars or as expensive as five-hundred dollars. A mini split system will usually START at around five-hundred dollars and can top out at around fifteen-hundred dollars. This price can scare a lot of folks away from purchasing a ductless system, but there is still more expense after that.

Along with the high price point of ductless systems the installation can be quite difficult. So difficult in fact, that it is recommended to hire a professional HVAC technician to come to your home and install the system. A mini split system comes with three main parts that you will have to install. The first is what’s known as the air handler. The air handler is what is mounted on the inside of your home either on your wall, floor, or ceiling. This is the unit that intakes the hot air and releases the cold air into your home. The second part is known as the condenser. The condenser is the largest of the parts and has to be mounted on the outside of your home. Some users opt for a concrete platform while others opt for mounting brackets drilled into the side of their home.

Here is where things begin to get a bit tricky. The third component of your ductless system is the copper refrigerant tubing. This is the pipeline that the refrigerant will flow through back and forth between the condenser and the air handler. (Remember folks, that air conditioning is an endless cycle of the refrigerant flowing back and forth and changing states from liquid to vapor and vapor to liquid.) Installing the tubing can be difficult as you have to ensure that you do not bend or break any of the copper tubing. If you do so then your system will be leaking refrigerant and will not be able to cool your home. Along with all of that, you will have to drill a two to three inch hole in your wall for the refrigerant pipe to be routed to the condenser. You will then have to secure the pipe to the condenser and the air handler and make sure that there is no possible leakage.

We’re still not done yet though folks. Most ductless systems come pre-charged with nitrogen instead of refrigerant. The nitrogen will have to be vacuumed out of the system and then replaced with the refrigerant. Before that is done though, it is best to check your lines and connection points for any leaks. The most common practice here is to take soapy water in a spray bottle and spray it against the connection points. If you see any bubbles then you have a leak. Otherwise, you’re good.

Now it comes time to vacuum out the nitrogen and replace it with the appropriate refrigerant. If the wrong refrigerant is used then you can permanently damage your air conditioner. Also, as of January 1st, 2018 HFC refrigerants are now highly regulated and you will need to be 608 certified in order to purchase. Technically, you can still purchase single pound or two pound cans of refrigerant without a license, but even then you have to make sure you know what you are doing before vacuuming and charging your system.

See why we need a professional HVAC technician? A professional install will end up costing you even more on top of the cost of the ductless system, but it will ensure that your system is setup correctly and will provide cooling and heating for your home for years to come. You could be looking at a few hundred dollars for an install, or something much higher depending on who you have come out to install.

So, Window or Ductless?

That is the question, and the answer is going to depend on a few things. The first thing I’m going to ask you is what do you want out of your new air conditioner? Are you looking for relief from the heat while you are sleeping? Do you want something that’s not going to be too expensive and will let you sleep through the night? If so, then a window unit is most likely the best bet for you. Today you can go on Amazon.com and choose between various five-thousand BTU models that will keep your room cool through the night. Most of these range between one-hundred to two-hundred dollars. This will give you that restful night’s sleep all the while not spending too much on a new system. Here at RefrigerantHQ we recommend Frigidaire’s FFRA0511R1.

Now let’s look at another scenario. Let’s say your home has a traditional split system installed but for whatever reason the air flow just isn’t providing enough cool air to the upstairs of your home. My family and I had a similar problem with our large bedroom over our garage. The bedroom was rather large as it covered the entirety of our three car garage so a standard five-thousand BTU unit would not be good enough. We either had to go with a much larger window unit or we could go with a ductless system. In this scenario we ended up going the window route (Frigidaire FFRE1233S1), but a ductless would have been a great fit as well… perhaps even a better fit. I like to think of window air conditioners as a temporary solution that will have to replaced every few years, whereas ductless system is a more permanent solution to cool and heat your home. So, if we had gone the ductless route I may not have had to replace window after only four years. As an example, the Pioneer WYS012GMFI17RL would have been a great alternative that would have lasted more then four years.

The last option that I want to bring up is cooling your whole home. Let’s say you have a thirteen-hundred square foot home that you are looking to cool and for whatever reason the traditional split system air conditioner is not an option. It could be price or it could simply be that your home is older and doesn’t even have duct work installed. There were quite a few farm houses I visited that had absolutely no duct work. A lot of people in these situations end up going the window air conditioner route. I would argue against this. As you get into the larger square footage the ductless mini split systems become more and more optimal. Yes, you’re going to pay more, but you are getting more power, more efficiency, and more longevity then your typical window unit. In this same example of a thirteen-hundred square foot home I would recommend Pioneer’s WYS036GMFI17RL. Also, if you do decide to purchase a ductless unit don’t forget that Amazon actually offers a professional install service that contracts out a fully trained professional to come to your home and do the install. The install link is on the same page that I linked above.  This is great for those of you who are intimidated by a ductless install.

Conclusion

Well folks, what do you think? What will you end up getting? I hope this article was able to steer you in the right direction and to also give you some pros and cons of each type of air conditioner. Regardless of which one you decide with the end result will be the same.  Your room or home will be cooled. It’s just a matter of preference and what you want out of your air conditioner.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

New York

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

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

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

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

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

States’ Rights

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson
RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to RefrigerantHQ! Today we are going to be doing a product review on a ductless air conditioner. Ductless air conditioners, also known as mini-split systems, are a great overall compromise for the consumer who wants the efficiency and power of a traditional split system air conditioner but also wants to save the money on routing duct work and buying a whole new air conditioner. On the inverse of that, mini-split systems are also a great solution for those of you who are wanting to take a step up from window or portable air conditioners. The ductless system gives you more power then a window unit while also looking aesthetically pleasing in your home.

Today we will be looking at the Pioneer ductless mini-split air conditioner. Now, this is going to be an all encompassing review as the actual Pioneer product comes in a variety of sizes depending on the room or home that you wish to cool. Also, at the end of this article we’ll do a quick breakdown of each model number, what they offer, and which one you should choose.

Pioneer

Now before I ever make a big purchase I always like to take the time and consider the brand and the company behind the product. I do this especially on something I haven’t dealt with before. As an example, I’m a Toyota guy, and when I buy a Toyota I know what to expect, quality. That is their brand and they have earned the recognition that comes with it. The question is what and who is Pioneer? Are they a reputable brand? Let’s take a look.

The Pioneer brand and company has been around for nearly twenty-five years. The brand is owned by a company called ‘Parker Davis.’ (Their website can be found by clicking here.) They specialize in HVAC equipment, especially in ductless mini systems. Their products can be found throughout the US as well as numerous other countries throughout the globe. Over the decades they have been innovating and improving their ductless designs so that with today’s model you get one of the most efficient and effective design available.

Pioneer Mini-Split Ductless Air Conditioner
Pioneer Mini-Split Ductless Air Conditioner

If I was going to be buying a new ductless system I would want to purchase from a company that is dedicated to HVAC, or even moreso, dedicated JUST to ductless systems. That is what you get with Pioneer. Other companies may manufacture ductless units but it is just another product that they sell. The dedication just isn’t there. Pioneer’s mission statement is “To provide you with top quality HVAC equipment at affordable prices and with instant availability.” They are a secure and always improving brand that I would have no problem spending my money on.

Before You Buy

Ok folks, so now that we’ve gone over the company behind the product let’s take some time now and take a look at what this product has to offer to you the consumer.

The first point that I’m going to mention, and probably the most important, is what sized unit that you need. You may have noticed by now that when looking for an air conditioner that they all come with a BTU number. BTUs, also known as British Thermal Units, are a measurement of the cooling capacity of your air conditioner. The higher the number the larger the space the unit can cool. Don’t fall for the trap though that bigger is always better though. It is always best practice to find the closest fit unit for your needs. If you end up purchasing a unit that is too big for your area then you will be wasting energy and you may even end up with hot and cold spots due to dehudmification issues. On the inverse, if you purchase a unit that is too small for your area then the system will be running constantly trying to keep up and you will never get to that desired temperature.

So, what size BTU unit should you get? Before you make that decision it is best to know the square footage of your room. This is a simple equation that can be done just by taking the length and width of your room and multiplying them together. Once you have that number you can begin to see the amount of BTUs that you need. The standard rule of thumb is thirty BTUS per square foot of the room. So, let’s say you have an eight-hundred square foot area you want to cool. Eight-hundred times thirty BTUs equals out to twenty-four thousand BTUs. Now the Pioneer ductless system comes with a variety of sizes. It is up to you to determine what the perfect size is for your needs. Your options are below and by clicking on these links you’ll be taken to the Amazon page where you can do further research.

Now, something you may have noticed is that when clicking on one of the above links is that there are two options for the smaller BTU systems. The only difference between these two is that one requires a standard one-hundred and twenty volt outlet and the other ones require a two-hundred and thirty volt outlet. This option only exists on the smaller units but even if you were going with a nine-thousand BTU system I would still recommend the two-hundred and thirty volt option just due to the increased efficiency.

I want to mention one more thing before we get into the actual product features. Yes, yes I know, this isn’t the fun part but it is necessary so that you understand what you’re getting into before you purchase. Mini-split systems are not easy to install, especially if you are a laymen when it comes to air conditioning work. Ductless systems like these aren’t as simple as a window unit where you can mount and forget it. No, with a system like this you have to mount the interior air handler in your room, drill a two-three inch hole, route the copper refrigerant tubing/draining pipe through the hole, install and mount the condenser on the outside of your home, connect the tubing (Flaring the tube if needed), check for any possible leaks, and even after all that we’re still not done. You will need to wire the unit, setup an electrical outlet box on the outside of your home, vacuum out the pre-filled nitrogen from you system, and then input the actual refrigerant.

This is a huge undertaking, especially if it’s your first time doing something like this. A lot of people who purchase mini-split systems like these buy online from stores like Amazon.com to save the mark-up they would see from their local HVAC contractors. Then, once they have their unit in hand they call the technician to come out and install. This is what I would advise. I would not advise you try this on your own unless you know exactly what you are doing. Otherwise, you risk damaging the unit by installing it correctly, or it could be something as simple as the tubes weren’t fitted right and the unit is leaking refrigerant. There are so many variables when it comes to this that it is best to hire an expert.

Speaking of experts, Amazon has a great feature I just discovered where you can actually add professional installation when you are purchasing the unit. As an example, let’s look at the thirty-six thousand BTU Pioneer unit by clicking here. As you can see just under the sizing there is a box to select for professional instillation. This works just like how it would if you were to go to a Home Depot or Lowes and pay for installation. Amazon contracts this out to a local professional and they then co-ordinate everything with you. It’s a great feature that a lot of people just don’t know about. My family recently used this feature for a new garbage disposal we bought. It was quick and painless and didn’t cost much more to have the project done professionally.

Product Features

Pioneer Air Handler
Pioneer Air Handler

Ok folks, so now that I’ve bored you with the sizing, electrical, and installation options let’s take a look at the actual product features you’ll be getting if you purchase this unit. There are a whole host of features to be aware of and I may end up missing some here and there but here is what I have found throughout my research on the product. The first, and biggest selling point to me, is that this product comes with a heat pump as well as an air conditioner. Along with that, most air conditioners that come with heat pumps do not have a matching BTU. Typically, you’ll see the heat pump attachment having a few thousand BTUs lower then the air conditioning system. That is NOT the case with this Pioneer brand ductless system. In fact, your heat pump BTU is right in line with the air conditioning BTU no matter what size you choose.

One thing to mention is that this unit comes with a heat pump. A heat pump is only effective up until a certain temperature. If it begins to get too cold then your heat pump will no longer be as efficient. Now, depending on who you ask, this temperature range can vary. Most people say around forty degrees is when the peak performance begins to drop. Instead of the unit taking heat from outside of your home and transferring to the inside of your home, you will now have electric heating coils activate to give your home heat. The difference here is that these coils are not as efficient as the standard process. This will result in two things: The first is that the BTU heating capacity of your air conditioner will fall slightly. Secondly, you will end up paying more in energy when you begin to use electric coils. If you live in an area that gets rather extreme winters then you may consider buying an infrared unit as well to heat the room. (I prefer the infrared fireplaces.)

Speaking of heating and air conditioning, the Pioneer system comes with an automatic switch mode that allows the unit to switch between cooling, heating, dehumidifier, and ventilating. Having this feature enabled allows you to have the most efficiently run air conditioner. You also get what’s known as an auto-restart function. What this does is simple, it remembers the settings that you have on the unit and then, if the power goes out and comes back on, your unit will power back up with the exact same settings that you had before. Now if only my alarm clock could do that.

Another setting this comes with is a timer. The timer can be great for programming your air conditioner to turn off and on during set times of the day. A lot of people use this to shut their unit off during night hours and have it kick back on again during the morning. This saves some energy and only has to be programmed once. On the indoor air handler you get an LED display showing you the temperature and any other readings you would like to see. You also get automatically swinging louvers that allow the air flow to be optimized. (They move up and down directing the air flow to the appropriate parts of the room.) The air handler itself runs VERY quiet, so quiet in fact that most people don’t notice it. This is a big selling point when comparing to a window or portable air conditioner as a lot of people complain about the noise level from them. Along with all of that you get a wireless remote control that will allow you control your settings.

Many of you may not care about this, but the refrigerant that this unit takes is R-410A, or Puron. 410A is now the most common used refrigerant in the United States when it comes to home or commercial air conditioners and it is readily available in case you need a recharge down the road. The refrigerant line set ranges between ten feet upwards to twenty-five feet depending on the model you buy. What’s neat about this unit is that if your system develops a refrigerant leak you will see a ‘EC’ error code be displayed on the system and the unit will not run until the hole is patched. (Remember, refrigerant flows an endless cycle and you should never have a leak.)

Pioneer Ductless System Remote
Pioneer Ductless System Remote

Last thing I’m going to mention on this product is the weight. A lot of you may expecting this to be heavy, but I want to alert you anyways. Depending on the model you purchase these units can weight between one-hundred and twenty pounds up to three-hundred and fifteen pounds. Please be sure that you have help when you begin to setup the unit. Remember, safety first… and I’d hate for you to drop it accidentally and damage the unit.

Pros

The biggest Pro we have here with these ductless systems it that it gives the homeowners an in-between alternative to a traditional split system air conditioner or a window mounted system. Along with that, it gives you a nice clean looking mounted system that blends in with your room. Many people aren’t happy with the look a window air conditioner gives a room and a ductless system will give you that second option. Lastly, ductless systems give you the option to install air conditioning in your house even if you don’t have ducts routed throughout your home.

