It’s a matter of human nature. If something is banned or outlawed there will be an illegal trade or black market set up. It’s the way of the world. Unfortunately, the same thing can be said when it comes to CFC and HCFC refrigerants such as R-22.
It was discovered earlier this year that traces of R-11 and R-10 were being found in the atmosphere again. After some research from various countries the origination point was found to be in eastern Asia. It was eventually pinpointed to China. Rogue companies in China had setup shop creating foams and refrigerants using the illegal refrigerants. Luckily, these were one-off companies and not the country of China behind the emissions. Once they were found and identified arrests were made. The question now though is who is buying these illegal refrigerants? How are they getting through the ports?
Last month in Pakistan we have one example. A sharp eyed customs official in Karachi received a tip stating that illegal refrigerants were being smuggled through his port. With that in mind this customs official noticed something odd about a recent refrigerant shipment. The shipment was classified as R-32 and had large stickers all of over it stating it as R-32. Along with that there were multiple labels stating that the shipment was flammable. Come to find out, this flammable label has been used in the past to deter customs officials from physically reviewing the product.
The customs official decided to open the shipment and test some of the refrigerant. The test came back, and lo and behold, it was R-22. The product was destined to a company called ‘M/S Cool Corporation.’ The shipment originated in, you guessed it, China. From China it was shipped to Dubai and then shipped over Karachi. I don’t know much about international shipping, but it seems odd to ship it to two different ports. This could have been another way to mask the origin.
Here’s the thing though folks. This wasn’t just a small shipment of R-22 that was trying to sneak through. No… this was one of the largest smuggling shipments that I’ve heard of. The total R-22 shipment weighed in at nearly forty-thousand pounds of refrigerant. (18,000 kilograms.) Now, I don’t know the typical Pakistani price on R-22 but if we go off the United States price right now of around eleven dollars per pound then we can assume that this shipment was worth around four-hundred and forty-thousand dollars. That is a huge number and could have resulted in enormous profit if it hadn’t been caught. For now, the shipment is in Pakistani custody until a determination has been made what to do with it.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article refrigerant smuggling is a booming business and it seems that most of it’s origins can be traced back to China. Now, it doesn’t seem like China condones this behavior but they also don’t seem to be doing a lot to stop it either.
The good news is that even with this smuggling the Montreal Protocol is still seen as a success. Just recently there were a few articles published stating that the Ozone is making a decent recovery and that it may be completely healed in another forty to fifty years. If we want this trend to continue then the world, and China, has to become more vigilant on illegal CFC and HCFC production and trading.
Most people couldn’t care less about the pricing of refrigerant. I’m sure you didn’t care at all until your air conditioner broke down. Now you have a contractor at your home or office looking over the damage, or perhaps you have already received a quote from them and you are a little surprised by how much they are charging for refrigerant. Whatever your reason is for reading this article we are going to do our best to answer your question and to give you a fair estimate on what the going price per pound on some of the most common refrigerants on the market place today.
First and foremost, let me first explain that there are hundreds of different types of refrigerants out there. No two refrigerants are the same or work the same either. The air conditioner that you are using is designed specifically for a certain refrigerant and no others. The science of refrigeration and air conditioning all boils down to basic chemistry and understanding when a refrigerant changes states either from gas to liquid or liquid to gas. Each machine is designed to accomdate that refrigernat’s specific saturation point. If you were to add the wrong refrigerant to your air conditioner you could damage or even destroy the system. You wouldn’t put diesel into a gasoline sedan would you? The same principle applies.
In this article we are going to go over some of the most popular refrigerants out there today, their applications, and where they can be found. It will be up to you to determine exactly what refrigerant you need for your repairs.
So, What Kind of Refrigerant Do I Need?
As we mentioned above, there are hundreds of varying kinds of refrigerants out there. A lot of times this can be overwhelming and confusing to a laymen as to what kind of refrigerant they need. The good news here is that for most applications there are only a select few refrigerants that are used here in the United States. In this section below we are going to highlight the most commonly used refrigerants, what their applications are, and what their price per pound is. The price per pound section will have a link to the exact price per pound on that refrigerant.
Let’s dive in and take a look:
Automotive Application – Nowadays nearly every vehicle is using R-134a refrigerant for their vehicles. In recent years a new refrigerant known as HFO-1234yf is being used on newer models. If you car is a few years old or brand new then you will need to check if it takes 1234yf or not. Otherwise you are fairly safe to assume that your car is taking R-134a. For those of you who are into restoring classic cars you’ll find that you may end up needing R-12 Freon.
Home or Commercial Air Conditioner – These ones can be a little tricky. Depending on when you got your unit you most likely either have an R-22 unit or a R-410A unit. As I said in previous articles, R-22 was phased out in 2010 for new air conditioners. R-410A has been around since 2000, but it’s popularity didn’t really take off until the 2010 deadline hit for R-22. When it comes to cost though you better hope you have a R-410A unit rather than R-22. The difference in price between the two refrigerants is astonishing.
Refrigerators and Freezers (Home and Commercial) – The go to refrigerant for these applications has been R-404A. There are some other alternatives out there such as CO2 (R-744), R-502, and some other new HFO refrigerants coming out soon but today if you were having to recharge one of these you are most likely going to run into 404A.
I hope that this article was able to answer your questions on refrigerant pricing and to also open your eyes on the wide variety there is within the refrigerant industry. There are two things that I want you take from this post. The first is the relative price per pound of the refrigerant you need and the second is the understanding that your contractor needs to make money too. Sure, you might know his price but you should not haggle down to zero. You should negotiate to a fair price that allows profit but also prevents gouging.
Lastly, if you are unsure what type of refrigerant your system needs please check the label/sticker on the machine. Normally it will state the refrigerant that it takes. However, if you still can’t find it then you can either contact the manufacturer or you can call a HVAC professional out to take a look. This is never something that you want to guess at.
Over the last few years the European Union has experienced a rash of illegal refrigerants, refrigerant thefts, smuggling, and counterfeit refrigerants. Most of the time the refrigerants affected were R-22 or HFCs such as R-134a or R-404A. This time though things are a bit different.
Last month Honeywell worked directly with the Czech Republic’s Customs Office to seize a 1234yf shipment. As most of you know, Honeywell has a patent on 1234yf manufacturing. That means they are the only ones who can manufacture this refrigerant. (Chemours can as well, but that is because they are partnered with Honeywell.) Besides these two companies no one else is able to legally manufacture 1234yf. That doesn’t stop everyone though, especially rogue companies found in China. Yes, this product that was seized came directly from China. Along with seizing the product Honeywell also took the step to file a suit against a Czech Republic refrigerant distribution company for attempting to distribute illegal product.
Earlier in the same month Honeywell did something similar to a Chinese manufacturer and distributor in Germany. And a few years back Honeywell partnered with the government out of Shanghai to sentence a man convicted of producing counterfeit 1234yf refrigerant. The man who was sentenced served nine months in jail and also paid a hefty fine for the violation.
All of the above cases were done to protect Honeywell’s monopoly on the 1234yf refrigerant. Some of you may not like that word monopoly, but that is what it is. Honeywell not only invented and patented this refrigerant but they also pushed and lobbied to have it adopted in every new vehicle across the globe. As the years go by Honeywell’s slice of the automotive refrigerant market gets larger and larger as R-134a applications begin to retire.
In Europe it has already happened. As of 2015 no newly manufactured vehicles can use R-134a. That leaves vehicle manufacturers with one of two options. They either use 1234yf or they use the experimental R-744 applications like what Daimler is doing. Most companies opt for 1234yf as it is the easier choice.
Since Europe started this conversion a few years ago it is only fair to have the first waves of counterfeit product arrive there. The price per pound on yf is quite expensive. Here in the United States it is about sixty-five dollars a pound. If we compare that to R-134a’s price per pound of three dollars we can begin to see why counterfeiting has begun. Now, I don’t know the markets over in the European Union, but I imagine yf is just as high if not higher over there. It is only natural for counterfeit product to show up.
There is only one real way I can see this counterfeiting to stop. Sure, Honeywell can keep playing whack-a-mole with these Chinese counterfeiters but it is not addressing the root of the problem. A counterfeit market typically exists because the price point is too high or the availability of the product is too low. By Honeywell addressing these concerns they could very well stop the counterfeit market in it’s tracks. But, that also means that Honeywell may have to lower price on their prized 1234yf refrigerant.
Over here on the Americas’ side I do not believe we’ve seen this problem yet on 1234yf. Yes, we’ve had our share of counterfeit products but that is still mostly HFCs and R-22. As the market for yf grows here we may very well have the same problems the EU is having. Remember, that when purchasing refrigerants to always ensure you are buying from a reputable supplier.
Over the past few weeks we have been writing RefrigerantHQ’s pricing prediction on various refrigerants for 2019. We have covered some of the most popular refrigerants out there including R-22, R-134a, and R-1234yf. Today’s prediction article will be focusing on R-410A Puron. Most everyone’s mind has been on R-22 and what’s going to happen next year with the 2020 phase out deadline. With all of this change it is easy to forget about Puron, but the 410A market share is only growing and it’s pricing impacts can have a substantial effect on contractors and consumers. After all, R-22 is on it’s last legs and it is not going to be around much longer. Sure there are other alternative refrigerants out there but like it or not R-410A is the king right now.
Looking back at my prediction on R-410A from last year I have to say that I was way off. I had predicted a 2018 summer price at around two-hundred dollars per twenty-five pound cylinder. While that may have sounded crazy, we should consider what we saw in the 2017. Last year there was a shortage in the chemical known as Flurospar. Flurospar is a key ingredient in fluorinated refrigerants like R-125. (R-410A is a fifty percent mixture of R-125 and R-32.) This shortage of Flurospar created a rippled effect on the supply chain and caused the price of 410A to skyrocket over the summer season and into the fall and of 2017. Last year’s prediction was based off of that pricing trend. I assumed that the shortage would continue. That is where I came up with my two-hundred dollars a cylinder number.
What actually happened was quite different. In the early months of 2018 the price per cylinder was around ninety dollars per twenty-five pound cylinder. It had come down quite a bit from the previous summer’s price. What was surprising though was that the price kept on going down even as we got into the hotter months. Usually as the summer months come we see a slight or large increase in refrigerant pricing due to the increased demand. This year however we saw the opposite. The price for a R-410A cylinder dropped by near twenty-five dollars. It went from around ninety dollars to sixty-five. That is nearly a thirty percent dip in price. One of our distribution contacts stated that R-410A was more volatile then R-134a this year. That is quite the change as R-134a is usually all over the place.
The question now though folks is what will the pricing do next year? Will R-410A keep going lower? Will it stay put? Or, will we see it climb back to the higher priced levels that most of are used to?
I love doing analysis. It is what I do at my day job and it is why I write these kinds of articles. It can be fun to dig into the details and all of the factors that can affect pricing. When doing a pricing analysis like this I like to first provide the reader what considerations that I took and reviewed to come up with my pricing prediction. These help the reader understand my point of view and where I am coming from. Let’s take a look at some of them now:
I mentioned this earlier in our previous section. If we travel back about eighteen months ago this was a HUGE deal. The majority of the world’s Flurospar comes with mines in China. During the spring and summer of 2017 there were governmental regulation changes that affected the efficiency and overall output of the mines. This lower output is what accounted for the world’s shortage. In my previous analysis I assumed this shortage would carry into 2018, but I was incorrect. Will we see a shortage though in 2019? It is impossible to say. The only thing I can point to is the overall stability of the Flurospar market over the past year.
Chinese Refrigerant Imports
Back in 2016 there was an anti-dumping tariff instigated against Chinese HFC refrigerant blends. Included in this tariff was R-410A. I won’t get into all of the details here, but essentially there was a tariff put on R-410A. (For more information on the tariff click here to be taken to TheCoolingPost.) Here’s the thing though folks, this tariff was installed on ONLY the R-410A blended refrigerant and NOT the components of the blend. In other words R-410A was taxed but R-125 and R-32 was not. Doesn’t make much sense if you ask me.
Refrigerant distributors took advantage of this loophole and began importing mass quantities of R-125 and R-32. Once imported they would then blend the refrigerants in their own facility. The dumping of cheap HFC refrigerants continued. This mass import of Chinese product has attributed to the much lower cost of R-410A that we are seeing today.
Trump & His Tariffs
Most of the country has felt the effects of the various tariffs that the Trump Administration has issued over the past year. This could either be through your employer or just paying for basic things. In my day job I had to travel to Belgium a few months back to work with our corporate office. The reason for the trip? Trump’s Tariffs and how to enact them throughout the company. Whatever your politics are, we can definitely say that these tariffs have had an impact. Refrigerant, for the most part, has been left unscathed on these tariffs. With all of these imports coming from China though, how long is it before a tariff is enacted? What if one is enforced on R-125? How will that effect the marketplace? Inevitably it will lead to higher prices, but how much?
R-410A & Reclamation
With the end of R-22 coming in just about fourteen months the industry will be relying more and more on refrigerant reclaimers. These reclamation facilities can process this used R-22 refrigerant, clean it, and then issue it back out into the world for reuse. This is the ONLY way for ‘new’ R-22 to be found after that January 1st, 2020 deadline. Remember, once the stockpiles of R-22 run out reclamation is all that is left.
Why am I talking about R-22? Well reclamation for R-22 is key for having a stable supply. With R-410A it is quite different. Reclaiming R-410A refrigerant, at least at this time, is not feasible. There is no profit in it. I was discussing this very matter with Chad Schnuelle of Refrigerant Inc just today. He stated that:
It is too cheap to sell reclaimed R-410A in the market and make a decent margin because of the fractionating factors. It’s a two component refrigerant blend of R32 and R125 with a 50/50 mix ratio. If there is a leak in a system one component bleeds off faster than the other. This means we have to add that component back in to get the 50/50 blend once we reclaim it.
So a reclaimed R-410A refrigerant actually has new refrigerant in it. This adds an extra layer of cost. Having that extra cost and then trying to compete with virgin R-410A at the rock bottom prices it is right now is nearly impossible. If the price of R-410A begins to rise, or if we get new tariffs instated like we mentioned above then the possibility of more reclaimed on R-410A market is there, but for now it remains out of reach.
I’ve been doing these price prediction articles for a few years now and it has given me a unique opportunity to see the trend in pricing of R-410A over the years. Before I get into my prediction let’s take a quick look to see how the pricing has climbed over the years. Keep in mind that these prices are based off the standard 410A twenty-five pound cylinder. The prices are obviously lower if you are purchasing larger quantities.
Looking at the above numbers we can really begin to see the deep dive in pricing that occurred this year. There was a time where a price between ninety to one-hundred dollars was pretty standard no matter what season it was. Now with today’s dirt cheap price of around sixty-five dollars a cylinder it is tough to say what will happen next. In an effort to help myself with this prediction I reached out to a few refrigerant distributors before writing this article. I wanted to know what they thought of the market this year and what they thought next year would bring. Each of them said more or less the same thing. Prices will be low, but stable. In other words folks, this sixty-five dollars price per twenty-five pound cylinder is here to stay at least for 2019.
That’s right, our thoughts for 2019 R-410A pricing is the exact same price it is today. Last year I high balled it and got burnt so this year I am going to play it safe and take the advice of our distributors. Our official prediction is that the price will hover between sixty-five dollars to seventy-five dollars a cylinder. There will be some moving back and forth due to seasonality and all of that but for the most part the price will be stable. At this time the only wildcard that I know of is if Trump adds a tariff on R-410A or one of it’s components. If this happens then the pricing point is anyone’s guess.
I want to close this article by stating that this was a prediction and it is just that, a guess. No one knows for sure what will happen to the R-410A market next year and if they say they do then they’re lying. It’s a complete guessing game. I can only provide my analysis on the matter and go from there. Lastly, I want to mention that this is one man’s analysis on the market. We here at RefrigerantHQ are not liable for any business losses or gains when it comes to buying and selling R-410A.
Fall is here and winter is just around the corner. This is my favorite time of year as all of the trees have already changed and it makes just a simple walk outside a beautiful experience. On top of that, my son is due any day now and the whole family is getting excited. Over the past few weeks here at RefrigerantHQ we have been doing our Pricing Prediction articles on various refrigerants for 2019. Today we will be focusing on the newer HFO refrigerant known as R-1234yf .
1234yf is the refrigerant that is intended to replace R-134a in automotive applications. Over in the European Union R-134a has been banned from new models since 2015. Ever since then they have been moving forward with 1234yf. While things move quite a bit slower here in the United States, the market is still trending towards yf. When I wrote this article last year everyone in the industry was still expecting R-134a to be phased down by the year 2020. The EPA had issued a rule stating that any vehicles from 2021 model year could no longer use R-134a. The likely substitute was 1234yf. So while the conversion over to yf has been slow, manufacturers wouldn’t have a choice when that 2020 year hit.
Now however, things have changed. The EPA’s rule was overturned and now there is no definite end in sight when R-134a will be discontinued. While there are a few States that have moved forward with their own HFC laws I do not know if it’s enough to incentivise car manufacturers to make the switch to yf. We are now at a crossroads when it comes to R-134a and R-1234yf. Will manufacturers switch, will more States come on board to phase down HFCs, or will the Federal Government step in and come out with a new law or a new set of regulations?
Like with any analysis it is always wise to review certain factors that could affect the price for next year. After all, if you don’t look at the facts it’s not a prediction. It’s more of a guess. I have already mentioned one of these factors previously, but there are other factors out there and these could all affect the price on 1234yf next year. Let’s take a look:
I’ve read a few reports from different sources but the consensus that I received was that most cars will not need an air conditioning repair for at least five or six years after purchase. What that means is that we really haven’t seen the brunt of 1234yf demand yet. All of the cars using this new refrigerant are only a few years old. Even if we go back to some of the first models to use yf we are only going back to 2014 or 2015. The demand is still quite low just because there hasn’t been a need for repairs… yet. As these vehicles age things will break and yf will be needed for air conditioning repairs.
Tying right into the low demand of yf refrigerant is the situation that we mentioned earlier in the article. The EPA’s Rule 20 was overturned by the courts and now there is no definite date on when R-134a will be phased down. Many companies were expecting a large uptick in demand when that 2020 year hit due to manufacturers being forced to change, but now that mandate is gone. Will every vehicle manufacturer switch over to yf? And, if so, then when will they? Will it be by that 2020 date or could it be five or ten years down the road?
The overturning of this EPA Rule 20 is most likely going to keep the demand for yf down for another year or two. I found a great image from a website called, ‘VehicleServicePros,’ that lists all of the OE manufacturers that are using yf and how many models they are using it for. See below image and click here source of image from VehicleServicePros.
This above chart was from the spring of 2018, so while more may have changed it still gives a good representation. The good news is that based from the image there are quite a bit of OEs embracing 1234yf. GMC for example has eighty-three percent of their new models using yf and Honda is close behind with seventy-eight percent of their models.
Honeywell and Chemours both invested a significant amount of money into opening two new 1234yf plants, one in Texas and one in Louisiana. Both of these plants allow these companies to accommodate the increased supply of yf. These plants were also built before the EPA’s Rule 20 was overturned and now they may be a bit overkill. Either way, I see these plants satisfying demand in the near future.
There is talk from the EPA that they may be removing the refrigerant sales restrictions for HFCs. While this is just conjecture at this point it would be interesting to see if this does happen if 1234yf will be included in this list of refrigerants. If it is, then anyone can begin purchasing cylinders of 1234yf without a certification required. If this happens then we could see a rise in price as the demand from do-it-yourselfers grows.
The last point I want to make before moving to our 2019 prediction is that the price of 1234yf has been VERY stable over the past few years. For the past three years the refrigerant has hovered between six-hundred and ninety dollars to seven-hundred and ten dollars for a ten pound cylinder. I haven’t seen this swing one way or the other over the years. My contacts within the industry have stated the same, the pricing isn’t moving.
Last year when I wrote my 2018 yf predictions I ended the article stating that the refrigerant would be priced at around six-hundred and ninety dollars for a ten pound cylinder. And, lo and behold, today it is right around that price. I’m not going to brag though folks as this was an easy prediction. Like I said before, the price has been VERY stable over the years.
As far as what will happen next year I am going to again predict a slight decrease in pricing. This is due to the R-134a being around for a while longer, vehicles with 1234yf are still too new for major repairs, and just the overall stability of the price. The biggest question mark is what will happen to R-134a. If 134a does go away soon then the price on yf will rise and rise fast as there will be no other options out there. (Maybe R-744, but that’s still in early stages.) While a plan may emerge from the EPA in 2019 or even late this year, the implementation of the plan will still be years out and I do not feel we will see a pricing impact in 2019.
Our prediction on 1234yf pricing in 2019 is about six-hundred and seventy dollars for a ten pound cylinder. That equals out to about sixty-seven dollars a pound. Time will tell if I am right, but with how this pricing has been I can’t be too far off!
Please note folks that this article is intended for informational purposes only. This is one man’s opinion on what will occur for 1234yf pricing. It is a prediction and only that. We are not liable for any monies gained or lost based off of this information. Also, if you have any ideas for articles, feedback, or suggestions please feel free to contact us by clicking here.
Most of you are familiar with what’s known as the Refrigerant Sales Restriction. This restriction comes directly from the Environmental Protection Agency and aims at preventing novices and do-it-yourselfers from purchasing and handling refrigerant. By preventing these laymen from handling refrigerants we in theory shrink the amount of refrigerant that is leaked into the atmosphere.
This restriction was especially critical in the beginning stages of phasing out CFCs and HCFCs refrigerants such as R-12, R-22, and R-502 in the 1990’s and 2000’s. These refrigerants contained chlorine and chlorine was directly attributed to the damaging and thinning of the Ozone layer. Each time one of these refrigerants was vented into the atmosphere rather intentionally or by mistake damage was done. By imposing the sales restriction, imposing a host of other regulations like leak requirements, and by slowly phasing down chlorine refrigerants the Ozone was allowed time to repair.
In the summer of 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency came out with a new set of rules from their Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP). This new rule, deemed Rule 20, was aimed at phasing down the popular HFC refrigerants across the United States. Along with this new rule it was announced towards the beginning of 2017 that the EPA’s Refrigerant Sales Restriction would be carried over to HFC refrigerants as well.
You see, in the past you couldn’t buy CFC and HCFC refrigerants without a 608/609 license but you could still purchase HFCs. They didn’t require a license. That meant I could have walked into an Autozone and picked up a cylinder of R-134a without any licensing required. Well, all that changed this year folks on January 1st, 2018. That is when the new purchase restrictions went into place by the EPA. This move was expected by many in the industry and not a lot of folks were shocked by it.
What did surprise us though was a court’s ruling in August of 2017. When the EPA introduced their SNAP Rule 20 there were two companies, Mexichem and Arkema, that filed a lawsuit stating the EPA had overstepped it’s legal bounds. I won’t get into all of the details in this article, but the short version is that Arkema and Mexichem won the suit and the EPA’s Rule 20 was tossed out. There were appeals. There was even one to the Supreme Court, but none of them worked out.
Earlier this year the EPA announced that they were withdrawing their Rule 20 regulations and that they were looking into forming a new rule. Along with that it was announced by the EPA that they were rescinding their HFC leak regulations. Lastly, it was announced that the EPA was considering removing the sales restrictions on HFC refrigerants. There is nothing official here on if this will happen or not, but the EPA is definitely considering it.
Restrictions: Yes or No?
The HFC sales restriction may only last for the 2018 year and then may fade away. The question though is, is this good or bad? What repercussions will there be?
About five years ago I had a small side business that sold individual or multiple refrigerant cylinders online through stores like Amazon or Ebay. It was mostly R-410A and R-134a cylinders shipped to individuals across the country. There wasn’t a lot of money in it, but it gave me that entrepreneurial experience. Before the HFC restriction was in place there were dozens of places for individuals to purchase refrigerant cylinders. You could walk into a Sam’s Club and purchase a few cylinders of R-134a. There were online shops, dealerships, and retailers all selling refrigerant.
While this made things easy for consumers it also made it very easy for people who did not know what they are doing to get a hold of large quantities of refrigerant. If they made a mistake, which they would, then that large thirty pound cylinder of refrigerant would get vented into the atmosphere. And while HFCs do not damage the Ozone they are a Green House Gas and they do contribute to Global Warming.
So, by creating a sales restriction we can limit the amount of refrigerant that is vented and help reduce potential Global Warming problems but we also have the side effect of hindering business and do-it-yourselfers from working on their own equipment.
If I was to wager on what will happen I would bet that the restriction will go away soon. The current EPA and Presidential Administration has been very against nearly everything the EPA has done over the past few years and this appears to be no different. If the restriction is removed we will see the availability to purchase refrigerant online and through retailers come back and we will also see a slight increase on refrigerant price due to the flood of all of the do-it-yourselfers purchasing again.
It may seem strange to have a favorite refrigerant, but I have to say folks that R-134a is it. 134a is how I got my start in the refrigerant industry back in 2007. Back then I was a corporate purchaser in charge of buying R-134a for the company’s various dealerships. My job was to figure out what dealers needed it, how much they needed, and what the market was doing on price.
The goal was to send a purchase order at just the right time to just the right vendor. If done right then the dealer I bought for would have an aggressively priced product in a very competitive market. If done incorrectly then my dealer could end up priced out of the market or they could end up with a surplus of inventory that sits on the shelf as the price goes down and down.
Doing this job allowed me to reach out to quite a few folks in the industry. I got to know them and I even got a few ties from Refron back when they were still a thing. (They were bought by Airgas and Airgas was bought by Hudson.) Because of all of this history I have with R-134a it is hands down my favorite refrigerant.
Last week when I was writing my R-22 pricing prediction article I had a lot of feedback and thoughts from various people within the industry on what they thought would happen. R-22 is the hot topic nowadays. I attempted to get some similar feedback for R-134a and while I got some the enthusiasm was much lighter.
In this article we’re going to take a look at what the market did this year on R-134a and what we can expect for next year. That being said, R-134a is a very volatile refrigerant and it can be difficult to predict what will happen. I remember in one year I saw the price go from sixty dollars a cylinder up to two-hundred and twenty a cylinder. You just never really know what will happen.
As I’ve mentioned in the past I am an analyst by trade and you cannot be an analyst without the proper facts and data. I take the same approach when it comes to looking at refrigerant pricing. Because of that, I like to take into account specific considerations before we move onto the pricing prediction part of our article. Let’s take a look:
R-134a Pricing Volatility
I mentioned this briefly in our previous section but it’s worth touching on it again. The pricing on R-134a can change on a whim. I had one of my contacts within the industry even say that it’s impossible to predict. That didn’t give me much confidence in this article, but I’m still going to go through the work here and give everyone my two cents.
The EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 was Overturned
The EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 was a rule introduced back in 2015 that aimed at phasing down HFC refrigerants. R-134a’s mandatory phase down was to occur in the year 2o20. (2021 model year) This ruling was overturned in the summer of last year and there were a series of appeals. Eventually though the EPA realized that it wasn’t going to happen and they rescinded their SNAP Rule 20. That means that the 2020 year deadline for vehicles using R-134a was now gone… well sort of.
States With Their Own HFC Phase Downs
When it was realized that the EPA’s country wide phase down of HFC refrigerants wasn’t going to happen a number of States decided to take matters into their own hands. They were going to emulate the EPA’s now defunct SNAP Rule 20 and have their own State-Wide HFC phase down. California started this but we have had four other States follow suit. Many more may be joining this coalition of States soon. These States are large and account for a high amount of the Nation’s GDP. Trust me when I say that vehicle manufacturers are watching these developments closely.
More and More Vehicles are Using 1234yf
R-134a is a dying brand of refrigerant. Just like it’s predecessor R-12, R-134a is going away. Rather it is through mandatory phase out or just by companies switching to the new HFO refrigerant 1234yf. However it happens you should know that it IS happening. Vehicle manufacturers want to be on the right side of history and they want to have one process over many. Having their vehicles take 1234yf is a much easier solution. Each year that passes we have more and more cars on the road that are using 1234yf. That means less demand for R-134a which could in turn lower the pricing.
R-134a Added to the Refrigerant Sales Restriction
The biggest change this year on R-134a wasn’t all of the court cases going back and forth. No, as far as pricing wise I believe the biggest change was the introduction of R-134a to the EPA’s Refrigerant Sales Restriction. In the past anybody could buy a cylinder of R-134a from Sams or Wal-Mart. However, as of January 1st, 2018 you could no longer buy cylinders of R-134a unless you were 609 certified with the EPA. That meant that all of the do-it-yourselfers and the hoarders of automotive supplies could no longer purchase R-134a. (Well they could, but only in small pound quantities.) This decrease in demand could have lessened the price over this 2018 year.
Ok folks so now that we have a clear picture on what’s happening with R-134a we can now begin to give a prediction on what the pricing will look like next year. First though let’s take a look at what happened this year.
Around January of last year I wrote a similar article on R-134a. At the time of writing the article R-134a was a just hair over one-hundred dollars a cylinder. Depending on where you looked at you could find a range between one-hundred to one-hundred and ten dollars a cylinder. This pricing was wholesale. What that means is that in order to obtain this price back then you had to buy around a pallet at a time. (A pallet of refrigerant is around forty cylinders.) The resale price at this time was right around one-hundred and fifty a cylinder upwards to one-hundred and seventy dollars.
The prices today, ten months later, have gone down a bit. Instead of seeing wholesale pallet prices at around one-hundred we are seeing between eighty and ninety dollars. So, about a ten percent drop. I would attribute this drop due to the Refrigerant Sales Restriction we mentioned earlier. On the retail side of things we’re looking right about the same price level as before: One-hundred and fifty dollars. If we look at Ebay.com today we can see quite a few cylinders right around that same price.
So, the question now is what’s next? What will happen for 2019? Truth be told I don’t see much changing for the next year. I feel like the popularity of 1234yf still hasn’t quite reached it’s peak yet and there are still so many vehicles on the road taking R-134a. There is talk from the Trump Administration on removing the Refrigerant Sales Restriction on R-134a. If that happens then we could see prices rise an additional ten to fifteen percent.
If I was to guess I would say we’re going to hover right around ninety to one-hundred dollars for most of next year. We will most likely see the eighty to ninety dollar price for the rest of this year and earlier winter of next year but as the season begins to warm up and the demand comes back we should see the price tick up to that ninety to one-hundred dollar range. And, if the sales restriction goes away maybe slightly over one-hundred dollars.
I want to close this article by stating that this was a prediction and it is just that, a guess. No one knows for sure what will happen to the R-134a market next year and if they say they do then they’re lying. It’s a complete guessing game. I can only provide my analysis on the matter and go from there.
Lastly, I want to mention that this is one man’s analysis on the market. We here at RefrigerantHQ are not liable for any business losses or gains when it comes to buying and selling R-134a.
It’s that time of year again folks. Summer is gone, the leaves are turning, and we’ve already had our first frost here in Kansas City. If you got up early enough you could even see some snow falling a few days back. As this year comes to a close it has me thinking about what next year has in store for the refrigerant market, especially R-22.
As most of you know next year is the last hurrah for the HCFC R-22 refrigerant. This is due to the phase out coordinated by the Environmental Protection Agency. This phase out started back in 2010 by preventing any new appliances from using R-22. Then, as the years passed the import and production restrictions set in. The January 1st, 2020 date that is quickly approaching (Only fourteen months away) is the last straw. On this date there will be NO production or importation of R-22. That’s it. Finis.
What that means is there will only be two future sources of R-22 refrigerant for consumers. The first is the backlog of inventory on the market. This is all the inventory that companies bought up on in prediction of this looming 2020 deadline. The other source is whats known as refrigerant reclamation. I won’t get into it too much here but reclamation is taking previously used dirty R-22 refrigerant and putting it through a certified refurbishing process. I’m an automotive guy and I see this reclaimed R-22 just like I see a remanufactured part. You get that savings, but you also get that understanding that it was previously used in a different application. Personally, I have no problem with buying reman or buying reclaimed refrigerant. If it goes through a certified EPA process, what’s the worry?
Now, there is a third option out there that a lot of you may already be familiar with. Alternatives to R-22. There is a whole market out there dedicated to alternative refrigerants for R-22 applications. They could be a drop-in replacement or it could be retrofit. The point of these refrigerants is to give consumers a choice, and a lot of times save the customer money. There were times where the price of R-22 went through the roof and alternatives began to take off. But now that the price has begun to crash the alternative market has begun to shrink as well.
Past & Present
To fully understand the R-22 market and what we predict it will do next year we first have to look at the past and the present. No, this isn’t a Charles Dickens novel. Along with the 2010 and 2020 dates another big part of the R-22 phase out occurred in 2015. This is where production and import limits were shrunk. This sudden loss of supply caused the price to climb and climb. In the summer of 2017 the price had gone over seven-hundred dollars for a thirty pound cylinder. Seven-hundred dollars. That’s twenty-three dollars a pound.
Over these years companies and investors watched the price of R-22 go up and up. Some of the lucky ones bought up in 2014 and 2015 and held onto it when that high price hit. Others thought that the price was going to keep going higher. So, they bought. They bought with the hope of the price reaching eight-hundred, nine-hundred, maybe even over a thousand a cylinder. This wasn’t unheard of. Back in the 1990’s when R-12 was phased out there were times where it did reach one-thousand a cylinder. (Nowadays it’s about six-hundred a cylinder.) The problem is that this buy up was a gamble. No one truly knew what was going to happen. Would the price continue to climb as it did in 2016 and 2017? Or, would it began to settle back down and level off?
What actually happened in 2018 was quite unexpected. Many people thought the price would go down and level off, but no one predicted that the price was going to be cut in half. Yes, in half. The price for R-22 in 2018 was slashed by fifty percent. That seven-hundred dollar price is now three-hundred and fifty. Actually, it’s even lower then that. Depending on how much you buy you could get cylinders for as low as three-hundred and twenty-five dollars.
While contractors and consumers were rejoicing at this price drop there were many distributors panicking. Those guys who thought they were making a good gamble back in 2016 and 2017 are now stuck with a high priced product in a low priced market. One extreme example of this is Hudson Technologies. Hudson is a refrigerant distribution company based out of New York and they bought up A LOT of R-22 refrigerant during 2016-2017.
The graphic below is from Google but it provides a great illustration of the rise and fall of R-22 pricing. At the peak of R-22 pricing in summer of 2017 we saw a stock price of $9.30. Now, a little over a year later and with the price of R-22 more then cut in half we now see a stock price of $0.84. That is a HUGE drop. On top of the stock value loss Hudson also wrote off fourteen million dollars of R-22 inventory in their second quarter. Keep in mind too that the fourteen million is NOT all of their R-22 inventory. No, that is a cost adjustment so that they can be more competitive in the market place.
Before writing this article I talked to a few leaders in the refrigerant industry to get their thoughts on what exactly happened here. The consensus that I received was that R-22 has a price ceiling. There is only so high it can go. If it goes above that point, like it did in 2017, then the lower priced alternative refrigerants began to take over the market.
If you think about it it makes perfect sense. Would you buy a generic product if the brand name was right about the same price? Of course not. But, if that brand kept going up and up in price then that generic product begins to look more and more appealing. Along with the price going too high for R-22 due to speculation and over purchasing by distributors we also have to consider that the number of R-22 alternatives on the market today have exploded. I won’t list them all here but a few of the most popular ones are Chemour’s MO99 and Bluon’s XTD-20. Along with the amount of choices out there these alternative suppliers have also made it easy by offering drop-in or near drop-in replacement products.
The good news though for your R-22 investors is that as the price of R-22 goes back down the demand for alternatives will began to erode. It’s a balancing act that a lot of folks found out the hard way.
2019 Considerations & Prediction
Ok folks, so now we’ve gone through what’s happened over the past few years when it comes to R-22. Now it’s time to take a look at what considerations I will be taking into account for my prediction for 2019. In my day job I am a software analyst. I look at the details of a program or problem and figure it out through careful analysis. I love digging into the details like that. I take the same approach here when it comes to my prediction.
My predicted price for R-22 next year is based off of these specific considerations:
The price was cut by fifty percent this year and many people say that it can’t go lower.
The ‘newest’ R-22 machine is from 2010 or earlier. So, that puts the machine at nearly nine years old. A typical home’s air conditioner lasts between ten to fifteen years. Some of these R-22 will start to be replaced with R-410A. This will shrink demand and lower price.
When we hit 2019 there will be less then a year before total phase out of R-22 begins. This could drive price higher due to people wanting to buy before the cut-off.
In my opinion the market is saturated. Too many people have bought too much R-22 and now with this price drop they are just trying to offload, take the write-off, and be done. This can keep prices low.
There is a refrigerant reclamation industry but I honestly don’t see this having much impact until at least 2021 or 2022. Unfortunately, most folks won’t go the reclamation route until it’s a last resort and with the over supply of R-22 on the market I don’t see reclamation making much of a dent.
The last factor is the alternative refrigerants. As I mentioned above these refrigerants are in a careful balancing act with the price of R-22. If R-22 goes too high then the alternatives take over and cause the R-22 price to shrink back down. I foresee these alternatives contributing to a lower R-22 price.
From my conversations within the industry it seems to be that the ‘sweet spot’ for R-22 is right under five-hundred dollars a thirty pound cylinder. That price allows consumers to still purchase the refrigerant without everyone running towards the cheaper alternatives. If that five-hundred target doesn’t happen then I have seen others state that between four-hundred and four-hundred and fifty a cylinder is enough to deter alternatives and still make a profit. This price is what the distributors want, but what will actually happen?
As far as what will occur next year, it’s tough to say. My prediction is that we will see this very low price of around three-hundred and thirty a cylinder maintain throughout the winter months of 2018/2019. Then, as we inch closer to spring I expect to see a slow uptick in pricing. When we get into spring, say April or May, we could see R-22 prices at around three-hundred and sixty to three-hundred and seventy-five dollars a cylinder.
Moving into summer I could see prices climb upwards to four-hundred dollars. The absolute highest I see is four-hundred and twenty-five a cylinder and that would be at the peak of summer. As summer wanes and the fall begins to set in I could see price of R-22 maintaining right around that four-hundred to four-hundred and twenty-five dollar price. This price will continue onwards until we hit that January 1st, 2020 deadline. From here it’s hard to say. Will the price stay flat, or will it rise slightly? Time will tell.
I want to take the time here in this conclusion to state that this article is a prediction. It is by no means an indicator on what will happen in the industry. This is one person’s opinion, but I hope that it was able to help you forecast for next year.
Please note that RefrigerantHQ or myself are not liable for any investment losses or earnings from R-22 refrigerant based off of this article.
The blows to a national HFC phase down plan just keep coming. It was announced today that the Supreme Court would NOT be reviewing the HFC Refrigerant court case. This appeal to the Supreme Court was the last resort to those companies and organizations who wished to see the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 SNAP Rule 20 stay in affect. This 2015 rule specifically targeted HFC refrigerants and put forth a plan of action to phase down and eventually phase out these Global Warming refrigerants. The original rule can be found by clicking here.
Upon the announcement of the EPA’s new rules two companies, Mexichem & Arkema, sued stating that the EPA had overstepped it’s authority. Mexichem & Arkema’s motivations for this lawsuit were strictly a stalling tactic while they came up with their own HFC alternatives, but the case still went to court nonetheless. In August of 2017 the Federal Circuit Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency stating that the EPA had overstepped it’s authority. As a reference, the foundation of the EPA’s Rule 20 referenced Chapter VI, 6, of the Clean Air Act. The title of this chapter is called, ‘Stratospheric Ozone Protection’ Herein lies the problem. This section of the Clean Air Act, and frankly the Montreal Protocol, focused on Ozone depleting refrigerants such as CFCs and HCFCs. These refrigerants contained Chlorine and the Chlorine is what damaged the Ozone. Without the Chlorine we have no damage to the Ozone. HFC refrigerants do not contain Chlorine and thusly cannot be phased down or out using a piece of legislation that is strictly focused on Ozone depleting substances. HFCs DO contribute go Global Warming though and are considered a Greenhouse Gas. Two very different and distinct problems.
The Federal judge who made this ruling was Brett Kavanaugh. (Some of you may have heard of this name before!) Everyone had expected the court to rule with the EPA so when this ruling came out the industry was taken aback. No one really knew what to do with the news. It only took a few weeks for an appeal to be filed by Honeywell, Chemours, and other organizations. Their appeal argued that the SNAP Rule 20 was ‘well founded,’ and that the Federal Court’s ruling was going against the foundation of the EPA’s SNAP program. Their second argument is just funny in my book. Honeywell and Chemours argued that they had already invested too much money into their new HFO refrigerants and that that was reason enough to rule in their favor.
Despite their best efforts, the appeal did not grant them any traction and the appeal was lost in early 2018. A few months later in the summer of 2018 Honeywell, Chemours, and the NRDC (National Resource Defense Council) petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the HFC refrigerant case. The decision on that potential hearing was announced today. Much to the disappointment of many within the industry, the Supreme Court will NOT be hearing this case.
Now, I love a good irony. I don’t care what your politics are, life is funny sometimes. The Judge who started all of this back in 2017 was Brett Kavanaugh. He was the one who made the initial ruling. And now, here we are over a year later, and the case ends up in the Supreme Court where Mr. Kavanaugh was just sworn into last week. I didn’t see that coming this time last year, that’s for sure. The good news is this that Mr. Kavanaugh had no part in the Supreme Court’s decision today. If this would have come up later this year chances are he would have recused himself from the case. This is normal tradition for Supreme Court Justices who have a case that they previously worked in a lower court come to them in the high court.
Something worth noting here is that the Supreme Court was asked to not review this HFC case by the Trump Administration. This is because of the new HFC rule that is being worked on by the Environmental Protection Agency. There aren’t any details yet on what the new EPA HFC refrigerant policy will be. Will it be close to what we had in 2015? Or, will it be gutted and we will be left with no actionable plan to phase down HFCs? Only time will tell here. I for one am anxious to see what the new rules will look like.
States to the Rescue
Don’t worry folks, there’s good news too! A lot of you may have already heard about this or read some of my articles from last month, but recently there has been a big push for individual States to come up with their own plans to phase down HFC refrigerants. This all started in California and as they began to adopt and pass their laws and regulations we began to see other States pick up the torch. In September we had New York announce that they would be enacting phase down plans and in that same month we had Maryland and Connecticut announce their intentions as well.
All of these states are part of what’s known as the ‘United States Climate Alliance.’ This alliance is a gathering of States that formed after the Trump Administration pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord last year. There are seventeen States in this alliance and so far four have already announced HFC phase down plans. It is only a matter of time before we see others move forward with their own plans.
If this trend continues we may not even need a formal Federal HFC policy. Instead, we’ll rely on the States to make the right decision and like a snowball going downhill it will pick up speed and size until the whole of the country is on board. Those left behind will be forced to comply due to attrition.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Well folks it has been a hell of a few weeks in the refrigerant industry. The past few months have been rather quiet and then we get all of this news all at once. It always amazes me how fast this stuff can happen.
Just a few days ago the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they would be removing their rule that went in place back in September of 2016. (The official EPA Fact Sheet on this rule can be found by clicking here.) This rule applied Section 608 CFC/HCFC leak controls and regulations to appliances using HFC refrigerants that contained over fifty pounds of refrigerant. Basically, it passed on the same regulations that we had on CFC/HCFC refrigerants over to HFCs.
The EPA’s reason for overturning these regulations is that the EPA exceeded its own authority by issuing these laws back in 2016. Their reasoning is that these laws and regulations were all meant for CFC and HCFC refrigerants. They centered on the Ozone and the Chlorine in the refrigerants. HFCs do not contain Chlorine and thusly do not damage the Ozone layer. Instead, they are Greenhouse Gases and contribute to Global Warming. Both are bad for the Climate, but both are distinct separate issues. I do tend to agree with this as the law was bent to accommodate HFCs. Along with that the EPA also announced that they plan to save over forty-million dollars in regulation expenses enforcing these laws.
Before the law goes into effect it will be published in the Federal Register and then there will be a forty-five day comment period. The EPA will also be hosting a public forum fifteen days before the rule goes into effect. This will be held at Washington, DC and you can register by visiting the EPA’s site. Now, instead of rehashing what the EPA wrote I am going to take an excerpt from their site that way there is no confusion.
“If finalized as proposed, this action would rescind the leak repair and maintenance requirements at 40 CFR 82.157 for substitute refrigerants. Therefore, appliances with 50 or more pounds of substitute refrigerants would not be subject to the following requirements:
conduct leak rate calculations when refrigerant is added to an appliance,
repair an appliance that leaks above a threshold leak rate,
conduct verification tests on repairs,
conduct periodic leak inspections on appliances that exceed the threshold leak rate,
report to EPA on chronically leaking appliances,
retrofit or retire appliances that are not repaired, and
But wait, there’s more! The EPA’s above proposal to remove the requirements on HFC appliances also comes with the option for public comment on removing additional leak requirements on different applications. Again, this is from the EPA website:
“EPA is also requesting comment on rescinding other provisions that were extended to substitute refrigerants, including the following:
anyone purchasing refrigerant for use in an appliance or handling refrigerants (e.g., air-conditioning and refrigeration service contractors and technicians) must be a Section 608-certified technician,
anyone removing refrigerant from a refrigeration or air-conditioning appliance must evacuate refrigerant to certain level using certified refrigerant recovery equipment before servicing or disposing of the appliance,
the final disposer (e.g., scrap recycler, landfill) of small appliances, like refrigerators and window air conditioners, must ensure and document that refrigerant is recovered before final disposal, and
all used refrigerant must be reclaimed to industry purity standards before it can be sold to another appliance owner.”
Did you get all that? There were some big ones in there. One in particular that I noticed was the removing of 608 certification in order to purchase HFC refrigerants. This law has only been effect since January of this year. That would be a BIG deal if that was removed as we then open the flood gates for all of the laymen and novices to purchase refrigerant again. This could also create a rise in pricing if enough people who are unregistered purchase.
Along with that we get that appliances don’t have to have their refrigerant evacuated before being brought to the dump. That’s not the scariest one though, what scares me is that last point. If it gets rescinded we are then removing the purity standards from reclaimed refrigerants. There are already so many people who are against purchasing or using reclaimed refrigerants and removing this provision is going to seriously hurt the reclamation industry’s reputation.
These are very confusing times. We have the various States in the Climate Alliances proposing and enacting their own HFC refrigerant laws and regulations and then we have the Federal Government and the Environmental Protection Agency removing previous laws.
As time goes on we’re going to have additional States join the phasedown and I have a feeling this new announcement from the EPA is only going to fuel the desire for the States to take matters into their own hands.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.'”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hello everyone! I hope your Labor Day is going well. We just got back from our city’s parade and I’ve got a few hours before our barbecue so I thought I’d take some time and get an article out there. I’m going to preface this article with the disclaimer that this is an opinion piece. Take it how you want, but it has been on my mind over the past year or so.
As we all know refrigerants have been phased out or phased down for decades. We started it way back in the early 1990’s with R-12 and other CFCs. Then we focused on HCFCs and now the world is looking at HFCs. With CFCs and HCFCs the goal of the phase out was to stop using Ozone damaging refrigerants. These refrigerants contained Chlorine which did not break down in the atmosphere and ended up harming the Ozone layer.
HFCs were the replacement for these Ozone damaging refrigerants. HFCs did not contain Chlorine and did not harm the Ozone layer. They were also non-flammable and non-toxic. Yes, I am aware there are always exceptions out there, but the most commonly used HFC refrigerants were non-flammable and non-toxic. These HFCs seemed to be the perfect substitute for HFCs and HCFCs.
Fast forward to the present and the world is now looking to phase down or phase out HFC refrigerants across the globe. This time though instead of them damaging the Ozone these refrigerants are contributing to Global Warming. Refrigerants are measured on a scale known as Global Warming Potential, or GWP. The zero scale for GWP is Carbon Dioxide (R-744) with a GWP of one. Popular HFC refrigerants, such as R-134a, have GWP as high as one-thousand four-hundred and thirty. There is an obvious problem here and the continued use of HFC refrigerants will speed up Global Warming. The question now though is what alternatives are out there?
For a lot of companies and countries the answer has been Hydrocarbons such as R-717 and R-290. These natural refrigerants have a very low Global Warming Potential and they do not deplete the Ozone layer. In fact, R-717 is widely seen as one of the most efficient refrigerants out there. Both of these refrigerants are great for the environment. The downside though is that these refrigerants can be dangerous.
Yes, just like with anything, if the refrigerants and machines are handled correctly and maintained properly then there is little chance of problems, but the chance still persists nonetheless. Let’s look at R-717, or Ammonia, as an example. Ammonia is a great refrigerant but it is toxic if inhaled. In today’s world it is mostly used industrial refrigeration such as meat packing plants and in ice rinks. When a leak does happen it can be deadly. Notice, how I said when? Ammonia leaks occur quite frequently across the Americas. There was a particularly bad one around one year ago in Canada that ended up fatally harming three workers. (Source) When an Ammonia leak occurs an evacuation has to occur. Depending on the size of the leak the evacuation could be a couple of blocks surrounding the facility. It can be that dangerous.
The alternative for Ammonia based systems was R-22. In the 1980’s and 1990’s companies could pick between these two refrigerants for their plants. (Yes, there were more, but I believe these were the main players.) The choice for R-22 is now gone due to the phase outs. Depending on the application, some were using R-134a as an alternative to Ammonia. But now, that too, is being phased out. While R-22 and R-134a were damaging the Climate they were safe. If a leak occurred it wasn’t the end of the world.
Now with the shrinking list of alternative refrigerants more and more companies are leaning towards Ammonia. Yes, there are new HFC and HFO alternatives being developed by Chemours and Honeywell but these have not been perfected yet. You may get one that has a low GWP but has a higher flammability rating. Or, you may get one that still has a somewhat high GWP and it just wouldn’t make sense to base a new machine off of a refrigerant that is only going to be around for a few years.
R-290, or Propane, has a similar story. While yes, it’s not near as deadly as Ammonia, it still has it’s risks. Instead of toxicity being a problem we now have to deal with flammability and flame propagation. If an inexperienced technician attempts to work on an R-290 unit and is not sure what they are doing they could end up igniting the refrigerant. (The worst is the guys who smoke when working on a unit.)
Now picture this, what if we start using R-290 in home based air conditioners? It doesn’t even have to be a split system, it could be a mini-split or even a window or portable unit. Let’s say Mr. Homeowner, who has no idea what he’s doing, decides to tamper with the unit because it’s not blowing cold air. Maybe he thinks it just needs ‘more Freon.’ If the unit was using Puron then the homeowner would recharge, waste his money, and think he did some good. However, if the unit contained R-290 the results could be far worse.
HFOs and Alternative HFCs
In my opinion, HFOs are much safer then Hydrocarbons, but there is still that safety risk out there. Let’s look at everyone’s favorite HFO target, 1234yf. Now, I know this horse has been beaten to death, but I’m going to bring it up one more time. YF is rated as an A2L from ASHRAE. That 2L means that YF is flammable and has a chance to ignite. What kills me here is that there was such a push to get YF rolled out to new vehicles that instead of rating it as a standard A2 refrigerant they instead created a whole new flammability called 2L. (Lower Flammability.) So, they’re admitting to it being flammable, but only slightly.
The whole controversy on YF started years ago when the European Union was looking for a suitable alternative to R-134a. There were hundreds of tests conducted across Europe and the World to view the viability of 1234yf. In one of these tests the Daimler company out of Germany found that after the vehicle suffered an impact and the compressor cracked open the HFO YF refrigerant ignited when it was exposed to the hot engine. (For more on this check out our YF fact sheet by clicking here. The video of the ignition is at the bottom.)
Needless to say, this test result shocked Daimler and they published their findings to the world. The other companies and countries stated that Daimler’s test could not be reproduced and that it was a non-issue. The world moved forward with the somewhat dangerous 1234yf. Daimler, being the innovators they are, decided to instead move forward with a completely different automotive refrigerant, R-744.
While 1234yf is by far one of the most popular HFC alternatives on the marketplace today there are others that have similar problems. One that comes to mind right away is R-32. R-32 is an HFC refrigerant that is beginning to see more popularity for it’s usage in home and commercial air conditioners. R-32 is an alternative to the standard R-410A that is found in most home units. The goal of R-32 was to reduce the GWP number when compared to R-410A. 410A has a GWP of two-thousand and eighty-eight while R-32 has a GWP of six-hundred and seventy-five. This is a significant reduction, but the GWP is still quite high when comparing to Hydrocarbons or HFOs. Another very important point is that R-32 is rated as an A2 refrigerant. There’s that 2 again. 2 means flammable except with this one we don’t even get the L for lightly flammable.
So again, I’m going to illustrate the similar scenario we mentioned above. Picture a homeowner, who doesn’t know what they are doing, trying to either retrofit his existing R-22 over to R-32 or perhaps he just wants to recharge his R-32 machine. Without the proper training and knowledge this can end in disaster.
So, now here we are sacrificing technician and public safety for the betterment of the Climate and environment. I understand that Global Warming is a crisis and that it needs to be dealt with, but is it really worth increasing possible risk and danger of everyday workers and people? It appears that in everyone’s haste to move away from HFC refrigerants and to save the environment the thought of safety has taken a backseat.
I mean, if we wanted to get really aggressive in the fight against climate change why not start using Ammonia in nearly every application? After all, it has a GWP of zero and is extremely energy efficient. (I’m being sarcastic here, if you couldn’t tell!)
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