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Trucking

I have been in and out of the trucking industry for the past thirteen years. Throughout this time period I have seen numerous innovations and changes come within the industry. One example goes back to the 2000’s when DPFs and Diesel Exhaust Fluid were being rolled out. It caused quite a stir and a lot of complaints from customers. There is another change coming to the industry. It may not be as big as DPFs but it will be significant.

As you all know heavy and medium duty trucks use the HFC R-134a refrigerant for their air conditioning needs. This has been the standard refrigerant since the mid 1990’s. The original automotive refrigerant CFC R-12 was phased out in the mid 90’s due to the chlorine that it contained. The chlorine in this refrigerant ended up damaging the Ozone Layer. It was replaced with the HFC R-134a which did not contain any chlorine. This was the status quo up until recently. In 2015 the automotive sector began to see a new refrigerant be introduced in the marketplace. This new refrigerant known as R-1234yf falls under into the new Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) classification type. Vehicle manufacturers began using this refrigerant in their new vehicles in place of R-134a.

In essence, history was repeating itself. R-134a was being replaced with R-1234yf. The difference here is that R-134a does not damage the Ozone. It does however have a very high Global Warming Potential (GWP) number. The higher the number the more damage the refrigerant does to the environment and to Climate Change. R-134a has a GWP number of one-thousand four-hundred and thirty. This newer HFO refrigerant has a GWP of only four. While the initial models and manufacturers using R-1234yf was small, it has grown substantially over the past five years. Today, in 2020, it is estimated that nearly ninety percent of all new vehicles are using R-1234yf.

At this time there is no government mandate for these auto manufacturers to switch over to R-1234yf. There was a few years back, but it was thrown out by the courts. Even still, manufacturers are moving forward with the refrigerant switch. In the European Union R-134a is banned from being used in new vehicles. While it may not come to that here in the United States, manufacturers do not want to take the risk. Might as well bite the bullet now and not have to worry about it in the future. This philosophy holds true for most of the automotive manufacturers out there.

That being said, there is a hold over on this refrigerant transition: The Heavy Duty Industry. Before writing this article I did some searching for any mention of the trucking industry and R-1234yf. As I expected, I found very little results. The few articles I was able to find were years old and were providing outdated information. So, the question I have to ask everyone is where is the trucking industry on this transition? When can we expect heavy duty, hell medium duty, vehicles to start using R-1234yf refrigerant? One of the articles I did find on this topic stated that the trucking industry is predicted to make the changeover sometime within this decade, but that is speculative.

The Incoming Shortage

Here is where things get a bit hairy. As I stated earlier with each year that passes we are seeing more and more models moving away from R-134a over to R-1234yf. It is estimated that ninety percent of new vehicles are using 1234yf. What that means is that the factories that produce R-134a will quickly begin to see declining demand. I would wager that some factory planners/owners have already decided to scale back their production of R-134a significantly. It is a dying refrigerant and the demand will be dying with it. While the demand from the trucking industry is nowhere near that of the automotive market… it still exists.

R-134a Refrigerant

Years ago when I was a buyer for a Kenworth dealer chain I assisted in purchasing nearly four-thousand cylinders of R-134a every February. This was our big buy to ensure that we got the best price. We would do this every year as by the time February rolled around again our dealers would be out. If it was a hot summer then our dealers could run out halfway through the season and end up having to buy a pallet here or there to get them through. With all that in mind this one dealer group would purchase around 100-120,000 pounds of R-134a per year. The demand for air conditioning is there. It is just not going to be enough to keep the supply chain the same.

When the demand lessens so does the supply which is going to correlate to higher prices on R-134a. At this point it is impossible to tell exactly what kind of price increase we are going to see over the next few years. But, one thing is certain: There will be large increases and there will be decreased supply. If OEs such as Kenworth, Peterbilt, Freightliner, International, Volvo, Mack, haven’t begun to seriously look at transitioning over to R-1234yf then they need to begin NOW!

Switching Over

In the automotive sector there was not a government mandate to switch from R-134a over to R-1234yf. Well, there was… but it was tossed out in the courts. I see the same scenario occurring for the heavy duty industry. It will be up to the OEs to make the decision on rather or not to switch. We cannot rely on governmental regulation. The somewhat good news is that these OEs may end up seeing some pressure from various states who have begun to adopt tougher HFC regulations. California is a prime example. More states are joining as there is no indication that a Federal policy will be implemented. While automotive applications have been a primary focus with these new state laws… it is only a matter of time before these states focus on trucks moving throughout their boundaries.

Switching over to R-1234yf is not an easy task. It is NOT the same refrigerant of R-134a. One obvious point is that R-1234yf costs ten times more than R-134a (Sometimes even higher). A thirty pound cylinder of R-134a can be purchased right now for between seventy-five to ninety-five dollars. A ten pound cylinder of R-1234yf can be purchased for around six-hundred dollars. Many customers may not notice this at first… but when they bring their truck in for an air conditioning repair they will be shocked by the recharge bill. The good news, or bad news depending on how you look at it, is that by the time trucks switch over to R-1234yf we may see R-134a’s price pretty close to 1234yf due to the manufacturing shortages.

The biggest hurdle with R-1234yf is that it is rated with an A2L rating from ASHRAE. The ‘A’ stands for non-toxic. The ‘2L’ stands for slightly flammable. This is where the controversy exists on this refrigerant. Back when this new HFO was first being implemented there were many concerns expressed on the flammability risk. What happens during an accident? What happens if the refrigerant leaks and possibly ignites? To alleviate these concerns there were numerous studies done by various governmental and private organizations to prove concept and to prove that it was safe.

These same types of studies would have to be done within the heavy duty industry. While it is the same refrigerant found in vehicles the charge for a heavy duty application is going to be much larger then an automobile. A higher charge means a higher risk as well. Some of these studies may have already been done, but again I could not find them when I was researching for this article. Back when this was being implemented in the European Union there was one OE who expressed concerns about 1234yf. They did not believe the studies out there so they set out to conduct their own. This company was Daimler.

Daimler found that in their studies and tests that 1234yf DID ignite during a crash test. Their claims were dismissed across government and business organizations. They were told it was perfectly safe. Daimler though, still skeptical, went ahead and developed their own alternative refrigerant solution. Instead of using R-134a or R-1234yf they went forward with their own R-744 Carbon Dioxide refrigerant system. This was the first mobile R-744 application to be used. Today Daimler has many vehicles using the R-744 technology. The reason I bring Daimler up is they own Freightliner Trucks.

So, my next question for the heavy duty industry is does it make more sense to move towards a R-744 system? Carbon Dioxide is not flammable and has an even lower GWP then R-1234yf. Freightliner could have these systems already in development. I believe this is the right way to go as you can avoid the flammability risk and you also have the sustainability of Carbon Dioxide. R-744 will never be phased out. It has been used for over a century as a refrigerant agent. It is survivable. The only downside is that it operates under extremely high pressures which can result in part failures. To compensate the parts and system are custom made to withstand the higher pressures. This results in increased cost.

Conclusion

With all the above said it seems that it is still up in the air. When will the various OEs begin to change over to a newer refrigerant? And, when they do, will they be migrating towards the flammable 1234yf? Or, will they adopt Daimler’s automotive approach and opt for the R-744? Either way there needs to be some decisions made soon. The clock on R-134a is winding down and there is only so much time left before we all see shortages and large price increases. There is no saying exactly when these shortages will occur but with each passing year the chance of encountering high priced R-134a is greater.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson
RefrigerantHQ

Question

Hello folks and welcome to RefrigerantHQ. This is a question that I get all the time and it is a bit tricky to answer. In the past I have written a few articles on the topic of R-134a phase out in the United States but over the years the overall plan for R-134a has changed substantially. Bare with me here, as I am going to give a bit of a history lesson before I get to your answer. If you’d like to skip this part then scroll on down to the ‘Conclusion’ section of the article for your answer.

History

As most of you know R-134a came to prominence in the automotive applications back in the early 1990’s. It was meant to replace the CFC refrigerant known as R-12. R-12 was found to be damaging the Ozone layer due to the chlorine that it contained. R-134a, which is an HFC refrigerant, contained no chlorine and thus caused no damage to the Ozone Layer.

It was discovered in the early 2000’s though that R-134a had a detrimental impact on the environment. While it does not harm the Ozone Layer it does have an extremely high Global Warming Potential or GWP. GWP is a measurement of the amount of Greenhouse Gases a chemical has when released into the atmosphere. The higher the number the more damaging the product is.

R-134a has a GWP of one-thousand four-hundred and thirty. This is a very large number. It was clear that something had to be done. In the 2010’s a new refrigerant was introduced known as R-1234yf. This refrigerant fell under a completely new classification of refrigerants known as HFOs. R-1234y has a GWP number of only four. The difference between the two refrigerant was astronomical. 1234yf was the automotive refrigerant of the future.

As in most environmental cases the European Union was ahead of the game. In the early 2010’s they began phasing out R-134a and replacing it with R-1234yf. In 2015 it was banned entirely for new vehicles. (Source) It was at that same time, 2015, that the Environmental Protection Agency released new rules called SNAP Rule 20 and SNAP Rule 21. These rules aimed to phase down HFC refrigerants across the United States. R-134a was mentioned in these rules and was targeted to be phased out from new vehicles by the year 2020 for 2021 vehicle model years.

Here is where things get a bit fuzzy. For a few years this was the operating assumption. R-134a would be phased out from new vehicles and it would slowly fade away. However, in the fall of 2017 a Federal Court ruled against the EPA stating that they had overstepped their authority on the SNAP Rule 20 and 21. The new rules were thrown out and we were all put right back to where we were before the EPA’s intervention on HFC refrigerants.

So today, three years later from that court ruling, R-134a still has no specified phase down period. R-134a is NOT being phased down by the government. However, it is being phased down by auto manufacturers. This is quite different then what we saw with R-12 back in the 1990’s. R-12 was government mandated to be phased down. R-134a is not. There may come a time in the future where we see a comprehensive R-134a phase down plan from the Federal Government, but as of now there is nothing. The only other option is to see R-134a phased down at the state level. There are already a few states out there that have moved forward with HFC phase downs… but in almost every case there is little mention of R-134a in vehicle applications. These state regulations instead focus more on commercial applications of R-404A and R-134a.

Conclusion

In conclusion the answer is yes, R-134a is being phased out from automobiles. The difference here is that there is no federal law or regulation stating that auto manufacturers have to do this. There were at one point, but those regulations were thrown out by the courts.

What we are left with is the direction that auto manufacturers have taken. Each year more and more manufacturers are switching their makes and models away from R-134a and over to R-1234yf. It has been a slow creep since 2015 but as of last year we are now seeing around ninety percent of new vehicles coming off the line with R-1234yf. Last year I spent some time and put together a listing of every vehicle make I could and rather or not if they were using R-1234yf. The list can be found by clicking here. It was rather revealing to see just how many vehicles have switched over. It will not be long until all new vehicles are using this newer HFO refrigerant. Yes, there will always be outliers out there but finding a new car with R-134a will be the exception.

What does that mean for you, the consumer? Well unfortunately, it means an extremely high repair bill coming your way when your air conditioner does break. R-1234yf is ten times more expensive then R-134a. Yes, you heard me right… ten times more expensive. That two dollar can will be around twenty or thirty dollars now for YF. There isn’t much we can do here either folks as there is not a viable alternative to R-1234yf at this time.

I have seen some folks actively switch their 1234yf systems back to R-134a. There are even specially made adapters to allow this… but I’ll tell you right now: I advise against this. Not only would you be damaging the environment but it is also against Federal Law. 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.” I wrote further on this topic in a different article which can be found here.

This is just one of those cases where we have to suck it up and deal with the higher prices. Maybe we’ll see prices drop in the future or perhaps an alternative refrigerant will be approved and introduced in the marketplace in the next few years. For now though, this is just the way things are.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Over the past five years or so there has been a dramatic shift when it comes to automotive refrigerants. Since the mid 1990’s the most common refrigerant you would find in automobiles was the HFC R-134a. This was still the case up until 2015. At that time the United States market began to see the introduction of the new HFO refrigerant known as R-1234yf. Vehicle manufacturers had decided to move away from R-134a due to the extremely high Global Warming Potential (GWP) that it had. R-134a had a GWP of one-thousand four-hundred. 1234yf has a GWP of only four. That is a remarkable difference and explains why we have begun to see more and more manufacturers switch over to the more climate friendly 1234yf refrigerant.

As I am writing this article in the summer of 2020 nearly ninety percent of ALL vehicles manufactured or imported into the United States are using R-1234yf. R-134a is on the way out. What that means is that along with R-134a being on the way out so are the ever so common AC recharge kits. If you look on Amazon today you’ll see many AC recharge kits for sale… but they are mostly all for R-134a.

R-1234yf requires is a different refrigerant and requires a completely different fitting in order to charge the system. R-134a recharge kits will NOT work on these vehicles. But, there has not been a rush of recharge products added to the stores yet as the demand just isn’t quite there. A typical automotive HVAC system takes anywhere from five to ten years for the first failure to occur. Since most of these newer R-1234yf vehicles were introduced in 2015 we are just NOW seeing the increased demand for a R-1234yf charge kit.