The next big point on these mini-split systems is their energy efficiency. Air conditioner efficiency is measured by two numbers. The first is known as their Energy Efficiency Ratio, or EER. The second number is known as Season Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER. The only difference between these two numbers is that EER looks at performance based on one solid outside temperature whereas SEER looks at the wide varying range of seasonal temperatures. The higher EER or SEER number the more efficient your system is. A typical window air conditioner will have an EER rating between ten to twelve. Now, the average EER/SEER rating on this Pioneer branded unit is between sixteen and eighteen. That is quite the difference and that heightened number means more money saved in your pocket month to month.

A quick Pro on these Pioneer systems is that they run VERY quiet. I mentioned this above in the product features, but I wanted to bring it up again as it’s a big deal to a lot of people. If I am going to have this product installed in my living room I am going to want as quiet as possible.

The last Pro that I want to bring up before we move on to the Cons is the warranty. These Pioneer units come with a two year limited parts warranty and a five year limited compressor warranty. Their limited warranty policy can be read about by clicking here.

Cons

I mentioned install in our ‘Before You Buy,’ section but I’m going to bring it up here again as well. It’s a big deal. If you don’t know what you’re doing then you are going to need to hire a professional. The worst thing you can do is to guess your way through this. Some homeowners have gone through and mounted the air handler and condenser. They also drilled the appropriate hole, but ultimately they left the electrical work and the refrigerant work to the professional. Remember, you may need to end up flaring the refrigerant piping for a perfect fit, you will need to vacuum the system out, charge it with refrigerant, and lastly you will need to route a electrical box to the exterior of your home. (Most likely a two-hundred volt outlet.)

This next con is going to relate to instillation, but I’m going to bring it up anyways. Many users have complained that the unit was leaking refrigerant and that the unit would not cool their home. Ninety percent of the time their unit was leaking due to improper installation. If during the install you bend one of the copper refrigerant lines or you do not attach the line correctly to the air handler/condenser then you are going to have a refrigerant leak. The other ten percent of the time it may be an actual defect in the air handler or the condenser. If this is the case then the Pioneer warranty should cover you.

The next common complaint I read about was the heat pump not working correctly. Remember earlier in our ‘Product Features,’ where we mentioned that heat pumps are only designed for warmer winter areas? Well, some people do not realize that. One reviewer said, “The unit isn’t meant for Michigan winters.” Well, yes… of course it’s not! It’s a heat pump. It’s going to work up until that forty degree mark and then it will begin to supplement it’s heat with electrical heating coils, but in very cold winters it may not be enough. Again, I would recommend purchasing an infrared fireplace. These things work great, keep your room warm, and can be put away in storage once the winter is over.

When you purchase something online there is always the risk of it arriving to your home damaged. That risk increases with the bigger and heavier the package. On top of that, the risk increases even more when dealing with a machine like an air conditioner. Now, I’m not going to lie to you here. The chances of your unit arriving damaged is rare, but there is a chance folks. The good news though is that if this does happen you can always file a claim with Amazon.com and they will take care of the return process. Something that you’ll notice is that some of the ‘bad reviews,’ on this product are a direct result of the product arriving damaged to the consumer’s home. This is not Pioneer’s fault and frankly shouldn’t be attributed to them.

Conclusion

Well folks, what do you think? Will you be getting a ductless unit? Or, are you going to end up going the window air conditioner route? If you have decided to go the ductless route then I can honestly say that you will NOT be disappointed with the Pioneer brand name and the options that they have to offer. While the installation may be difficult it is worth it once you have it up and running and have a nice cool home to come home to. Again, as I mentioned earlier, this product comes in a variety of sizes. If you are interested in purchasing then I suggest you click on the appropriate size below. Also, if you’re looking for help for installation don’t forget that Amazon offers their own professional install as well.

However, if you find that you want to go the window air conditioner or the portable air conditioner route then check out our best of buying guides:

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Hello everyone! I hope your Labor Day is going well. We just got back from our city’s parade and I’ve got a few hours before our barbecue so I thought I’d take some time and get an article out there. I’m going to preface this article with the disclaimer that this is an opinion piece. Take it how you want, but it has been on my mind over the past year or so.

As we all know refrigerants have been phased out or phased down for decades. We started it way back in the early 1990’s with R-12 and other CFCs. Then we focused on HCFCs and now the world is looking at HFCs. With CFCs and HCFCs the goal of the phase out was to stop using Ozone damaging refrigerants. These refrigerants contained Chlorine which did not break down in the atmosphere and ended up harming the Ozone layer.

HFCs were the replacement for these Ozone damaging refrigerants. HFCs did not contain Chlorine and did not harm the Ozone layer. They were also non-flammable and non-toxic. Yes, I am aware there are always exceptions out there, but the most commonly used HFC refrigerants were non-flammable and non-toxic. These HFCs seemed to be the perfect substitute for HFCs and HCFCs.

Fast forward to the present and the world is now looking to phase down or phase out HFC refrigerants across the globe. This time though instead of them damaging the Ozone these refrigerants are contributing to Global Warming. Refrigerants are measured on a scale known as Global Warming Potential, or GWP. The zero scale for GWP is Carbon Dioxide (R-744) with a GWP of one. Popular HFC refrigerants, such as R-134a, have GWP as high as one-thousand four-hundred and thirty. There is an obvious problem here and the continued use of HFC refrigerants will speed up Global Warming. The question now though is what alternatives are out there?

Natural Refrigerants

For a lot of companies and countries the answer has been Hydrocarbons such as R-717 and R-290. These natural refrigerants have a very low Global Warming Potential and they do not deplete the Ozone layer. In fact, R-717 is widely seen as one of the most efficient refrigerants out there. Both of these refrigerants are great for the environment. The downside though is that these refrigerants can be dangerous.

Yes, just like with anything, if the refrigerants and machines are handled correctly and maintained properly then there is little chance of problems, but the chance still persists nonetheless. Let’s look at R-717, or Ammonia, as an example. Ammonia is a great refrigerant but it is toxic if inhaled. In today’s world it is mostly used industrial refrigeration such as meat packing plants and in ice rinks. When a leak does happen it can be deadly. Notice, how I said when? Ammonia leaks occur quite frequently across the Americas. There was a particularly bad one around one year ago in Canada that ended up fatally harming three workers. (Source) When an Ammonia leak occurs an evacuation has to occur. Depending on the size of the leak the evacuation could be a couple of blocks surrounding the facility. It can be that dangerous.

The alternative for Ammonia based systems was R-22. In the 1980’s and 1990’s companies could pick between these two refrigerants for their plants. (Yes, there were more, but I believe these were the main players.) The choice for R-22 is now gone due to the phase outs. Depending on the application, some were using R-134a as an alternative to Ammonia. But now, that too, is being phased out. While R-22 and R-134a were damaging the Climate they were safe. If a leak occurred it wasn’t the end of the world.

Now with the shrinking list of alternative refrigerants more and more companies are leaning towards Ammonia. Yes, there are new HFC and HFO alternatives being developed by Chemours and Honeywell but these have not been perfected yet. You may get one that has a low GWP but has a higher flammability rating. Or, you may get one that still has a somewhat high GWP and it just wouldn’t make sense to base a new machine off of a refrigerant that is only going to be around for a few years.

R-290, or Propane, has a similar story. While yes, it’s not near as deadly as Ammonia, it still has it’s risks. Instead of toxicity being a problem we now have to deal with flammability and flame propagation. If an inexperienced technician attempts to work on an R-290 unit and is not sure what they are doing they could end up igniting the refrigerant. (The worst is the guys who smoke when working on a unit.)

Now picture this, what if we start using R-290 in home based air conditioners? It doesn’t even have to be a split system, it could be a mini-split or even a window or portable unit. Let’s say Mr. Homeowner, who has no idea what he’s doing, decides to tamper with the unit because it’s not blowing cold air. Maybe he thinks it just needs ‘more Freon.’ If the unit was using Puron then the homeowner would recharge, waste his money, and think he did some good. However, if the unit contained R-290 the results could be far worse.

HFOs and Alternative HFCs

In my opinion, HFOs are much safer then Hydrocarbons, but there is still that safety risk out there. Let’s look at everyone’s favorite HFO target, 1234yf. Now, I know this horse has been beaten to death, but I’m going to bring it up one more time. YF is rated as an A2L from ASHRAE. That 2L means that YF is flammable and has a chance to ignite. What kills me here is that there was such a push to get YF rolled out to new vehicles that instead of rating it as a standard A2 refrigerant they instead created a whole new flammability called 2L. (Lower Flammability.) So, they’re admitting to it being flammable, but only slightly.

The whole controversy on YF started years ago when the European Union was looking for a suitable alternative to R-134a. There were hundreds of tests conducted across Europe and the World to view the viability of 1234yf. In one of these tests the Daimler company out of Germany found that after the vehicle suffered an impact and the compressor cracked open the HFO YF refrigerant ignited when it was exposed to the hot engine. (For more on this check out our YF fact sheet by clicking here. The video of the ignition is at the bottom.)

Needless to say, this test result shocked Daimler and they published their findings to the world. The other companies and countries stated that Daimler’s test could not be reproduced and that it was a non-issue. The world moved forward with the somewhat dangerous 1234yf. Daimler, being the innovators they are, decided to instead move forward with a completely different automotive refrigerant, R-744.

While 1234yf is by far one of the most popular HFC alternatives on the marketplace today there are others that have similar problems. One that comes to mind right away is R-32. R-32 is an HFC refrigerant that is beginning to see more popularity for it’s usage in home and commercial air conditioners. R-32 is an alternative to the standard R-410A that is found in most home units. The goal of R-32 was to reduce the GWP number when compared to R-410A. 410A has a GWP of two-thousand and eighty-eight while R-32 has a GWP of six-hundred and seventy-five. This is a significant reduction, but the GWP is still quite high when comparing to Hydrocarbons or HFOs. Another very important point is that R-32 is rated as an A2 refrigerant. There’s that 2 again. 2 means flammable except with this one we don’t even get the L for lightly flammable.

So again, I’m going to illustrate the similar scenario we mentioned above. Picture a homeowner, who doesn’t know what they are doing, trying to either retrofit his existing R-22 over to R-32 or perhaps he just wants to recharge his R-32 machine. Without the proper training and knowledge this can end in disaster.

Conclusion

So, now here we are sacrificing technician and public safety for the betterment of the Climate and environment. I understand that Global Warming is a crisis and that it needs to be dealt with, but is it really worth increasing possible risk and danger of everyday workers and people? It appears that in everyone’s haste to move away from HFC refrigerants and to save the environment the thought of safety has taken a backseat.

I mean, if we wanted to get really aggressive in the fight against climate change why not start using Ammonia in nearly every application? After all, it has a GWP of zero and is extremely energy efficient. (I’m being sarcastic here, if you couldn’t tell!)

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

The phase down and phase out of HFC refrigerants across the European Union was done to help the environment. These commonly used HFC refrigerants have an extremely high Global Warming Potential (GWP) and are now being replaced with lower GWP alternatives such as HFO’s like 1234yf and by natural refrigerants such as R-744. In order to ensure countries and companies complied with the phase down strict regulations and rules were set in place. Production was capped. Imports were capped. Companies and contractors were incentivized to use more climate friendly refrigerants.

While all of this had the positive effects of reducing Global Warming it came with unintended consequences. All of these new regulations and production limits caused the supply of HFC refrigerant to dwindle across the European Union. And just like anything else in the world, when the supply shrinks and the demand is still there then the price rises. That is exactly what happened in Europe. Last year certain refrigerants saw multiple hundred percent increases in price. The most prominent example is R-404A. Imagine paying five-hundred percent more for R-404A. What would you do? How would your customers react?

Some people saw these high prices and shortages of HFCs as just a growing pain. After all, this was only temporary. The new refrigerants would began to take over and dominate the market in a few years time. They just had to get through this transition and then they would be fine. Others however, saw a different approach. They saw profit. They saw dollar signs dancing in front of them as the prices of these HFC refrigerants kept rising and rising.

Over the past few years there has been an explosion of refrigerant crime across the European Countries. From what I have read there are three main types of crime being perpetrated on refrigerants.

Theft

It was reported this week that thieves targeted a German refrigerant manufacturer of R-134a. This wasn’t a small operation stealing a few cylinders here and there. No, these guys stole one-thousand cylinders of R-134a worth an estimated value of nearly seven-hundred thousand dollars. This was a well organized operation that had the time and effort to arrange the stealing, loading, and shipping of one-thousand cylinders of refrigerant. Let’s think about that for a moment. Most refrigerant cylinders come forty to a pallet. So, that is twenty-five pallets of refrigerant stolen. Typically, you can fit twenty pallets on to a truck. These guys were so greedy that they somehow crammed an additional five pallets in there.

This isn’t the only report of R-134a being stolen either folks. In July other refrigerant manufacturers were hit across Germany. In one example over eight-hundred cylinders were stolen. In other cases there have been multiple cylinders stolen. Five cylinders here, sixteen here, ten there. A lot of the refrigerant manufacturers in Germany are hit over and over again. Refrigerant is now seen as a commodity in Europe. The reason for all this is what we mentioned above, price. The price on R-134a has increased over eight times what it was in Europe last year. Again, let’s do some math. Let’s call R-134a price today at ninety dollars a cylinder. Now, times that number by eight. Seven-hundred and twenty dollars a cylinder. That is just unbelievable.

These huge price increases are directly due to the MAC Directive that organized the phase down of R-134a and replaced it with 1234yf or R-744. The bad news is that there are still so many cars on the road today that take R-134a and they aren’t going away anytime soon. The need for R-134a will be with us for at least another ten years. If the price continues to remain high then we are going to continue seeing these robberies occur. The good news is that here in America we haven’t had such a significant shortage and at this time R-134a does not have a set phase out date. While there are cars today taking 1234yf it is not a mandatory switch at this point. We still have time, and to be honest, I don’t see it getting to this level over here.

Online Selling

Now, most of the time, when people commit crimes they don’t think it through all the way. It’s the same way with these refrigerant thieves. While many of them try to unload their cheap product onto an unwitting buyer, others take a different route. They opt for putting their stolen merchandise online for all of the world to see. Yes, that’s right. A lot of these guys put their products on sites like E-Bay and Craigslist.

There was an example the other day in Italy where an auto parts retailer was raided by the Italian Police due to them selling R-134a without the proper documentation and certification. He was just selling the cylinders on E-bay for a quick buck. Who knows if the product was stolen or not. Regardless, he broke the law by not obtaining the proper documentation when selling to his customers. Europe is not kidding around with these kind of sales.

This isn’t just isolated to out friends across the sea. The same problem exists here in America. You can go to Ebay.com today and search for R-22 cylinders. You’ll find tons of matches and I’m willing to bet that not all of them are going to ask you for your 608 certification number. Again, highly illegal. I will say that after looking into a few of the top sellers of R-22 on Ebay there is a mention of providing a your 608 EPA cert number, or also giving you the option to fill out an intent to resale form. Doing it this way is perfectly legal, but as I said I KNOW there are some out there selling R-22, or even R-134a/R-410A without asking for a EPA license. You might have to dig a bit more, but they will be there. Heck, they may even have the cheapest price.

While E-bay is a big problem it is not the worst offender. No, that prize goes to Craigslist. Craigslist may not have the volume that Ebay has but it comes with a whole host of other problems. With Ebay you provide the money to the seller through the Ebay platform. There is a paper trail. You can trace back who you bought from and they can trace back who they sold to. If someone gets audited there is at least that trail that can be relied upon. Craigslist has none of that. Most of the Craigslist sales are done in person and in cash. There is very little to trace back, if anything. Most of the time it’s just a simple swap in a parking lot and then it’s over. I’m willing to bet that sellers aren’t stopping the sale if the buyer doesn’t have the proper certification.

While we haven’t had much of a problem of illegal online sales here in America I fear that it has increased this year. This is mainly in part due to the new EPA refrigerant purchase restrictions on popular HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A. People who were able to purchase cylinders of HFC refrigerants less then twelve months ago now find that they have to be certified. I can still find numerous sellers on Amazon.com selling HFCs without licensing required. In one example of 410A I see no mention anywhere of providing a 608 license certification number. This is now illegal. While many people may not know this, ignorance will not save you.

Smuggling

The smuggling of refrigerant is perhaps the most lucrative and the most dangerous of refrigerant crimes to partake in. The concept of smuggling refrigerant has been around at least a decade now. It may have been around earlier but I first heard about it when the world began to phase out R-22. Each country had it’s different phase out dates but across all of them one common thread was the implementation of import and production quotas. Once a quota was met no new R-22 could be imported/manufactured in that country. These quotas kept the price high and opened the market for smugglers. I can go through numerous examples of this happening around the globe and even right here in the United States. Let’s look at just a couple of them:

  • In 2015 Russia found twenty tons of R-22 refrigerant being illegally imported. It was disguised as R-134a cylinders. They had originated from China. – Source
  • In 2013 A California resident was caught importing R-22 cylinders illegally by having them disguised as R-134a cylinders. He was travelling back and forth between America and China arranging shipments. He is now facing up to ten years in prison for his smuggling operation. – Source
  • In 2013 Tonga caught thirty cylinders R-22 being illegal imported into their country. Again, they were disguised as R-134a. Now, five years later, the cylinders still sit at the customs office of this island nation. – Source

These are not even close to all of the cases. It happens all over the world: Europe, Middle East, Russia, America, everywhere. In most of these smuggling cases we find that the disguised refrigerant is originating from one country, China. Most of the time they used R-134a as their go to disguise. It has gotten to the point now that customs agents are now using refrigerant identifiers and testing random shipments to ensure no excess R-22 is being imported under their noses. (This is how they caught the Tonga shipment.)

As the world begins to move away from HFC refrigerants we are now beginning to see the smugglers moving away from R-22 and towards R-134a. I had mentioned earlier that R-134a’s price had gone up nearly eight times in Europe. This led to thefts of various manufacturers. Well, it has also led to increased smuggling from China. In some cases the product is marketed as R-134a but it is being shipped in disposable cylinders instead of the required reusable ones that we are all familiar with. Anything to save a bit of money and increase that margin.

The European Union is on the lookout for these smugglers and we here in America should be as well. In 2018 I would say that the prospects of smuggling into the Untied States have gone way down mainly due to the overturning of the EPA’s proposed HFC phase down and also due to the falling price of R-22. Since R-22 is hovering in the three-hundred dollar range a cylinder this year it may just not make sense to go through the risk of smuggling today. If prices begin to creep back up though, be on the look out. If you do see a price on refrigerants that seems to good to be true then be wary as you may be purchasing stolen or illegally imported product.

Conclusion

This was an interesting article to write as I never thought I would see organized crime on refrigerants. But, if there is a high enough profit opportunity then there are always going to be those bad apples that take the chance and break the law. While we are not having the extent of problems that Europe is having with illegal refrigerants it very well may come our way in the future as we move closer towards phasing out HFC refrigerants.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

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Hello ladies and gentlemen. It’s been a while since we last updated here at RefrigerantHQ and there are a few reasons for that, but I won’t get into every one. As we all know, time has a way of escaping us. I had planned on doing updates a few weeks ago but I ran into some bad luck with my website right about the same time. On August 13th the traffic to my site all but collapsed. I went from receiving thousands of visitors a day to only receiving a couple hundred. At first I thought I was just having a bad day but as the days wore on I saw that the trend was continuing. I couldn’t understand what was going on. Why was my traffic going away? Where were my readers? I began to get frustrated and walked away from the site for at least a week.

It was last weekend that I decided to take a crack at it again and figure out what happened. There had to be a reason for this. I checked Google and my other traffic sources but I was still ranked towards the top of the search results. It wasn’t Google’s fault. I then tried going to my website via my phone and that is when it dawned on me. My website had been hacked. Anyone who had clicked on my site was automatically being taken to the hacker’s site. Once I figured out what it was I became even more worried, but I also buckled down and spent a good six to seven hours over the weekend researching how to remove the code.

Come to find out the hackers gained access to my website through the RefrigerantHQ forums that I had launched at the beginning of this year. I won’t get into all of the technical details here, but long story short the hackers injected their malicious code through my forum software. I had hopes of this forum of being a go to for those of you within the industry but after seeing the damage that these hackers had done I decided the safest bet was to scrap the forums entirely.

At a later date, I may bring them back, but over the weekend I only had one concern and that was getting my site up and running again. I found all of the malicious code and deleted it from my database and also paid a security consultancy firm to review my site for anything that I have missed. I got the all clear this afternoon from them and now here I am writing this article. The site is good to go now, but just as a precaution, if you see anything out of the ordinary please let me know and I’ll get fixed as soon as I can.

Onwards and Upwards

Now that I have reclaimed my site I have quite a few plans for future articles. I have still been watching the industry over the past month or so and I haven’t seen much activity in the news cycle. That doesn’t always mean that there isn’t a lot going on, but it does slow down the quantity of articles. I did find quite a bit of chatter over illegal refrigerants. Over the next few days I’m going to be working on an article highlighting the illegal refrigerant purchasing in Europe and also how it is happening here in America.

Beyond that I aim to add additional ‘Refrigerant Fact Sheets.’ These fact sheets act as an all encompassing guide to a specific refrigerant. The goal with these is to be able to answer any and all questions about the refrigerant and to have it all in one place. These articles will be trickling in over the next few months as we move closer to 2019.

Speaking of 2019, we are on pace to hit around seven-hundred thousand views for the 2018 year. While I had high hopes of hitting that one-million number this year I KNOW that we can do it in 2019. For those of you who do not know, RefrigerantHQ, is a hobby of mine that I work on during my off hours. Presently I work full time as a software consultant, but my dream is to grow this business until it can sustain my family and I. If any of you are interested in working with me on any future projects please don’t hesitate to reach out to me either via e-mail at johnsonalec41@gmail.com or you can text or call me at 913-206-5026. If I don’t pick up please don’t hesitate to leave a voicemail.

The last update that I want to share with everyone is that my wife and I are expecting our third child here in just a few months. The due date is November 13th, and while I love my two girls more then anything, it will be nice to finally have another man in the family! All that being said, don’t be surprised if I’m a little slow to update for those first few months. I have a feeling I’m going to be up all night with him for a while…

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

About a month ago I wrote an article about the falling price of R-22 refrigerant. This time of year it is very unusual to see the price of refrigerant falling, especially with how drastic R-22 has gone down over the past year. If we rewind to this time last year we were seeing prices around five-hundred to even six-hundred dollars a cylinder. In June of this year the price was around three-hundred and thirty dollars for a thirty pound cylinder and as I write this article in early August the price has remained right about the same.

While this price decrease is great for end users and consumers it has also hurt a lot of distributors and HVAC contractors out there. Refrigerant has always been a speculation game and while it is not as volatile as the oil market the price can change just as fast. In 2017 when the prices were sky high nearly everyone was thinking that the price would only go higher as we got closer and closer to the year 2020. You see, in 2020 the production and import of R-22 will be banned across the United States. This is in accordance to the Montreal Protocol to phase out CFC and HCFC refrigerants.

Most everyone’s thinking was that with 2020 only a few years away and the price on R-22 getting higher that the time to buy was now. Might as well get in early before the price gets so high it’s no longer reachable. So, a lot of folks bought up on R-22 during that 2017 season. In fact, this buy-up across the country contributed to the drastic price increase that we saw. Because of everyone was buying up the price jumped, but only temporarily. With refrigerants we always see the price jump in summer and then start to taper off and lower during the fall and winter season. (I always like to buy in December or January when the price is at it’s lowest.)

Well, what happened in the 2017/2018 winter is that the price dropped and dropped. More so then usual. All of the distributors and contractors now had a surplus of R-22. No one had a need to purchase any. This lack of demand continued towards spring and now into summer. The market had been flooded due to the ‘panicked’ buying of 2017. The usual slow uptick in price that we normally saw start in spring and into summer was gone and everyone was now stuck with the low three to four-hundred priced cylinders.

The Gamble

During the high priced 2017 year a lot of companies and individuals decided to gamble on the future pricing of R-22. It was a tough call and no one really knew what was going to happen, but if you succeeded then the rewards would be amazing. Imagine, buying a cylinder for five-hundred dollars in 2017 and then turning around and selling that same cylinder for eight or nine-hundred dollars just a year or two later. Now, times that cylinder by forty for a pallet of R-22. Then, times that pallet by twenty for a container shipment. That’s one-hundred and twenty-thousand in profit selling at eight-hundred a cylinder. At nine-hundred a cylinder you’re looking at one-hundred and sixty-thousand profit.

Hudson Stock Price

I can definitely see how that profit lured some people into purchasing large quantities of R-22, but there was a reason this was a gamble folks. The price bombed and now these companies are having to make the tough decision on rather to unload their R-22 inventory at a loss or to hold onto their stockpiles and hope for the best. Will the price go up by the time we hit 2020? Will they be able to make a profit, or at least break even?

One such company, Hudson Technologies, made this gamble and are now paying for it this summer. Now, I don’t know exactly how much they purchased but I do know they have a large surplus of R-22 just waiting for the price to climb back up. Their second quarter earnings report came out today and within those earnings I found something astonishing. Last quarter Hudson wrote off fourteen million dollars worth of inventory due to the decline in refrigerant pricing. Fourteen million! Remember, that is just a cost adjustment and not the ACTUAL value of their refrigerant inventory. Imagine the position they would be in if the price had climbed. That’s why they call it a gamble though folks.

Because of these inventory write offs, among other factors, the Hudson stock has gone down and down since the past year. As you can see in the picture to the right this time last year the stock was around nine dollars and now this year we’re under two dollars.

Investing into Hudson has been a hot topic lately in the refrigerant world and many people are buying it up due to the very low cost of the stock. The hope is that the R-22 price will begin to climb again and Hudson’s stock along with it. The good news is that even though Hudson had that inventory write off they still ended up breaking even for the second quarter. So, while the company itself isn’t in trouble, their R-22 inventory definitely is.

Hudson Tech shares have lost about 69.7% since the beginning of the year versus the S&P 500’s gain of 6.9%. – Source

Conclusion

The future of R-22 is anything but certain. As the summer moves on and we inch closer to fall the price of R-22 still remains stagnant. If I was to guess I would say that the price is going to go down even further as we approach winter. We may even end up seeing a flat three-hundred dollar price per cylinder around December and January. As for 2019 it is anybody’s guess. By then, many distributors surpluses may have run out and the price could start creeping up again.

Another factor to consider is that 2019 is the LAST summer season for R-22 before the ban takes hold. After January 1st, 2020 no more imports or production. We will only be left with reclaimed R-22 or alternatives. While 2019 may see an increase I do not foresee us reaching the levels we saw in 2017. Perhaps four to five-hundred a cylinder. The year 2020 will be a totally different story as the companies who do have their surplus refrigerant in reserve will began to release it in waves to offset the lack of production or imports. If done correctly, it will keep the market stable at a certain price. If done incorrectly, the market will be flooded just like it was back in 2017. Only time will tell what happens next.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Hello and welcome to RefrigerantHQ! If this is your first time here, I’m happy to announce that this is a great first article for you to land on. If you’re a recurring visitor, I want to say that I’m excited to share with you something I’ve wanted to publish for a long time: an ultimate guide to ductless air conditioners.

As RefrigerantHQ continues to become more popular, we want to make sure that our articles are the most in-depth you’ll ever find on the Internet. So make sure you check back often for more guides like this. Alternatively, we always have a fresh round of articles pertaining to refrigerants to include news, product reviews, and various pieces of information relating to all-things air conditioning.

Before we get started, take a glance at these amazing ductless air conditioners on Amazon. That’s what you’d see if you typed in “ductless air conditioner” in the Amazon search area. I want you to see what they look like and get acquainted with them. Look at the different types, sizes, and colors. It’s good to see what they look like before I go into great detail as to what they are, what they can do for you, and other things relating to them. I personally love to use Amazon when making a purchasing decision as I can see all of the specifications on the product, tons of pictures, and best of all various product reviews. It allows me to make an informed decision when I decide to purchase.

This guide, as you’ll soon see, is structured in a first, middle, and last type of format. First, it’s important to learn what ductless air conditioners are. You’ll learn such things as their benefits and drawbacks. Then, in the middle portion, you’ll learn how they work and how to install them. Finally, you’ll learn the types of ductless air conditioners that are good for your situation (because everyone’s situation is different). And you’ll also read what I believe are the best ductless air conditioners you can buy. By “best”, I based this off of what people say on Amazon. After all, if 1000 people say a product is the “best ever”, it probably is!

So make a fresh cup of coffee, get comfortable, and start reading the ultimate guide to ductless air conditioners. If coffee isn’t your thing, that’s okay! The important part is that you’re prepared to read a guide that is designed to be very helpful to you. If you’re in the market for a ductless air conditioner, there is no better place than this article. And, if when you finish this article you still have questions, feel free to contact us. We’ll be sure to answer your questions as best as we can. The major sections of this ultimate guide are

How does that sound? This article is meant to be read chronologically; however, feel free to go right to the section you’re concerned with. If you want to know the benefits to ductless air conditioners, you can skip to that section. If you want to know the best ductless air conditioners, you can skip to that later section as well. This is a resource for you. Do with it what you want. Our main concern with this guide is providing you the best information we can about ductless air conditioners. As a whole, we are concerned with providing you the best information we can with everything relating to refrigerants (and that includes all types of air conditioners). So, without further ado, let’s jump right into our first section!

What is a Ductless Air Conditioner?

So, what is a ductless air conditioner? What makes it different from an HVAC system, or a portable air conditioner? Out of the three words, “ductless” is the keyword. To understand what a ductless air conditioner is, you must first know what ducts are and how they function.

PIONEER Ductless Air Conditioner
PIONEER Ductless Air Conditioner

Do you have an HVAC system? If so, you probably have an air duct that snakes throughout your home. These air ducts open each in many rooms in the form of air vents. This is the system that essentially moves air around the home. An HVAC system is not required if you want to live in a temperature-controlled climate. That’s where alternate forms of cooling come into play, such as with a ductless air conditioner.

So say goodbye to ducts. You don’t need them! Ductless air conditioners are commonly called mini split air conditioning systems. This is because the ductless air conditioner is two separate, but connected units. You’ll understand this better when we get to the “how they work” section. For now, know that one of the units is indoors and the other unit is outdoors.

Energy.gov is an extension of the U.S. Department of Energy. They provide information about everything related to energy. With regards to ductless air conditioners, they detail why someone would benefit from owning the system. “Ductless, mini split-system air-conditioners (mini splits) have numerous potential applications in residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. The most common applications are in multifamily housing or as retrofit add-ons to houses with “non-ducted” heating systems, such as hydronic (hot water heat), radiant panels, and space heaters (wood, kerosene, propane). They can also be a good choice for room additions and small apartments, where extending or installing distribution duct work (for a central air-conditioner or heating systems) is not feasible.”

The article continues to talk about the benefits and drawbacks of ductless air conditioners (but we’ll talk about that soon). For now, the important thing to know is what they are and why you would buy one. Extending the home is a perfect example! Let’s say a growing family needs a home with more space. They have two options: move to a new home to make their current home bigger. It’s not uncommon that the homeowner could create an addition to the home. When they do, they’ll be happy with an extra bedroom, a bigger kitchen, or a larger den. There’s only one problem: the new room is not part of the air duct system!

This presents a unique challenge to the homeowner. What happens in the summer on a hot and humid day? The room would be almost unbearable to spend time in. A wall fan isn’t going to do the trick. The homeowner has a few options. They can extend their duct system to the new room. Or they buy a mini split, portable air conditioner, or window air conditioner. Extending the duct system to the new room would probably be the most expensive option. Furthermore, there could be a loss of air strength in other rooms since the HVAC system will be stretched to the additional room. Because this guide is geared towards ductless air conditioners, we are going to focus solely on that option. And let’s be honest folks, if it was me I would go with the ductless as well as I like the idea of saving the money of routing the extra ducts.

Next, we are going to talk about the benefits of ductless air conditioners. And there are many benefits! Let’s take a look at what those might be.

Benefits of Ductless Air Conditioners

There are more benefits to ductless air conditioners (mini split systems) than the ability to just cool a space. Sure, the primary goal of a mini split system is cool a room. After all, it’s an air conditioner. But let’s take a look at what some other benefits are. They are:

  • Saving money on your energy bill
  • Possibly qualifying for a federal tax credit
  • Flexibility to move around

Money savings and flexibility are the two main benefits (outside of cooling a room) of mini split system. Let’s take a deeper dive to better understand why a ductless air conditioner can save you money on your monthly energy bill.

Lower the Energy Bill

If you’re like me, you like to save money. Think about it. If you really tried, I bet you could save at least one hundred dollars each month by making a few adjustments. You can cancel cable in favor of a streaming platform like Netflix. You can make more meals at home instead of eating at restaurants. And you can use a ductless mini split more often than using an HVAC system. Let’s focus on the third point, which is the topic of our guide.

It boils down to this: you are charged for the amount of energy you use. What uses more energy, an HVAC system or a ductless mini split air conditioner? To answer this question you need to know how much energy the HVAC system or ductless mini split air conditioner uses. But I think it’s safe to say that the HVAC system will almost always use more energy. They are normally more powerful and therefore use more energy than ductless mini split air conditioners. Running a ductless mini split air conditioner will then translate into you saving money. The downside is you are only able to run the ductless air conditioner in one (or a couple) rooms.

Owning a ductless air conditioner creates a “ductless zone” in the home. The more rooms there are with mini split systems, the more ductless zones there are in the home. An Angie’s List article details why having ductless zones is a good thing. “If there are multiple ductless zones in a home or structure, you can control the temperature in each room instead of using a thermostat for the entire house — making them more energy efficient. As much as twenty percent of air moving through a traditional central air duct system can get lost due to holes or leaks, according to Energy Star.”

That information presents an important fact about air loss. In HVAC circles, the term is air leakage. Nevertheless, you won’t have that problem with a ductless mini split system. The air goes straight from the system into your room! There are no ducts to patch. We’ll learn more about how mini splits work soon.

Another reason to use a mini split system is if you spend most of your time in one specific room. Why turn on an HVAC system that will cool the entire house if you’re not using the entire house? That’s a waste of energy! And when you get your monthly energy bill, you might regret using that much energy, especially in the summer. There are many times that I’ve opened my power bill after a hot July and recoil in horror at the price. A mini split system can, to a degree, compliment an HVAC system. Let’s say your HVAC system is old. Over time, the HVAC system might lose some of its strength. Running a ductless air conditioner will give the HVAC system a break so it won’t have to work hard at all times.

Still, there’s another financially-smart reason to buy a ductless mini split system. You may get a tax credit!

Tax Credits and Rebates

There are, at times, financial incentives to buying certain appliances or systems for your home. These incentives can come from the federal, state, or local government.  Sometimes incentives are offered through your local energy company. So make sure you stay up-to-date and check with them! What is the rebate, tax deduction or credit, or incentive for anyway?

The government and energy companies are concerned with energy efficient systems. They want you to own an energy efficient air conditioning solution! If the ductless mini split system is ENERGY STAR-rated, it may qualify for a deduction or other type of financial incentive. “ENERGY STAR certified ductless heating and cooling systems are eligible for rebates from some local utilities — up to one-thousand dollars per unit depending on what system is being replaced.”

Tax deductions and tax credits are not always available. Neither are rebates or incentives from your local energy company. Therefore, and as you read this, make sure you check with them! Give your local energy company a call to see what deals they have available. You might be surprised by what they offer. Please remember that you won’t actually buy the ductless mini split through your local energy company. We’ll talk later about how to find the best deals on ductless air conditioners. The important thing is letting your energy company know you now own an energy efficient air conditioner. And they might grant you some type of incentive.

Let’s now take a look at the third benefit to owning a ductless air conditioner. You’ll have the flexibility to move it around.

Interior Section of a Ductless Air Conditioner
Interior Section of a Ductless Air Conditioner

Ductless Mini Splits are Flexible

When it comes to flexibility, ductless mini split systems are right between HVAC systems and portable air conditioners. An HVAC system is stationary. It isn’t going anywhere! And there’s no reason to move it around to a different room or otherwise. The HVAC system is connected in part via the duct system.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have portable air conditioners. These are extremely portable units which you can freely transport room-to-room and home-to-home. Most of them are not as powerful of ductless air conditioners, however. And, portable air conditioners are most often noisier than ductless mini split systems. Speaking of “mini split”, recall that I said one unit is indoor and one unit is outdoors. Guess which unit is the loud one? The unit outdoors is the loud one! That’s perfect for many reasons, which I’ll touch on later.

Where would window air conditioning units fit on the scale of flexibility? They would be in between a ductless mini split and a portable air conditioner. So all three are quite flexible. Service Champions, and HVAC service company, lauds the flexible nature of ductless mini split systems. They write “ductless AC systems are incredibly flexible since the tubing or conduit allows for the indoor air-handling unit to be moved and positioned exactly where you want it. This unit can be placed on the floor or installed on a wall, and since it is remote controlled, you can customize the cooling or heating as per your preferences with zero hassle.”

Let’s ponder on the tubing or conduits aspects for a moment. You can add more tubing or conduit if you want the indoor unit moved! That alone attests to the flexibility of ductless air conditioners. And using our example from before, about adding a new room to a home you would have the option of moving the unit to the new room. Ductless air conditioners are turning out to be a great air conditioning solution!

But what are some possible drawbacks? Are there cons to owning or buying a ductless air conditioner? You guessed it. Just like with anything, there are always drawbacks. And some of it depends on your current situation and your personal or family needs. Let’s dig a little deeper to learn about the possible drawbacks of ductless air conditioners.

Cons of Ductless Air Conditioners

Nobody likes to focus on drawbacks or cons of items they either own or are about to buy. For example, I know many people who own iPhones. I don’t hear them complaining! That’s because they love their iPhone. It’s similar to owning a ductless air conditioner. There might be small drawbacks here and there; however, the pros outweigh the cons! They are cons, however. They are:

  • Mini splits require regular maintenance
  • They may not be aesthetically pleasing
  • Potentially large upfront costs

So there you have it. There are three potential drawbacks to either owning or buying a mini split system. Each of the cons, as you’ll soon see, have ways to be mitigated. But there’s no getting around, for example, regularly maintaining a system like a ductless air conditioner. Let’s talk about that one first:

Regular Maintenance is Required

Most major appliances or systems need to be maintained at some point. So it should come as no surprise that the ductless air conditioner needs to be maintained as well. After all, HVAC systems, portable air conditioners, and window air conditioners need to be maintained as well.

People want convenience. I’m not different! If I’m going to spend money on something, especially something that might be pricey, I want to “set it and forget it”. I don’t really want to spend more than money (I’m talking about time) working on a system, especially if I’m not familiar with maintaining such a system.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. You don’t necessarily have to maintain your system. You can pay someone else to do it! And by that, I mean a professional, similar to an HVAC technician. If you are unfamiliar with maintaining systems like a ductless air conditioner, it’s probably a good idea to just leave it to the professionals.

I’m not going to talk about how to maintain a ductless mini split system, yet. After all, I have an entire section that will talk about that! So let’s move right into the next con.

Ductless Systems Might Not Look Attractive

What do you like about your home? Do you like everything to have its place? Does everything need to look neat, organized, and aesthetically pleasing? Depending on your room, a ductless mini split may or may not look good in your room. It might not match the overall color scheme. It might be too “blocky”. Or there might be another reason it “doesn’t match” with the rest of the room. I’m talking about the interior unit here. There are also aesthetic concerns relating to the outdoors unit.

Tuckey, a home and commercial services and manufacturing conglomerate, had a few things to say about the aesthetics of ductless air conditioners. They write “the refrigerant and drain lines need to be able to penetrate walls to get outdoors to the outside unit and/or drains. This requires running the pipes, etc. in what is called “slim duct”. This will hide the lines; however, you may have to have the piping on a finished home exposed on the outside (depending on the home and installation). Normally it can be worked around but could be less than pleasing to the eye depending on the specific circumstance. To some, this is a big concern, especially when it comes to the aesthetics of the home (both interior and exterior).”

So there you have it. There are interior and exterior concerns when it comes to the look and feel of the ductless air conditioning system. When holes are drilled, walls are penetrated, pipes are fitted, will it still look good afterward? In a perfect world, the answer is yes, of course. But this isn’t a perfect world. The good thing about the look of the interior unit is that you get to choose which one it is before you buy it (obviously). When you’re shopping, I’m sure you’ll consider aesthetics as you go through your options. And we’ll share some favorite ductless mini split systems later.

Let’s first talk about the third con of buying a ductless air conditioner: upfront cost.

Mini Split Systems can be Expensive at First

The key words here I want you to focus on are “at first”. Remember those. I’ll get back to those soon. But for many people, they might look at the initial cots of buying a ductless air conditioner and take a step back. At that point, they might look into other options such as replacing their HVAC system or researching portable air conditioners.

HGTV, a beloved television channel by many, recently ran an article about the pros and cons of mini split systems. They touched on these air conditioners possibly being pricey. Later, we’ll talk about where you can find some great deals. But first, let’s read what HGTV said. They write “For a single-room solution, ductless units cost several times more than comparable window units or baseboard heating units (thousands of dollars versus hundreds). And in whole-house terms, if you replace your existing central heating/cooling system with a complete ductless solution, you may pay two-to-three times the cost of simply replacing with another ducted unit.”

The thought of “expensive products” can immediately make a person more reserved; however, you can find quality ductless air conditioners and not pay a large amount of money for them. So, how much do mini splits cost? Sure, you can find great ones that cost thousands of dollars. But, as you’ll read more about later, it’s possible to find a very nice ductless air conditioner for under one thousand dollars.

Now, do you recall when I said to remember the words “at first”? In context, it was “mini split systems can be expensive at first”. What did I mean by that? I’ll tell you. Sure, you might pay one or two thousand dollars up front. However, over time, you’ll be saving money. How is this possible? Because you’ll be using less energy by using a ductless system and an HVAC system! The article from HGTV continues “you’ll get lower energy bills in return, but the payback period depends on your climate, your use of the system, and your local electricity rates”. So there are a few different factors at play here.

It’s always a smart idea to think long term. Think about delayed gratification. Sure, the ductless air conditioner is going to cost you money. But, over time, it will save you money on your monthly electric bill. If you own it long enough, it just might pay for itself!

And now, let’s get into some technical things. It’s time to learn about how ductless mini split air conditioners work.

How Ductless Air Conditioners Work

Get ready for an in-depth look at how these systems work! This part of our guide is divided into a few different sections.  They are:

  • The different parts of a ductless air conditioner
  • How the parts of the ductless air conditioner interact

It makes sense to know what the parts are before you can understand how they interact with each other. I already gave a top-down view of mini split systems when I said one unit is indoor and the other is outdoors. This is very important! And you’ll know why once I get to how it works. But first, let’s take a look at the different moving pieces of this amazing air conditioning system.

The Different Parts of a Ductless Air Conditioner

The ductless mini split is two separate parts; however, they are connected. The outdoor unit includes an inverter-driven variable speed compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve and a fan which cools the condenser coil. The indoor unit includes the quiet oscillating fan and an evaporator.

In addition to the indoor and outdoor units, they need to be connected somewhere. That’s where the refrigerant line-set comes into play. It’s made of insulated copper tubing, which protects the liquid/vapor. The insulated copper tubing is enclosed in a conduit next to both a power cable and a condensation drain.

You could technically include a remote control (which is often included) as one of the parts do ductless air conditioners. They need no special introduction other than what they do: turn on and off the ductless air conditioner. The remote control sometimes has additional features, however. We’ll talk about those later when we talk about the best mini split products on the market.

So we have the compressor, condensing coils, expansion valves, insulated copper tubing, and more! I hope you like mechanical systems because you’re about to find out how these different parts work with one another (if you don’t know already).

How Mini Split Systems Work

I suppose many people will press the “on” button, feel the cool air, and move on about their day. There’s nothing wrong with that! For those who want to know the how, keep reading. It comes down to a matter of science, actually. You also need to know the refrigeration cycle. The moment you press the on button, the gears start spinning.

Mitsubishi has a great explanation of how ductless systems work. Yes, that Mitsubishi. Let’s first take a look at the refrigeration process. Mitsubishi explains “in the refrigeration cycle, low-pressure gas is transformed into high-pressure gas by the action of a compressor. The heat is dissipated into the outdoors by the action of a forced air fan. The refrigerant then becomes a high-pressure liquid, and it is again changed into a low-pressure liquid by a metering device at the evaporator coil. Heat energy from the indoor air is absorbed by the refrigerant, and the resulting cooler air is pushed into the living area by the internal blower. The resulting low-pressure gas is moved through the suction line back to the compressor, and the cycle is repeated again.”

The story of how the ductless air conditioner works is actually the story of how refrigerant works. And, as you know, we love talking about refrigerants here, seeing as how this is RefrigerantHQ!

How to Install a Ductless Air Conditioner

Now that we know how mini split systems work, it’s time to understand how to install them. There are a few caveats here. Chief among them is that you don’t need to install it yourself. This is very important to know.

Ductless Air Conditioner Layout
Ductless Air Conditioner Layout – Courtesy of thefavorite.info

Do you have a local HVAC company? Here’s an idea, you can have one of their technicians come out and install it for you. The best part is that the price might be negotiable. And you won’t know unless you ask!

The ductless air conditioner will come with instructions. After all, is a major system. What major system or appliance doesn’t come with an instruction manual? There are many types of mini splits or ductless air conditioners on the market. Therefore, it would be difficult to write about a one size fits all type of section here. However, we can give you an overview of what to expect when installing a mini split system.

Disclaimer: The steps below do not constitute advice. You should not perform these steps unless you coordinate with a professional electrician or ductless air conditioning installer under their supervision. There are seven general steps to installing a ductless air conditioner. In order, they are:

  1. Buy Required Tools
  2. Assemble the Wall Bracket
  3. Mount the Indoors Unit
  4. Drill a Hole and Feed Refrigerant Piping
  5. Mount the Outdoors Unit
  6. Connect Piping to Electrical Unit
  7. Testing the system and setting up the WiFi

Disclaimer: The steps above do not constitute advice. You should not perform these steps unless you coordinate with a professional electrician or ductless air conditioning installer under their supervision. Let’s get specific and expand on these of these in the list

Buy Required Tools

What good is your installation attempt if you don’t have the proper tools? Start off on the right foot by having everything you need. If you do, you won’t have to run to the hardware store in the middle of your install. You can have your tools on hand even before your mini duct system arrives. Just search online for installation manual of the ductless air conditioner you are ordering. It’ll list the required tools and anything else you might need.

Assemble the Wall Bracket

A wall bracket helps the indoors unit stay attached to the wall. As you read in the instructions, the bracket should be installed higher up on the wall. Make sure the outdoor unit will be closeby on the other side of the wall. This will mean you’ll have to use less pipe to connect the two units.

Mount the Indoors Unit

Now that the wall bracket is in place, it’s time to attach the indoor unit. These units aren’t light, so you want to make sure you secure it tightly. This will mitigate any possible falls of the unit, which would cause an accident.

PIONEER Air Conditioner Piping
PIONEER Air Conditioner Piping

Drill a Hole and  Feed Refrigerant Piping

If the indoors and outdoors units are directly on opposing sides of the wall, you won’t have to use lengthy piping. Try to keep the piping and drain hose as close to the wall as possible. You can even secure it in place by using metal brackets.

Mount the Outdoors Unit

You’ll mount the outdoors unit in a similar way you mounted the indoors unit. Remeber, these steps are a general overview and each ductless air conditioner is different; therefore, you’ll need to refer to your specific instruction manual. The outdoors condenser unit will probably include a support piece, cross support piece, and many screws, bolts, and brackets. The outdoors unit is the heavier of the two!

Connect Piping to Electrical Unit

This is the step where is most important to defer to a licensed electrician or other professional if you’re not used to electric work. The electrical components will need to be connected to the outdoors unit, indoors unit, and, most importantly, the electric power supply or electrical box.

Testing the System and Setting up WiFi 

Finally, all you need to do at this point is press the power button! Does it work? If so, you’re going to have a very enjoyable environment and atmosphere in the room it’s installed in. Conduct a comprehensive check of the remote control and the system for full functionality.

Another note, and an honorary mention, is that you can set up WiFi in some units. You’ll be able to operate the ductless air conditioner from your smart phone. Let’s say you turn your mini split system off during the day while you’re at work. Before you get home, you can remotely turn the air conditioner on and the room will be nice and chilly by the time you get home! Technology is amazing. And we want to make sure your ductless air conditioner lasts as long as possible. That’s why routine maintenance is required. Let’s take a look at what that entails.

How to Maintain a Ductless Air Conditioner

Everything breaks down over time. And ductless air conditioners are no different. They, like other air conditioning solutions such as traditional split HVAC systems, have plenty of moving parts. These parts—the lifeblood of mini split systems—have different maintenance needs. Let’s take a look at what some ways to you extend the life of your air conditioner. They are:

  • Keep it clean
  • Replace air filters
  • Check for ice or leaks
  • Get professional service

Keeping the Unit Clean

There are numerous parts to keep clean so the mini split system runs at optimal performance. Clean dust and debris on the outside of both units, indoors and outdoors. An accumulation of debris and make its way into the unit and cause backups and stoppages. If left unchecked, it could cause a complete system failure.

Replace the Air Filters

What happens when you fail to replace an air filter in your car or furnace? It doesn’t work as it should! If the air filter gets caked with debris over time, the mini duct system won’t get enough air. At that point, there might be some type of system failure. Replacing air filters is one of the easiest and cost-effective ways to keep your system running healthy not to mention keeping the air flow quality!

Check for Ice or Leaks

It’s important, especially in the winter, to check for any ice buildups. Ice can cause a multitude of problems including covering where the air should be entering or exiting the system. Leaks are another hazard to watch out for. This is especially true when you look at the piping of the mini split system. A quick check of the pipes can potentially save the unit from future failure if any problems are spotted early on. 

If you find that you have a leak please remember that the last thing that you want to do is dump more refrigerant into the system. Refrigerant is the lifeblood of your air conditioner and if it is leaking out then you have a problem. Simply ‘recharging,’ the unit without fixing the leak will not solve the problem. Instead, you’ll be back to where you were in only a few days or weeks depending on the size of the leak. The correct approach here is to identify where the leak is and then fix the leak. For help on identifying leaks and where to find them check out our ‘What’s the Best Way to Find a Refrigerant Leak,‘ guide.

Get Professional Service

If you aren’t familiar with maintaining a mini split system, you’re in luck. You don’t have to maintain it if you don’t want to! Well, the maintenance still needs to happen; however, but you can hire a local technician and they will come to your home to do the job. Most of the time this is your best option as you never want to guess your way through something like this as you have already invested a significant amount of money into the machine. It would be terrible if you did something to break the air conditioner accidentally because you didn’t know exactly what you were doing.

There are a number of reasons why hiring a professional technician is a good idea. First and foremost, the answer is in the word “professional”. They know exactly what they’re doing and probably have years of experience working on air conditioning systems. It’s their job! Another reason is that that might know tips and tricks that are in addition to what’s available in the instruction manual.

The HVAC technician industry exists for a reason: most people t either don’t want or know how to maintain their systems. Some people might be interested but just don’t have the time. At the end of the day, the important thing is that your ductless air conditioner gets the maintenance that it needs.  If you’re going to pay money, and sometimes good money, for a major appliance or system, you might as well do everything you can to extend its lifespan as much as you can. And proper, regular maintenance is just the trick to doing that.

Buying the Right Ductless Air Conditioner

There are many mini split systems to choose from. Which one is the best for you? In this section, our goal is to give you the tools you need to find the right ductless air conditioner. Everyone’s situation is different and there are unique types of mini split systems for different situations. Let’s take a look at what some might be. The major factors are:

  • Cost of the mini split system
  • Size of the room you want to cool
  • Features of the ductless air conditioner
  • Durability and warranty information

The Price of the Mini Split System

Cost, or price range, will probably be the first factor you consider when shopping around. Are you willing to spend in the three-to-four thousand dollars range? Are you willing to spend in the one-to-two thousand dollars range? Depending upon the range you’re in, there will still be numerous options for you to choose from.

Here’s something for you to consider: a more energy efficient model might be just out of your price range. But when you do the math, considering monthly energy bill payments, which option will eventually be more cost-effective? For example, let’s say there are two models, one for two thousand dollars and another for two thousand five hundred dollars. What if the more expensive one will save you fifty dollars each month on the energy bill? Well, within a year, the more expensive option would actually be the less expensive option. Sometimes it pays to do the calculation and see how many months it will take to get your return on investment.

The Size of the Room Matters

Mini split systems are not equal when it comes to cooling power or the ability to cool rooms of different sizes. How many square feet do you want to cool? Take a look at the ductless air conditioners on Amazon. You’ll notice that they either display the square footage or the “BTU”, which stands for British Thermal Units. To learn more about BTUs, read our article “What are Air Conditioner BTUs?. Reading that article will give you the tools you need to know what BTU number is right for you.

Along with price, the strength of the ductless air conditioner is going to be one of the more important factors you’ll use to choose. You don’t want to buy, install, and find out the mini split system isn’t strong enough for the room. That’s too late! If you end up with a unit that’s too large for your room then you’re going to be wasting energy as well as ending up with hot or cold spots throughout the room. On the inverse of that if you purchase a unit that is too small for your room then the air conditioner will be running constantly causing your energy bills to go up and up. On top of that your room will never fully be cooled. So please ensure you do the proper research before you buy your mini split system.

Senville SENL-12CD Ductless Air Conditioner
Senville SENL-12CD Ductless Air Conditioner

Features of the Mini Split System

Some people only need it the air conditioner to turn on and cool the room. Others prefer their unit to have a timer, include a remote control, or have additional features such as heating mode. Like anything, you’ll probably get what you pay for. So if you’re a fan of “bells and whistles”, it might be a good idea to spend a few hundred dollars more. You never know, the higher priced model might be more energy efficient. And, like we learned earlier, you might even be saving money over time in the form of lower monthly energy bills.

How Long the Ductless Air Conditioner Will Last?

This is very important! How long will the mini split system last, on average? You’ll want to review different pieces of information here. Chief among them is to know both the warranty details and what other people are saying about the mini split system you’re considering. Both can be found on the Amazon product page.

Normally, a warranty will be for two or three years. I would recommend going against buying a mini split system that has a warranty of only one year. What good is the air conditioner if it breaks after one year of use? You’d have to buy the unit every year! Some people, as you’ll read, buy the extended warranty. This might be a smart option, especially if you’re going to buy a more expensive mini split system.

Speaking of the “right” ductless air conditioner, let’s take a look at the last section: our favorite products.

Top 5 Ductless Air Conditioners

Finally, we’re excited to share our top 5 picks! Now, we’re basing our “top 5” on Amazon customer reviews, score, and through our own individual research. If you’re in the market for a mini split system, you might as well start with the most popular products! Let’s take a look.

5) INNOVA Mini Split Air Conditioner and Heater

This is ductless air conditioner you’d consider if you have a strict budget. It costs just under $700 total. (Prices can change at any time.) This unit has twelve-thousand BTUs, which means it can cool a room between four-hundred and fifty to five-hundred and fifty square feet in size. Keep in mind that a standard bedroom is around one-hundred square feet. That means this mini split system will be able to cool bedrooms, living rooms, and home office spaces. Here are some benefits to this unit:

  • Features silent operation mode for quiet use indoors
  • Comes with a heater as well as an air conditioner
  • Triples as a dehumidifier in addition to cooling and heating
  • Includes a hidden LED panel so you have covert functionality

Ductless air conditioners can be quite loud; however, the INNOVA Mini Split is different. You might use this unit for a home office. If that’s the case, you’ll want it to be as quiet as possible. Or, you might be a light sleeper. Either way, the silent operation feature of this unit is perfect for situations that need a system which is quieter.

Does your room get humid? The INNOVA Mini Split will mitigate that. It functions as a dehumidifier! You don’t need to buy separate air conditioners, heaters, and dehumidifiers. With this unit, they are all included. That also has the added benefit of taking up less space in your room.

LED panels are great because they provide valuable information. On the INNOVA Mini Split, the LED tells you the current temperature of the room. Here’s the cool (no pun intended) part: the LED temperature is displayed only when the unit is on.

This ductless air conditioner weighs ninety-five pounds during shipment. So make sure you have something like a dolly to be able to move the box around before installing the system.

4) Ductless Aire Mini Split Air Conditioner and Heat Pump

This mini split system has three price and power options. The highest power is about double the price and power of the last one. It clocks in at around $1,600 (Prices can change at any time.)with a BTU of twenty-four thousand. If you wanted to do a more proper comparison with the prior, this ductless air conditioner has a twelve-thousand BTU option for around $1,099. (Prices can change at any time.)

DuctlessAire Air Conditioner
DuctlessAire Air Conditioner

No matter which option you choose, each of them has the same features! The only difference is the power level (BTU) so it depends upon the square footage of the room you want to cool. Let’s take a look at the features and benefits of this unit. They include:

  • “Whisper-quiet” operation allows it to run in the background
  • Comes with the heat pump addition as well as the air conditioner
  • 3 fan speeds mean you can choose your cooling power level
  • Washable air filters will keep your air quality fresh and healthy

“Whisper-quiet” operation is ideal for any major system or appliance in your home. This is especially true if the ductless air conditioner is going to be installed in your bedroom. No matter which room it’s in, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing the mini split system won’t bother you with too much noise. Maybe you want to catch a game on TV, or talk on the phone, or sleep. Either way, you’ll be able to those with no problem.

Having an option for three different speeds is powerful for a few reasons. One of them is related to your wallet. You can choose to run this ductless air conditioner on the lowest setting. This will use less energy, which in turn translates to a lower monthly electric bill. Or, on hot days, you can toggle the unit to blast air on its highest setting. This choice will cool the room the fastest. If you aren’t sure which to choose, you can always meet in the middle and use the standard cooling option. It’ll still get the job done.

Some ductless air conditioners come with washable filters. This means that you don’t have to keep buying new ones if you want clean air. You can just take the washable filter out and clean it! It’ll probably consist of running it below a water faucet. Just to be sure, check the maintenance manual for specifically how to clean it.

3) MRCOOL DIY Mini Split Air Conditioner with Heat Pump

MRCOOL is the perfect name for an air conditioning company. And they won’t let you down with their quality mini split system Their product description on Amazon says it all. “Is the only ductless mini-split system on the market explicitly designed for amateur installation. You don’t need special tools or training to install this high efficiency heat pump. The line sets recharged with R-410A refrigerant, the quick hook-up electrical connections, and the quality engineering mean just about anyone can install a MRCOOL DIY in their home with no problem at all in only a few short hours. If you want great air comfort without paying an arm and a leg for installation, you want an easy-to-use MRCOOL DIY Series ductless heat pump.”

I would argue this is one of the main features of the MRCOOL Mini Split. You’re going to save hundreds of dollars by installing it yourself! And if there’s a ductless air conditioner for beginners, it’s this one. No special tools and the ability to have it up and running in a few hours is a major plus.

Another feature of this mini split is that it doubles as a heater! That means you won’t have to buy a separate system for when it gets cold in the winter. Simply press the heating mode on the remote control and you’re on your way to a comfortable room temperature.

This ductless air conditioner (and heat pump) runs at twenty-four thousand BTUs. That means it’s powerful enough to cool (or heat) large bedrooms, living rooms, and office rooms.

2) Senville Mini Split Air Conditioner and Heat Pump

The two words that come to mind when considering the Senville Mini Split are options and quality. This ductless air conditioner has four different power level options. They are nine-thousand, twelve-thousand, eighteen-thousand, and twenty-four thousand BTU levels. Customize your unit to just the right size for you! To make matters even better, this air conditioner doubles as a heat pump! Like the last choice, you don’t have to buy a separate heater for when it gets cold outside. There are some great features to this air conditioner. They are:

  • Features quiet operation to work in the background
  • Includes an infrared remote control for accurate temperature
  • Weights only sixty-six pounds, being one of the lightest mini split systems

The higher up we get on our list of favorites the more often you’re seeing quiet operation mode. It makes sense since quiet operation is a key benefit to the ductless air conditioners people love. And people do love this one. As a matter of fact, as of this writing, the Senville Mini Split has nearly four and a half stars, out of five on Amazon.

This ductless air conditioner comes with an infrared remote control. Infrared is an area of the light spectrum that people cannot see; however, some animals can see it. This infrared remote control senses electromagnetic waves, which allows it to show a better estimate of the temperature of the room. Therefore, you’ll be able to program your air conditioner to exactly the temperature you want.

These systems can be quite heavy. It’s a breath of fresh air knowing that this one weighs only sixty-six pounds. You probably won’t be installing this mini split system; however, if you were, it would be easier than other mini split systems due to its lighter weight. The product description page on Amazon notes that this product should be installed by a professional.

1) PIONEER Ductless Air Conditioner and Heat Pump

You can’t go wrong with this “Amazon’s Choice” product. It’s not only Amazon’s choice. It’s ours as well! There are eight different power levels (and price) to choose from. The PIONEER ductless air conditioner offers the ultimate when it comes to power customization.

PIONEER Air Conditioner
PIONEER Air Conditioner

Let’s take a look at why this mini split system is so popular. Some of its features are:

  • This products weights only nineteen pounds
  • Includes installation, troubleshooting, and support hotline.
  • Quiet operation so you can concentrate on other things
  • Doubles as a heat pump, which warms you in the winter

The fact that this system weighs only nineteen pounds should come as a surprise to many people. After all, many ductless air conditioners can weigh up to seventy or eighty pounds, or even higher. Nineteen pounds is easy for most people to pick up; therefore, this ductless air conditioner should be easy to transport around.

On the Amazon page, PIONEER advertises “Unsurpassed support hotline covering installation, use, troubleshooting, warranty and parts issues.” That’s a big deal to a lot of people. Have you ever called a company, only to find yourself speaking with a robot on the other end of the phone? It sounds like that won’t be the case when you contact PIONEER for assistance. This is a huge help, especially during installation.

We’ve mentioned that many of the higher-tier models come with some type of quiet operation. And this product is no different. Check out the reviews on Amazon. People who have bought this mini split system are satisfied with how quiet it is. And that makes a big difference throughout the day or night.

Also, like some other quality mini split systems, the PIONEER ductless air conditioner has a heating ability. It makes a big difference when you’re able to use the same system for heating or cooling depending on how the weather is outside.

A couple other things to note are the reviews and “questioned answered” on the Amazon page.  PIONEER ductless air conditioner has over one-thousand answered questions. That’s a massive number! In addition, this product has nearly five-hundred product reviews! For that many reviews, and the product to score so high, it just goes to show how popular it is. After all, it’s “Amazon’s Choice” as the ductless air conditioner to buy. And, as we learned earlier, there are models and power levels for any budget.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it, folks! I hope that you enjoyed this ultimate guide to ductless air conditioners. And I also hope that you now have the tools you need to make the right decision when buying the perfect mini split system. Now, you know what ductless air conditioners are. You know their benefits and drawbacks. You also know how they work, how to install them, and how to maintain them. We’ve even shared our top five picks to give you a head start when making your choice.

After reading this article if you find that you are still leaning towards a different alternative air conditioner such as a portable or window unit consider checking out our best of guides on these. Click here for our best window air conditioner article and click here for our best portable air conditioners. There are many ways to stay cool nowadays, the question is which one will you choose?

If you have any further questions about ductless air conditioners you can contact us. Also, if you want more guides and articles like this, make sure you subscribe to our email list. As always, thanks for reading! And make sure to return in a few days for a new article from RefrigerantHQ.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Important Links

R-134yf

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

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

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

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

The video in question can be found below:

The Why?

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

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

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

Consequences

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

R-134a Refrigerant

R-134a is the most commonly used refrigerant for automotive applications rather it be your twenty year old Toyota Camry or your Kenworth T-200 semi-truck. Ever since 1993 R-134a has been the staple refrigerant for automotive applications. Before 93 we used R-12 for our vehicles and now, as I write this article in 2018, there is a push to phase down R-134a and replace it with the new HFO refrigerant known as R-1234yf.

This article is going to into the facts of R-134a, some of the most common questions asked about this refrigerant, and some of the most important points of note on the refrigerant, as well as the history of the refrigerant. Let’s dive in and take a look:

The Facts

Name:R-134a
Name - Scientific:Tetrafluoroethane
Name (2):Norflurane
Name (3):Freon 134a
Name (4):Forane 134a
Name (5):Genetron 134a
Name (6):Florasol 134a
Name (7)HFC-R134a
Name (8)Suva 134a
Classification:HFC Refrigerant
Chemistry:Haloalkane Refrigerant
Chemistry (2):
Chemistry (3):The lower case 'a' indicates an Isomer, or different composition from R-134.
Chemistry:Production by reacting Trichloroethylene with Hydrogen Fluoride.
Status:Shrinking & Phasing Out
Future:Will be phased out across the world soon. (Prediction of 2030)
Application:Automotive: Light duty, medium duty and heavy duty.
Application (2):Heat Pumps, Chillers, Transport Refrigeration, and Commercial Cooling
Replacement For:CFC R-12 Freon
Ozone Depletion Potential:0
Global Warming Potential:1,430
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 1 -No Flame Propagation.
Lubricant Required:POE & PAG Oil Lubricants
Boiling Point:-26.3° Celsius or -15.3° Fahrenheit.
Critical Temperature:101.06° Celsius or 213.91° Fahrenheit
Critical Pressure:4059 KPA or 588.71 pound-force per square inch.
Auto ignition Temperature:770° Celsius or 1,418° Fahrenheit
Manufacturers:Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
Manufacturing Facilities:All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.
Form:Gas/Liquid
Color: Colorless Liquid & Vapor
Odor:None, if you do smell something it is most likely the oil.
EPA Certification Required:Yes, 609 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Require Certification to Purchase?Yes, 609 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Cylinder Color:Light Sky Blue
Cylinder Design:
R-134a Refrigerant
R-134a Refrigerant
Cylinder Design (2):Thirty Pound Tank
Price Point:Medium $-90-$160 a Cylinder Depending on Conditions.
Where to Buy Can or Cylinder?From Our Amazon Partner
Bulk Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

Points of Note

Alright folks so we’ve gone over some of the basic facts about R-134a but now let’s take a look at some of the more interesting points about this refrigerant:

  • I mentioned this briefly above but R-134a was designed and began to see use as an alternative product to R-12 Freon, or Dichlorodifluoromethane. R-12 has been around since the 1930’s and was being used in automotive applications for decades until it was discovered that it harmed the Ozone layer. As a replacement product R-134a was introduced into the automotive market in 1993.
  • Like it’s predecessor, R-12, R-134a was and is used across a wide array of applications in the automotive world. You can find R-134a in your Ford Focus or you could find it in your gigantic Semi-Trucks or in your Gray-hound Bus. Back in the early 2000’s one of my responsibilities was to purchase R-134 by the pallet or the trailerload and co-ordinate delivery to the company’s various dealerships. It is amazing  just how much R-134a a dealership  can go through.
  • Along with the automotive industry you can find R-134a in various heat pump applications and other commercial refrigeration needs.
  • R-134a is also used in quite a few refrigerant blends as well as a key ingredient. Some of these include: R-416A, R-420A, R-423A.
  • While R-134a does not have an Ozone Depletion Potential it does have a high Global Warming Potential. (GWP) The higher a GWP number the more damage the  product can do towards Global Warming. These high GWP chemicals are known as Greenhouse Gases. Across the world there has been a push to phase down our phase out entirely these high GWP HFC refrigerants.
  • Most refrigerants and refrigerant applications are left to professionals. Sure, there are some do-it-yourselfers out there, but for the most part technicians handle the repairs. The exception to this is R-134a and automotive applications. Many people enjoy working on their vehicle and buying a few cans of R-134a and repairing your air conditioning system is no big deal to them. This is a rare exception within the refrigerant industry.
  • Building off of my point above, this is why we saw such resistance and upset from the Environmental Protection Agency’s new law  that started in 2018. This regulation prevented R-134a cylinder sales to people who are NOT 609 certified. Do-it-yourselfers can still buy individual pound cans but they are restricted are larger purchases. So, they can still do their own repairs, they just can’t hoard cylinders of R-134a in their garage. You can go down to the local auto parts store today or on Amazon.com and purchase some cans without any issues.
  • The European Union has already phased out R-134a on any new vehicle models. Most car manufacturers have switched to the alternative HFO refrigerant known as 1234yf. The plan for the United States was to phase out 134a on new vehicles by  the year 2021, but this regulation was delayed due to Federal court rulings. Don’t let this fool you though. R-134a is ending and ending soon even here in the United States.
  • A few years back a law-suit was started with the International Trade Commission. The suit claimed that China was dumping low-priced R-134a into the US market which locally based companies were not able to compete with. In order to resolve this issue anti-dumping tariffs were issued against Chinese R-134a. The issuing of these tariffs caused the national price of R-134a to jump nearly twenty dollars for a thirty pound cylinder.
  • Since these tariffs were issued the  price point for R-134a has stayed relatively stable over the past few years. (I write this in summer of 2018.)
  • In another ten or fifteen years R-134a applications will be a rarity  or seen as an antique. While the new HFO-12134yf may  not be the perfect solution it IS the refrigerant that all  of the vehicle manufacturers are running to.  Another possible alternative to look at is Daimler’s experiments with CO2 or R-744 in their vehicles.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Happened to R-12?
    • As you know, R-12 was the default for automotive air conditioning for decades but in the 1980s it was discovered that R-12 was harming the Ozone layer. Because of this, R-12 was phased out across the world and was replaced by R-134a.
  • What is R-134a?
    • R-134a is an HFC refrigerant that is intended to be used in automotive applications. It was designed to replace R-12. It has no Ozone Depletion Potential but has a high Global Warming Potential.
  • Can I Buy R-134a Without a EPA 609 License?
    • No, as of January 1st, 2018 you can no longer purchase cylinders of R-134a without a proper 609 Environmental Protection License. This is due to what’s called the ‘Refrigerant Sales Restriction.’ The good news here though is that without a license you are still able to purchase cans of refrigerant that contain less then two pounds of product.
  • What Kind of Certification Do I Need to Work With R-134?
    • As I mentioned above,  you will need what’s called a 609 certification. 609 comes into play when you are working on an automotive air conditioning application and ONLY when you are working on an automotive application. If you wish to work on other AC units you will need to obtain your 608 certification as well. Once you have 609 certification you can purchase, handle, and install refrigerants into automotive applications.
  • Is R-134a Toxic or Flammable?
    • No, R-134a is rated as an A1 on the ASHRAE ‘s safety rating scale. The A stands for the product not being toxic or harmful. The 1 stands for no hint of flame propagation. This is a very safe refrigerant.
  • What Kind of Oil do I Use for R-134a Systems?
    • In most cases you are going to be using what’s known as PAG Oil. PAG oil, or Polyalkylene Glycol, is a fully synthetic hygroscopic oil specifically designed for automotive air conditioner compressors. It is used in R-134a air conditioning systems to lubricate the compressor. When looking at PAG oil you will notice various numbers such as PAG46 or PAG100. These numbers refer to the viscosity of the oil, similar to 10W30 oil. In order to determine the correct PAG viscosity for your vehicle you will need to look up the specifications of your make and model of your vehicle either online or in the instruction manual.
  • Is R-134a Being Phased Out in the United States?
    • Well, at one time it was. Way back in the summer of 2015 the EPA announced that R-134a was NOT to be used in new vehicles starting with the model year 2021. Since this regulation came out though there was a court ruling that overturned the proposed rules. Since then the EPA has retracted it’s regulations and as of today there is not a set phase out date.
  • What Countries Are Using R-134a?
    • Nearly every country in the world today is using R-134a. Yes, some countries have phased it out on newer vehicles, but there are still very many cars out there that are still  using 134a. We won’t see a total vanishing of R-134a usage for at least another twenty or thirty years. Remember, we have to wait for all of these old vehicles to die.
  • Can I Mix R-134a With  R-12 or 1234yf?
    • No, it is never a good idea to mix refrigerants. Refrigerants are designed to work in specific conditions and specific pressures. Mixing refrigerants together will cause it not to change states and will prevent your system from working correctly.
  • How do I Store R-134a?
    • Storage requirements for R-410A are the same as other refrigerants. Cylinders should be stored in a clean, dry area, and out of direct sunlight. If you have cylinders in the back of your work van ensure that the temperature does not rise above one-hundred and twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Keep valves tightly closed and caps in place when cylinders are not in use. This will prevent any damage to your product, to your facility, or to your vehicle.
  • What Sized Containers Does R-134a Come In?
    • R-134a can come in a variety of container sizes. The most common that we see today are your one to two pound cans or your standard thirty pound light-blue cylinder.

History of R-134a

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

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

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

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

R-134a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

Regardless of what happens with these phase outs and phase downs I can be sure of one thing. R-134a is going to be around for a long time. Even if we switch over our new vehicles today there will still be vehicles manufactured last year that will be on the road twenty or thirty years from now. After all, there are still R-12 vehicles out there, right? In closing, R-134a has served it’s purpose. Now it’s time has come and gone. We now need to move towards alternative refrigerants like 1234yf or R-744.

Thanks for reading and I hope that I was able to answer all of your questions and concerns.

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

This time last year folks we were seeing the price for a thirty pound cylinder of R-22 hover around six-hundred dollars a cylinder. This price increase didn’t come to a surprise to a lot of people within the industry. We all knew that R-22 was being phased out and a price increase was inevitable. The only people who were shocked by this were the customers and end users!

The price climbed so high so fast that a lot of folks ended up buying up on R-22 just in case the price rose even further. It was an investment and a matter or protecting their profit margins. They figured if they could purchase at five or six-hundred dollars a cylinder before it climbed to seven or even eight-hundred dollars they would save themselves the extra cost and also allow themselves to make a bit more margin on their R-22 recharges. After all, if it was this bad in 2017, it could only get worse in 2018… right?

Wrong, unfortunately. Since late 2017 and all of 2018 the price of R-22 has come down and down. While this time last year we were at that six-hundred dollar price by the time the new year rolled around we were hovering between three-hundred and fifty to four-hundred dollars a cylinder. Initially, this price decrease wasn’t too concerning as we were in Winter and the price of refrigerant usually crashes during the cold season. Most people predicted that R-22 would ratchet back up in price as we headed closer towards Spring and Summer.

In fact, yet again, the opposite happened. Instead of seeing the price climb from the four-hundred price point we are now seeing prices hovering between three-hundred and three-hundred and twenty-five dollars per thirty pound cylinder. So, we are HALF the price on R-22 then what we saw this time last year. Those purchases that everyone made back in 2017 are looking pretty poor nowadays. Imagine trying to sell R-22 to a customer when you purchasing it back at the six-hundred dollar price. You’re either going to take a loss or take the criticism from your customer for gouging.

The question now on everyone’s mind is what is causing this decrease? Especially when R-22 is on the way out. Remember, there are only about eighteen months left before that looming 2020 deadline hits and no more imports or production on R-22 is allowed within the United States.

Alternatives

The main reason why R-22 pricing has begun to decrease this year is the large available options for R-22 alternatives. In the beginning back in 2010 when the R-22 phase down began there weren’t that many alternatives on the market. Now, over the years since the phase out occurred there are now numerous alternatives out there for R-22 machines. I won’t get into every one out there in this article but I will say that the R-22 market is hungry for low priced cheaper alternatives that require little retrofitting. A few of these are:

Now, most of these alternative refrigerants can be easily retrofitted to work in an existing R-22 machine. What that means is that your customers who want to hang onto their ‘dinosaur,’ R-22 units can get a cheaper refrigerant alternative for a small retrofit fee. Last year, when we were at that six-hundred dollar price per cylinder these alternatives looked pretty good. This year the alternatives have taken more of the market-share and the demand from existing R-22 units along with it. Because of this the demand for virgin R-22 has begun to shrink. Now, some of this shrink may just be due to older R-22 machines retiring and being replaced but another good portion of it is due to these alternative refrigerants.

Reclamation

Some people within the industry may say that reclamation industry on R-22 has caused a decrease in price this year, but I would have to take issue with that. For whatever reason, there is a stigma attached to reclaimed refrigerants. A lot of technicians and contractors just do not want to use them. They are seen as ‘dirty’ or unreliable. This attitude will need to be combated. I used to work in the auto industry and we saw the exact same mentality when it comes to remanufactured parts. Sure, the transmission is remanufactured, but I can assure you mister customer that it is still a quality product. Unfortunately, when it comes to reclaimed refrigerants I fear that we will have to sell each tech or contractor. A lot of times this can be done just by touring a reclaiming facility and seeing all of the processes and work that goes into cleaning a used refrigerant. This isn’t half-cocked product. It is done right and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

While reclamation hasn’t caused a decrease in price on R-22 it is still a great source to get a bargain price on R-22. Most of the time you can get reclaimed refrigerants for ten to twenty percent lower then the standard price on an virgin R-22 cylinder. This may not mean much right now, but I can assure you folks that if the price rises again that ten percent may look pretty inviting.

Conclusion

What will the next eighteen months bring when it comes to R-22? As most of you know on January 1st, 2020 R-22 can no longer be imported or manufactured within the United States. That means that there are three solutions for a customer looking to repair their R-22 machine.

  1. Repair and recharge with virgin or reclaimed R-22
  2. Repair and retrofit an existing R-22 machine to accept an alternative R-22 product such as MO99.
  3. Replace the aging R-22 machine with a newer R-410A application.

What will this 2020 deadline do to R-22’s price? At this point folks it is very hard to tell or predict. We could see this three-hundred to four-hundred price last this year and throughout most of next year’s summer season. However, as we creep closer to Fall in 2019 I could see the price slowly starting to rise. When 2020 hits and the production is cut off we’re either going to have a panic that causes the price to sky-rocket back up to six-hundred or more dollars per cylinder or we’re going to see the price slowly creep up and level off around four or five-hundred dollars a cylinder. It is all a matter of how many people are using alternatives, reclaimed R-22, or who are just sick of their old unit and are replacing with a 410A model. Regardless of what happens remember that R-22 is dying and will soon be extinct. While the price may go high in 2020 it will not be sustainable as the demand for R-22 will decline with each passing year.

Also, if you’re interested in purchasing R-22 please visit our Bulk Purchasing page to receive a quote!

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Supreme Court To Rule on HFC Refrigerants

Well ladies and gentlemen the fight to phase down HFC refrigerants in the United States continued today with the announcement that Chemours, Honeywell,  and the National Resource Defense Council are petitioning the United States’ Supreme Court to review the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20 regulations. (That was a mouthful to say.) All of this can be traced back to two important dates. The first is the summer of 2015 when the EPA released a new rule for their Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP).

This rule, known as Rule 20, was intended to begin the phase down and eventual phase out of HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A. The original rule can be found by clicking here. The EPA referenced their authority for this new regulation under Chapter VI, 6, of the Clean Air Act. This section is what was used to phase out CFC and HCFC refrigerants due to the harm they were causing to the Ozone layer.

When this rule was introduced most everyone in the industry had already been expecting it. HFCs were on the way out and were already in the process of being phased out across the European Union and other countries. As the months, and eventual years, went by the new regulation was accepted as law and companies, businesses, and government began to prepare for it’s arrival. Refrigerant manufacturers Honeywell and Chemours began to invest into their new HFO refrigerant line known as Solstice and Opteon. They opened new plants abroad and here in the United States. They invested in multiple new refrigerants and innovations. HFOs were the refrigerant of the future and Honeywell and Chemours held all the keys.

The Ruling

The second important date was in the summer of 2017. To be more precise, in August something unexpected happened. A Federal Court of Appeals ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20 regulation. This lawsuit filing and ruling were brought forward by Mexichem and Arkema. These two companies are two very large refrigerant manufacturers that have had a rivalry over the past couple years with Honeywell and Chemours. While Honeywell/Chemours have been working closer and closer over the years formulating their new HFO line the other companies like Mexichem and Arkema have been left out in the cold. I see this lawsuit from Mexichem and Arkema as a stalling tactic. By having the EPA’s rule overturned these two companies now have more time to develop alternative refrigerants to compete with the HFO and Hydrocarbons that will be taking place of HFCs.

The court’s ruling shook the industry throughout the country, and a good part of the western world. Everyone had assumed that the United States would be phasing down HFC refrigerants like the rest of the world. In fact, a year after the EPA announced their Rule 20 the US also announced that it was to sign the Kigali Amendment in November of 2016. The Kigali Amendment was an addendum to the now famous Montreal Protocol. The Montreal Protocol was the treaty signed in the 1980’s that began the phase out of CFC and HCFC refrigerants. This treaty was also the basis of the law and regulation that the EPA used to phase out these refrigerants here in the United States. Here’s the problem though folks, the Montreal Protocol was designed to combat Ozone harming pollutants such as CFC and HCFC refrigerants. The same can be said about the Clean Air Act.

The EPA tried using Chapter VI, 6, of the Clean Air Act to phase-out HFC refrigerants. The name of this chapter is called: “Stratospheric Ozone Protection” See a problem here? I do. HFC refrigerants do NOT harm the Ozone layer. While, yes, they do harm the environment through Global Warming, they cannot harm the Ozone as they do not contain Chlorine. Yes, one could argue that it is a matter of technicality, but the argument is still there and is valid. If we go inside this chapter of the Clean Air Act using the government’s official website we can see that all of the substances that were to be banned. There is no mention of HFC refrigerants anywhere. Funny, how they tried to just throw those in there. The Appeals Court saw this and agreed with Mexichem and Arkema.

Aftermath

The immediate aftermath of the ruling was silence, at least for a while. No one was really expecting a ruling against the EPA. After the dust settled though Honeywell and Chemours partnered up again and filed an appeal on the Appeals Court’s ruling. These two companies had two main arguments for while the court’s ruling should be overturned:

  1. First, they argued that the SNAP Rule 20 was well-founded and that the federal court’s ruling exceeded it’s jurisdiction as well as ignoring the original intent of the SNAP Program. (To replace Ozone depleting refrigerants with the safest alternatives.) This argument bothers me. They know they didn’t go through Congress and they know that they didn’t do it the correct way. But none of that matters. No. Their intent was good.
  2. The second argument and just as ludicrous in my book is that these two companies invested two much money to have these regulations end. Chemours noted that they had invested more then one billion dollars to research, develop, and commercializing their new HFO refrigerants. All of this development was done under the guise of HFC refrigerants being phased out. What they don’t tell you here is that Chemours and Honeywell, have been investing money into HFOs long before the EPA made it’s decision to phase out HFC refrigerants in 2015. This argument seems like a moot point. In business their a thing called risk as all of you know.

The appeal was filed in September of 2017. While there was some back and forth there wasn’t an official ruling until early 2018. On January 26th, 2018 the United States Court of Appeals out of District of Columbia ruled against the appeal on phasing down HFC refrigerants. I wrote an article about this that can be found by clicking here. Again, this appeal ruling caught everyone off guard. Everyone assumed that the court would rule in favor of Chemours and Honeywell.

It was announced today that Honeywell and Chemours will now be taking their appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. This is their last hope and frankly I do not know what to expect here. The court has been changing since Trump has been elected. While he has only replaced one seat we may see another seat change by the time this HFC case gets to the court. That being said, I honestly don’t know what way the court would go on this. I would imagine that it would be a tight ruling 5-4 going in either direction.

Conclusion

This has definitely been a turbulent year when it comes to HFCs in the United States. At this point no one can say for sure what’s going to happen. The Supreme Court could rule in favor of the EPA and we could be right back where we were a year ago. But, if that doesn’t happen then we have many other options available such as the Kigali Amendment, new laws in Congress, or even States’ Rights such as California implementing their own HFC policy. Even if all of these fail or do not gain traction I can assure you that HFCs will be going away, it just may take a little bit longer. Manufacturers out there know that HFCs are on the way out and they have already started making plans with the newer alternative refrigerants. This may end up just being a game of attrition.

Thanks for  reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

R-22 refrigerant, or Freon, was and still is one of the most popular refrigerants used in the world. R-22 is an HCFC refrigerant and can harm the Ozone layer. It was originally invented by a partnership with General Motors and the DuPont company all the way back in the 1930’s. These new CFC and HCFC refrigerants were known under the DuPont brand name Freon.

R-22, along with it’s sister product R-12, were one of the first mainstream refrigerants to be used across the country and the globe. It was found in varying applications including your home air conditioner, your supermarket freezers, all the way to your local hockey team’s ice rink. R-22’s efficiency, safety, and overall low cost caused an explosion of growth in the refrigeration and cooling industry.

It wasn’t until the late 1970’s and 1980’s when we found that all of this excessive  R-22 and R-12 usage was causing damage to the Ozone layer. The world reacted by having over one-hundred countries sign the Montreal Protocol treaty. Since then, we have all been working towards phasing out CFC and HCFC refrigerants entirely. As I write this article, in the Summer of 2018, we are quickly approaching the end of R-22.

The Facts

Name:R-22
Name - Scientific:Chlorodifluoromethane
Name (2):Difluoromonochloromethane
Name (3):HCFC-22
Name (4):Freon-22
Name (5):Genetron 22
Classification:HCFC Refrigerant
Chemistry:
Status:Phasing Down
Future:Phased Out Across US By 2020 Year.
Application:Residential & Commercial Air-Conditioning.
Application (2):Industrial Refrigeration, Chillers, and Centrifugal Compressors
Application (3):Commercial Refrigeration (Supermarkets), and Transport Refrigeration.
Replacement For:CFC R-12 Freon
Ozone Depletion Potential:0.055
Global Warming Potential:1,810
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 1 -No Flame Propagation.
Lubricant Required:Mineral Oil, also known as Alkyl Benzene.
Boiling Point:-40.7° Celsius or -41.3° Fahrenheit
Critical Temperature:96.14° Celsius or 205.05° Fahrenheit
Critical Pressure (Absolute):4,990 kPa
Manufacturers:Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
Manufacturing Facilities:All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.
Manufacturers (2):After 2020 No Imports or Manufacturing Allowed on R-22.
Form:Gas
Color:Colorless Liquid & Vapor
Odor:Sweetish
EPA Certification Required:Yes, 608 certification required.
Require Certification to Purchase?Yes, 608 certification required.
Cylinder Color:Light Green
Cylinder Design:
R-22 30 Pound Refrigerant Cylinder
R-22 30 Pound Refrigerant Cylinder
Cylinder Design (2):Thirty Pound Tank
Price Point:HIGH - $450-$550 Per Cylinder
Future Price Prediction:Very High -$600 And Up Per Cylinder
Where to Buy Can or Cylinder?Individual Cylinders Limited Due to EPA's 608 Certification.
Bulk Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

Points of Note

Alright folks so we’ve gone over some of the basic facts about R-22 but now let’s take a look at some of the more interesting points about this refrigerant:

  • R-22 along with R-12 were one of the fathers of the modern refrigeration industry. Sure, there were other refrigerants used before them, but these CFC and HCFC refrigerants were the true pioneers. Before they came we were either using Ammonia (R-717) or Carbon Dioxide (R-744) for most of our refrigeration needs. While these refrigerants did cool there were fundamental problems with them. Ammonia was toxic and very deadly if exposed to. So, you did not want to have an Ammonia refrigerator or an Ammonia home air conditioner. If a leak was to occur you could be putting your whole family in danger. While Carbon Dioxide is perfectly safe there was another problem that early engineers ran into. R-744 operated at a VERY high pressure. This high pressure caused components such as compressors, evaporators, and condensers to fail and fail again and again. That’s not even mentioning the hoses, seals, and o-rings constantly failing due to the high pressure. R-12 and R-22 provided a safe, cheap, low-pressure, and a cheap alternative to current refrigerants on the marketplace.
  • R-22 is a very diverse refrigerant and it can be found in numerous applications. During it’s peak time it could be found in your home air conditioner, your office air conditioner, your super market refrigerator and freezers, your local ice rink, even your local industrial plant. It’s versatility was amazing but the cost to the environment and the climate were too much.
  • I mentioned it briefly above but R-22 is being phased down and being phased out across the world. In fact, the United States is somewhat behind the ball when you compare us to other countries like the European Union. (They’ve had R-22 phased out for years.) R-22 contains Chlorine and Chlorine was found to damage the Ozone layer. Basically, what happens is an R-22 unit develops a leak in the system. This leak allows refrigerant to be vented out and into the environment where it slowly drifts upwards to the atmosphere and the Ozone layer. The Chlorine in these refrigerants do not break down and begin to corrode the Ozone layer. Venting can occur either through a natural system leak, or by accidentally venting of a refrigerant cylinder. This is why you have to be 608 certified in order to purchase and handle refrigerant. The EPA figures if you are 608 certified you at least know what you are doing and you have gone through the training to prevent venting. Regardless if you are certified or not there are very harsh consequences if you are found to be intentionally venting R-22 refrigerant into the environment.
  • R-22 is one of the longest serving refrigerants. It began to see use in the 1930’s and we still use it today. While the numbers are dwindling due to the phase out there are still millions of units out there as I write this article.
  • Please see below table for the R-22 United States’ Phase Out Schedule. (All credit goes to the EPA.gov website for the below table, Click here for the official source.)
    • Year to Be Implemented Implementation of HCFC Phaseout through Clean Air Act Regulations Year to Be Implemented Percent Reduction in HCFC Consumption and Production from Baseline
      2003 No production or import of HCFC-141b 2004 35.0%
      2010 No production or import of HCFC-142b and HCFC-22, except for use in equipment manufactured before January 1, 2010 2010 75.0%
      2015 No production or import of any other HCFCs, except as refrigerants in equipment manufactured before January 1, 2020 2015 90.0%
      2020 No production or import of HCFC-142b and HCFC-22 2020 99.5%
      2030 No production or import of any HCFCs 2030 100.0%
    • As you can see folks by the above chart we are quickly approaching the end of R-22 here in the United States. I’m writing this article in the summer of 2018 and that means we only have about eighteen months before all imports and production of R-22 ceases.
  • Please be aware that due to these phase outs the cost of R-22 has gone up and up. The highest I’ve seen it was around seven-hundred dollars for a thirty pound cylinder. In the summer of 2018 the price has begun to fall again and is hovering around three-hundred and fifty to four-hundred dollars a cylinder. No one knows for sure what the market will do next year though. It could stay flat at this three-hundred and fifty price or it could jump on up to seven-hundred again.
  • While after 2020 you won’t be able to purchase ‘new’ virgin R-22 cylinders you will have a couple of options. A lot of vendors and distributors right now are going through the ‘R-22 Gamble.’ What I mean by that is there are businesses buying up R-22 by the pallet(s), or trailer loads, and then having the product sit in their warehouses. The hope here is that when 2020 rolls around the price of R-22 skyrockets and these companies can make a hell of a profit on their aged inventory. So, when 2020 hits you will have the option to buy virgin R-22 cylinders but you’ll be paying a pretty penny for them.
  • The other option for finding R-22 in post 2020 is what’s called refrigerant reclamation. Refrigerant Reclaimers are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency to clean used R-22 refrigerant so that it can be used again in a new machine. I’m hesitating to use the word ‘recycle,’ here as it means something different in the refrigerant world, but in essence that is what they are doing. They are recycling older used refrigerant that a technician recovered from an aging unit. The tech then takes this recovered refrigerant back to his office, dumps it in a tank, and then the bulk tank is sent to a refrigerant reclaimer to be cleaned and be made ready to use again. The good news here is that reclaimed R-22 will be cheaper then virgin bottles. The bad news is that to some people reclaimed refrigerant has a stigma attached to it. Two of the biggest reclaimers in the country are Hudson Technologies and A-Gas Americas.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Do I Know If My Unit Takes R-22 Refrigerant?
    • On the outside of your home air conditioner (The unit that sits outside) you should see a white tag with a bunch of information on it. Here is where you will find exactly what type of refrigerant your unit takes. Chances are though folks if your unit is from before 2010 that it is taking R-22 and if it is after 2010 then it is an R-410A unit.
  • Can I buy R-22 today without an Environmental Protection Agency license?
    • No, in order to purchase ANY quantity of R-22 you need to be 608 certified with the EPA. The only other way around this is by providing an intent to resale certificate. This certificate states that you will not actually use the product but that you are instead selling it to another end user. It will then be on you to collect the 608 certification of the person or business that you will be selling to.
  • Why is R-22 so expensive?
    • R-22’s extreme cost can be tied to the global phase-down and phase-out. It is already banned from being manufactured or imported in the European Union and here in the United States we only have until 2020 before it is also banned here. This upcoming ban has caused a shortage across the industry which has raised price. I do not see the price going down anytime soon.
  • When did the R-22 Phase-Down Begin?
    • The official phase-down began back in 2010. The phase-down was a tiered process and with each passing the year the belt tightens until we hit that 2020 deadline where no more imports or production can occur. Please refer to the phase out table that we provided in our ‘Points of Note’ section of this article.
  • Why was R-22 Phased Out?
    • R-22 was phased out due to the Chlorine that it contained. It was found that when R-22 was vented into the air either through a leak or venting that the Chlorine would float up and into the Ozone layer where it would not break down. The Chlorine then caused damage to the Ozone layer that alerted scientists.
  • Where Can I Get R-22 After 2020?
    • As I said above, R-22 will no longer be able to be imported or manufactured in the United States. Once this law is in effect there will be only two ways for you to obtain a cylinder:
      1. Purchase a ‘virgin,’ cylinder from someone who still has excess R-22 inventory in stock.
      2. Purchase ‘reclaimed’ R-22 refrigerant from a certified reclaimer. Reclaimed R-22 is refrigerant that was used previously and has since gone through a cleaning process so that it can be used again in a different machine.
  • What is the Alternative to R-22?
    • There are many alternative options to R-22. Some of these require you to retrofit your entire system in order to take the new refrigerant. While others, like DuPont’s MO99, require little action. I won’t get into too much detail here but I have written a couple articles on this topic which can be found by clicking below:
  • What Took R-22’s Place?
    • The HFC refrigerant known as R-410A was the selected R-22 replacement. As I write this article in 2018, R-410A is by far the fastest growing refrigerant market out there. While 410A does not harm the O-zone layer it does have a very high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. Because of this high GWP I do not see R-410A lasting more then ten or fifteen years. After that, a new, more climate friendly, alternative will appear in the marketplace.
  • If I Have An R-22 Unit Do I Need To Switch To An R-410A Machine?
    • You are not obligated to switch by any means. If you want to be more environmentally conscious, then by all means switch to a R-410A unit. If it was me I would hang onto my R-22 unit until something major breaks and you have a costly repair on your hands.
  • Should I Repair My R-22 Machine?
    • This is a tough decision. As the years go by and we get further and further away from 2010 the machines that are out there get older and older. So, if you repair your unit today and recharge with R-22 you could be facing the very same problem six months or a year down the road. Older machines tend to break more often and you could be upside down on your machine after only a couple of repairs. It may make sense to switch to a newer R-410A unit.
  • Can I Convert My R-22 Unit To Take R-410A?
    • No! R-410A, or Puron, operates at a MUCH higher pressure then R-22. If you were to put 410A into your existing R-22 system you could cause permanent damage.
  • Can I put R-22 Into My R-410A Machine?
    • No! Same thing goes. Your 410A machine is meant for just that, 410A. It is not meant for anything else.

History of R-22

Most of you may not read this section of the article but I have always been fascinated by history rather it’s world history or if it’s just the history on a refrigerant like R-22. Everything has a story and it is always fun to learn something new.

The Beginning

R-22 can trace it’s roots back all the way to the 1920’s and 1930’s. It, along with R-12 and R-11, were one of the very first ‘modern’ refrigerants. These refrigerants known under the classifications CFC and HCFC were a first of their kind. They were non-flammable, non-toxic, and were efficient. They answered all of the requirements for the ‘perfect’ refrigerant. These new classes of refrigerants were registered under the now famous DuPont brand name known as Freon.

These refrigerants were originally invented by a joint partnership of General Motors and the DuPont corporation in the late 1920’s.  The mass production of R-22 began in the mid 1930’s and exploded from there. When the 1950’s and 1960’s R-22 was found in nearly every home, office, super-market, and industrial area. technicians started and end their whole careers just dealing with R-22 refrigerant. That’s nothing like it is in today’s world. Nowadays you have a new refrigerant coming out every few months.

The Ozone

All was not perfect with this explosive growth of CFC and HCFC usage across the world. As the decades wore on and the growth continued scientists began to notice a startling effect of these refrigerants. It was in the 1980’s that a team of scientists out of California realized that all of the Chlorine that was in CFC and HCFC refrigerants were causing damage to the Ozone layer. When vented or leaked the refrigerant would drift up and into the atmosphere. It is there where the Chlorine would do it’s damage. Eventually it got so bad that a thinning of the Ozone layer began to form over the Arctic. The scientists noticing this sounded the alarm and the world’s governments took action by creating the Montreal Protocol.

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

In 2010 is when the phase out of the ever popular HCFC R-22 refrigerant was to begin. At that date no new machines could be manufactured that took R-22 as a refrigerant. This was the line in the sand saying that there would be no more Chlorine containing refrigerants used. While 2010 was the beginning there was a schedule of set dates every five years that would slowly phase out R-22 entirely from the United States. A picture of this phase out schedule can be found below.

R-22 Phase Out Schedule - Courtney of EPA.gov
All Credit for this picture goes to the EPA’s Official Website

Enter HFCs

It seemed that the end of R-22 was near. But, what would replace this so widely diverse refrigerant? In 1991 the new HFC refrigerant R-410A was invented by the Honeywell Corporation. (Back then they were known by Allied Signal.) After invention Honeywell licensed production and manufacturing rights of 410A to other companies but even today Honeywell still continues to lead production and sales of 410A.

410A saw it’s first use in a residential air conditioning system all the way back in the year 1996. (Hard to believe that was over twenty years ago!)  The Carrier Corporation was the first company to introduce 410A into the residential marketplace and during that time they trademarked 410A as their brand name known as Puron.

While 410A could be found at homes in the early 2000’s it was sporadic. It wasn’t until we got closer and closer to the announced phase out date of R-22 that things began to pick up. Even though we were only a few years away from the phase out date there were still companies who had their heads buried in the sand and hadn’t bothered to train themselves or their technicians on the new technology. You can’t blame them really it’s human nature. The change was down the road and they would worry about it then.

In 2010 when the change did come into play and no new R-22 machines could be manufactured things began to get real for people. R-410A was the new refrigerant and it wasn’t going away, at least for a while. A lot of the old-timers out there got fed up with it all and decided to retire right around 2010. The younger guys or mid-career guys stuck around and got through the turbulent years. Today, in October of 2017, R-410A is one of the most widely used refrigerants in the world. It is used in the United States, the European Union, Japan, and many other countries. But what is it’s future? How long will it be around?

Conclusion

As I am writing this we are only about eighteen months away before the 2020 deadline hits for R-22. I write this article knowing that in a few years this will be a historical post used only as reference. There will so very few R-22 units out on the marketplace that new technicians will rarely come across them.

Thanks for reading and I hope that I was able to answer all of your questions and concerns.

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources