R-134A

Price Alert

The New Year has only just begun and already we are seeing refrigerant price changes coming to the market. Earlier today one of my contacts within the refrigerant industry reached out to me to share price increases that are coming down the pipeline. While so far these changes are from one or two manufacturers, I have seen from experience that other manufacturers typically follow suit. These price increases or decreases have reasoning behind them such as raw materials costing more, a shortage on materials or refrigerant, unexpected increased demand, logistics/freight issues, or a whole host of other possible issues. The point though is that if one manufacturer is experiencing a price increase then the others will usually be close behind them.

Now when I do articles like these that go into upcoming pricing changes I make sure to leave things anonymous to not only the source of the information but also to the company that has announced the pricing increases. It is not my place to share and publish internal company documents. By doing it this way I can protect myself and my business as well as still provide you, the reader, the much needed information on upcoming price changes.

The Changes

Ok folks, without further ado let’s dive in and take a look at the changes that were announced. Yesterday, a mailer was sent out by a leading refrigerant manufacturer. This mailer stated that as of next week, January 8th, prices would be going up six percent on HFC and HCFC refrigerants. The increase targets all of the most commonly used refrigerants today including R-22, R-134a, R-410A, R-404A, R-507A, R-407A, and R-407C.

While six percent doesn’t sound like a lot it really depends on the refrigerant that you are looking at. R-134a right now is trending between eighty to ninety dollars for a thirty pound cylinder. Six percent of that would be around five dollars more a cylinder. Not too much of an increase. However, if we take that same logic and look at R-22’s price which is hovering around four-hundred to four-hundred and fifty a thirty pound cylinder we can begin to see a larger impact. Lets take the four-hundred dollar price as an example. With that base price we’re looking at around twenty-four dollars more per thirty pound cylinder. Now we can begin to see a slight impact.

One more thing folks on these increases. The announced price increase on HFCs have only been from one manufacturer. The R-22 price increase though has now come from two different and distinct refrigerant manufacturers. Just like I stated above, most manufacturers are in tandem with each other and have their ears to the ground watching the trends. The chances are R-22 is going to go up around six percent across all manufacturers.

2019 is a big year for R-22 as this is the LAST year that any quantity can be physically produced or imported into the United States. When January 1st, 2020 hits that’s the end. Fin. No more. The only way to acquire R-22 then is either purchasing from distributors who have stockpiles on hand or purchasing form a certified refrigerant reclaimer.

Because of this upcoming rule change on R-22 the market in 2019 is unpredictable. No one knows for sure what’s going to happen. Could this six percent increase be the start of a snowball effect? Will the price keep going up and up this year as more and more people buy up everything they can? There was a time in 2017 where R-22 cylinders hit seven-hundred dollars a cylinder. Will we repeat this year? Or, is this six percent increase an anomaly or correction and the price will stabilize for the upcoming spring season?

Conclusion

Refrigerant pricing is unpredictable. Sure, I have written many articles trying to predict what will happen in the next year… and sometimes I’m right and other times I am way off. One thing I am certain of though is that these winter months are the absolute best time to buy. Prices are deflated and the demand is quite low. As spring edges closer the prices will begin to rise.

I remember back in the day when I was in charge of purchasing R-134a by the trailerload. We would always wait until the first week of February to place our orders. We’d do our negotiations in the middle/end of January and then send our purchase orders over that first week in February. Most of the time this ensured that we had a competitive price throughout the entire season and we didn’t have to scramble in the hot months to try and find a source of R-134a.

If you are interested in purchasing refrigerant please don’t hesitate to reach out to me by filling out the contact information below or by visiting our bulk refrigerants page. Please remember that we only sell in pallet and trailerload quantities. A pallet typically contains around forty cylinders.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

How Much Does It Cost?

The term Freon is used all over the country to describe the refrigerant that is used in their home, commercial, or vehicle air conditioner. Even though it is used by man the term Freon is actually antiquated and is very rarely used within the HVAC industry. Chances are your air conditioner that you are using right now doesn’t contain Freon.

In fact, the word Freon is actually a brand name from the DuPont, now Chemours, refrigerant company. Yes, that’s right. Freon is just like Coca-Cola or Pepsi. Freon is a brand of refrigerant. There are many brands of refrigerant out there today but the reason we associate Freon with everyone is that Freon was the first mainstream refrigerant that can be traced all the way back to the 1930’s. At that time DuPont and General Motors teamed up together to form R-12 and R-22 refrigerants. These new refrigerants were the first mass produced and widely used refrigerant and air conditioning technologies in the world. DuPont branded these new refrigerants under their trademarked brand name, ‘Freon.’ The Freon refrigerants exploded in popularity and just a few decades later they could be found in nearly every home and office across the country.