Now that demand is picking up there have been a couple products introduced to the marketplace. Personally, my favorite is this hose kit that is found on Amazon. It is a hose that comes with a connection point to your vehicle’s AC system, a gauge to measure charge/pressure, and a connection point to the 1234yf can. The good news is that this hose kit is relatively cheap at only around twenty dollars. (Prices can change at any time.) The bad news here is that the hose kit is NOT the expensive part.

One of the problems with 1234yf is the increased price. A can of R-134a may cost a few dollars. A can of 1234yf can go for around forty-five to sixty dollars. That is a HUGE increase. Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about that. That is just the way it is with this new refrigerant. You can purchase these cans of refrigerant at Autozone or O’Reillys. I looked on Amazon as well but couldn’t find any. The only online source that I could find was on Ebay. The recharge process itself is very similar to what you would do with R-134a. Check your pressure/charge. If you need refrigerant then hook up the can and charge away.

The only thing I want to note is before I close this article is that if your car’s AC system needs additional refrigerant that is because you have a leak somewhere in the system. You can never just be low on refrigerant without a leak. A recharge kit is a band-aid. It will not fix the problem. Eventually the new refrigerant you just put in your vehicle will leak out as well. If you have a small leak then that recharge kit may get you through the season. If it is a larger leak then you’re just throwing money out the door. Ultimately it is up to you, but I would at least consider getting a repair quote before you spend money on a recharge kit.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Elitech IR-200 Dual Sensor Leak Detector

Hello folks and welcome to RefrigerantHQ. Today we will be doing another one of our product reviews. As we all know having the right tools for the job can make all the difference in the world. The same can be said when it comes to leak detection. Sure you can do it the old school way by spraying each section of the lines and coils to look for bubbles forming, but that can take a significant amount of time… especially if you do not know where to start. The same can be said with using a ultra violet dye. It takes time to run that through the system and then to scan for it.  Having a proper leak detector can save you time. As we all know the more time saved the better. That means more jobs you can get to in one day and hopefully arriving home on time.

In this article we will be taking an in-depth look at the Elitech IR-200 Dual Sensor Leak Detector. This model from Elitech is quite unique as it comes with both an infrared and a heated diode sensor. That is a rare find. In most cases you’ll find one or the other. In the interest of full disclosure I want it to be known that Elitech sent me a free copy of this detector so that I could write a review on the product. You’ll notice that the pictures in this review were taken by myself as well. Alright, onto the review.

Elitech

Before I purchase a new tool I always like to take some time and do some actual research on the company that stands behind the tool. A lot of times you’ll find that the highest ranked tool is made by a company that no one has ever heard of. Or, that when something goes wrong with the product that there is no reputable company to stand behind it. That is why it is worth doing a bit of research on the company itself as well as the product.

Elitech is a global company that is headquartered out of San Jose, California. They also have locations in China, United Kingdom, and Brazil as well as additional staff from around the world. They have over twenty years of experience working with and creating leak detection and measuring equipment. Along with that they also work hand in hand with other HVAC OEMs and distributors to brand their product. (In other words, you may find that other branded leak detectors actually came from Elitech but are under a different brand name.)

The company itself is not as established as some of the other names in the industry like Robinair… but they are making quality products and are quickly making a name for themselves within the industry. I would feel perfectly safe purchasing products from them. Their website also states that they offer 24/7 customer support so in case something does go wrong the company is able to be contacted.Elitech IR-200 Detector Case

Product Features

As I had mentioned at the beginning of this article the IR-200 model comes with two actual sensors: A heated diode and an infrared. I really like this approach as it allows you to detect and narrow down leaks in a much quicker fashion. It is recommended to start looking for leaks using the heated diode sensor. Then once you have narrowed it down a bit more you can switch over to the infrared mode so that you can narrow down the leak even further. These two modes can be switched back and forth by hitting the ‘Mode’ button on the detector.

Before we get a bit further into the other product features lets take some time to understand the different types of sensors here. The heated diode works by heating the refrigerant and breaking the molecules apart. When the molecules are broken a positively charged Chlorine or Fluorine ion will appear. The heated diode will detect these ions and sound the alarm. The downsides to both of this type of detector, and the Corona Suppression, is that they can be overwhelmed if the refrigerant leak is too large. If the area is saturated with refrigerant then these alarms won’t be of much help and you may actually end up damaging your sensor and having to replace it. These sensors typically have a two year life before they have to be replaced.

The other sensor on this unit, the infrared, works by drawing the air sample across an optical sensor that then analyses how much infrared radiation there is in that given area. The benefits of this technology is that the sensors last much longer,  they are less prone to false alarms, they cannot be overloaded in an area saturated with refrigerant, and they are great at finding those very small leaks that other detectors just won’t sense. The Infrared detectors are the premium types of detectors on the market. These sensors are expected to last around ten years. This is why I had said earlier to start detecting with the heated diode and then narrow your search further with the more sensitive infrared sensor.Elitech IR-200 Long Display

This IR-200 can detect all manners of refrigerants ranging from CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs, and HFOs. These refrigerant classifications will cover most refrigerants you run into in today’s world. Some popular examples would be R-12, R-22, R-410A, R-404A-, R-134a, R-32, R-502, R-125, R-1234yf, and on and on. One point to mention here is that this detector will actually detect hydrocarbon refrigerants as well such as R-290 Propane or R-600a Isobutane. A lot of other detectors will NOT detect these. That being said, this product will not sniff out natural refrigerants such as ammonia or carbon dioxide.

This detector has three sensitivity settings: High, Medium, and Low. The highest sensitivity on the infrared sensor will detect four grams per year (0.14 ounces per year), the medium seven grams per year, and the low will detect fourteen grams per year. The highest sensitivity on the heated diode detector is thirteen grams per year. The detector also comes with what’s known as a ‘peak’ function. When used it will record the absolutely highest leak point during your scan. The detector can work in temperatures ranging from fourteen degrees Fahrenheit (Negative ten Celsius) to one-hundred and twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit (Fifty-two degrees Celsius). Also will work in humidity levels up to ninety percent.

When a leak is detected you will be notified through a buzzer, light, and also bar graph on the detector display. As the leak gets larger the buzzing will increase, the bar graph will grow, and the lights will flicker faster. If you are on a noisy job site there is also a headphone jack so you can plug in and listen for the buzzing closely. If you find that you are working in an area that is saturated with refrigerant and it is hard to detect the source this detector has a zeroing function as well. What that means is that you can set the current air as zero so you can then focus on the larger concentrations. Works just like zeroing out a scale.

The sniffer, or probe, is twelve inches long and is very flexible. I took it out of the box and bent it every which way. Very easy to move back and forth. You will also get a secondary probe in case the first one is broken or lost. One thing to mention here is that the probe is shorter then some of the other competing models out there. For example, a competing Fieldpiece detector has a fourteen inch probe. I honestly don’t know how much difference a few inches will make… but that is a choice left up to you. It is worth mentioning that there is a secondary sniffer that comes with this unit that can be attached to the first. This allows for a total length of twenty-four inches. Coming with the sniffer is also a mountable ultra violet and LED light. It comes with a attachment that can just pop right onto the sniffer. I really liked this as it allowed me to see what I was doing and the fact that there was a UV light would make things even easier if I wanted to really narrow down my leak by doing a UV test.

This detector comes with two 18650 lithium ion batteries. These batteries will last for eight hours on a continuous charge. You also do not have to worry about accidentally leaving the detector on. It will automatically shut itself off if there has been no activity within ten minutes. When the unit does run out of charge it will take about four hours to fully charge it. The batteries that come with the product are replaceable as well. Most other detectors do not have this option.

The unit itself comes in a hard durable plastic case. I took a picture of this case and it can be found earlier in the article. I was really impressed with this case, moreso then other detectors I’ve handled. When you open it up the tool and other accessories are protected by foam insulation. It is a very light case as well. I picked it up by the handle just by using my thumb and it was manageable. I know having something else heavy to lug around site to site is NOT what we want. Lastly the shipping on this product was very professional. Took only a few days and it came in perfect condition. No complaints here.

Pros

Now a lot of the ‘Pros’ that I wanted to cover in this section were already covered in our Product Features section. There are still some that I can put in here… I just do not want you to be concerned that there aren’t a ton of Pros. The first and biggest Pro in my opinion is the overall price point of this product. In most cases an infrared detector can be over two-hundred dollars. A heated diode detector can be in the mid one-hundreds. You are getting both types of detectors here for right around that two-hundred dollar price range. (Prices subject to change at any time.) That is a heck of a bargain when you look at the competing models out there.

The other real big pro here is that this product works with hydrocarbon refrigerants. I mentioned this earlier in the features section but let me emphasize it again. Hydrocarbons are the new tomorrow when it comes to refrigerants. You’ll find propane/isobutane vending machines, ice machines, and even some refrigerators and freezers nowadays. There are more applications expected to begin using hydrocarbons as well. So having this on your leak detector is an added benefit.

The last point here is the 24/7 technical support via e-mail or phone from Elitech. Their customer service phone number is 1-408-844-4070. They can also be reached via e-mail at: support@elitechus.com . Lastly, if neither of those options work you can also reach out directly on their website by filling out a contact us form which can be found by clicking here. If you go through all of this support and you are still not satisfied with the detector they also offer a thirty day no questions asked return. They are confident enough to stand behind their product and back it up with this money back guarantee. They offer a full one year warranty. You’ll also notice that when you buy the product you’ll get a flyer with instructions on how to get an extra year warranty on the product. This was right in the case when I received mine.

Cons

There weren’t any major cons on this product that I could find. The first one that I’ll list though is what we discussed earlier in the Pros section. There are desktop leak detectors out there that are MORE sensitive then this one… but they are quite a bit more expensive so take that with a grain of salt. For example, the desktop Bacharach H-10 Pro is a premium leak detector that can detect as low as 0.006 ounces per year. That is a huge difference in sensitivity setting… but the H-10 Pro is also hundreds of dollars more expensive then the Elitech. So, ultimately you have to make the choice if you want to spend the money on the best of the best H-10 Pro or get a good Elitech model.

The other smaller cons are that this has a probe length of only twelve inches. Again, we covered this earlier. The good news is that there is an auxiliary probe that comes with this detector that will give you an additional twelve more inches if you need it. Also, on the heated diode side some users reported that the sensor was triggering falsely if it was moved suddenly or abruptly. Remember detecting should be done in a slow deliberate manner that canvases the entire area. The last con I would mention is that the heated diode sensor will need to be replaced after a couple of years. I’ve always been a fan of the infrared as it is a set it and forget it type sensor.

Elitech IR-200 Leak Detector Display

What’s In The Box?

This is always an important question when purchasing a new tool. What exactly comes in the box that you are ordering? Is it just the bare bones product or do you get the extra necessities that you will need down the road? Let’s take a look at what comes with the Elitech IR-200:

  • The leak detector itself
  • UV LED light attachment
  • User’s Manual
  • Plastic case
  • Adapater
  • Charging cable
  • Five replacement filters
  • One replacement probe

Conclusion

Alright folks well that about covers everything there is to know about this product from Elitech. We’ve gone over the features, pros, and cons. I would say that after reviewing this product and after handling it in person that this product ranks on the ‘Better’ scale. For those of you unaware, I like to rank products on the ‘Good’ ‘Better’ ‘Best’ approach. The good products are just that… they’re good and will get the job done. They may not have the best features or benefits, but they get you through. The better products are in the middle between the good and the premium best models. They have some extra features but are still able to get the price point down. That is where this leak detector comes in. It doesn’t have every bell and whistle like some of the more expensive detectors out there, but it is an overall great product that will not impact your wallet near as much as a Robinair or a Bacharach.

If you are interested in purchasing this unit then please visit this link to be taken to the official Elitech product page website. Here you can review more information on the product as well as purchase the product straight from Elitech. The typical lead time once placing an order is between three to five business days for the product to arrive at your door. When I was sent IR-200 I had it at my door in only a couple of days. If you are in an hurry you can also call their customer service and request for first or second day air shipping.

Important Links:

Last week the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) published a report that took a look United States supermarket chains. The EIA is an international agency that lobbies against environmental abuse from companies, governments, and groups. They were founded in 1984 in the United Kingdom by three environmental activists. Today they have offices within the UK and the United States. They are known for creating hard hitting reports based off of extensive research. They then use these reports to push for change either through a company level or through governmental legislation.