All of this changed in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when a team of scientists discovered that these Freon refrigerants contained Chlorine and Chlorine was leaking into the atmosphere and damaging the Ozone layer. Realizing this, hundreds of countries signed what’s known as the Montreal Protocol. This protocol phased out CFC and HCFC refrigerants across the globe. Included in these phased out refrigerants were DuPont’s ever popular ‘Freon’ brand name.

So, What Kind of Refrigerant Do I Need?

Ok, so the old Freon refrigerants are nearly gone nowadays. Yes, there are still some R-22 units out there and some people still need them but R-22 machines were phased out in 2010 so that means at their youngest an R-22 unit is already nine years old. They are quickly approaching the end of their life. The term Freon will be going away with it. So, now the question is what kind of refrigerant do you need? Let’s take a look:

Automotive Application – Nowadays nearly every vehicle is using R-134a refrigerant for their vehicles. In recent years a new refrigerant known as HFO-1234yf is being used on newer models. If you car is a few years old you will need to check if it takes 1234yf or not. Otherwise you are fairly safe to assume that your car is taking R-134a.

Home or Commercial Air Conditioner – These ones can be a little tricky. Depending on when you got your unit you most likely either have an R-22 unit or a R-410A unit. As I said before R-22 was phased out in 2010 for new units. R-410A has been around since 2010 but it’s popularity didn’t really take off until the 2010 deadline hit for R-22.

Refrigerators and Freezers (Home and Commercial) – The go to refrigerant for these applications has been R-404A. There are some other alternatives out there such as CO2 (R-744), R-502, and some other new HFO refrigerants coming out soon.

Conclusion

I hope that this article was able to answer your questions on refrigerant pricing and to also open your eyes on the wide variety there is within the refrigerant industry. There are two things that I want you take from this post. The first is the relative price per pound of the refrigerant you need and the second is the understanding that your contractor needs to make money too. Sure, you might know his price but you should not haggle down to zero. You should negotiate to a fair price that allows profit but also prevents gouging.

Lastly, if you are unsure what type of refrigerant your system needs please check the label/sticker on the machine. Normally it will state the refrigerant that it takes. However, if you still can’t find it then you can either contact the manufacturer or you can call a HVAC professional out to take a look. This is never something that you want to guess at.

Thanks for reading and visiting my site,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

How Much Does It Cost?

Most people couldn’t care less about the pricing of refrigerant. I’m sure you didn’t care at all until your air conditioner broke down. Now you have a contractor at your home or office looking over the damage, or perhaps you have already received a quote from them and you are a little surprised by how much they are charging for refrigerant. Whatever your reason is for reading this article we are going to do our best to answer your question and to give you a fair estimate on what the going price per pound on some of the most common refrigerants on the market place today.

First and foremost, let me first explain that there are hundreds of different types of refrigerants out there. No two refrigerants are the same or work the same either. The air conditioner that you are using is designed specifically for a certain refrigerant and no others. The science of refrigeration and air conditioning all boils down to basic chemistry and understanding when a refrigerant changes states either from gas to liquid or liquid to gas. Each machine is designed to accomdate that refrigernat’s specific saturation point. If you were to add the wrong refrigerant to your air conditioner you could damage or even destroy the system. You wouldn’t put diesel into a gasoline sedan would you? The same principle applies.

In this article we are going to go over some of the most popular refrigerants out there today, their applications, and where they can be found. It will be up to you to determine exactly what refrigerant you need for your repairs.

So, What Kind of Refrigerant Do I Need?

As we mentioned above, there are hundreds of varying kinds of refrigerants out there. A lot of times this can be overwhelming and confusing to a laymen as to what kind of refrigerant they need. The good news here is that for most applications there are only a select few refrigerants that are used here in the United States. In this section below we are going to highlight the most commonly used refrigerants, what their applications are, and what their price per pound is. The price per pound section will have a link to the exact price per pound on that refrigerant.

Let’s dive in and take a look:

  • Automotive Application – Nowadays nearly every vehicle is using R-134a refrigerant for their vehicles. In recent years a new refrigerant known as HFO-1234yf is being used on newer models. If you car is a few years old or brand new then you will need to check if it takes 1234yf or not. Otherwise you are fairly safe to assume that your car is taking R-134a. For those of you who are into restoring classic cars you’ll find that you may end up needing R-12 Freon.
  • Home or Commercial Air Conditioner – These ones can be a little tricky. Depending on when you got your unit you most likely either have an R-22 unit or a R-410A unit. As I said in previous articles, R-22 was phased out in 2010 for new air conditioners. R-410A has been around since 2000, but it’s popularity didn’t really take off until the 2010 deadline hit for R-22. When it comes to cost though you better hope you have a R-410A unit rather than R-22. The difference in price between the two refrigerants is astonishing.
  • Refrigerators and Freezers (Home and Commercial) – The go to refrigerant for these applications has been R-404A. There are some other alternatives out there such as CO2 (R-744), R-502, and some other new HFO refrigerants coming out soon but today if you were having to recharge one of these you are most likely going to run into 404A.

Conclusion

I hope that this article was able to answer your questions on refrigerant pricing and to also open your eyes on the wide variety there is within the refrigerant industry. There are two things that I want you take from this post. The first is the relative price per pound of the refrigerant you need and the second is the understanding that your contractor needs to make money too. Sure, you might know his price but you should not haggle down to zero. You should negotiate to a fair price that allows profit but also prevents gouging.

Lastly, if you are unsure what type of refrigerant your system needs please check the label/sticker on the machine. Normally it will state the refrigerant that it takes. However, if you still can’t find it then you can either contact the manufacturer or you can call a HVAC professional out to take a look. This is never something that you want to guess at.

Thanks for reading and visiting my site,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

How Much Does It Cost?

It’s that time of year again folks. The leaves are falling off the trees, Halloween has passed, and we are having our first cold day of the year over here in Kansas City. While I watch the cold day from my window I sit at my desk drinking some coffee and thinking about refrigerant. Yes… that’s right. I’m thinking about refrigerant at this time of year. That’s just what we do here at RefrigerantHQ. While the refrigerant market may die down around this time of year the articles still need to be published.

Over the past few years here at RefrigerantHQ we have taken the time to write what’s known as our ‘Price Per Pound’ articles. These articles break down the cost of refrigerant so any laymen can understand it. It takes away that hidden cost and brings it out into the light. The goal of these articles is to arm the homeowner or business owner with enough knowledge so that when they receive a quote for R-134a they know where the price should be. This prevents people from being gouged and overcharged, especially during the dead heat of summer.

Now before we go any further into this post I first want to give you a warning that I can be rather long winded. All of this information is good and relevant to your situation, BUT if you are just looking for a basic price per pound price then I suggest you just scroll on down to our ‘Price Per Pound’ section. However, if you’re looking to learn a bit more about your air conditioner then by all means keep reading.

Know This Before Purchasing

Purchasing refrigerant from your contractor isn’t always black and white. There are different factors that need to be considered before you purchase. In this section we are going to take a look at each of these:

You Are Paying For Expertise

Ok folks, so the information that I am going to give you in our ‘Price Per Pound’ section is very nearly, if not exactly, the cost that your technician is paying for their R-134a refrigerant. What that means is that you can expect a markup. After all, the technician and the dealership need to make money as well. This is a specialized trade and requires trained expertise in order to succeed in. Thinking that you can do this yourself is never a good idea as there are a lot of intricacies that need to be accounted for. As an example, let’s go through and ask a few simple questions that a technician would either have to do or consider:

  • Do you know how to flush your system?
  • Do you know what refrigerants can be vented?
  • Are you 609 certified with the EPA to handle HFC refrigerants?
  • Do you know how to find, let alone fix, a refrigerant leak?

All of these questions and more are what you are paying your technician for. Remember that they need to make money too, but there is also a fine line between having profit and gouging. Reading this article, and reviewing the price per pound, will allow you to be educated and give you the power to negotiate the price of refrigerant.

Your AC Unit is a Closed System

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

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

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

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

R-134a Price Per Pound

Ok, now we are ready to take a look at the price per pound of R-134a. First, let me paint a picture for you. Let’s say the air conditioner on your new vehicle went out and you just went past the warranty period. What can you expect repair wise? Well, you will need to repair and replace the part that failed but you will also most likely need to have the refrigerant recharged for your vehicle. But, what price should you pay?

I could tell you the price today, which I will in a bit, but I will also give you kind of a cheat sheet that I like to use when gauging the R-134a market price. It’s so simple. All I do is just go to Ebay.com and search for R-134a cans.  By doing this I can see what the going rate is per pound of R-134a. As I write this article today I can see that R-134a is priced between one-hundred and forty to one-hundred and sixty dollars for a thirty pound cylinder. Now, let’s do some simple math to get your price per pound. Let’s take the higher amount of one-hundred and sixty just to be safe.

$160 / 30lb cylinder = $5.33 per pound.

There you have it folks, $5.33 for one pound of R-134a refrigerant. Now, please keep in mind that these prices CAN change. To give you a bit more help I have also included a feed from our Ebay partner below that shows you the current market price of R-134a:

R134A Refrigerant - R134A - 30lb Cylinder NEW SEALED

$149.97
End Date: Sunday Feb-17-2019 17:06:45 PST
Buy It Now for only: $149.97
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

R134a Refrigerant 30lbs Cylinder 30lb - EPA Certification Required

$155.00
End Date: Friday Feb-15-2019 11:21:05 PST
Buy It Now for only: $155.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Automotive Refrigerant 30 Lb. Cylinder (R-134A-30)

$139.99
End Date: Friday Jan-25-2019 11:31:49 PST
Buy It Now for only: $139.99
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Now each car is different and the amount of refrigerant that they need can be different as well. Some only require one pound and others upwards of eight to nine pounds. It is always best to check your owner’s manual or your dealership to see how much you need. In our example we’re going to call it three pounds of refrigerant to get a complete fill up of your vehicle.

3 pounds of refrigerant * $5.33 per pound = $15.99 for a complete fill up.

Conclusion

There you have it folks, that is the true cost per pound of R-134a refrigerant. I have said it already in the beginning of this article but I want to emphasize again that you may not pay the price we mentioned above due to your dealership’s markup. They deserve to make money as well and they deserve to be paid for their expertise. Just keep this article in the back of your mind so that when you do receive a quote you can ensure that you are receiving an accurate and fair price.

If you do find that you are being gouged and the dealership won’t budge then you may be able to run by a local auto-parts store to see if they have any 134a cans in stock. If they do, then you could save some money by providing the refrigerant to the dealership.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Yes and No

Most of you are familiar with what’s known as the Refrigerant Sales Restriction. This restriction comes directly from the Environmental Protection Agency and aims at preventing novices and do-it-yourselfers from purchasing and handling refrigerant. By preventing these laymen from handling refrigerants we in theory shrink the amount of refrigerant that is leaked into the atmosphere.

This restriction was especially critical in the beginning stages of phasing out CFCs and HCFCs refrigerants such as R-12, R-22, and R-502 in the 1990’s and 2000’s. These refrigerants contained chlorine and chlorine was directly attributed to the damaging and thinning of the Ozone layer. Each time one of these refrigerants was vented into the atmosphere rather intentionally or by mistake damage was done. By imposing the sales restriction, imposing a host of other regulations like leak requirements, and by slowly phasing down chlorine refrigerants the Ozone was allowed time to repair.

HFC Restrictions

In the summer of 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency came out with a new set of rules from their Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP). This new rule, deemed Rule 20, was aimed at phasing down the popular HFC refrigerants across the United States. Along with this new rule it was announced towards the beginning of 2017 that the EPA’s Refrigerant Sales Restriction would be carried over to HFC refrigerants as well.

You see, in the past you couldn’t buy CFC and HCFC refrigerants without a 608/609 license but you could still purchase HFCs. They didn’t require a license. That meant I could have walked into an Autozone and picked up a cylinder of R-134a without any licensing required. Well, all that changed this year folks on January 1st, 2018. That is when the new purchase restrictions went into place by the EPA. This move was expected by many in the industry and not a lot of folks were shocked by it.

What did surprise us though was a court’s ruling in August of 2017. When the EPA introduced their SNAP Rule 20 there were two companies, Mexichem and Arkema, that filed a lawsuit stating the EPA had overstepped it’s legal bounds. I won’t get into all of the details in this article, but the short version is that Arkema and Mexichem won the suit and the EPA’s Rule 20 was tossed out. There were appeals. There was even one to the Supreme Court, but none of them worked out.

Earlier this year the EPA announced that they were withdrawing their Rule 20 regulations and that they were looking into forming a new rule. Along with that it was announced by the EPA that they were rescinding their HFC leak regulations. Lastly, it was announced that the EPA was considering removing the sales restrictions on HFC refrigerants. There is nothing official here on if this will happen or not, but the EPA is definitely considering it.

Restrictions: Yes or No?

The HFC sales restriction may only last for the 2018 year and then may fade away. The question though is, is this good or bad? What repercussions will there be?

About five years ago I had a small side business that sold individual or multiple refrigerant cylinders online through stores like Amazon or Ebay. It was mostly R-410A and R-134a cylinders shipped to individuals across the country. There wasn’t a lot of money in it, but it gave me that entrepreneurial experience. Before the HFC restriction was in place there were dozens of places for individuals to purchase refrigerant cylinders. You could walk into a Sam’s Club and purchase a few cylinders of R-134a. There were online shops, dealerships, and retailers all selling refrigerant.

While this made things easy for consumers it also made it very easy for people who did not know what they are doing to get a hold of large quantities of refrigerant. If they made a mistake, which they would, then that large thirty pound cylinder of refrigerant would get vented into the atmosphere. And while HFCs do not damage the Ozone they are a Green House Gas and they do contribute to Global Warming.

So, by creating a sales restriction we can limit the amount of refrigerant that is vented and help reduce potential Global Warming problems but we also have the side effect of hindering business and do-it-yourselfers from working on their own equipment.

Conclusion

If I was to wager on what will happen I would bet that the restriction will go away soon. The current EPA and Presidential Administration has been very against nearly everything the EPA has done over the past few years and this appears to be no different. If the restriction is removed we will see the availability to purchase refrigerant online and through retailers come back and we will also see a slight increase on refrigerant price due to the flood of all of the do-it-yourselfers purchasing again.

What do you think the best outcome is?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Pricing Prediction

It may seem strange to have a favorite refrigerant, but I have to say folks that R-134a is it. 134a is how I got my start in the refrigerant industry back in 2007. Back then I was a corporate purchaser in charge of buying R-134a for the company’s various dealerships. My job was to figure out what dealers needed it, how much they needed, and what the market was doing on price.

The goal was to send a purchase order at just the right time to just the right vendor. If done right then the dealer I bought for would have an aggressively priced product in a very competitive market. If done incorrectly then my dealer could end up priced out of the market or they could end up with a surplus of inventory that sits on the shelf as the price goes down and down.

Doing this job allowed me to reach out to quite a few folks in the industry. I got to know them and I even got a few ties from Refron back when they were still a thing. (They were bought by Airgas and Airgas was bought by Hudson.) Because of all of this history I have with R-134a it is hands down my favorite refrigerant.

Last week when I was writing my R-22 pricing prediction article I had a lot of feedback and thoughts from various people within the industry on what they thought would happen. R-22 is the hot topic nowadays. I attempted to get some similar feedback for R-134a and while I got some the enthusiasm was much lighter.

In this article we’re going to take a look at what the market did this year on R-134a and what we can expect for next year. That being said, R-134a is a very volatile refrigerant and it can be difficult to predict what will happen. I remember in one year I saw the price go from sixty dollars a cylinder up to two-hundred and twenty a cylinder. You just never really know what will happen.

Considerations

As I’ve mentioned in the past I am an analyst by trade and you cannot be an analyst without the proper facts and data. I take the same approach when it comes to looking at refrigerant pricing. Because of that, I like to take into account specific considerations before we move onto the pricing prediction part of our article. Let’s take a look:

  • R-134a Pricing Volatility
    • I mentioned this briefly in our previous section but it’s worth touching on it again. The pricing on R-134a can change on a whim. I had one of my contacts within the industry even say that it’s impossible to predict. That didn’t give me much confidence in this article, but I’m still going to go through the work here and give everyone my two cents.
  • The EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 was Overturned
    • The EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 was a rule introduced back in 2015 that aimed at phasing down HFC refrigerants. R-134a’s mandatory phase down was to occur in the year 2o20. (2021 model year) This ruling was overturned in the summer of last year and there were a series of appeals. Eventually though the EPA realized that it wasn’t going to happen and they rescinded their SNAP Rule 20. That means that the 2020 year deadline for vehicles using R-134a was now gone… well sort of.
  • States With Their Own HFC Phase Downs
    • When it was realized that the EPA’s country wide phase down of HFC refrigerants wasn’t going to happen a number of States decided to take matters into their own hands. They were going to emulate the EPA’s now defunct SNAP Rule 20 and have their own State-Wide HFC phase down. California started this but we have had four other States follow suit. Many more may be joining this coalition of States soon. These States are large and account for a high amount of the Nation’s GDP. Trust me when I say that vehicle manufacturers are watching these developments closely.
  • More and More Vehicles are Using 1234yf
    • R-134a is a dying brand of refrigerant. Just like it’s predecessor R-12, R-134a is going away. Rather it is through mandatory phase out or just by companies switching to the new HFO refrigerant 1234yf. However it happens you should know that it IS happening. Vehicle manufacturers want to be on the right side of history and they want to have one process over many. Having their vehicles take 1234yf is a much easier solution. Each year that passes we have more and more cars on the road that are using 1234yf. That means less demand for R-134a which could in turn lower the pricing.
  • R-134a Added to the Refrigerant Sales Restriction
    • The biggest change this year on R-134a wasn’t all of the court cases going back and forth. No, as far as pricing wise I believe the biggest change was the introduction of R-134a to the EPA’s Refrigerant Sales Restriction. In the past anybody could buy a cylinder of R-134a from Sams or Wal-Mart. However, as of January 1st, 2018 you could no longer buy cylinders of R-134a unless you were 609 certified with the EPA. That meant that all of the do-it-yourselfers and the hoarders of automotive supplies could no longer purchase R-134a. (Well they could, but only in small pound quantities.) This decrease in demand could have lessened the price over this 2018 year.

Pricing Prediction

Ok folks so now that we have a clear picture on what’s happening with R-134a we can now begin to give a prediction on what the pricing will look like next year. First though let’s take a look at what happened this year.

Around January of last year I wrote a similar article on R-134a. At the time of writing the article R-134a was a just hair over one-hundred dollars a cylinder. Depending on where you looked at you could find a range between one-hundred to one-hundred and ten dollars a cylinder. This pricing was wholesale. What that means is that in order to obtain this price back then you had to buy around a pallet at a time. (A pallet of refrigerant is around forty cylinders.) The resale price at this time was right around one-hundred and fifty a cylinder upwards to one-hundred and seventy dollars.

The prices today, ten months later, have gone down a bit. Instead of seeing wholesale pallet prices at around one-hundred we are seeing between eighty and ninety dollars. So, about a ten percent drop. I would attribute this drop due to the Refrigerant Sales Restriction we mentioned earlier. On the retail side of things we’re looking right about the same price level as before: One-hundred and fifty dollars. If we look at Ebay.com today we can see quite a few cylinders right around that same price.

So, the question now is what’s next? What will happen for 2019? Truth be told I don’t see much changing for the next year. I feel like the popularity of 1234yf still hasn’t quite reached it’s peak yet and there are still so many vehicles on the road taking R-134a. There is talk from the Trump Administration on removing the Refrigerant Sales Restriction on R-134a. If that happens then we could see prices rise an additional ten to fifteen percent.

If I was to guess I would say we’re going to hover right around ninety to one-hundred dollars for most of next year. We will most likely see the eighty to ninety dollar price for the rest of this year and earlier winter of next year but as the season begins to warm up and the demand comes back we should see the price tick up to that ninety to one-hundred dollar range. And, if the sales restriction goes away maybe slightly over one-hundred dollars.

Conclusion

I want to close this article by stating that this was a prediction and it is just that, a guess. No one knows for sure what will happen to the R-134a market next year and if they say they do then they’re lying. It’s a complete guessing game. I can only provide my analysis on the matter and go from there.

Lastly, I want to mention that this is one man’s analysis on the market. We here at RefrigerantHQ are not liable for any business losses or gains when it comes to buying and selling R-134a.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Owner

The blows to a national HFC phase down plan just keep coming. It was announced today that the Supreme Court would NOT be reviewing the HFC Refrigerant court case. This appeal to the Supreme Court was the last resort to those companies and organizations who wished to see the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 SNAP Rule 20 stay in affect. This 2015 rule specifically targeted HFC refrigerants and put forth a plan of action to phase down and eventually phase out these Global Warming refrigerants. The original rule can be found by clicking here.

Upon the announcement of the EPA’s new rules two companies, Mexichem & Arkema, sued stating that the EPA had overstepped it’s authority. Mexichem & Arkema’s motivations for this lawsuit were strictly a stalling tactic while they came up with their own HFC alternatives, but the case still went to court nonetheless. In August of 2017 the Federal Circuit Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency stating that the EPA had overstepped it’s authority. As a reference, the foundation of the EPA’s Rule 20 referenced Chapter VI, 6, of the Clean Air Act. The title of this chapter is called, ‘Stratospheric Ozone Protection’ Herein lies the problem. This section of the Clean Air Act, and frankly the Montreal Protocol, focused on Ozone depleting refrigerants such as CFCs and HCFCs. These refrigerants contained Chlorine and the Chlorine is what damaged the Ozone. Without the Chlorine we have no damage to the Ozone. HFC refrigerants do not contain Chlorine and thusly cannot be phased down or out using a piece of legislation that is strictly focused on Ozone depleting substances. HFCs DO contribute go Global Warming though and are considered a Greenhouse Gas. Two very different and distinct problems.

The Federal judge who made this ruling was Brett Kavanaugh. (Some of you may have heard of this name before!) Everyone had expected the court to rule with the EPA so when this ruling came out the industry was taken aback. No one really knew what to do with the news. It only took a few weeks for an appeal to be filed by Honeywell, Chemours, and other organizations. Their appeal argued that the SNAP Rule 20 was ‘well founded,’ and that the Federal Court’s ruling was going against the foundation of the EPA’s SNAP program. Their second argument is just funny in my book. Honeywell and Chemours argued that they had already invested too much money into their new HFO refrigerants and that that was reason enough to rule in their favor.

Despite their best efforts, the appeal did not grant them any traction and the appeal was lost in early 2018. A few months later in the summer of 2018 Honeywell, Chemours, and the NRDC (National Resource Defense Council) petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the HFC refrigerant case. The decision on that potential hearing was announced today. Much to the disappointment of many within the industry, the Supreme Court will NOT be hearing this case.

Now, I love a good irony. I don’t care what your politics are, life is funny sometimes. The Judge who started all of this back in 2017 was Brett Kavanaugh. He was the one who made the initial ruling. And now, here we are over a year later, and the case ends up in the Supreme Court where Mr. Kavanaugh was just sworn into last week. I didn’t see that coming this time last year, that’s for sure. The good news is this that Mr. Kavanaugh had no part in the Supreme Court’s decision today. If this would have come up later this year chances are he would have recused himself from the case. This is normal tradition for Supreme Court Justices who have a case that they previously worked in a lower court come to them in the high court.

Something worth noting here is that the Supreme Court was asked to not review this HFC case by the Trump Administration. This is because of the new HFC rule that is being worked on by the Environmental Protection Agency. There aren’t any details yet on what the new EPA HFC refrigerant policy will be. Will it be close to what we had in 2015? Or, will it be gutted and we will be left with no actionable plan to phase down HFCs? Only time will tell here. I for one am anxious to see what the new rules will look like.

States to the Rescue

Don’t worry folks, there’s good news too! A lot of you may have already heard about this or read some of my articles from last month, but recently there has been a big push for individual States to come up with their own plans to phase down HFC refrigerants. This all started in California and as they began to adopt and pass their laws and regulations we began to see other States pick up the torch. In September we had New York announce that they would be enacting phase down plans and in that same month we had Maryland and Connecticut announce their intentions as well.

All of these states are part of what’s known as the ‘United States Climate Alliance.’ This alliance is a gathering of States that formed after the Trump Administration pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord last year. There are seventeen States in this alliance and so far four have already announced HFC phase down plans. It is only a matter of time before we see others move forward with their own plans.

If this trend continues we may not even need a formal Federal HFC policy. Instead, we’ll rely on the States to make the right decision and like a snowball going downhill it will pick up speed and size until the whole of the country is on board. Those left behind will be forced to comply due to attrition.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Changes Coming

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

United States Climate Alliance

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

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

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

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

The US Market

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

United States Climate Alliance

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

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

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

What Comes Next?

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

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

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

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

States in the alliance are:

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources:

 

R-134yf

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

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

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

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

R-134a

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

So, for this repair we would be looking at:

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

R-134yf

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

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

Difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

What Is It?

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

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

R-134a Refrigerant
R-134a Refrigerant

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

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

The HFC Phase Downs

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

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

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

Prices & Purchase Restrictions

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

New York

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

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

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

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

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

States’ Rights

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson
RefrigerantHQ

Sources

R-134yf

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

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

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

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

The video in question can be found below:

The Why?

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

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

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

Consequences

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

R-134a Refrigerant

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

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

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

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

R-134a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

R-134a Refrigerant

R-134a is one of the most commonly used refrigerants in the world. It can be found under nearly hood but there are so many questions about it that I thought I would take the time today and do a quick question and answer session for our readers. If I missed anything in here or if you would like to see anything added please do not hesitate to reach out to me and send a suggestion.

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

R-134a Refrigerant

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

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

The Facts

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

Points of Note

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

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

Frequently Asked Questions

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

History of R-134a

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

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

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

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

R-134a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

How does it work?

Most of you know by now that as of January 1st, 2018 end users are no longer able to purchase thirty pound cylinders without being licensed with the Environmental Protection Agency. This change was very similar to the purchase restrictions on other refrigerants such as R-22, R-12, and R-502. These regulations were put in place in an effort to reduce laymen’s access to refrigerant. While, some people may know what they are doing when working with refrigerant a good portion of them do not. It’s because of these outliers who do not know how to handle refrigerant that this new law/regulation was passed.

R-134a is an HFC refrigerant. HFC refrigerants are known for their extremely high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. GWP is a measure of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere. The baseline measurement of GWP is Carbon Dioxide which is set at a GWP of 1. R-134a has a GWP of 1,430. Think about that for a moment folks. That’s over fourteen-hundred times that of Carbon Dioxide. These high GWP refrigerants are known as ‘Super Gases,’ due to the effect that they have on the environment.

It is worth noting that there are exceptions for R-134a. You can no longer buy cylinders but you are still able to purchase cans of refrigerant without a license. Single or multi-use cans can be found at most retailers or on Amazon.com as well.

How Can I Get Certified for R-134a?

In order to be able to handle these super gases you need to be section 609 certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. This section 609 comes straight from the Clean Air Act of 1990. Today there are more than one million people certified under this section 609. There are a few ways for you or your employees to become certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. Some of these options are listed below:

  • A licensed 609 certification trainer comes to your place of employment, puts on a class, and then hands out testing to each attendant. After the tests are completed they will then be mailed to MACS Worldwide to be graded. If passed you will then receive your license through the mail.
    • A 609 trainer can either be from an outside party like a vendor/salesmen or it could be a designated person at your company. I have seen both. A good trainer will go over all of the details and help attendees with questions that they are unsure of. Ideally, most everyone should pass this test.
  • The other option is to go directly through MACS Worldwide. MACS is the primary provider and manager of 609 tests and license granting. They started their program only a few years after the 609 rules were introduced back in 1990. Ever since 1992 MACS has been the leader in granting 609 tests and certifications. Review the links below to read up a bit more about them, order a study book, and even order a test.
  • Please note that for each of these scenarios it will take twenty dollars per person in order to take a test.
  • Lastly, if you are trying to purchase R-134a but are not licensed there is one more avenue for you to go through. You can provide a formal letter to the purchaser that you are intending to resale the product and that you or your company will not be using the refrigerant. According to the EPA’s website, “(The) EPA recommends that wholesalers obtain a signed statement from the purchaser indicating that he or she is purchasing the refrigerant only for eventual resale to certified technicians.”

Thanks for reading and I hope this article was able to help you,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

 

Well folks I’m back and doing another prediction on R-134a pricing for this upcoming season. Over the past few months I have written a few articles on this topic. The first, which can be found here, stated that the R-134a price would stay relatively stable through the winter and into the spring and summer seasons.  My thinking here was that the anti-dumping duties on Chinese R-134a had already happened and the market had already adapted. On top of that the European Union ended R-134a usage in new vehicles in 2017. So, with the lessened demand from the EU and the tariffs starting to settle into the market I thought we would remain relatively stable.

A few weeks later I wrote another article stating that R-134a pricing would be going up. Again, this article can be found by clicking here. The motivation for this article was that I had received two tips from some of my readers. The first was from a prominent manufacturer of R-134a stating that everyone’s price was going up seventy-five cents per pound. The next tip was from another manufacturer stating that pricing was going up one dollar per pound. Seeing both of these letters sent at right about the same time sent alarm bells off in my head and I wrote this article to alert everyone else.

Well now folks that the dust has began to settle I feel I can grant yet another prediction on R-134a for this year’s season. I haven’t seen much at all in price increases over the past few months. While initially I was a bit panicked by the pricing letters I soon began to realize that a lot of companies had plenty of stock on hand left over from the previous seasons. These price increases are on new product and there is so much older product in the market place that we haven’t seen much of an impact yet.

HFC Sales Restriction in 2018

Most of you know by now that R-134a and other HFC refrigerants are now subject to the Environmental Protection Agency purchase restrictions. These HFC refrigerants were added in January 1st of 2018. While we all knew this was coming there were some side effects that I had not foreseen. A lot of larger retail outlets out there like Sam’s Club, Costco, Wal-Mart, etc used to sell R-134a thirty pound cylinders to do-it-yourselfers. This was perfectly fine. There were no regulations and it was more or less treated like buying a new cylinder of propane at your local store. Well when this new regulation went into effect these companies decided to back out of the 134a market as they saw it wasn’t worth the time to check and record everyone’s 609 certification just to purchase a cylinder of refrigerant.

Here’s the thing though. These companies suppliers had stock piles of R-134a ready to be sold for the next season. With the cancellation of these purchases these suppliers were now stuck with a surplus of 134a inventory on hand. Think about it. If you had sixty percent of your sales coming from one customer and then that customer stopped buying you would be stuck with a ton of inventory. These vendors aren’t just going to let their inventory sit. No, they are going to find new customers and come in at a lower price than their competitors.

What that means is that there will be a lot more competition on the market place this season. With more competition means a lower price to the end user dealerships and repair shops across the country. While I don’t expect it to go down significantly I could see the standard thirty pound cylinder going down a few dollars all the way up to five dollars a cylinder when the season begins to pick up.

Here’s the caveat though. If everyone’s stock pile begins to run out halfway through the summer season then we could begin to see the opposite effect. We could begin to see the price starting to climb and climb. Remember, we have those price increases from the refrigerant manufacturers. So, when our distributors do run out of product they may end up buying at a much higher price.

That being said, I am skeptical that we will run out of 134a this season. There are so many factors going into decreased demand of R-134a this year. Just a few of them are:

  1. The European Union phase out in 2017 that we mentioned above.
  2. The HFC purchase regulation. No more do-it-yourselfers can purchase thirty pound cylinders. (They can still purchase cans.)
  3. More and more new vehicles here in the United States and other countries are now using the new HFO 1234yf refrigerant in place of R-134a. While the market is still small it is important to realize that with each passing year the 1234yf market share goes up and up.

Even with this decreased demand I believe the stock and surplus inventory is still at previous year levels. So, again, I think that we are going to see the R-134a price drop a few dollars, maybe even up to five dollars a cylinder. Let’s see how the season plays out. Best of luck to all of you!

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Hello ladies and gentlemen! As we begin to enter the 2018 spring and summer season I would like to remind everyone that here at RefrigerantHQ we offer very competitive bulk purchasing options. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for one pallet or twenty pallets, we can provide you with a quote and get the ball rolling to solidify your business. While we offer all of the traditional refrigerants such as R-22, R-404A, R-410A, and R-134a we also offer some of the less common refrigerants such as the new HFO 1234yf, R-290 Propane, R-744 CO2, and any other refrigerant that you find yourselves needing.

Remember now folks that the best time to purchase refrigerants is in the winter, but since the winter is nearly over and we are now in the month of March the second best time to buy is now! I remember back when I was a purchaser for a larger dealership chain. Our goal was to always, and I mean always, buy up our refrigerant in February and March. No one knows for sure what the summer season will bring but one thing is for certain: The price will most definitely go up. Why run out of product and pay that higher price in the summer when your customers are screaming for cold air? Buy up now and have the peace of mind that you are safe for the upcoming season.

Something else to keep in mind for this upcoming season is that with the new Environmental Protection Agency regulations you now have to be 608/609 certified with the EPA in order to purchase HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-410A, and R-404A. This new law is going to cause a lot of previous buyers to be out of luck. Their source of refrigerant is now cut off. Now some of these guys may take the time to get certified but I have a feeling a lot of them are going to turn towards contractors or distributors to get their refrigerant needs. That means more demand. Will you be ready?

If you are interested in purchasing a pallet or two of refrigerant please fill out our bulk purchasing form below and we will get you in contact with a quote at a competitive price.