The most recent report that they published took an in-depth look at sixteen of the largest United States supermarket corporations based on retail sales of 2019. Specifically, the report looked at each company’s actions to reduce usage and emissions of HFC refrigerants. The data gathered for this report was collected by questionnaires sent to all of the companies involved. If no response was given then EIA answered the questions the best they could using public data.  They scored each major company on three main categories:

  1. Adopting of New Technology – This can range from retrofitting existing equipment, purchasing new systems that use climate friendly/low GWP refrigerants, as well as adopting more energy efficient refrigerants. Recommended approaches are cascade systems, transcritical systems, HFO refrigerants, or just your standard natural refrigerant/hydrocarbon approach.
  2. Refrigerant Management – This section focuses on two main areas. The first is early leak detection as well as correcting any leaks before they get out of control. The other point is the reclamation of existing refrigerant when a system is being retired. I had read an article the other day where a supermarket was being demoed but no one actually reclaimed any of the refrigerant before demolition occurred.
  3. Policy and Future Commitments – This point just focuses on company promises and commitments made to the public or to their share holders. An example would be when Coca-Cola committed to use non-HFC refrigerants for all of their new vending machines. (Source) A lot of times these public statements do not come to fruition.

The Results

Using the points we mentioned above the EIA gave each company a grade card score ranging from zero to one-hundred percent. Obviously, the one-hundred percent would be the highest possible score where as zero would be no effort made.

The results that were found were not surprising to me at all. There was only one grocery store chain that scored a passing grade from the EIA. That was Aldi with a seventy percent scorecard. And… if you ask me Aldi only did well because it is a European owned company and the trend has already occurred in Europe. Every other store failed. Yes, every single one. The second place winner with a score of only forty-six percent was Whole Foods. After that the percentages drop even lower for third place at thirty-four percent for Target.

To keep this article from getting too long I will not report what every single store received. Instead let’s look at some of the most recognizable names that we all shop at today:

  • Wal-Mart received a fifteen percent grade. Of that fifteen they received a forty-three percent in policy and commitments… but all of these promises seemed to be just that. They only received a ten percent on overall technology adoption.
  • Meijer received seventeen percent. Their technology adoption was only ranked at five percent and their future commitments only at fourteen percent. They do have one green light though and that is there refrigerant management which is ranked at nearly eighty percent. They may still be using HFC refrigerants but they are preventing leaks.
  • Kroger was ranked just below Meijer coming in at sixteen percent. They were similar to Wal-Mart where they made a lot of promises and commitments but have shown little action with only a twelve percent rating on technology adoption.
  • Costco, one of my favorite stores, came in with a four percent rating. Their leak detection/refrigerant management was ranked at zero and their technology adoption was rated at only five percent. Very little action take on HFCs from Costco. I was surprised by this as they are based out of Washington and Washington has been one of the leading states to push for HFC phase downs.
  • Trader Joes is the last one that I will mention and that’s because it is just funny. I was going to stop at Costco but when I saw the results for Trader Joes I couldn’t resist. Trader Joes came in at zero percent on the EIA scale. There have been no announcements or indicators that Trader Joes will be moving away from HFC refrigerants. They were fined back in 2016 by the EPA for R-22 leaks, but again there has been no future progress.

Conclusion

I have always considered myself somewhat neutral when it comes to phasing down HFC refrigerants. At times there seems to be a fanatical push to phase down all of these refrigerants as fast as we can regardless of the consequences to the wallet or to safety.

I mention safety as there has been a resurgence of hydrocarbon refrigerants as we begin to move away from HFCs. Flammability is a risk. One of the new recommended products to replace HFCs with is a cascade R-744 Carbon Dioxide and R-290 Propane system. Regardless of the precautions and safety steps taken there is a risk when using large quantities of propane. (In an example at Whole Foods there are seventy-five pounds of charged R-290 mounted on the roof of the building.) HFCs did NOT have this risk associated to them.

The other point is cost. So many of these businesses invested a ton of money into moving away from their older HCFC R-22 systems. That was the big push not too long ago, right? R-22’s phase out began in 2010 and ended in 2020. If I was a business owner in 2008/2009 and I saw the governmental pressure coming on R-22 I would have moved over to an R-404A system so I would be in compliance. But now, ten years later, I am being told that I now have to invest even more money to purchase a new system or retrofit all of my equipment… again.

Why? If there is no governmental mandate forcing my hand then I am going to hold on my to existing machines… because they work. I am not going to incur a significant expense until I absolutely have to. This is how a business is ran and it is how I would run mine. This report may attempt to shame these businesses in compliance but in truth it is just a paper tiger and it will have no impact. If the lobbyists behind this report seriously want change then there are two ways forward. The first is more states adopting HFC phase down policies. The second is a federal phase down program on HFCs. If these do not happen then there will not be change.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

RefrigerantHQ's Pressure Charts

One of the very first steps when it comes to diagnosing your home air conditioner, refrigerator, or even your vehicle’s air conditioner is understanding the temperature and the current pressure that your system is operating at. Having these facts along with the saturation point, the subcool, and the superheat  numbers for the refrigerant you are working on are essential when it comes to really understanding what is going wrong with your system.

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

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

R-448A Solstice N40 Basic Info & PT Chart

It seems that as the years go by we face more and more pressure to begin phasing down HFC refrigerants. As I write this article most HFCs have already been phased down across the European Union and we are not too far behind here in the United States. When a class of refrigerants are phased out there obviously needs to be another to step up and take their place. The debate is still raging on rather that should be natural refrigerants or if we should go with the newer class of refrigerants known as Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs).

The newer refrigerant R-448A, also known as Solstice N40, is an HFO refrigerant. It was introduced by the Honeywell corporation under their new Solstice brand line. While 448A can technically be classified as an HFO refrigerant it actually has more HFC refrigerants in it. This refrigerant is a zeotropic blend of R-32 (26%), R-125 (26%), R-134a (21%), R-1234ze (7%), and R-1234yf (20%). This N40 refrigerant was designed to replace the ever popular HCFC R-22 and the HFC R-404A.

It can be used for new installations and in retrofits. I won’t get into retrofitting here, but there are many guides from OEMs and Honeywell that take you through step by step. One word of warning though is if you are trying to retrofit an R-22 unit over to this refrigerant you should know that R-448A requires POE oil while R-22 requires mineral oil. They are not interchangeable. R-404A does use POE oil so there won’t be a problem there.

This refrigerant is designed for use in low and medium temperature applications such as supermarket refrigeration, refrigerated cold stores, refrigerated transport vending machines, and industrial refrigeration. This N40 refrigerant from Honeywell has an A1 safety rating from ASHRAE. What that means is that the refrigerant is non-toxic and is not flammable. That is a big deal as so many refrigerants nowadays are rated either flammable or slightly flammable.

As I had mentioned earlier, the main point of switching to these new HFO refrigerants is to protect the climate. In the case of R-448A you will see a sixty-eight percent reduction in Global Warming Potential (GWP). That is a significant reduction. Let’s look at the numbers. R-404A has a total GWP of nearly four-thousand. R-448A has a GWP of fourteen-hundred. Along with the savings of GWP you will also find that this Solstice refrigerant runs between five to ten percent more efficient then R-404A. SO, you’ll get the benefit to the climate in two ways.

There is one big downside here on this refrigerant I want to mention before I get to the PT chart. I had stated that the GWP for this product is fourteen-hundred. While it is lower then R-404A you should be aware that it is still a very high GWP number. Because this number is so high I do not foresee this refrigerant lasting in the long run. Its GWP is just too high. I would fully predict that we would see this refrigerant being phased out in just about five years time. It will be replaced by something else down the road. This refrigerant is just a stop gap until we find something better.

Alright folks, I’ve talked enough. Let’s get to the pressure temperature chart. As you are looking over this data please reach out to me if you find something that is not correct. I strive to make these tables accurate and will get any errors corrected as soon as I can.

PSIGLiquid Temp (F)Liquid Temp (C)Vapor Temp (F)Vapor Temp (C)
0-51-46.11-39.9-39.94
1-48.6-44.78-37.5-38.61
2-46.2-43.44-35.2-37.33
3-44-42.22-32.9-36.06
4-41.9-41.06-30.8-34.89
5-39.8-39.89-28.8-33.78
6-37.8-38.78-26.9-32.72
7-35.9-37.72-25-31.67
8-34.1-36.72-23.2-30.67
9-32.4-35.78-21.4-29.67
10-30.6-34.78-19.7-28.72
11-29-33.89-18.1-27.83
12-27.4-33-16.5-26.94
13-25.8-32.11-15-26.11
14-24.3-31.28-13.5-25.28
16-21.4-29.67-10.6-23.67
18-18.6-28.11-7.8-22.11
20-16-26.67-5.2-20.67
22-13.5-25.28-2.7-19.28
24-11-23.89-0.3-17.94
26-8.7-22.612-16.67
28-6.5-21.394.2-15.44
29-5.4-20.785.3-14.83
31-3.3-19.617.4-13.67
34-0.2-17.8910.4-12
372.7-16.2813.3-10.39
405.5-14.7216-8.89
438.2-13.2218.7-7.39
4610.8-11.7821.2-6
4913.2-10.4423.7-4.61
5215.6-9.1126-3.33
5517.9-7.8328.3-2.06
5920.9-6.1731.2-0.44
6323.8-4.56341.11
6726.5-3.0636.72.61
8336.52.546.68.11
10146.58.0656.313.5
12156.213.4465.918.83
14265.418.5674.923.83
15470.221.2279.626.44
16775.123.9484.429.11
18180.226.7889.331.83
19685.329.6194.334.61
21290.532.599.337.39
22995.735.39104.340.17
246100.738.17109.142.83
264105.640.89113.945.5
284110.943.8311948.33
304115.946.61123.851
32512149.44128.653.67
348126.252.33133.656.44
349126.452.44133.856.56
372131.455.22138.559.17
397136.658.11143.461.89
423141.861148.364.61
450146.963.8315367.22

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

EPA

Towards the end of May the Environmental Protection Agency announced their latest proposed Significant New Alternative Policy (SNAP) rule. At this time the rule is just proposed and not finalized. That being said, this rule will definitely have an impact on the industry and the future of air conditioning within the United States.

This time it is a bit different then what we usually see from the EPA. In the past these new rules typically label certain refrigerants for specific applications as no longer acceptable. However, this latest proposed rule does the opposite. This SNAP Rule 23 moves a number of refrigerants to acceptable depending on the use conditions and others have had their use restrictions lessened. Let’s take a look at the changes:

Air Conditioning

The first change focuses on residential and light commercial air conditioning and heat pumps. The following refrigerants has now been added as acceptable in these applications: R-452B, R-454A, R-454B, R-454C, R-457A, and R-32. They are all are subject to use restrictions. Each one of these refrigerants have something in common. They are ALL rated as A2L from ASHRAE. For those of you who aren’t aware, the A2L rating indicates that the refrigerant is slightly flammable. This is the same rating that the popular HFO 1234yf refrigerant that we see used in our cars has.

This A2L label indicates refrigerants having a lower flammability limit of more than 0.10 kilograms per cubic meter or 0.0062 pounds per cubic foot at 21° Celsius (69.8° Fahrenheit) and 101 kPa (14.6488 pounds of force per square inch.) and a heat of combustion of less than 19 Kilojoule/Kilogram or 8.168 BTU/Pounds. Sorry for all of the conversions here but I wanted to cover my bases. I converted these using online tools but if you see something incorrect please reach out to me.

What this means folks is that flammable refrigerants COULD be approved in traditional split system air conditioners. I say could as this rule is still preliminary, but if the EPA does finalize it then we will begin to see new systems with these refrigerants being rolled out to residential and commercial applications. To me, the big story here is that R-32 is being considered. R-32 has been becoming wildly popular over in the European Union as a more climate friendly alternative to the HFC R-410A.

While both of these refrigerants are HFCs R-32 has a significant lower GWP then R-410A. R-32 comes in at six-hundred and seventy-five where as R-410A Puron is at two-thousand and eighty-eight. So, more then double that of R-32. This is why we have begun to see the use of R-32 in newer home/commercial air conditioners in Europe and also why it is now seriously being considered within the United States marketplace.

While R-32 caught my attention I will have to admit that I wasn’t as familiar with the other refrigerants named in the proposed rule. I looked these up and found that they are all varying HFC/HFO refrigerant blends that are all rated as A2L flammability.

  • R-452B – Blend of R-32, R-125, and R-1234yf with a GWP of 675.
  • R-454A – Blend of R-1234yf and R-32 with a GWP of 239.
  • R-454B – Blend of R-1234yf and R-32 with a GWP of 467.
  • R-454C – Blend of R-1234yf and R-32 with a GWP of 146.
  • R-457A – Blend of R-32, R-1234yf. and R-152a with a GWP of 139.

Now as I mentioned earlier each one of these flammable refrigerants would be subject to use conditions. In other words, it would not be free reign or the Wild West. There would still be some restrictions and regulations. Instead of me rehashing all of these specific requirements I’ll instead just provide some direct text straight from the EPA’s proposed SNAP rule. Feel free to click on the sources as well to view the text for yourself:

    1. “This refrigerant may be used only in new equipment specifically designed and clearly identified for the refrigerants (i.e., none of these substitutes may be used as a conversion or ‘‘retrofit’’ refrigerant for existing equipment designed for other refrigerants).” – Source Page 21
    2. These substitutes may only be used in air conditioning equipment that meets all requirements in UL 60335–2–40.123 In cases where this appendix includes requirements more stringent than those of UL 60335–2–40, the appliance must meet the requirements of this appendix in place of the requirements in UL 60335–2–40.” – Source Page 21
    3. The charge size for the equipment must not exceed the maximum refrigerant mass determined according to UL 60335–2–40 for the room size where the air conditioner is used. The following markings must be attached at the locations provided and must be permanent:” (Click here and go to page 21/22 to read the text on the markings, it was too long to include in here.) 
    4. The equipment must have red Pantone Matching System (PMS) #185 or RAL 3020 marked pipes, hoses, or other devices through which the refrigerant passes, to indicate the use of a flammable refrigerant. This color must be applied at all service ports and other parts of the system where service puncturing or other actions creating an opening from the refrigerant circuit to the atmosphere might be expected and must extend a minimum of one (1) inch (25mm) in both directions from such locations and shall be replaced if removed.” – Source Page 22

Retail Food Refrigeration

These changes aren’t as big of a story as the previously mentioned air conditioners, but they are still worth mentioning. These focus on the retail food refrigeration industry specifically on medium temperature stand alone units. There were three additional refrigerants that would be deemed as acceptable with this new EPA rule: R-448A, R-449A, and R-449B. It is also worth mentioning that these were refrigerants were NOT rated as A2L from ASHRAE but instead just the standard A1 that we see with the current HFC refrigerants we use today such as R-134a, R-410A, and R-404A. So, this isn’t as big of a change.

Let’s take a look at these refrigerants:

  • R-448A – Blend of R-32, R-125, R-134a, R-1234ze, and R-1234yf.
    • GWP of 1,387
    • A1 Safety Rating from ASHRAE
  • R-449A – Blend of R-134a, R-1234yf, R-125, and R-32
    • GWP of 1,282.
    • A1 Safety Rating from ASHRAE
  • R-449B – Blend of R-32, R-125, R-134a, and R-1234yf
    • GWP of 1,296
    • A1 Safety Rating from ASHRAE

Also, like before with the air conditioners these new refrigerants would have use restrictions.  The difference here is that these refrigerants are almost seen as a last resort. See below from the EPA’s fact sheet:

“Acceptable only for use in new medium temperature standalone units where reasonable efforts have been made to ascertain that other alternatives are not technically feasible due to the inability to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.” – Source

Conclusion

As I stated a few times in this article this rule is NOT approved or finalized yet. It is still preliminary and it very well may change. If you would like to voice your opinion on the topic it is open to public comments for forty-five days from when the rule was published in the Federal Register. If you are thinking about making a comment I suggest you do it soon. If this rule does come to fruition we will be looking at a whole new demand for flammable refrigerant training for ALL of the residential and commercial contractors and technicians.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources:

Colorado

More dominoes fell last month when Colorado and Virginia announced that they will be phasing down HFC refrigerants. This now brings the total states acting, or working towards, phasing down HFC refrigerants to sixteen. If you count just the states that have moved forward with legislation or regulation then Colorado and Virginia is now the fifth and sixth. They now accompany California, Washington, Vermont, and New Jersey. Other states have committed to their own action in the near future, some of these include: Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Oregon, Delaware, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

All of these states mentioned above are part of what’s known as the United States Climate Alliance. This alliance was formed back in June 1st, of 2017 immediately after the Trump Administration pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. The goal of this alliance is to set a climate policy as a collection of states rather then one state at a time. It also gives bargaining power with the federal government and manufacturers. At this time the alliance is up to twenty-four states and is expected to continue growing. 

Towards the end of May Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission announced their new regulation known as ‘Regulation 22’ that intends to phase down the use of HFC refrigerants throughout the state. On May 21st Governor Northam of Virginia signed a law targeting HFC refrigerants as well. In both cases between Colorado and Virginia the new requirements closely mocked the EPA’s SNAP Rules 20 and 21.

As I had mentioned earlier, there are other states in the Climate Alliance that are expected to begun their own work on HFC refrigerants as well. So, why is all of this occurring at a state level? Well folks it goes back to a ruling back in 2017 where a federal court overturned the EPA’s SNAP Rules 20 and 21. These rules aimed at phasing down HFC refrigerants using the same authority that the EPA used to phase down CFC and HCFC refrigerants. The court ruled against them stating that their authority only extended to refrigerants with ozone depleting substances. It did not allow them to phase out HFC refrigerants which did not harm the Ozone but did contribute to global warming.

Since then there has been no update from the federal government on what the next steps will be. In essence, there has been no HFC phase down within the United States over the past few years. There was hope initially for the Montreal Protocol’s Kigali Amendment but that has stalled as the Trump Administration has not sent it to the Senate for ratification.

This is why we have seen states begun to announce their own HFC refrigerant phase down plans. The hope is to have so many states on board that manufacturers are forced to switch over to the more climate friendly refrigerants. With the addition of Colorado and Virginia we now have twenty-five percent of the United States’s GDP with a formal HFC phase down plan. If we add up the GDP percentage of all sixteen states that are considering HFCs laws then that GDP total increases to forty-five percent! (Source from Wikipedia) Imagine the impact on having nearly half the United States’s GDP with HFC phase down regulations. Businesses will have no choice but to adapt.

There is one major concern though about each state having their own policies. It will be a nightmare for businesses to comply. If California has one requirement, but Nevada has a different one and Arizona has a different one then how are you, as a business, going to adapt?  The good news here is that with the lack of a federal presence the United States Climate Alliance published their own model rule for future states that are looking to phase down HFC refrigerants. The hope is that with this model rule we will have a consistent rule state by state. States won’t have to make up their own regulations. This will make things much easier for manufacturers and distributors knowing that each state will have more or less similar rules. While researching for this article I found a quote from the the Climate Alliance team, “This (model) framework is designed to ensure all the states have substantially similar rules,” said Julie Cerqueira, Executive Director of the U.S. Climate Alliance. “It is essentially a mirror of SNAP.” – Source.

Technically, there is still hope for a federal response as well. There are bills in the Senate and the House being debated this summer. The aim of these bills will be to give the power back to the Environmental Protection Agency so that they can begin regulate HFC refrigerants like they had intended back in 2015 when they announced their famous SNAP Rules 20 and 21. However, I do not foresee these bills moving forward with the Trump Administration in office. They could perhaps be stalled until after the election cycle, but that is a gamble in itself. We could see a very different political climate come January of next year. Or, we could be right where we are today. This is why we see the states moving forward now. They are tired of waiting for federal action.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources:

 

Last week I saw a few headlines surface about R-1234yf that caught my attention. The premise of these articles was that the very popular HFO R-1234yf was toxic. Now, if true, this is a huge deal. There was already a significant battle in the European Union when R-1234yf was first being rolled out about the flammability risk and now… we may have a potential toxicity risk as well?

Let me back up for a moment here folks. First a brief history lesson, as many of you know the HFO R-1234yf was brought into the market as a replacement for the HFC R-134a. This was done due to R-134a very high Global Warming Potential number of one-thousand four-hundred and thirty. Every time R-134a was released into the atmosphere either by leak, accident, or on purpose it actively impacted Global Warming and Climate Change.

To prevent further damage to the climate automotive manufacturers begin transitioning away from 134a over to this new HFO. 1234yf only had a GWP of four. A remarkable difference when compared to 134a. The problem with 1234yf is that it is flammable. This flammability rating caused a lot of hesitation from automotive manufacturers. In fact one of them, Daimler, fought the change tooth and nail. Eventually, they came up with their own automotive air conditioning system using R-744 Carbon Dioxide.

Eventually the fight on the flammability risk was nullified and we began to see more and more vehicles switch over to R-1234yf. As I write this article today ninety percent of new vehicles are using this HFO refrigerant. Each year that passes we are seeing more and more manufacturers switch over. The flammable risk was accepted as a necessary risk for helping the environment.

The Study

Last week there was a study done by the Advancing Earth and Space Science association (AGU). AGU is a scientific research firm that works in growing the exchange of scientific knowledge through publishing studies and holding meetings. They are based out of Washington District of Columbia. One of their most recent studies found that R-1234yf is toxic. Now when I use the word toxic it is not like how other refrigerants are toxic. For example, if there is an ammonia leak then it can be extremely deadly. That is why that refrigerant is rated as a B2L from ASHRAE.

R-1234yf is still rated as an A2L refrigerant from ASHRAE. Class A rating on toxicity signifies refrigerants for which toxicity has not been identified at concentrations of less than or equal to four-hundred parts per million. The difference here is that this study focused instead on what the refrigerant does when released into the atmosphere, specifically on Trifluoroacetic acid. I wasn’t familiar with this type of acid so I had to do a bit of research.

“Trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) is a breakdown product of several hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC), regulated under the Montreal Protocol (MP), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) used mainly as refrigerants. Trifluoroacetic acid is (1) produced naturally and synthetically, (2) used in the chemical industry, and (3) a potential environmental breakdown product of a large number (>1 million) chemicals, including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and polymers. The contribution of these chemicals to global amounts of TFA is uncertain, in contrast to that from HCFC and HFC regulated under the MP.” – Source

As you can see from the above quote these Trifluoroacetic acids are found in all of the man made refrigerants such as HCFCs, HFCs, and HFOs. The difference though is the amount that is found in each classification of refrigerant. You see folks, it turns out that HFOs are significantly worse when it comes to TFAs. The below quote is from the study that AGU completed:

“Replacement of HFC‐134a with the short‐lived hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) HFO‐1234yf as the coolant in mobile air conditioners will lead to an increase in TFA deposition. The yield of TFA from HFC‐134a is <0.2, while the yield from HFO‐1234yf is 1. One model estimates replacement of HFC‐134a with HFO‐1234yf will result in annual TFA wet deposition of 160–240 μg m−2 in continental North America (Luecken et al., 2010), which is higher than the cumulative deposition during the last decade of record for each ice core (Devon Ice Cap, 110 μg m−2 (2005–2014); Mt. Oxford icefield, 127 μg m−2 (2007–2016)). Another model predicts annual TFA deposition of 42.3 μg m−2 to the area including the Devon Ice Cap (Wang et al., 2018). This represents an increase compared to our observed annual TFA fluxes from 2001 to 2014, which ranged from 3.9 to 21.5 μg m−2 a−1. Both models suggest a large future increase in TFA deposition in the Arctic compared to our measurements from 1970 to 2015.” – Source

That definitely paints a picture of the difference between HFCs and HFOs. The HFOs contribute five times as much TFA when broken down into the environment. The question now though is what impact will this have on the environment? Does everything need to change? The below quotes I found from National Library of Medicine. They go into the impacts that TFAs have and will have on the environment:

“Total contribution to existing amounts of TFA in the oceans as a result of the continued use of HCFCs, HFCs, and hydrofluoroolefines (HFOs) up to 2050 is estimated to be a small fraction (<7.5%) of the approximately 0.2 μg acid equivalents/L estimated to be present at the start of the millennium” – Source

“As an acid or as a salt TFA is low to moderately toxic to a range of organisms. Based on current projections of future use of HCFCs and HFCs, the amount of TFA formed in the troposphere from substances regulated under the MP is too small to be a risk to the health of humans and environment. However, the formation of TFA derived from degradation of HCFC and HFC warrants continued attention, in part because of a long environmental lifetime and due many other potential but highly uncertain sources.” – Source

Conclusion

So the question now is what will happen next? Will this be enough to warrant another phase down in the next five, ten, or twenty years? If so, then what will be the next logical step for automotive applications? Also, it is not just automotive applications. Could this TFA problem found in 1234yf carry over to other up and coming HFO refrigerants?

Should we continue to pursue the HFO route, or should we begin looking at natural refrigerants such as CO2, Ammonia, and Hydrocarbons more seriously? Time will tell I guess…

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Survey

As you all know, a few days ago I sent out a survey to the industry asking questions on hydrocarbon refrigerants.  The goal of this was to help me understand how folks who are working in the industry everyday feel about them. Does it make sense to switch over to hydrocarbons? Should the charge limits be increased? What parts of the world have adopted them, what parts are hesitant to move forward?

This was a new idea for the RefrigerantHQ website and I had high hopes for the results. After letting the surveys come in for the past couple days I am more then happy with the participation that I received. As I write this article eighty surveys have come in. Now, I know that may not sound like a lot but I believe it is enough to at least give us a glimpse on what the industry thinks of hydrocarbons.

What I was most happy with is that we received feedback from across the globe. Yes, the majority of the surveys, about sixty-five percent, came from the United States. But, there were many others from around the world. Fifteen percent of responses came from various countries within the European Union. Seven percent came from Australia. Five percent came from east and central Asia, and another five percent came from Africa. We had some come from the Middle East and even one entry from the island of Fiji.

Hydrocarbon Training

One of the questions I asked on the survey was about hydrocarbon training. In order to handle hydrocarbons applications you have to have proper training. These are flammable refrigerants and if a laymen is trying to repair them there is risk. That is why I saw this question as so important. How many of us out there have had proper training on handling these refrigerants?

With the results I received I was able to break it down by country and also by type of company. Let me first start with training percentages by country. In this I am only going to include the European Union and the United States as the other datasets from other countries was too small to make an accurate judgment. When participants were asked if they have received hydrocarbon training eighty-two percent of people from the EU stated that they had. I also added up the results from all of the ‘other’ countries which includes Africa, Australia, Asia, etc. Their training percentage was at seventy-five percent. If we compare the same question to the United States we see sixty-two percent.

It is obvious to see that the United States is lagging behind other countries when it comes to hydrocarbon training. I had suspected this already before the survey was taken out. There is a certain fear associated with these types of refrigerants, especially within the United States. As an example, a survey participant stated,

“Use of any flammable, explosive, or toxic refrigerants should be outlawed. Anyone who installs one will eventually find himself being sued when it explodes. The natural refrigerants like Ammonia are toxic, and the natural refrigerants like CO2 are explosive because of their exceedingly high ambient pressures. This makes them very dangerous for anyone to work on.”

There were many results similar to the one I quoted above. They weren’t all from the United States either. There were just as many negative comments on hydrocarbons from the European Union as well. Here are a few:

“The use of hydrocarbon refrigerants such as R290, R600, R600a etc need to controlled very carefully. of course, I understand that they are low global warmers, but they are also explosive & present a very significant safety hazard. No good in reducing global warming if we blow ourselves up in the process, ie witness the disaster at Grenfell Tower in London where many people died to the use of hydrocarbons initially in the refrigeration unit & then in the cladding. In my view, the European are going entirely in the wrong direction by easing the restrictions on HCs in EN378. There are other, and much safer, ways of reducing global warming, both direct & indirect, than enabling HCs to become mainstream refrigerants, which would be a disaster & inevitably lead to many accidents & fatalities. Indeed, we as a company are working on such alternatives which are non flammable & with low GWPs.” – Survey Participant from the EU

Another One:

“In Europe for chiller/HPs we’re introducing low GWP (but not so low) HFC R32, R454B, R452B classified A2L. It is already hard to introduce these gases to customers used to work with no-flammable A1 (R410A basically). So I think A3 hydrocarbons would be definitely not accepted at all, except for some niches where they have already some market share.” – Survey Participant from the EU

Reading these comments had me look at the training numbers again. This time I looked at who has been trained by company type regardless of country. This way of looking at the data revealed a lot more. Over eighty percent of the entries from distributors and manufacturers have had hydrocarbon training. The same goes with the automotive sector, but that is most likely due to the HFO-1234yf slight flammability. Now if we look at the training percentage on HVAC contractors the number is only fifty percent. Because of this low number it dragged down the entire overall training percentage to sixty-five percent.

What does all of that mean? There are two things at work here. I believe part of this is a fear of the unknown but another part, just as big, is a legitimate fear of flammability risk. The flammability danger will always be there but what we can do is work on better training to alleviate the fear of the unknown. Looking at the percentages we recorded through the survey there is a gap in training offered or required when working with hydrocarbon refrigerants. Like it or not folks it is the way the industry is moving. HFCs are on the way out and many companies are moving towards hydrocarbon refrigerants. Training needs to occur.

From what I can gather there is one country that is doing an outstanding job when it comes to using hydrocarbons everyday and also ensuring that the proper training is not only given but is required. That country is Australia. I received a few surveys from over there and each one of them had great feedback. Here are a couple of their responses:

“Yes, we work with R600a as well and to be honest we have found no issues with either of them except for the actual weight allowance so it is only good for the smaller self contained cabinets. We would like the charge luted to 500grams so them a much wider self contained market can come int play and as this refrigerant is very efficient it also helps with power / ozone.
We have good training over here for these refrigerants from our training colleges and also the refrigerant suppliers which means after the training you actually get a certificate so you can purchase it legally. Now over here they are talking about putting it A/C units which is madness as these units can hold weights up to 5kgs or more. So far we have said we will not support this maddness as it is far too dangerous.” – Survey Participant from Australia

Another response from Australia:

“Firstly, because approximately only 40% of original charge is used to obtain equivalent super heat & sub cooling settings, then the flammability is reduced to the lower charge with a hydrocarbon. We have been using hydrocarbons now for approximately 4 -5 years with no issues what so ever. The most important aspect I see is that techs or tradies using hydrocarbon refrigerants are not “cowboys” of the industry. We have attended many installations done by cowboys of the industry and they obviously do not own or do not know how to use the following:

  • Nitrogen Regulator & Nitrogen
  • Vacuum Pump
  • Digital Vacuum Gauge
  • Leak Detector

Their installations leak due to badly cut copper and no de-burring, no oil used on the seat or shoulder of the flare and the use of leak lock on a flare – all incorrect and bad installation practices.
Then they fail to pressurize the system to at least 1.5 times operating pressures of the refrigerant. Next they fail to vacuum the system correctly, ie. Evacuate to under 500 microns, isolate the vacuum pump and ensure vacuum does not rise beyond 500 microns.

Until installers can get this right then to me they are a hazard to the community if allowed to work with hydrocarbon refrigerant. Hydrocarbon refrigerant is an excellent refrigerant in the hands of good techs and fridgies. As here in Australia a person does not have to be licensed to buy Hydrocarbon refrigerant, unlike not being able to buy Hydrofluorocarbons because they are not licensed opens up a Pandora’s box to probable fires etc, not acceptable.” – Survey Participant from Australia

I really liked the term ‘cowboys’ that the last participant used. I am sure you have all seen the cowboys of the industry or even the homeowner/business owner who thinks they can do it themselves. When R-404A or R-410A is being used the worst that happens it that it gets vented into the atmosphere by someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. With hydrocarbons though it is a different story. A cowboy can cause significant damage and risk to themselves and others.

So the question now to everyone is how do we as an industry get better at training? We all know hydrocarbons are coming. What is the correct answer here? How can we minimize the risk? Do we introduce new national training legislation for each country? The biggest gap in training right now are the contractors who are actually in the field working on these systems. What can we do to provide the knowledge they need to keep them safe?

Conclusion

This article only covered the training section of the survey questions. I will be doing another article on the charge limit and preferred refrigerant choice of the future in the coming weeks. Hopefully by then I have even more survey results back!

While I hope to achieve more survey results the next time we do one of these in the future I am more then pleased to see this initial pilot go so well. I will see how this results article does on traffic. If this performs well also, then I will begin thinking of an additional survey for a month or two down the road. Perhaps we could turn it into a quarterly industry survey. I believe it could be quite the success. With that in mind, if any of you have ideas on what you would like to see in the next survey please reach out to me.

Also, if you’d like to see more detailing statistics on this survey please reach out to me.

Thank you all for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Greetings everyone. I hope that you and your families are staying safe and healthy during these recent times. It seems that the COVID crisis has slowed most everything down across the world including the HVAC industry. I have been watching the headlines  but have not found anything major enough to write an article on in the past few weeks. That got me thinking though, if there isn’t trending news at this time then why not attempt to make our own?

I had the idea this evening to put together a short survey for my readers. I assure you that it is quite short and will only take a few minutes of your time. The topic is hydrocarbon refrigerants such as R-290 propane and R-600a isobutane. The goal here is to get enough feedback from the readers so that I can not only disseminate everyone’s feelings about hydrocarbons but am also able to find a consensus amongst the industry. It will also give a unique view by area of the world. I am very interested to see how thoughts differ between United States and other countries.

If this goes well I will write a followup article that goes over the results and what some of the most frequent comments are. If this doesn’t go well, then you can be assured that I will go back to our standard article format. Either way, thanks for reading!

[formidable id=2]

As most of you know there is pending legislation within the United States Senate that aims to phase down HFC refrigerants across the country. It is titled the ‘S.2754 – American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2019.‘ I wrote about this when it was first introduced back in October of 2019.  This legislation is yet another attempt to push HFC refrigerants out of use in the United States. We’ve seen the EPA’s SNAP rules from 2015 get over turned. We’ve seen the Kigali Amendment stall. Will it be any surprise if this proposed bill stalls as well? I think not.

That being said it does appear that the bill is picking up steam within the Senate. I took a look at the bill today and noticed that it now has thirty-three Senators as cosponsors. While there are still many hurdles to get through it may be time to start taking it seriously. As I said earlier the bill aims to phase down HFC refrigerants across the country. This covers all of your popular refrigerants such as R-134a, R-32, R-125, and R-143a. (There are others as well, for a full listing visit the actual bill text.) It should be noted that while R-410A and R-404A are not mentioned their components are… and if the components are phased down then the blends will be too.

Just like with other phase downs the approach is staggered over multiple years. The aim is to reduce usage based off of the baseline usage quotas from January 1st, 2011 to December 31st, 2013. The timeline is rather generous giving nearly sixteen years to achieve their final phase down goal. The proposed timeline in this bill looks like this:

Date% of Production Baseline% of Consumption Baseline
2020–202390 percent90 percent
2024–202860 percent60 percent
2029–203330 percent30 percent
2034–203520 percent20 percent
2036 and thereafter15 percent15 percent.

What is pushing this bill though folks is not the timeline but the benefits. Yes, according to the bill if we move forward with this plan to phase down HFC refrigerants then the United States will see thirty-three-thousand new manufacturing jobs created, billions invested into innovation/research, and over twelve billion per year in positive trade balance. At first glance who wouldn’t vote for this? It seems like a ‘jobs’ bill. Since its introduction I have seen very little arguments against it. It has been mostly positive from the larger players within the industry so it definitely got my attention when I found a dissenting opinion that was submitted to the Senate.

The Argument Against

At this point the bill is still in the Senate Environment and Public Works committee and has not been pushed to the Senate for a vote. In an effort to gain more knowledge on the industry and the impact of the potential bill the Senate introduced an information gathering session between March 25th and ending on April 8th. This period allowed submission of written testimony from any parties. There was also a similar period for questions to be submitted that ended on April 15th another period for answers to be submitted to the committee by April 29th (Tomorrow).

It was during the first period we had mentioned, March 25th to April 8th, that we saw the submission of a written testimony from Dave Stevenson at the Caesar Rodney Institute. The testimony can be found by clicking here or by visiting our sources page at the bottom of this article. There are a few arguments that he presented. The first is the assumption that if we pass this bill then the United States will become a leader in refrigerant technology which will cause a trade balance surplus in the billions. But as he argues, since the year 2000 the trade imbalance has been growing. Each year the United States is importing more and more refrigerant and related equipment while our exports are only slightly growing. The majority of these imports are coming from Mexico and Canada with China and Korea not too far behind. So, what will stop this from continuing? How will this bill incentivize these companies to start manufacturing in America again? Will we really see the new jobs that the bill promises?

The other argument, and the biggest one, is the factor of cost. As we all know the cost of HFC refrigerants versus the cost of HFO refrigerants is dramatic. For a perfect example just look at R-134a versus R-1234yf. R-134a can be anywhere from three to five dollars a pound. 1234yf can be anywhere between fifty to seventy dollars a pound. In the best case scenario we are still looking at a nine-hundred percent increase in cost.

Who will be paying this extra cost? All of this will be an extra burden on businesses and eventually end user consumers. Again, going with the car example we could see standard air conditioned repairs see their price tag raised by over a one-hundred dollars all because of HFC versus HFO refrigerant. Now imagine this extra cost passed on all air conditioning and refrigeration equipment found in homes, offices, gas stations, grocery stores, and everywhere else. There will be a significant impact to businesses and end users.

Conclusion

I believe Mr. Stevenson makes some valid points here. When the bill was proposed back in October I was very skeptical of the thousands of jobs and the billions of dollars of increased revenue. It all seems like a pipe dream that is told so that we can finally phase down HFC refrigerants. It is difficult to say if the promises in this bill will hold true. That being said, I believe we do need a comprehensive HFC legislation passed at the Federal level. Otherwise we are going to have a smattering of various state regulations that all vary slightly from state to state. This will make business difficult and burdensome for manufacturers and contractors. Having one centralized policy across the country will make things much easier for everyone.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources:

I was thinking about this very topic earlier today. As we all know HFC refrigerants are being phased down across the world. While we are still lagging behind within the United States we can be assured that HFC’s do not have much of a future. There are many states pushing their own individual legislation on HFCs as well as bills in the Senate and the House. We have seen it all before with CFCs and most recently HCFCs with the phase out of R-22 finalizing at the beginning of this year. It is something we have grown accustom too and something that many business owners have to adapt to.

There have been a few proposed solutions to replace popular HFC refrigerants such as R-404A, R-134a, R-410A, and R-507. The first is getting back to our roots and using classic refrigerants such as hydrocarbons, ammonia, or carbon dioxide. These refrigerants have all been tried and true and while they each have their own specific downsides it may be time to look at them again. Over the decades technology has improved these natural refrigerant systems. There aren’t as many failures in the high pressure carbon dioxide systems. There are more specific safety precautions and charge limits built into hydrocarbon systems. Best of all, these natural refrigerants are all nearly climate neutral. They have no Ozone Depletion Potential and very low Global Warming Potential. The obvious downsides is that they can be expensive when compared to artificial refrigerant systems and there is also the flammability, toxicity, and high pressure risks.

The other proposed solution and one which is taking on steam right now are the new classification of refrigerants known as Hydrofluoroolefins, or HFOs. These HFO refrigerants are synthetic refrigerants just like their HFC predecessors. The difference is that the HFO refrigerants are more environmentally friendly then the very high Global Warming Potential HFC refrigerants. One of the most successful HFC to HFO switchovers can be found in the automotive market. Rewind about six or seven years and every vehicle was using the HFC R-134a. 134a has a GWP of one-thousand four-hundred and thirty. Around 2014/2015 vehicle manufacturers begin switching their new models away from HFC 134a and over to the newer HFO known as 1234yf. This yf refrigerant has a GWP number of only four. That is a huge difference between the two refrigerants.

The Global Warming Potential scale is a measurement of how much impact a specific gas has on the environment, or more specifically on global warming. The common HFC refrigerants we use today are known as ‘Greenhouse Gases,’ or ‘Super Polluters.’ These gases contribute a significant amount to the warming of the planet, more so then standard carbon dioxide. In fact the GWP scale is based off of carbon dioxide, or R-744. R-744’s GWP is one. So, any gas that has a GWP number greater then one can be seen as harmful to the environment. This is precisely why we are seeing the phase down of HFC refrigerants across the globe.

Now we know that there are no perfect refrigerants and alternatives to HFCs are still going to measure on the GWP scale. It is now just a question of how much? In the example we gave above on automotive applications we saw that switching from R-134a over to R-1234yf we were able to shrink the GWP number by over one-thousand fourteen-hundred. That is a significant amount and I can see the HFO R-1234yf being used in cars in the distant future. This is what we want to see when moving applications away from HFCs and over to HFOs.

The question now though, and the reason I am writing this article, is what to do when a new alternative HFO refrigerant is suggested or used even though that new refrigerant still have a high GWP? Earlier today I was reading an article on how the National Hockey League has been transitioning their ice rinks away from their older R-22 or R-507 systems and over to a newer HFO refrigerant known as R-449A (Under the brand name of Opteon XP40).

This is all well and good but when I looked at the GWP of R-449A I was quite surprised. This HFO refrigerant has a GWP measurement of one-thousand four-hundred and forty-nine. That is NOT a low number. While, yes, it is significantly lower then R-404A and R-507 it is still high. Let us look at a few numbers here. R-404A and R-507 has a GWP of nearly four-thousand. By switching away from these HFC refrigerants and over to R-449A there has been significant impact on the environment. However, if we look at switching from an old R-22 system over to R-449A there is much less of a savings. R-22 has a GWP of around eighteen-hundred. The difference here is that when switching over to R-449A you are removing the Ozone Depletion Potential risk that you have with R-22.

My concern is for the businesses that are investing in these all new machines with HFO refrigerants. In the example of the article I mentioned above, lets say that an ice rink retired their old R-22 system and installed a new HFO R-449A system. While they are reducing their environmental footprint at the time what happens in the future when it is decided that refrigerants with a GWP of over one-thousand are no longer suitable? Or, let us go even stricter and say that refrigerants with GWP of no higher then five-hundred? Stricter regulations and laws are always being introduced on refrigerants and I just do not see it making sense to investing in a whole new system only to have it deemed as environmentally harmful in five, ten, or fifteen years later.

Now, I am not saying all HFO refrigerants are like this. There are many that have very low GWP just like the 1234yf that we had mentioned earlier. The question on my mind though is should businesses really be looking at these HFO refrigerants that come with a high GWP? If it was me then I would only look at the HFOs with a high GWP if I am aiming to retrofit my existing system away from an even higher GWP refrigerant. If instead I am looking to purchase a whole new system then I would either go with a natural refrigerant or with an HFO refrigerant that has a very low GWP number. This would significantly reduce risk of another phase out on the refrigerant you selected.

RefrigerantClassGWP
R-452AHFO2141
R-407FHFO1825
R-449AHFO1282
R-448AHFO1273
R-452BHFO675
R-513AHFO631
R-450AHFO547
R-454BHFO466
R-455AHFO146
R-1234yfHFO4
R-514AHFO2
R-1234ZeHFO1
R-1233ZDHFO1

The table above shows the various HFO refrigerants out there and their related Global Warming Potential number. You’ll notice that more then half of them have a GWP of over five-hundred. How long will these refrigerants be around? Will they be sustainable in the future? Or, will they end up biting the dust just like CFCs, HCFCs, and now HFCs?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

 

RefrigerantHQ's Pressure Charts

One of the very first steps when it comes to diagnosing your home air conditioner, refrigerator, or even your vehicle’s air conditioner is understanding the temperature and the current pressure that your system is operating at. Having these facts along with the saturation point, the subcool, and the superheat  numbers for the refrigerant you are working on are essential when it comes to really understanding what is going wrong with your system.

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

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

R-449A XP40 Basic Info & PT Chart

R-449A is a non-azeotropic blend comprised of R-134a (25.7%), R-1234yf (25.3%), R-125 (24.7%), and R-32 (24.3%). This refrigerant falls into the new classification of refrigerants known as Hydrofluoroolefin family. You may also see R-449A labeled as XP40 or under the brand name Opteon which comes from the Chemours company. It has an A1 rating from Ashrae which means that it is one of safest refrigerants out there. (As safe as your standard HFC refrigerants like R-134a or R-404A.) This is a big point of note as most HFO refrigerants are either flammable or slightly flammable, but 449A is not.

This XP40 refrigerant was designed as a replacement for the commonly used HFC R-404A. The problem with R-404A is its immense Global Warming Potential of nearly four-thousand. R-449A is able to cut this number down to 1,397 which is almost a seventy percent reduction. It is also between eight to twelve percent more efficient then your standard R-404A systems.

Just like R-404A, R-449A’s primary applications range from industrial refrigeration and air conditioning over to commercial refrigeration found in your typical grocery store or gas station. It can even be used in ice rinks if needed. It can be used in new equipment and can also replace R-22, R-404A, R-507, and R-407A in existing equipment as long as the proper retrofitting is done. The good news is that the retrofitting procedure is quite simplistic compared to other alternative refrigerants. For a full retrofit guide click this link to be taken to the official Chemours official document.

Lastly, is your pressure temperature chart. As always if you see anything that looks incorrect please reach out to me and I will get it updated as soon as I can.

Temp (F)Temp (C)Liquid Pressure (PSIG)Vapor Pressure (PSIG)
-94-70-11.18-12.34
-90.4-68-10.71-12
-86.8-66-10.19-11.62
-83.2-64-9.62-11.19
-79.6-62-8.99-10.73
-76-60-8.3-10.21
-72.4-58-7.54-9.63
-68.8-56-6.71-9
-65.2-54-5.8-8.31
-61.6-52-4.81-7.55
-58-50-3.74-6.72
-54.4-48-2.58-5.81
-50.8-46-1.32-4.82
-47.2-440.04-3.75
-43.6-421.5-2.58
-40-403.08-1.32
-36.4-384.780.04
-32.8-366.61.52
-29.2-348.563.1
-25.6-3210.654.81
-22-3012.886.64
-18.4-2815.278.61
-14.8-2617.8110.71
-11.2-2420.5112.96
-7.6-2223.3915.37
-4-2026.4417.93
-0.4-1829.6820.66
3.2-1633.123.56
6.8-1436.7326.65
10.4-1240.5629.92
14-1044.6133.39
17.6-848.8837.06
21.2-653.3740.95
24.8-458.145.05
28.4-263.0849.38
32068.3153.95
35.6273.7958.77
39.2479.5563.83
42.8685.5869.16
46.4891.974.76
501098.5180.65
53.612105.4286.82
57.214112.6493.29
60.816120.17100.07
64.418128.04107.17
6820136.24114.59
71.622144.78122.36
75.224153.67130.47
78.826162.92138.95
82.428172.55147.8
8630182.56157.02
89.632192.95166.65
93.234203.75176.67
96.836214.95187.12
100.438226.56198
10440238.61209.31
107.642251.08221.1
111.244264.02233.33
114.846277.39246.07
118.448291.23259.3
12250305.56273.05
125.652320.36287.33
129.254335.68302.17
132.856351.48317.58
136.458367.81333.57
14060384.67350.19
143.662402.07367.43
147.264420.02385.34
150.866438.52403.96
154.468457.61423.28
15870477.27443.4

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Earlier this week the United States Department of Commerce (DOC) made a preliminary ruling on hydroflurocarbon refrigerant components coming in from China. The components are brought into the United States and then mixed or blended domestically in an effort to get around the 2016 antidumping tariffs. The 2016 ruling installed tariffs on the blended HFC refrigerants themselves such as R404A, R407A, R407C, R410A, and R507A. Because this ruling did NOT pertain to the actual components of these blended refrigerants the United States saw an over four-hundred percent increase in imports of R-32, R-125, and R-143a in the years after the initial 2016 ruling. To top it off, there was also nearly an eighty percent decrease of finished HFC blends being imported into the United States. It was obvious to anyone watching that the tariffs from 2016 had no impact.

It was in early April of last year that a new antidumping circumvention case was launched with the Department of Commerce. This case focused instead on the actual components to create these refrigerant blends. After some months of debate the DOC announced an official inquiry investigation would began in June of 2019. Since then it had been relatively quiet up until this week where the DOC preliminarily found that the imports of these refrigerant components are indeed circumventing the previous antidumping order. As a result of this the DOC ordered that Customs and Borders Protection suspend liquidation on these imports and also require large cash deposits on imports of the impacted refrigerant components.

Now I’ll be the first to tell you that I am not an import/export expert. At the time of writing this article I wasn’t fully aware what liquidation was when it came to customs enforcement. But, like anything, it can be learned. From my understanding and research the act of liquidation with imports is an agreement between Customs and Border Protection and the importer on duties, fees, and tariffs of the shipment. The CBP normally has a 314 day period from the time of import to the date of automatic liquidation. During this time the importer and CBP may go back and forth determining the proper fees that are owed. After the liquidation has occurred though the importer can no longer be responsible for tariffs or other new fees that occurred after… unless:

The one-year statutory liquidation requirement may also be suspended by statute or due to court action. Actions that might suspend liquidation include countervailing or anti-dumping duty investigations. Because the entry remains open, the importer is liable for any duty orders resulting from resolution of these investigations.” – Source ShippingSolutions.com

This is exactly what the DOC ruled this week on these HFC component refrigerants. The DOC ordered CBP to suspend liquidations on R-32, R-125, and R-143a as of June 18th, 2019. (The initial date of the investigation.) What this means is that all of the products that were imported at or after June 18th, 2019 COULD be subject to tariffs if the Department of Commerce rules in favor of the antidumping duties. The DOC is also requiring cash deposits to be submitted in estimation of what the proposed tariffs will be (Ranging from 101.82 to 285.73%). Lastly, the DOC announced that their final decision on this has been pushed back to July 2nd, 2020.

As you can imagine there is still quite a bit that is unclear at this time. I cannot imagine the position business owners or importers are in if this gets passed. Having to pay duties on product that you brought in nearly a year ago… that has most likely already been sold. It is going to hurt. This holds especially true the way the economy is right now. This latest news this week has also caused the prices on HFC refrigerants to rise and rise. A major refrigerant manufacturer announced that they were suspending all of their published pricing until further notice. This just shows you how much of an impact this ruling had on the marketplace. Now normally when we see this huge price increase it starts to settle back down… and we may see that as the final ruling is still three months away.

Lastly, there is a glimmer of hope for some companies out there. The DOC has said that they may entertain exclusions to a positive antidumping ruling. These exclusions could apply to companies who import these components but claim that they are NOT blending the refrigerant and are using it for other means. There was also talk of exclusion if the company doing the importing is an HFC refrigerant manufacturer as well. This can get a little gray though as what constitutes a manufacturer? If I am blending in house does that make me a manufacturer? Personally, I feel like these exclusions could get us down a rabbit hole and eventually lead us to more loop holes for companies to get around tariffs.

But Wait Folks… There’s More!

Another angle of this story folks is that it is not just about China anymore. Yes, it really has always been about China but there has been yet another loophole found since the 2016 ruling on HFC blended refrigerants. This time we had companies importing the Chinese blended refrigerants into India and then American companies buying these products from India. Along with our previous topic there was a second preliminary ruling decided this week by the DOC:

Further, in response to a request from the American HFC Coalition (the petitioners), we initiated an anti-circumvention inquiry, pursuant to section 781(b) of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (the Act), and 19 CFR 351.225(h), to determine whether HFC blends, containing HFC components from India and China, that are blended in India prior to importation into the United States, are subject to the Order. Based on the information submitted by interested parties and the analysis below, we recommend that, pursuant to section 781(b) of the Act, Commerce preliminary find that imports of HFC blends R-404A, R-407A, R-407C, R-410A, and R-507A/R-507 produced in India using one or more HFC components of Chinese origin, that are blended in India prior to importation into the United States, are circumventing the Order.”

The full scope of this antidumping investigation covers HFC blends R-404A, R-407A, R-407C, R-410A, and R-507A/R-507 produced in India using one or more HFC components of Chinese origin. This investigation started on the same day of the previous one, June 18th, 2019. In some cases the companies were importing fully blended product from China to India and then to the United States.

In other cases though R-32 would be imported from China to India and then an India company would blend it with domestic R-125. They would then import the finished R-410A product from India into the United States. You see the first way of importing the fully blended product from China and into India didn’t work as well as they still had to state the country of origin on their commercial invoice… but by doing some of the blending process in India they could claim that the country of origin was India.

For the reasons discussed above, and in accordance with 19 CFR 351.225(d) and (k)(1), we recommend finding that R-410A from India is not within the plain scope language of the Order because the Order covers HFC blends from China. However, U.S. imports of HFC blends from India consist of components imported from China, which are further blended in India into subject HFC blends, prior to being exported to the United States. Therefore, we recommend that, pursuant to section 781(b) of the Act and 19 CFR 351.225(h), Commerce issue a preliminary affirmative circumvention determination that imports of HFC blends R-404A, R-407A, R-407C, R-410A, and R-507A/R-507 produced in India using one or more HFC component of Chinese origin, are circumventing the Order.”

At this time it is not known exactly what percentages will be installed on these imports from India but in the document was a referenced amount of 216.37 percent. If this does go into effect then the India manufacturer will have to prove to the CBP that they have not bought or imported any Chinese refrigerant components in the last twelve months. So, the proposed tariff isn’t necessarily on India… but China.

Conclusion

All of this folks just seems to be a game of whack-a-mole. It seems that when the Department of Commerce makes a ruling it only takes a few months for some businesses and companies to find a loophole to get around it. Everyone is looking for that competitive edge… even if it isn’t the most ethical way to do it. After this summer passes and these two anti-dumping cases have either been passed or rejected there will always be more. That I can assure you. Heck, just a few months ago there was another new antidumping filed on R-32. Who knows what the next one will be…

So, the only real question I have here is if retroactive duties are imposed can the companies who have been importing survive the hit? Can they survive those tariffs coming all at once? Or, will we begin to see a consolidation the marketplace by having some companies fold?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

 

Yesterday a Federal Court of Appeals ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency. This is a bit different then what we have seen over the past few years. In previous rulings the courts have been ruling against the Obama Era regulations and policies. This time though the court’s ruling struck down a rule made by the EPA during the Trump Administration. The court restored a prohibition on switching from ozone depleting substances to HFCs in uses such as large refrigeration systems in supermarkets.

In other words, lets say you have a supermarket that is running an old HCFC R-22 system. It needs to be replaced and soon before a major failure occurs. During the Obama EPA and up until a few years ago you would NOT be able to replace your R-22 system with a high Global Warming Potential HFC refrigerant as this was seen as harmful to the environment. Instead business owners had to work with more climate friendly refrigerants such as R-744, R-717, hydrocarbons, and the newer HFO lines from Honeywell and Chemours. These refrigerants had a low GWP number and had no Ozone Depletion Potential.

As most of you know, in 2017 a federal court ruled against the EPA’s suggested HFC phase down plan. The plan, known as SNAP Rules 20 and 21 aimed at phasing down high GWP HFC refrigerants such as R-404A and R-134a. About a year after this ruling the Trump Administration’s EPA announced that they would be rescinding all HFC regulations in response to the previous year’s court ruling. We also just saw another ruling by the EPA similar to this a few months ago when they announced they were removing the HFC leak regulations. (Article can be found here on this.)

In reference to today’s court decision, the EPA’s actions in 2018 allowed business owners to move their R-22 HCFC system over to an R-404A HFC system. This is what the court restored yesterday. The courts ruled that the EPA acted illegally in 2018 when it vacated this particular rule. The reason for their ruling was that the EPA did not allow for a notice and a comment period on their 2018 announcement to rescind the HFC regulations.

The case itself was pushed shortly after the EPA’s announcement in 2018. It was brought by the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and a collection of states with New York leading the way.  Obviously, I have not ready every page of the documents but I was able to pull some excerpts from the document itself as well as from some of the key players.

The Mexichem court struck down (or, “vacated”) only part of the HFC rule. It upheld and left in place other parts of the rule. But the Administrator lifted the entire HFC rule – even the parts the court approved. And he did it with no rulemaking. No proposal, no opportunity to comment. This is doubly unlawful. ” – Lissa Lynch from NRDC

Another quote, this time from the court ruling document itself:

Notice and comment rule making is a central part of the administrative framework set forth in the APA and the Clean Air Act. When an agency issues a legislative rule by exercising its delegated authority to establish new obligations with the force of law, it must follow these procedures. In the 2018 Guidance, however, EPA simply interpreted the immediate and necessary consequences of our decision in Mexichem and left rewriting the regulatory framework for future notice and comment rulemaking. Because the 2018 Guidance advised the public of the EPA’s interpretation of legal obligations created by this court, it was an interpretive rule properly issued without notice and comment procedures. I respectfully dissent.” – Source

One more quote this time going into what the EPA did in 2018 and how it did not require comments or follow proper procedures:

In 2015, EPA issued a regulation disallowing the use of HFCs as a substitute for ozone-depleting substances. That rule was challenged in our court in Mexichem Fluor, Inc. v. EPA, 866 F.3d 451 (D.C. Cir. 2017). We determined that EPA could validly forbid current users of ozone-depleting substances from  switching to HFCs. But we also concluded that EPA lacked authority to force users who had already switched to HFCs to make a second switch to a different substitute. We thus vacated the rule in part and remanded to the agency.

On remand, even though we had sustained EPA’s bar against use of HFCs with regard to entities who were still using ozone-depleting substances, the agency decided to implement our decision by suspending the rule’s listing of HFCs as unsafe substitutes in its entirety, meaning that even current users of ozone-depleting substances can now shift to HFCs. And EPA did so without going through notice-and-comment procedures.” – Official Court Document Source

Conclusion

So, what does all this mean? In the short term it means that business owners can no longer move their older CFC or HCFC systems over to HFC refrigerants. They will be forced to go with a lower GWP alternative. In the long term though it is quite uncertain. I was expecting a string of rulings in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Trump Administration. I’m not advocating for that… it just the way the wind has been blowing lately.

Who knows though, maybe the winds have changed and we may begin to see a tighter grip on HFCs at a federal level.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources:

The other day I was reading an article from Hydrocarbons21.com on the prospect of using R-290 propane in refrigerated transportation. The headline caught my eye and dragged me in. The company Transfrig has been experimenting with the idea of using R-290 propane in their refrigerated trucks. The idea is still in its infancy but I believe it has a lot of opportunity within the United States and the rest of the world.

The company Transfrig is based out of South Africa and has been around since 2002. They specialize in transport refrigeration and aim to be the number one choice for businesses within Africa. In recent years they have also expanded internationally to countries including Hong Kong, China, the Middle East, Libya, Liberia, Australia and Nigeria. In 2018 Transfrig was acquired by the automotive research group out of Paris known as Valeo.

The choice for R-290 for their new refrigerant was a unique one. They had originally looked at using R-744 but after some further research they decided they wanted to stay with a subcritical system. The hydrocarbon R-290 has been around for centuries and was one of the first refrigerants used before we saw CFC/HCFC refrigerants come to market. Propane is not going anywhere. It is also one of the best refrigerants out there when it comes to environmental impact. R-290 has a Global Warming Impact of only three and has no Ozone Depletion Potential.

Also, along with the lower GWP using R-290 for refrigerated transportation is more efficient then R-404A. In fact it has between a fifteen to twenty-five percent better coefficient of performance (COP) in medium temperature applications and between a ten to thirty percent COP increase in lower temperature applications. This increased efficiency also translates into around a sixteen percent savings in diesel usage. You get the benefit of having a very low Global Warming Potential refrigerant as well as having increased system efficiency for both the refrigeration system as well as the diesel engine.

The proposed unit from Transfrig uses a charge of only one point three to one point four pounds. That is an eighty percent decrease in charge when compared to your standard R-404A models. (A 404A unit could have between 6 and 8 pound charge.) Not only is R-290 cheaper then R-404A but you will also need less per recharge.

Drawbacks

Obviously the biggest fear here when using a hydrocarbon like R-290 is the chance of ignition. Over the evolution of refrigerants certain countries have adopted use of hydrocarbons in everyday use while other countries, like the United States, have shied away from mainstream hydrocarbon usage. Here in the US we have always preferred safety over climate, but times are changing and the push for climate friendly refrigerants are gaining traction.

The good news here is that there are a few good points here to help alleviate some of these flammability concerns. The first is that we had mentioned earlier the charge of these systems is quite small at less then two pounds. That is about ten percent of the propane that you’d find in your standard grill tank. (Yes, I am aware that propane used on grills and refrigerant are different.) The point I’m making here is that it is quite a small charge.

You can look at this another way too folks, almost all new cars nowadays are using the newer HFO 1234yf refrigerant. This refrigerant is classified as slightly flammable and the typical charge on a car can range between one to four pounds of refrigerant. So, you are looking at either the same, or even a smaller, charge then what is already in your car that you drive everyday. It puts things into perspective.

Transfrig also understands the concerns of possible ignition. To compensate for this have have installed a leak detection system that alerts the driver if the system falls below fifty percent charge capacity. If this does happen an alarm sounds and it is then recommended for the driver to pull over, open the container hold, and let it air out. After some time it can then be driven to a dealer for servicing.

The prototype unit was tested over a one year period on a refrigerated truck from the Ola Ice Cream Company based out of South Africa. The article at Hydrocarbons21.com puts the change of ignition at a thousand times less likely then that of an vehicular accident with the same truck. Throughout these tests there were no major issues found and since the test went so well the decision was made at Transfrig to migrate all of their refrigeration range of products over to the new R-290 design.

United States

As most of all you know HFC refrigerants, such R-404A, are on their way out. There has been countless debate and as back and forth on the United States’ HFC policies… but one thing is certain: HFCs do not have much longer and one of the top targets is R-404A.

Even if the Federal Government never comes up with an HFC phase down law it will not matter as there are so many states right now offering their own individual regulations and phase downs on HFCs. As the snowball begins to pick up speed we will see more and more states joining and mimicking other states policies. It will get to the point, if it hasn’t already, that it will not make financial sense to continue using HFC refrigerants. Why make one system for one state and another system for a different state? Business wise it makes sense to adhere to the strictest restrictions and be in compliance everywhere with your product.

So, what we will be left with is a hole for manufactures to fill. What refrigerants will be used instead of R-404A? In my opinion I believe R-290 has a legitimate chance. It makes sense. The only question now is can Transfrig truly prove their concept over the next few years… and if they do will United States government and importers take notice?

There are many folks who believe once a refrigerant has been chosen for an application then that refrigerant is it. Yes, it will never have one-hundred percent market share but it will have the lion’s share. There are many reasons for this but the biggest one is that it is just easier this way. Technicians only really have to become familiar with just a few refrigerants. There are very little surprises. Some of you may not agree with this statement, but we have a recent example to reference. Just look at R-134a’s transition over to R-1234yf. Yes, there are some outliers out there using R-744… but for the most part every new car is using R-1234yf.

Now that we are beginning to see the end of R-404A there is a hole in the marketplace when it comes to refrigerated transportation. Could R-290 fill this? There are a lot of hurdles to go through if Transfrig wishes to pursue. They have to test further. They have to roll trucks off the line and ensure there are no problems. Also, as I was writing this article I went and checked the EPA’s SNAP approved refrigerants on refrigerated transport. I was ninety-nine percent sure R-290 wasn’t approved… and I was right. So, they would have to through the EPA’s SNAP approval process as well before R-290 units could start being seen within the United States.

Conclusion

Let’s say though folks that we do end up seeing R-290 units in a few years across the globe and maybe even within the United States. What is the next step? If we are already using it in refrigerated trucks why couldn’t we use it in our vehicles as well? Remember how I said that R-1234yf was slightly flammable? Well… so is propane. The big difference here is that R-290 isn’t nearly as expensive as the HFO R-1234yf.

I’m going to throw some numbers out there and am also going to overestimate price on R-290 just so we can get a clear picture of the differences. Let us say that R-290 is about eight dollars per pound today. Then if we look at R-1234yf we can see that it is sixty dollars per pound. That is nearly a ninety percent savings when you go with R-290. Both refrigerants are flammable, both have very low Global Warming Potential, and both are Ozone friendly.

Now, I am not an engineer by any means, but I am wondering after researching this article… what is stopping us from using R-290 in our vehicles? If we can prove concept and go through the traditional SNAP approval process… why not? It would be an alternative to the 1234yf and it would save consumers a significant amount of money. What if, down the road, R-290 does get approved for vehicle usage? I could see a whole aftermarket industry dedicated to retrofitting away from 1234yf and over R-290.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Over the past few years there have been a number of anti-dumping cases within our industry. In fact, there are a few cases open right now that are expected to come to conclusion in the next few months. Most of these cases focus on Chinese product that is being subsidized by the Chinese government and brought into the United States at unfair market prices. This dumping practice prevents the companies who are manufacturing within the United States from competing with the cheaper mass imported Chinese refrigerant.

In most cases within our industry these anti-dumping suits are approved by the Trade Commission. When a ruling is made in favor the Trade Commission initiates a tariff on the goods in question. The tariff itself can have a number of conditions and amounts associated to it, but the idea is to artificially raise the price of the imported product so that US companies can compete. Over recent years we have seen anti-dumping tariffs installed on R-134a, R-410A, R-404A, R-407C, R-507A, and many other refrigerates. There is also a pending anti-dumping suit on the popular HFC R-32 refrigerant and another one on the actual blending components used to create popular HFC refrigerants.

The one that was filed most recently though was something I had not seen before. Yesterday, March 27th, Worthington Industries filed an anti-dumping and countervailing duties case with the International Trade Commission. Their target was not refrigerants but instead the cylinders that they come in. These are the cylinders that all of our refrigerants come in. (Harmonized codes 7311.00.0060, 7311.00.0090, and 7310.29.0025.) More information on what types of cylinders:

“The merchandise covered by these petitions is certain non-refillable steel cylinders meeting the requirements of, or produced to meet the requirements of, U.S. Department of Transportation (“USDOT”) Specifications 39, TransportCanada Specification 39M, or United Nations pressure receptacle standard ISO 11118 and otherwise meeting the description provided below (“non- refillable steel cylinders”). The subject non-refillable steel cylinders are portable and range from 300-cubic inch (4.9 liter) water capacity to 1,526-cubic inch (25 liter) water capacity. Subject non-refillable steel cylinders may be imported with or without a valve and/or pressure release device and may be filled or unfilled at the time of importation.”

Worthington Industries is the last remaining United States company manufacturing non-refillable steel cylinders. Yes, they are it folks. If they stop producing cylinders then ALL of it is imported in. They are asking for a sixty-one percent duty to be imposed on the Chinese imports. I am sure most of you within the industry have heard of Worthington Industries before. They are a Columbus, Ohio based metals manufacturing company that had revenues exceeding three billion dollars last year. While three billion dollars is a lot of money… this is a business and if a certain product line is no longer profitable they will no longer pursue it. If this anti-dumping duty is not passed then Worthington may have to give up their cylinder manufacturing.

In yesterday’s filing there is a list of ALL nineteen companies that are importing these Chinese cylinders as well as the fifteen Chinese companies that are supplying them. The country of China would be targeted on these anti-dumping duties but we could also see the specific companies listed treated more harshly. This is pure speculation my part as the Trade Commission still needs time to review and even determine if they will be accepting the case.

This initial review on rather or not the Commission will begin an investigation is expected to conclude on April 16th, 2020. If they agree to move forward during this review they will then make a preliminary determination if damages were incurred on Worthington by May 11th, 2020. If the investigation moves forward it is expected to take around a year with a final decision to be made around April 21st, 2021.

I am quite curious on how this case will move forward. With the other refrigerant anti-dumping filings I had a pretty good idea on where the Trade Commission would settle. There has been a track record over the years that indicates that they will be voting in favor of refrigerant anti-dumping tariffs. But, this is the first time I have seen such a filing on the actual cylinders. The good news here is that the cylinders themselves are relatively cheap when compared to the actual cost of refrigerant. So, if a tariff does get put on the Chinese cylinders I do not believe it will raise the overall cost of refrigerants by very much.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

It is amazing how quickly things can change in the course of a week or two. I was brought up to always follow the news and goings on within the country and around the world. I have been following the news on this virus since it first started making headlines in China. Like most folks I didn’t pay it much heed as I did not believe that it could come to the United States, or if it did then it wouldn’t have any impact on us.

When it started making headlines in Seattle it surprised me. My brother and his family are located just a few miles away from that unfortunate nursing home. I spoke with him the other day and his kids are out of school, his work has shutdown entirely, and his wife is working from home. For such a populated area it now feels like a ghost town. It has been this way for a few weeks but we still had seen no impact or change in things here in Kansas City. It wasn’t until the past couple days that things began to pick up here.

There were a few cases announced in the county where I work and a few additional in a neighboring county. I believe it was on Thursday where Kansas had its first reported death from the virus. My wife and son went to the grocery store on Friday to stock up on the essentials and it was a madhouse. Many people were panicking, for some reason. It seemed they had lost all respect for their fellow men. Businesses have already begun to shut down and I believe it is only a matter of time before they shutter the schools here as well.

This virus, along with the economic instability that comes with it, is now impacting everyone across our country and the world. At this point there is no telling just how long this panic will last. I am not worried about the virus itself. I am not a medical professional, but I believe this has been hyped up by the media to an extreme level. I can only hope that we will all begin to come to our senses. In the meantime all of us have to deal with the impacts of shuttered businesses and so called social distancing.

From what I understand there has been minimal impact on the pricing and supply side of refrigerants. This is good news, but the question is what impact will we see in HVAC industry overall? I was thinking about this yesterday and I do not believe there will be too much downturn. For an example, let’s look at grocery stores. The demand for food, toiletries, and supplies have been through the roof. So, that would mean the necessity of having running refrigerators and freezers at the supermarkets would be even higher then normal. The supply chain of reefer trucks to move the product between warehouses and stores will still have to flow. The warehouses will still need to store the product. The plants will still need to manufacture the product. The good news is that a lot of these businesses are operating at overload capacity. When that happens systems will break or fail sooner. This means repair bills, refrigerant recharging, and perhaps whole new installs.

As of now the supply chain looks to be intact. If that starts to crumble then things will get much worse for everyone and we will see all of this demand fall. Assuming the supply chain stays up and everything is fine on that front the other avenue I was thinking about is the air conditioning sector. If businesses are closed down then that means far less demand and far less chance of failure of commercial units. This could be in office buildings, department stores, or restaurants and bars. The demand from these customers on HVAC repair may dry up rather quickly.

The opposite side of the coin is with all of these folks staying home there is going to be much more demand on your traditional split systems. If this social distancing and working from home continues for months then we could see a sort of boom of air conditioner repairs at home. It is not yet hot here in Kansas City, but if we look at Miami I can see they are already in the eighties. Give it another month and folks will be turning on their air conditioners if they are not already. Imagine the impact of running air conditioners all day and night due to self quarantines. No more turning the AC up before you leave for work. This increased demand will no doubt cause an increase in failures.

Conclusion

In closing folks I think it is important to remember that so far this Coronavirus is very similar to previous timelines. If we go back to 2009 when the Swine Flu was in full swing there was not near as much panic. This is odd because if you look at the overall numbers of the Swine Flu they are very surprising. According to Wikipedia nearly seven-hundred million people were infected with the H1N1 Swine Flu from 2009. Out of those seven-hundred million there was an estimated three-hundred-thousand fatalities. (Some estimates as high as five-hundred-thousand.)

So far with this Coronavirus there have been around six-thousand deaths. It has been making headlines now for about ten weeks. Six-thousand deaths divided by ten and then multiplied by fifty-two gives us an estimated fatality rate for the year. This equals out to about thirty-one-thousand fatalities. For argument’s sake lets times that number by ten to account for compound growth since the virus is still relatively new. That puts us at around three-hundred-thousand deaths across the world.

Now, please don’t take this the wrong way. I am not trying to minimize anyone’s death to this virus. Each death is a tragedy. The point I am trying to make here is that this Coronavirus may not even surpass the Swine Flu pandemic that we had back in 2009. I honestly don’t even remember the Swine Flu from 2009… so I am hoping that this Coronavirus goes the same route and in a few months time we would have all but forgotten about it.

Thanks for reading folks,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

The trend of recent years continues folks. Just a few days ago on February 26th Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, signed a rule on 608 refrigerant management regulations known as ‘Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: Revisions to the Refrigerant Management Program’s Extension to Substitutes.’

This version signed by Wheeler is not the final version, but there is little expected to change. It was sent to the Federal Register for final verification and once verified will be published for all to see. The draft rule can be found in our ‘Sources’ section at the bottom of this article. This announced change is not instantaneous. The leak detection and record keeping rules will change thirty days after the final version is published by the Federal Register.

The initial rule for leak detection on HFCs was announced by the Obama Administration’s EPA back in 2016. In essence, they copied the rules that were already on file for CFC and HCFC refrigerants such as R-12, R-502, and R-22. These new HFC rules applied mostly to commercial applications or businesses such as super markets, plants/factories, large refrigerated warehousing, ice rinks, and any other large scale operations.

With the repeal of this rule businesses across the country are estimated to save around twenty-four million dollars per year. (Source) That is a significant amount but another factor, that is very difficult to measure, is the overall peace of mind of these business owners and managers. They no longer have to worry about compliance or the threat of the EPA breathing down their neck. Let’s take a look at exactly what will change once the Federal Register has published the final rule:

Today, the following rules have to be followed for any appliance that holds fifty or more pounds of HFC refrigerants (Source from Hydrocarbons21.com):

      • Conduct leak rate calculations when refrigerant is added to an appliance.
      • Repair an appliance that leaks above a threshold leak rate.
      • Conduct verification leak tests on repairs.
      • Conduct periodic leak inspections on appliances that exceed the threshold leak rate.
      • Report to Environmental Protection Agency on chronically leaking appliances.
      • Retrofit or retire appliances that are not repaired.
      • Maintain related records.

Reading the above requirements can really illustrate just how many hoops and regulations that these business owners had to go through to stay compliant. Don’t get me wrong folks, I am not entirely against having these regulations. What I am against though is how they came about. Any of you who have read my posts in the past know exactly how I feel about this. But, for those who aren’t as familiar with what I am talking about let us review.

The EPA and the Obama Administration used the Clean Air Act as their basis for authority when it came to phasing down and the regulation HFC refrigerants. Herein lies the problem though. The Clean Air Act sections that they were referencing strictly refers to Ozone Depleting Substances. These are your CFC and HCFC refrigerants such as R-12, R-22, R-502 that we all saw get phased out over the past thirty years.

Here’s the thing though… HFC refrigerants do not harm the Ozone. Not in the slightest. HFCs do harm the environment though, just in a different way. HFC refrigerants are known as super-pollutants or greenhouse gases. They directly contribute to Global Warming when they are vented or released into the atmosphere. So, they do cause a problem… but they do not cause any problem to the Ozone.

This reasoning is what the current EPA used when repealing the Obama era regulations. They claimed that the EPA overstepped its authority when introducing these HFC laws. I agree with them. While their intention was good back in 2016 it was NOT the right way to go about it. It was an overreach of the government. Just like with everything though, there is an opposing argument. This argument comes from those who are in support of the 2016 leak regulations. Their argument is that the Clean Air Act authorized them to regulation Ozone depleting substances AND their replacements. Those last two words are where the debate comes from.

I am not going to get into who is right here and what side should win. Let us instead just look at the facts. The EPA is entirely biased depending on what administration is in control. It was biased for Obama and now it is again for Trump. So, the real question is will we see all of this change again after this year’s election cycle? Who knows…

Purchase Restrictions?

When the EPA originally announced last year that they would be looking at rescinding the HFC leak regulations there was also talk that they may rescind the Obama era purchase restriction on HFC refrigerants. I am sure everyone remembers when anyone could go out and buy a cylinder of R-134a or R-410A and keep them on hand for those just in case situations. On January 1st, of 2018 the option to purchase HFC refrigerants without being either 608/609 certified with the EPA went away.

No longer could anyone purchase refrigerant cylinders. They could still purchase smaller quantities like cans, but the option to purchase those large cylinders was gone. This was again an example of the EPA moving the original regulations on CFCs and HCFCs over to HFCs. Overall, I think this had a positive effect on the industry itself. Yes, there was less demand but the contractors who were selling refrigerant to their customers could enjoy that extra mark-up without the risk of the customer purchasing their own cylinder.

I am in favor of removing the purchase restriction. It opens the market back up and, to be honest with you, before the restriction I was selling quite a bit individual cylinders on this website. It’d be nice to have that revenue stream open back up again! Regardless of my opinion though, it is looking like the purchase restriction may be rescinded as well. After all, if they removed the leak detection requirements why not remove purchasing as well?

Conclusion

The announcement of this rule change by the EPA is only going to fuel the United States Climate Alliance. The Climate Alliance is a grouping of states across the country that was formed a few years ago when the Trump Administration announced that the US would be pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. This alliance is dedicated to all forms of climate protection but one that has seen recent activity are regulations on HFC refrigerants.

With the removal of the EPA’s SNAP Rules 20 and 21 the Climate Alliance stepped up to the plate and began announcing their own HFC phase down laws. California, as usual, was the first of these states. It all began a domino effect though and we are seeing more and more states either pass HFC phase down legislation or announce that they are working on their own version. Just a week or so ago it was announced that Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are all working on their own version of regulations. In most cases the phase down laws closely mimic the original EPA’s SNAP Rules 20 and 21 but there are some states, like California, who went for a stricter approach.

One thing is certain, the Federal Government and the States are heading towards very different goals. If we keep seeing these EPA regulations repealed then we will begin to see more and more states announce their own plans and all of these Federal changes won’t mean squat. But hey, at least the states are going about this the right way and not trying to circumvent the law by using the Clean Air Act as a cover.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources