R-404A

7-Eleven, the world’s largest convenience store with sixty-eight thousand stores, has announced a partnership with Honeywell and their Solstice refrigerant line. Specifically, 7-Eleven has announced that they will be switching their condensers away from R-404A and over to the Solstice N40 refrigerant in the United States and Canadian markets. That is nearly twelve-thousand stores. This was the next logical step for 7-Eleven as last year they began a similar transition in their Japanese market. This switch was mandated by law, but it must have gave 7-Eleven the encouragement to switch additional stores over in North America.

I’m not an expert on supermarket or gas station coolers, but I noticed that when I was reading about this that they only intend to replace the condensers and not the rest of the machine. I am assuming that these are cascade systems that are being replaced and that the other refrigerant used is more climate friendly such as R-744. If any of you know of a different approach that they could be using feel free to let me know. It is always good to learn something new!

The replacement refrigerant known as Solstice N40, or R-448A, is a newer refrigerant from the Honeywell corporation. This refrigerant is a zeotropic blend between numerous refrigerants and is classified as an HFC/HFO mixture. It contains twenty-six percent of HFC R-32, twenty-six percent of HFC R-125, twenty-one percent of HFC R-134a, seven percent of HFO R-1234ze, and twenty percent of HFO R-1234yf. Just by the numbers I would call R-448A an HFC refrigerant rather then an HFO.

R-448A is designed as a replacement for R-404A in supermarket systems and can be used as a retrofit as well as on newer models. The retrofit is fairly simple and has been described as a near drop in replacement for R-404A. Notice I said ‘near.’ There are still some slight adjustments that have to be made before it can be used in an 404A system. 448A is meant for low and medium applications commonly found in super-markets, gas stations, vending machines, and other smaller systems.

It has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of one-thousand two-hundred and seventy-three. While that is still quite a high GWP it is nowhere near it’s predecessor. R-404A has a GWP of three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty-two. By making the switch to R-448A 7-Eleven will see a nearly sixty percent reduction of GWP. It is also more efficient then R-404A. In the lower temperature applications users can expect to see five percent in energy savings. With the medium temperature systems users can see up to fifteen percent in energy savings.

Lastly, it is safe as well with an A1 rating from ASHRAE. That means it is non-flammable and non-toxic. The flammability rating is a big deal as so many newer refrigerants nowadays seem to sacrifice safety for environment. Take R-1234yf for example, it’s predecessor R-134a was not flammable at all. 1234yf on the other hand is rated as 2L or slightly flammable. It is good to see that a next generation refrigerant is able to tackle both GWP and public/technician safety.

Conclusion

While 7-Eleven moves forward with this new refrigerant the question that I have on my mind is how long will this refrigerant last? Yes, it is a definite improvement over the HFC R-404A but it still has a GWP of over one-thousand. This refrigerant may last for a while and companies can all give themselves a pat on the back for becoming more environmentally friendly, but chances are that they will have to be switching refrigerants again in another five to ten years due to the pressure of getting rid of high GWP refrigerants.

If it was me I would either hold off on replacing/updating my HFC equipment, or if I had to update then I would opt for a natural or hydrocarbon refrigerant such as R-744 or R-290. At least with these you know that you do not have the risk of phase down looming around the corner. If there is one thing business owners can’t stand it is uncertainty.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

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On April 4th, 2019 a suit was filed by the HFC Coalition to the International Trade Commission (ITC). This suit aimed at stopping the dumping of HFC blended refrigerants such as R-410A, R-404A, and R-407C. The ITC’s decision on rather or not to review the suit was set for a deadline in May, but it was then pushed back to July. We were all expecting a decision to come next month but it was announced at the tail end of this week that the ITC has decided to accept the case and began the inquiry.

There have already been anti-dumping tariffs on HFC blends for a few years now, but the ITC’s ruling back then stated that only the blended refrigerant could be subject to the tariff. The components of these blends were not subject to the tax. So, businesses could import R-32 and R-125 refrigerants from China and face no penalties. These same businesses would then blend the refrigerant here in the States and then circumvent the tariff.

This oversight by the International Trade Commission has led to what we have today. Dirt cheap prices on some of the most common HFC refrigerants used. In essence, the initial levying of tariffs on blended refrigerants had very little impact. Everyone was getting around the tariff by importing components. It was like nothing had changed.

This is where the new suit filed in April comes into play. This case targeted the components of these blended refrigerants. On the original announcement of the suit prices on HFC blends went up nearly forty to fifty percent. As the dust began to settle prices slowly sank back down to pre-suit levels. Now though, the ITC has announced that they will hear this new case.

The Inquiry

As I said previously, the Department of Commerce has decided to began an inquiry on HFC refrigerant components. Originally, everyone had thought that the inquiry would be solely focused the blending process of the components. So, if you imported the components and then blended them into an HFC blend that is tariffed then you would be subject to the tax.

To my surprise though there were four inquiries announced this week. Let’s take a look:

  1. The first inquiry is what we just mentioned above. This is the blending of the components within the United States and circumventing the tariff. If the ITC agrees then a tariff would be installed on the blending process if the components are sourced from China.
  2. The next is what’s known as unfinished blends. I’ll be upfront with you here, I don’t know one-hundred percent what this is but my educated guess is that this is Chinese refrigerant companies blending the refrigerants but NOT to the exact levels to meet the anti-dumping blended requirements. In other words, they get it close to R-410A… but not all the way. This process would also be taxed if the ITC approves.
  3. The next inquiry is similar to our first point. This has to deal with importing components and blending them in a different country. The difference here though is that this is referencing India in particular. In this scenario, China exports the refrigerant components to India and then India blends them to create the blended HFC. This was yet another work around that companies found as the country of origin is India… even though the goods came from China. If approved anti-dumping would be installed in this scenario as well. While the initial inquiry only states India that does not mean that other countries are exempt. Say for example, China imports components into Vietnam and they blend there. If a decision is made here let’s hope it applies to all countries.
  4. The last change is on the blended refrigerant R-421A. This refrigerant blend actually doesn’t have a tariff on it because the product is patented. Patented refrigerants were excluded from the previous anti-dumping order. R-421A is quite similar to the more popular blended refrigerant known as R-407C. So, folks were importing the non-tariff R-421A and then finishing the blend to create R-407C. To give an example here, R-421A is comprised of R-125 (58%) and R-134a (42%). R-407C is comprised of R-32 (23%), R-125 (25%), and R-134a (52%). The only thing missing between these two refrigerants is R-32 and that is easily enough imported in without a tariff. If the ITC rules in favor then these patented blends will see tariffs installed on them as well.

Call these work around what you want. Maybe they are clever loopholes found by hard working businessmen. Or, maybe, they are skirting the edge of the law and they should all be stopped. However you feel, it is all coming to a head now. Now that this inquiry has begun there is a great amount of uncertainty in the market. What will happen? Will they rule in favor of all four? Just some, or none at all?

Pricing Impact

The official inquiry by the Department of Commerce will be hitting the public register on Monday. From that date onwards, June 17th, there will be a three-hundred day period for the ITC to make their decision. Here’s the scary thing though folks. If the ITC decides to impose tariffs in any of the ways we described above then those tariffs could be retroactive. This is huge and this is the main reason we are seeing prices go haywire.

Look at this way. Let’s say I am a business owner and I am going to import a trailerload of R-32 and R-125 into the United States next week. The product comes in, I blend it to R-410A, and then sell all of the product a few months later. I could face a tariff on ALL of that imported product nearly a year after I had imported and sold it. The ITC has the power to make this ruling retroactive and because of that the importing of HFCs has become a lot less attractive. Business owners could be looking at an over one-hundred percent tax on product they already sold.

Everyone who saw this coming bought up on as much product as they could and now that the inquiry has begun prices have begun to rise. A few major manufacturers have already announced their price increases. The question now though is will these manufacturers put limits on what quantities businesses can buy as well? Or, will the high prices be enough?

If you were smart enough to buy ahead you can now make a killing since the import market has all but dried up. Let’s take a look at some of the pricing trends we’re seeing now since this inquiry began just a few days ago:

R-410A – Twenty-Five Pound Cylinder Pricing:

  • Fall 2017 – $140
  • Fall 2018 – $65
  • Jan 2019 – $68
  • Feb 2019 – $56
  • Mar 2019 – $49
  • Apr 2019 – $100 – News of possible tariffs
  • May 2019 – $78
  • June 2019 – $65 – Before Inquiry
  • June 2019 – $100 – After Inquiry
    • I will state that the $100 is with some vendors. I have seen some say one-hundred and fifty and even some at one-hundred and eighty dollars a cylinder.

R-404A – Twenty-Four Pound Cylinder Pricing:

  • Fall 2017 – $175
  • Fall 2018 – $80
  • Jan 2019 – $70
  • Feb 2019 – $58
  • Mar 2019 – $50
  • Apr 2019 – $105 – News of possible tariffs
  • May 2019 – $89
  • June 2019 – $60 – Before Inquiry
  • June 2019 – $105 – After Inquiry

R-407C – Twenty-Five Pound Cylinder Pricing:

I don’t have as much pricing information on this product but I can still show you the pricing swing that took place this month:

  • June 2019 – $85 – Before Inquiry
  • June 2019 – $105 – After Inquiry

Conclusion

With the announcement of these inquiries this week there is now a lot of uncertainty introduced within the market place. It is difficult to say what will happen with pricing now. In the earlier announcements there was still hope that the ITC wouldn’t take up the case, but now that it is official we may see prices stay at these levels, or even go higher. It could go as crazy as two-hundred dollars plus a cylinder late this summer for some of the more popular HFC blends. But, we just don’t know for sure.

After all, it’s been an unseasonably colder summer for most of the country. I just took a bike ride earlier today in seventy-four degree weather. That is unheard of in Kansas in the middle of June. It should be close to one-hundred degrees. I know New England and other areas are experiencing the same thing. This colder weather may act as a buffer to this pending inquiry and help insulate the pricing situation until a decision is made next year.

If you are looking to purchase refrigerant please check out our bulk purchasing page by clicking here. In many cases we can get you the best and most aggressive priced product on the market.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Also, check out our other earlier articles on this same topic:

A few more dominoes fell this week in the HFC phase down across the United States. I had reported a few weeks ago that Washington State’s HFC phase down had passed the legislature and just needed the signature from the governor. Well, Governor Jay Inslee signed bill HB 1112 this week. This adds yet another state to the ever growing list that has begun phasing down HFC refrigerants. We now have California, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, and now Washington State phasing down HFC refrigerants. There are other states as well considering their own legislation.

So far all of these state planned phase downs have been modeled after the original Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20 and 21 from 2015. The same holds true for another state that announced their intentions to phase down HFC refrigerants: Vermont. Yes, Vermont has announced that they are intending to phase down HFC refrigerants as well through their new bill ‘S. 30.’ The bill passed the legislature last week and is expected a signature from the governor soon.

With an effective date of July 1st, 2019 Vermont is wasting no time. Just like with the other states Vermont begins their phase down by targeting R-404A applications and larger cold storage warehouses. 404A is always the first target as it has an extremely high Global Warming Potential. It’s the low hanging fruit of the HFC refrigerants. As the years progress Vermont will target other applications and HFC refrigerants through a staggered approach. The end goal of Vermont’s HFC phasedown is to see a forty percent usage reduction based on 2013 levels by the year 2030.

Vermont, along with twenty-three other states, is part of what’s known as the United States Climate Alliance.’ This alliance was formed when the Trump Administration pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. The goal of the alliance is to create a coalition of states that work together to fight Climate Change and Global Warming. Their thinking is if the Federal Government isn’t going to do anything then the states will have to.

The other states in the Climate Alliance are all expected to follow suit in the coming years. This all started with California and then we began to see the snowball effect take hold as New York and other New England states announced they were planning HFC phasedowns. Nearly half the states in The Union are part of this Climate Alliance and it’s only a matter of time before more HFC phase down announcements are made. What state will be next?

Conclusion

The Federal Government’s positions on HFC phase down has been a mystery for the past few years. The EPA’s SNAP Rule was thrown out by the courts. The Kigali Amendment went into effect at the beginning of this year but the United States never ratified the treaty. The EPA may announce something soon, but it is unclear what this announcement will be.

I’ve said this before in other HFC phase down articles but as more states are added to the list eventually manufacturing companies are going to be forced to move away from HFCs… even if there isn’t a Federal mandate. If enough states phase out HFCs then manufacturers will either have to produce two different models (One for HFC states and one for non-HFC states), or the manufacturers will have to do a complete switch over to lower GWP refrigerants. If I was in their shoes, I know what I would choose.

Regardless of what happens, we can all be assured that over the next ten years the usage of HFCs will be going down and we will seem them being replaced with either natural refrigerants, hydrocarbons, or HFOs. The industry is getting more diversified and that means more specialized training to deal with these varying refrigerants.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

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In the beginning of this year I got into the habit of writing refrigerant pricing updates as I saw them coming. Most of these have been fairly benign with a few percent increases here and there. It was last month though that I wrote a pricing update that had pricing doubling on some of the most popular refrigerants in just a matter of days. The article can be found here.

This huge jump in price can be tied to a new suit filed with the Department of Commerce. This suit which was filed by the HFC Coalition aimed at installing anti-dumping tariffs on HFC components. For those of you that do not know, a few years back there were anti-dumping tariffs put on some of the most popular HFC refrigerants used today: R-410A and R-404A. These tariffs targeted Chinese product that was being unloaded in the United States at ultra low prices.

The problem with these tariffs though was how they were written. The tariffs themselves ONLY applied to R-410A and R-404A. Remember folks, that these two products are blended refrigerants. While the tariff was on the finished product it wasn’t on the components to make the blend. So, your refrigerants like R-125 and R-32 were immune from the anti-dumping. This resulted in a halting of imports of R-410A/R-404A and instead we saw massive importing of the components to blend these refrigerants. This flood of refrigerant components caused the price to stay pretty much were it was before the anti-dumping tariffs were installed. Nothing had changed except now distributors were blending Chinese refrigerants in the United States.

The Suit

I won’t get into all of the details here as it would be repetitive from my last article. Instead I’ll give a short summary and then move onto the update. In order to prevent these low prices and the continuing flood of Chinese refrigerants a suit was introduced to the Department of Commerce. This suit aimed at solving the problem when it comes to HFC refrigerant blends by adding a tariff to ANY HFC components that were used to create a blend within the United States. In other words, you can import R-125 all day long but the moment you use R-125 to create R-410A then you have to pay a tariff.

This suit was filed in early April and originally a decision was to be made today May 20th, 2019. Well, the deadline came and went and there was still no decision made. Instead the Department of Commerce issued a statement saying:

“According to 19 CFR 351.225(c)(2), “{w}ithin 45 days of the date of receipt of an application for a scope ruling, the Secretary will issue a final ruling under paragraph (d) of this section or will initiate a scope inquiry under paragraph (e) of this section.” However, “unless expressly precluded by statute, the Secretary may, for good cause, extend any time limit.” We have determined that additional time is required to review and assess the HFC Coalition’s request. Thus, in accordance with 19 CFR 351.302(b), we are extending the time-period for initiating a formal anti-circumvention inquiry by 45 days, until July 3, 2019.”

So, the can has been kicked down the road and we are now left with even more uncertainty. Before I get into pricing I want to make sure everyone understands that IF the DOC decides to take this suit up on July 3rd then EVERY blended refrigerant from July 3rd up until the decision date of the suit could be retroactively taxed the tariff. So, if I imported a heap of R-125 and R-32 in August, mixed them as 410A, and then sold them in September then I could be liable for tariffs… even if the DOC’s decision doesn’t come until February of 2020.

Pricing Update

That clause I just mentioned above is why we saw prices go crazy last April. The price of HFC refrigerants seemed to jump overnight when news of this hit the industry. Everyone was buying up as much as they could from their distributors and the distributors were buying as much as they could from China before a decision was made to accept the suit or not. In some cases we saw prices double.

Today however, I have good news. The prices on HFCs have begun to settle down. It’s hard to say exactly why this is but it appears that the initial shock of tariffs on components have worn off. Or, it could be that everyone and their brother have bought up so much that the demand has ultimately died down. Whatever the reason is prices have gone down since May. While we are still not near where we were before, we are in a much better spot then we were a month ago.

In my last article I did a break down of pricing on R-410A and R-404A. Let’s take a look again but with this week’s prices:

R-410A – Twenty-Five Pound Cylinder Pricing:

  • Fall 2017 – $140
  • Fall 2018 – $65
  • Jan 2019 – $68
  • Feb 2019 – $56
  • Mar 2019 – $49
  • Apr 2019 – $100 – News of possible tariffs
  • May 2019 – $78

R-404A – Twenty-Four Pound Cylinder Pricing:

  • Fall 2017 – $175
  • Fall 2018 – $80
  • Jan 2019 – $70
  • Feb 2019 – $58
  • Mar 2019 – $50
  • Apr 2019 – $105 – News of possible tariffs
  • May 2019 – $89

Conclusion

As you can see, we are moving downwards… but it is very tough to say what will happen in the future. There is still a lot of uncertainty in the industry and it is anyone’s guess as to what the Department of Commerce will decide on July 3rd.

One other point to mention here is that there was some talk on the latest tariffs from the Trump Administration. These tariffs are unrelated to the anti-dumping tariffs but are instead retaliatory taxes in the ongoing trade war between the United States and China. They were to be twenty-five percent on selected harmonized codes.

At first I understood that HFC refrigerants, and components, were affected by this tariff. But now, I have heard that an exemption was made specifically for HFC components. I have searched online trying to find specific information but it is quite murky, and I have not been able to find anything concrete. If any of you have further information on this topic please reach out to me and I will update this article.

Thanks for reading and hope everyone has a great Memorial Day! I’ve got a barbecue with my name no it. Cheers!

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Today Democratic Presidential Candidate Robert O’Rourke announced his climate action plan if he was to become president after the 2020 election. Of course, all of this is very speculative as we haven’t even gone through the primaries yet. We are still a very long ways away from the election and no one knows for sure what the landscape will look by the time we get there.What is concerning though is that these announcements and policy positions made by candidates today may be carried over towards the national stage as we progress further along. Even if Mr. O’Rourke doesn’t achieve the nomination his competitors may look at some of his policies and began to adopt them for themselves.

Now, I won’t get into all of the details of O’Rourke’s plan but instead I’m going to focus on one specific excerpt that affects us the most. Here is what his campaign website states:

“Rapidly phase-out hydrofluorocarbons, the super-polluting greenhouse gas that is up to 9,000 times worse for climate change than carbon dioxide.” – Source

What concerns mere here folks is the vagueness of his comments. HFCs are mentioned almost off offhandedly in a long laundry list of other goals and desires. Reading his comments above leads me to a variety of questions:

  1. What does a rapid phase out look like? Notice also, that it is stated as a phase out and not a phase down. Will this be an immediate phase out? Or, will it be staggered?
  2. In his climate plan he states that he would enact these HFC phase outs on the very first day of his presidency via executive order. Like I mentioned above, will this be staggered or he just going to shut the hose off and leave the market scrambling?
  3. Will R-410A be included in this proposed plan? In most HFC phase downs across the United States rather it be through the EPA or individual states we have seen R-410A more or less left alone. That is because it is still fairly new as a replacement for R-22.
  4. How will R-134a be handled in this phase out? Will all new vehicles be forced over to 1234yf?
  5. Will this phase out be focused on no more new machines being produced or imported in the United States? Or, will it be focused also on manufacturing and import limits on HFC refrigerants?

Of course there are many other questions that come to mind after reading his campaign website. But, this is all speculative and at this point no one knows for sure what’s going to happen. The only thing I can hope for is that as we move closer to the election and the field begins to narrow that we get a more details and concise plan from candidates.

Conclusion

I try to make RefrigerantHQ political neutral. You may have seen my political leanings in differing posts, but overall I feel it’s in bad taste to advocate for one side or another on an industry specific publication. It doesn’t make sense to exclude half of your audience just because you feel a certain way.

That being said, this plan from Mr. O’Rourke does concern me for the reasons I mentioned above. It has the potential to turn the industry upside down. Imagine, if you will, that he is elected President and on his first day he bans HFCs from all new machines and puts an import/production limit on HFC refrigerants. The market would go crazy. Prices would sky rocket and shortages would occur. We would look like Europe looked like in 2017 and 2018.

O’Rourke isn’t the only Democratic candidate pushing for these types of changes though. Mr. Inslee out of Washington, whom I wrote about earlier today, is also running for President and has also voiced desire to phase out HFC refrigerants.

It’s going to be a crazy eighteen months until Election Day. Here’s hoping we get some more details on these plans and may the best candidate win!

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Another state has moved forward with phasing down HFC refrigerants such as R-404A, R-134a, and R-410A. Last week the Washington State House Bill 1112 passed the Legislature with a large majority vote. This was widely expected to pass and now all it needs is a signature from Governor Jay Inslee which is expected to happen soon.

Washington is part of what’s known as the United States Climate Alliance. This alliance is a mixture of various States that came together when the Trump Administration announced that they were pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. These twenty-two states include New York, Washington, New Jersey, Oregon, and California. In fact, Governor Inslee of Washington was one of the co-founders of this alliance.

The Washington Bill 1112 is modeled and built off of the Environmental Protection Agency’s former SNAP Rules 20 and 21. It aims at phasing down HFCs across the state and to make certain HFCs no longer acceptable in newly built applications. I won’t report on the exact specifics on the bill until it is fully signed as there is always a chance that there will be further amendments or changes before it is fully passed.

But, from what I have read the Washington bill is very similar to the California bill that was passed last year. Let’s take a look at what California did:

California

The California bill adopts the rules laid out on the Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rules 20 and 21. The only exception here is for automobiles. (In the SNAP Rule 20 R-134a was deemed as no longer acceptable in 2021 model years.) These prohibitions and regulations in California took effect on January 1st, of this year.

Under the new California law manufacturers can no longer produce machines that use the prohibited HFC refrigerants. Now, just like with the EPA’s SNAP, this California plan is a staggered approach. So, not all applications were phased out all at once.

California did the carrot and stick approach. Obviously, the stick is not being compliant with the new regulations and facing fines and other repercussions. The carrot though is that the government is offering incentives to businesses that begin adopting new climate friendly equipment today.

All of these changes and regulations from the Senate Bill 1013 aim at cutting California’s HFC emissions to forty percent below 2013 levels by the time we reach the year 2030. This goal is mandated by the Senate Bill 1383.

The important thing to remember here folks is that this isn’t just an on or off switch. Like I mentioned earlier, this is a staggered approach that goes by application to application. That being said, one big change that has already occurred as of January of this year is that R-404A is no longer acceptable in supermarket systems in California. Along with that 404A is no longer accepted in vending machines, cold storage facilities, and many other applications. You can read more on this by clicking here.

While R-134a and R-410A were mentioned in their table, it was only briefly and not in their primary applications. For example, automobiles were not mentioned and home/commercial air conditioners were not mentioned. So, for the foreseeable future your air conditioner for your home and car will still be using HFCs in California without issue. All of that may change though folks as you never know what new law will come down the pipeline.

Conclusion

California was the first but there will be many more to follow. Washington will be next. Who knows who will come after that?

One thing is for certain, the United States Climate Alliance is a large collection of states and it is only getting larger as time goes on. As the dominoes began to fall we will eventually see manufacturers be forced to move away from HFC machines if they want to continue selling in Climate Alliance states.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Well folks, as most of you know today is Earth Day. Personally, I don’t do anything to celebrate it besides walking around my property and enjoying the view. I just cleared an area by our pond this weekend and now I’ve got a nice quiet place to relax after a day’s work.

As I was reading the news today I saw a plethora of Earth Day stores. One that stuck out to me though was that the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) announced that they had launched a website in honor of Earth Day. This website aims at identifying retailers within the United States who have begun to use natural refrigerants instead of HFCs. The goal here is to have the companies who have started moving forward with natural refrigerants to be recognized for leading the pack.

Before we get to the website, let’s take a look at who the Environmental Investigation Agency (IEA) is. I have not heard of them before, and when I haven’t heard of something I like to research it. EIA is a non-profit organization that was founded back in 1984 out of the United Kingdom. Today they have offices in London and in Washington DC and focus on environmental crime and abuse across the globe. Their main website can be found by clicking here. They work on wide variety of things from endangered animals and poaching all the way over to climate change and refrigerants.

The new HFC website that EIA created can be found by clicking here. At first glance when looking at this website and the map that shows you where the natural refrigerant supermarkets are within the United States I couldn’t help but laugh. Nearly every location is in California or New York. This was expected as California usually leads the way in environmental progress, but still it was quite funny to see that the closest one to me is about one-thousand miles away (I’m in Kansas City).

Regardless of how far away they are progress is progress. According to IEA there are five main companies that have been pushing their locations to move away from HFCs and switch over to natural refrigerants. These companies are: Target, Aldi, Ahold Delhaize, Whole Foods Market, and Sprouts. Each of these companies has their own innovative ways of applying these alternative refrigerants. These range from:

  • Transcritical CO2 systems
  • Cascade or indirect systems using a combination of two low-GWP refrigerants
  • Micro-distributed systems using hydrocarbon condensing units on a chilled water or glycol loop
  • Stand-alone display cases using hydrocarbons

I won’t get into the details of what every company has done over the past few years to make this listing, but instead give you a quick highlight from each company. If you wish to read more on the subject feel free to visit our ‘Sources’ section at the bottom of this article to continue reading.

Aldi has been one of the leaders here in the United States. This isn’t surprising in the slightest as they are a European based company and have European ideals. (Europe is always ahead of us when it comes to environmental changes.) According to IEA Aldi has over two-hundred stores with transcritical R-744 systems with plans to add another one-hundred by the end of 2019. Along with that they have launched R-290 propane self-contained refrigerators/freezers and they have transitioned their warehouses over to R-717 ammonia based systems.

Target is another big driver of change. So far they have over one-thousand stores using self-contained hydrocarbon refrigerators/freezers (R-290 and R-600a). They have also begun experimenting with CO2 applications. They are piloting a transcritical R-744 application in two stores and they have also begun using CO2 cascade systems in their larger stores. Also, just like Aldi, they are using ammonia R-717 in their food distribution warehouses.

The other stores haven’t done as much as Aldi and Target, but they are still making strides to cleaner refrigerants. Whole Foods, now owned by Amazon, has begun distributing propane stand-alone refrigerators/freezers across their entire store network. They have also been piloting a transcritical CO2 system in their Brooklyn, New York store. The company Ahold USA was the very first store ever in the United States to begin using a transcritical CO2 system. Lastly, Sprouts was the first grocery store in the United States to use a R-744 ejection refrigeration system.

Conclusion

Along with these companies being environmentally friendly and being recognized by such agencies such as the IEA they also get the added benefit of increased energy efficiency. More often than not natural refrigerants are far more efficient than your standard HFC refrigerant. Ammonia, for example, is the most efficient refrigerant out there. All of this efficiency means decreased monthly energy bills for these stores and companies. So, while there may be a larger expense up front with a natural system the business owner will make it back month to month with lower operating expenses. They also get the peace of mind knowing that natural refrigerants will never be phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency as they have no, or extremely little, impact on the climate and the Ozone layer.

While looking at the map of all of stores using natural refrigerants was comical, we do all have to start somewhere. I’m willing to bet though that the map isn’t covering every store in the country. There’s a Whole Foods and an Aldi not far from me and I bet one of those stores are using a propane based refrigerator. With each year that passes the chance of running into these systems increases. If you haven’t already familiarized yourself with them I would recommend looking into it soon.

What is interesting though was after reading this I saw very little mention of HFO refrigerants from Honeywell and Chemours. Are the HFO refrigerants being eclipsed by natural refrigerants?  Will we begin to see the mass conversion away from R-404A before HFOs can be fully rolled out? Time will tell.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

alert

Hello all, I apologize for the two e-mails in one day but I figured this one was worth it. Over the past week I have had a few notifications from my contacts within the industry about incoming price changes.

First, before we get into what these changes are I want to take a look at why they are occurring. A few years back there was a suit filed with the International Trade Commission. This suit claimed that refrigerants from China were being dumped into the United States market at unfair prices. This dumping caused the prices on the most common HFC refrigerants to sink lower and lower.

In 2016 the Trade Commission ruled in favor of tariffs on imported HFC refrigerant blends from China (Two-hundred and ten percent tariff – Source from CoolingPost.com) The problem here though was that the Trade Commission’s ruling was on on HFC blends and not their components. That meant if you imported R-410A into the United States from China you would face a two-hundred and ten percent tariff, but if you imported R-125 and R-32 from China and then blended them within the US then you could work around the tariffs.

Obviously, this was a big hole. With this ruling there was going to be very little impact on HFC blend pricing. Sure, there is the extra cost of having to blend the product, but it is minimal when compared to purchasing competing product. The low priced product from China continued to flow freely.

The New Case

Everyone knew that the anti-dumping tariff had to be put in place on the components of blended refrigerants as well. But, in order to justify a new case with the Trade Commission it had to be proven that the tariffs instigated in 2016 were not effective and that companies were navigating around them by importing component refrigerants. From what I have read there needs to be at least a couple years of data in order for a case to move forward and be legitimized.

Well folks, here we are in 2019 and years have passed since the initial anti-dumping tariffs were passed. It is now time for a new case with the International Trade Commission. Yes, on April 4th, 2019 the American HFC Coalition and it’s members filed a new anti-dumping case with the Trade Commission. An excerpt can be seen below:

Section 781(a) of the Act is designed to address circumvention of an order by imports of out-of-scope merchandise, such as HFC components, that are completed or assembled in the United States after importation. As described below, the statutory criterion for initiating an anticircumvention inquiry are satisfied in this case. Evidence establishes that iGas USA, Inc., and its affiliate BMP USA, Inc., are mixing HFC blends in the United States using HFC components imported from China.

The process of blending HFC components from China into in-scope HFC blends adds only [ ] per kilogram of the finished HFC blend. As such, the blending performed by iGas and BMP is “minor or insignificant” within the meaning of section781(a)(1)(C) and 781(a)(2) of the Act. Additionally, the imported R-32, R-125, or R-143a, as the primary inputs of HFC blends, account for a “significant portion” of the total value of the merchandise within the meaning of section 781(a)(1)(D) of the Act. For these reasons, HFC components imported from China by TTI, Lianzhou, iGas and BMP are circumventing the antidumping duty order on HFC blends. Consequently, these components should be included within the antidumping duty order on HFC Blends from China pursuant to Section 781(a) of the Act.

As you can see, they have referenced companies bringing in HFC components from China and then mixing them in house to create R-410A, R-404A, and other popular HFC blends. Here is where things get a bit different though folks. Most people within the industry knew that this was coming. They had expected it to hit this year even, but what’s different is that the expected case was to be on the component refrigerants coming in from China. This new case though aims at the actual blending process. If you import HFC components into the United States from China and you then use those components to create a refrigerant blend that has a tariff then that tariff will apply to your newly blended refrigerant. In other words, you will be charged the tariff on R-410A even though you didn’t actually import R-410A. (You imported R-125 and R-32 instead.) An excerpt from the case is below as well:

COMMERCE SHOULD INCLUDE HFC COMPONENTS, “COMPLETED OR ASSEMBLED” IN THE
UNITED STATES INTO HFC BLENDS, WITHIN THE SCOPE OF THE ANTIDUMPING ORDER
PURSUANT TO SECTION 781(A) OF THE ACT.

All of this is preliminary. There is nothing official yet. The Trade Commission hasn’t even decided if they are going to investigate the matter. Their decision is expected to come towards the end of May. If the Commission does decide to investigate this case then we may have to wait a year, or more, to find out what the results are and if they will be levying a tariff on the blending of HFC refrigerants. Here’s the kicker though folks, if they do accept this case and rule in favor of a tariff a year down the road they could also make the decision to retroactively enact the tariff on blending refrigerants. That means that from the moment they accept the case up until their ruling refrigerant distributors could have to pay the new tariffs on their blended refrigerants… even on product that have already been sold. This is a worst case scenario, but if it does happen a lot of companies will have to write off these tariffs on product that they sold a year ago.

Price & Availability

As a direct result of the scenario above we have begun to see chaos in the HFC pricing and availability market here in the United States. In just a few days after the announced case two major refrigerant manufacturers sent notifications that they would no longer be accepting HFC refrigerant orders. Think about that for a second, two out of the four major manufacturers are no longer accepting orders. (I won’t name names here, but I’m sure you can make a good guess.) These companies put a hold on their distributing refrigerant because everyone is buying as much refrigerants as they can as soon as they can. Everyone is trying to beat that May deadline when the Trade Commission decides rather to pick up the case or not. That date is critical because, as we discussed before, if they do decide to investigate then ANY product brought in after that date could be subject to an anti-dumping tariff.

Along with the two manufacturers who are no longer taking orders I have another mailer from a third global manufacturer. While this mailer isn’t stopping orders it is announcing a large price increase on all of their HFC refrigerants. This company announced an increase of eighty cents a pound on their various HFC refrigerants such as: R-410A, R-407A, R-407C, R-404A, and R-507. For some reason, R-134a was also mentioned as having an increase although theirs was smaller at sixty cents more per pound. Having R-134a in here is strange since it is not a blended refrigerant, but this may have been thrown in there just because.

Based off of the increases mentioned above let’s take a look at one of the most popular refrigerants and how they are impacted. Remember, that these prices are always ball park and can change at any time:

R-410A – Twenty-Five Pound Cylinder Pricing:

  • Fall 2017 – $140
  • Fall 2018 – $65
  • Jan 2019 – $68
  • Feb 2019 – $56
  • Mar 2019 – $49
  • Apr 2019 – $100

R-404A – Twenty-Four Pound Cylinder Pricing:

  • Fall 2017 – $175
  • Fall 2018 – $80
  • Jan 2019 – $70
  • Feb 2019 – $58
  • Mar 2019 – $50
  • Apr 2019 – $105

Conclusion

These two pricing trends above really tell the story on what has happened over the past week or so. The prices on these HFC blends have nearly doubled. ALL of this is due to speculation and rumor as to what the Trade Commission will decide. Will they take up the case? Or, will they hold off? 

Also, another point that I didn’t mention is that it’s not just the larger global manufacturers that are having a run on their HFC inventory. The Chinese are seeing huge trailerload orders placed as a last ditch effort to get as much product on hand as possible before a possible tariff begins. If this keeps up there very well may be a global shortage of R-125 again similar to what we saw in the spring of 2017. (At some points during that year we saw 410A and 404A prices upwards of four-hundred dollars.)

The only good news I can offer here is that once the May deadline approaches things began to slow down. Right now it is the uncertainty that is driving the market mad. At least once a decision is made everyone can sleep a bit easier. 

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

RefrigerantHQ's Pressure Charts

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

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

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

R-404A Pressure Chart

R-404A rose to prominence in the late 1990’s with the phasing out of CFC and HCFC refrigerants like R-12 and R-502. There had to be a replacement for the Ozone damaging refrigerants of the past and the successor was the HFC R-404A that we all know of today.

404A’s reign however was short lived. R-404A has one of the highest Global Warming Potential numbers of any modern day refrigerant and is known as a super pollutant. Because of this we are seeing various countries and manufacturers no longer using R-404A in new machinery. Instead, companies and countries are opting for more climate friendly refrigerants such as natural refrigerants, hydrocarbons, and newer less GWP heavy HFO refrigerants

If you would like to read more about R-404A  refrigerant please click here to be taken to our refrigerant fact sheet.

Let’s take a look at our pressure chart:

°F °C PSI KPA
-40 -40.0 4.3 29.6
-35 -37.2 6.8 46.9
-30 -34.4 9.5 65.5
-25 -31.7 12.5 86.2
-20 -28.9 15.7 108.2
-15 -26.1 19.3 133.1
-10 -23.3 23.2 160.0
-5 -20.6 27.5 189.6
0 -17.8 32.1 221.3
5 -15.0 37 255.1
10 -12.2 42.4 292.3
15 -9.4 48.2 332.3
20 -6.7 54.5 375.8
25 -3.9 61.2 422.0
30 -1.1 68.4 471.6
35 1.7 76.1 524.7
40 4.4 84.4 581.9
45 7.2 93.2 642.6
50 10.0 103 710.2
55 12.8 113 779.1
60 15.6 123 848.1
65 18.3 135 930.8
70 21.1 147 1013.5
75 23.9 159 1096.3
80 26.7 173 1192.8
85 29.4 187 1289.3
90 32.2 202 1392.7
95 35.0 218 1503.1
100 37.8 234 1613.4
105 40.6 252 1737.5
110 43.3 270 1861.6
115 46.1 289 1992.6
120 48.9 310 2137.4
125 51.7 331 2282.2
130 54.4 353 2433.9
135 57.2 377 2599.3
140 60.0 401 2764.8

 

Conclusion

There you have it folks. I hope this article was helpful and if you find that something is inaccurate here in my chart please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I have sourced this the best I could but there is always going to be conflicting data.  I’ve seen it multiple times on various refrigerants. I’ll search for a refrigerant’s pressure chart and get various results all showing different pounds per square inch temperatures.

The aim with this article is to give you accurate information so again, if you see anything incorrect please let me know by contacting me here. On top of this post we are also working on a comprehensive refrigerant pressure/temperature listing. The goal is to have every refrigerant out there listed with a pressure/temperature chart that is easily available. 

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Owner

facts

Today the HFC R-404A is one of the most commonly used refrigerants in the United States and in the world. You can find it most commercial refrigerators/freezers, in vending and ice machines, in refrigerated transport, and in specific industrial applications.

404A was originally implemented as a replacement option for the now banned CFC R-502. R-502 was widely used throughout all of the applications we mentioned above until 1995/1996 when it was phased out entirely due to it’s Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP). While 404A has been around for decades it’s future may be short lived due to it’s high Global Warming Potential (GWP).

In this post we are going to take an in-depth look at R-404A. In our first section we’ll cover all of the facts, then the pros/cons, points of note, and the history of R-404A.

The Facts

Name:R-404A
Name - Scientific:Blend of R-125, R-143a, & R-134a
Name (2):404A
Name (3):HFC-404A
Classification:HFC Refrigerant - Blend
Chemistry:Pesudo-Azeotropic Blend
Chemistry (2):R-125 Pentafluroethane (44%)
Chemistry (3):R-143a 1,1,1-Trifluoroethane (52%)
Chemistry (4):R-134a 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane (4%)
R-125 Chemistry:44±2% C2HF5
R-1143a Chemistry:52±1% C2H3F3
R-134a Chemistry:4±2% C2H2F4
Status:Phasing Down Across The World
Future:Will Be Phased Out in 10 Years
Application:Low to Medium Temperature Systems
Application (2):Supermarkets, Gas Stations, Vending/Ice Machines
Application (3):Refrigerated Transport & Industrial Refrigeration
Replacement For:CFC R-502, R-12, & R-22
Ozone Depletion Potential:0
Global Warming Potential:3,922
Global Warming Risk:VERY HIGH
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 1 -No Flame Propagation.
Lubricant Required:Synthetic Oil - Polyol Ester Oil or POE
Boiling Point:-46.6° Celsius or -51.88° Fahrenheit
Temperature Glide:0.8
Critical Temperature:72.14° Celsius or 161.852° Fahrenheit
Critical Pressure:3.735 MPA or 541.716 PSI
Auto ignition Temperature:Not Determiend
Manufacturers:Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
Manufacturing Facilities:All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.
Form:Gas
Color:Colorless Liquid & Vapor
Odor:Faint Ethereal Odor
EPA Certification Required:Yes, 608 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Require Certification to Purchase?Yes, 608 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Cylinder Color:Orange
Cylinder Design:
R-404A 24 pound jug cylinder
R-404A 24 pound jug cylinder
Cylinder Design (2):Twenty-four pound cylinder
Price Point:Medium - $70-$160 a cylinder.
Where to Buy Can or Cylinder?Click Here to Purchase Cylinders
Bulk Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

R-404A Pressure Chart

Knowing the pressure and the temperatures associated to the machine you are working on is essential to being able to diagnose any possible issues. Without knowing the temperatures you are more or less walking blind. These pressure checks give you the facts so that you can move onto the next step of your diagnosis. Instead of pasting a large table of information here I will instead direct you to our specific R-404A refrigerant temperature page. This can be found by clicking here.

R-404A Pros & Cons

Regardless of what refrigerant you are looking at they all have their own pros and cons. There is no perfect refrigerant. There may never be. Ammonia for example is deemed one of the best refrigerants in the world… but it’s extremely toxic and can be deadly in high amounts.

R-404A has it’s own pros and cons. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Pros:

  • R-404A provided an immediate replacement product for both R-12, R-22 and R-502. This allowed the world to stop using Ozone depleting refrigerants. R-404A operated at comparable physical and thermodynamic properties that R-502 did which made transitioning to new systems or retrofitting older systems a much easier task.
  • 404A is rated as an A1 from ASHRAE. That means that it is non-toxic and non-flammable. While this may not seem like a big deal for HFC refrigerants, this rating is becoming more and more important when it comes to looking for a more environmentally friendly replacement refrigerant.

Cons:

  • The biggest con with R-404A is it’s extremely high Global Warming Potential (GWP). It’s GWP rating is three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty. This number makes it one of the absolute highest GWP refrigerant that is widely used in the world today.
  • In some applications 404A is not the most efficient. There are other refrigerants that can save five to ten percent efficiency. (R-134a for example.) The lost efficiency with 404A can translate into more energy and more money spent when compared to other refrigerants. Refer to our ‘R-404A Potential Replacements’ section for some of these more efficient refrigerants.

Notes on R-404A

Just like with our other facts sheets I’d like to take some time in this section and go over some facts and other points of note on R-404A refrigerants:

  • R-404A began seeing usage in 1996 after the phase out of CFC R-502 due to it’s Ozone Depletion Potential.
  • R-404A is a ternary refrigerant blend consisting of the HFC R-125 (forty-four percent), HFC R-143a (fifty-two percent), and HFC R-134a (four percent).
  • R-404A is used across a variety of low and medium temperature applications including super market freezers/refrigerators, vending machines, ice machines, refrigerated transport, and industrial refrigerant systems.
  • Starting in 1996, 404A was the primary refrigerant for the above mentioned applications for over twenty years.
  • R-404A is non toxic and non flammable and has an A1 rating from ASHRAE. Note that if 404A is pressurized after being mixed with air the chance of flammability increases. You should never mix 404A with air under.
  • R-404A is heavier then air and will displace oxygen in a room if a large enough quantity is leaked. This can be said for various types of refrigerants though and is not unique to 404A.
  • When charging systems with R-404A the refrigerant must be in a liquid state. If done in a gaseous state you risk damaging the entire system.
  • In some cases R-404A can replace R-22 systems when the proper retrofitting is done, but this may not make sense in the long run due to my next point.
  • R-404A is being phased down and in some cases completely phased out due to it’s high Global Warming Potential and it’s detrimental effect on the climate.
  • In many cases R-404A is the first HFC refrigerant targeted for phasing down HFCs due to it’s extremely high GWP of nearly four-thousand.
  • Some refrigerant manufacturers and distributors have already announced they will no longer be making or selling R-404A.
  • Europe will input a ban on any new stationary 404A systems in the year 2020. (Along with any other refrigerants that have a GWP higher then twenty-five hundred.) 
  • Along with the ban on new systems the European Union has also issued import and production limits on R-404A.
  • Due to these production/import limits Europe has seen crazy prices come on R-404A. At some points in the past few years it rose over seven-hundred percent in one season.
  • Prices in the United States have remained relatively stable the past year or so, but in 2017 there was a large increase due to a shortage of flurospar in China.

R-404A Possible Replacements

In the initial switch from CFC/HCFCs over to HFCs in the 1990’s there was a rush to find a quick and fast alternative refrigerant. Before HFCs a lot of supermarkets were using both R-12 and R-502 for their systems. (R-12 was used for the refrigerators and R-502 was used for freezers.)

At the time the world switched over to R-404A there was little other choice and most business owners and contractors consolidated their refrigerators and freezers over to one refrigerant to simplify things. That is why you see 404A nearly everywhere in these types of applications.

When we do completely phase out R-404A it will not be like it was in the 1990’s again. No folks, this time we are going to go about it smarter. (This is me being optimistic.) Instead of superseding every machines and application to a new specified refrigerant we will be looking at each application specifically an determining the best refrigerant for it’s needs. This is why we’ll see R-290 propane used in some 404A applications and an HFO refrigerant used in a different 404A application. When it’s all said and done we should see a diversified refrigerant market in place of the standard 404A that we see today.

At this time it’s impossible to list every 404A alternative or option out there. Things are always changing and evolving. The ‘perfect’ replacement may be discovered one month from now.

All that being said, let’s take a look at some of the possible R-404A replacements listed below. Just keep in mind that none of these are a ‘fix all’ solution. These refrigerants range from natural refrigerants, to HFOs, and the occasional HFC.

  • R-448A
  • R-449B
  • R-449A
  • R-448A
  • R-452A
  • R-455A
  • R-407A
  • R-407F
  • R-442A
  • R-290
  • R-744

R-404A History

The Past

To understand the history of R-404 we first have to travel back to the 1960’s. It was then that the CFC refrigerant R-502 was invented. R-502 was a blended refrigerant using HCFCs and CFCs. It was comprised of of R-22 (48.8%) and R-115 (51.2%). This new refrigerant R-502 offered a lower discharge temperature and improved capacity when compared to R-22.

Once invented R-502’s usage exploded across low and medium temperature applications. Over the next thirty years R-502 was the dominant refrigerant for a variety of applications including super market refrigerators/freezers, industrial refrigeration, vending machines, and in refrigerated transport.

For thirty-five years R-502 reigned supreme, but like all good things it had to come to an end. In 1995 and 1996 R-502 was phased out for all new machines. 502 was just another one of the many CFC and HCFC refrigerants that have been phased out over the past twenty to thirty years.

These refrigerants were phased out due to the chlorine that they contained. When the refrigerant was vented or leaked it would move into the atmosphere where the chlorine would damage the Ozone Layer. While there wasn’t an official ‘hole’ in the Ozone there was a thinning of the layer above Antarctica. The Ozone layer protects us from radiation and a thinning of said layer can result in a whole host of problems including various cancers.

Scientists noticed this thinning in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Once the seriousness of the problem was revealed world leaders got together in Montreal and signed a treaty that most all of us know by now, The Montreal Protocol. This treaty aimed at phasing down and eventually completely out Ozone damaging chemicals. This included insulation, pesticides, refrigerants, and many other applications.

When R-502’s turn for phase down came in 1995 a new alternative refrigerant needed to be chosen. At this time the world turned towards HFC refrigerants. One of the very first phase outs was R-12 for automotive applications. It’s replacement was the HFC R-134a. It was a logical move to use R-404A as R-502’s replacement as 404A was an HFC and it partly blended from R-134a.

Once R-404A was implemented in the 1990’s it was the standard bearer for the next thirty years. But now, just like R-502, it’s time has come.

Present Day

Today, as I write this article in 2019, R-404A is being phased down and in some cases completely out across the world. The European Union has import and production limits set on R-404A and have plans to completely phase it out over the next few years.

This time though folks the phase out has nothing to do with the Ozone Layer. This time it has to deal what’s known as Global Warming Potential (GWP). GWP is a measurement of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps within the atmosphere. The higher the number the worse the product is for the environment. Like with every scale there has to be a zeroing measurement. In this case it is Carbon Dioxide (R-744). The GWP on R-744 is one. The GWP on R-404A is nearly four-thousand.

That number alone is why the world is pushing to get rid of R-404A as fast we can. Out of all of the HFCs R-404A is one of the absolute highest when it comes to GWP. While the European Union has already begun taking steps of a complete phase out the United States is quite a bit behind.

Originally, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule in 2015. This new rule was under the EPA’s SNAP and was titled, ‘Rule 20.’ This new rule aimed at phasing down HFCs across the country. They did this by deeming certain refrigerants would no longer be acceptable in specific applications. As an example, one of the stipulations was that R-134a would no longer be acceptable in 2021 model year vehicles. R-404A, along with R-134a, was one of the prime targets in these new regulations.

Over the next few years the industry moved on expecting these changes laid out in Rule 20 to take effect. It was in the summer of 2017 that a surprise ruling by a federal judge overturned all of the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20. The judge ruled in favor of Mexichem and Arkema (Two refrigerant manufacturers). While other companies, such as Chemours and Honeywell, appealed the ruling they eventually got nowhere and the judge’s ruling stood. It went as far as going to the Supreme Court but the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Now, as of 2019, there is no set phase down schedule of R-404A or other HFC refrigerants. The only bright spot is what’s known as the ‘United States Climate Alliance.’ This alliance formed after Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord. Their goal is to have a gathering of states that will enforce their own climate policy.

Future

Regardless of the politics across the United States and the world we can all be assured of one thing: R-404A is going away. When exactly it goes away is a different story though. Within the United States I predict us having a patchwork of different laws and regulations across the various states. While this is disorganized and confusing it does have some positive effects as well.

With the lack of a central federal policy on HFCs we have states taking matters into their own hands. If enough states get on board with these HFC phase down changes then air conditioning and refrigerator manufacturers will eventually throw in the towel on HFCs and began transitioning over to lesser GWP refrigerants. After all, it wouldn’t make sense to make a system that could only be sold in half of the country. Instead these companies will start manufacturing based on the states that have HFC phase down policies. This will allow them to still sell into all fifty states and prevent them from doing double work.

As we mentioned in our potential replacements section, there is not yet a perfect R-404A replacement option. Instead, we are having a variety of refrigerants show up as replacements for specific R-404A applications. As an example, instead of 404A in vending machines we will start using propane or isobutane. But, these refrigerants will not work for refrigerated transport or in larger charged systems.

Among these alternatives to 404A a war is brewing between natural refrigerants and HFO refrigerants. While HFOs have significantly lower GWP then HFC refrigerants they are still not perfect and still do have a GWP that is higher then the neutral carbon dioxide point. It is this reason why groups are pushing to skip HFOs and go with natural refrigerants entirely. At this time there is no saying what refrigerant will win the ‘war,’ but the predicted outcome I see is a good mix between the two. We’ll see all of the smaller to medium charged systems start using natural refrigerants and the larger systems still using fluorinated refrigerants such as HFCs and HFOs.

There may come a time in the not too distant future that a ‘perfect’ 404A alternative is discovered. But, for now, we are all stuck with our patchwork of alternative refrigerants. If you haven’t run into some of these already it’ll only be a matter of time.

Conclusion

Well folks, that about covers it for R-404A. I tried to cover absolutely everything that I could when it came to this refrigerant. If you find that I missed something or that if something is inaccurate please reach out to me and let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

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

Question

A few years back there was a lot of debate between varying refrigerant manufacturers and distributors on rather there should be tariffs installed on Chinese imported refrigerant. The argument was that China was dumping very low priced, often government subsidized, HFC refrigerants into the United States. The constant supply of imports caused the prices to shrink and shrink. This price depression ended up hurting American companies.

I remember a specific instance about eight years ago where I was working on a trailer load purchase of R-134a. (Forty cylinders to a pallet and twenty pallets on a trailer.) I called around to all of the usual players looking to get the absolute best price. Often times I would leverage one distributor against the other trying to get them as low as I could. Well during this time I was receiving quotes around the sixty dollar range. Some were high sixties, some middle, and others towards the lower end. If I was lucky I could find a distributor selling at a fifty-nine or fifty-eight dollars a cylinder.

During this same time the company I worked for was experimenting with importing their own product. We hadn’t officially done any imports, but we were testing the waters. In the case of this trailer load purchase of R-134a we went ahead and requested quotes from China. The quotes I received back were astonishing. I had three to four quotes and each and everyone was hovering around forty to forty-five dollars a cylinder. Yes, we had to pay freight to get the product over the ocean… but it was negligible when looking at that forty dollar price range. In the end we ended up going with an American distributor and paid the higher price. The import process wasn’t worth the headache to us, but to many others it was.

These drastic price differences between US and China refrigerants caused the overall price to drop and drop. This dropping price began to eat into the pockets of local distributors and manufacturers. As the years passed their margins shrunk and shrunk. If the price depression kept up then it wouldn’t make business sense to continue producing and selling domestic refrigerant. In order to correct this price depression suits were filed with the United States International Trade Commission. These suits requested an anti-dumping tariff on R-134a as well as other common HFC refrigerants. The aim was to install tariffs on Chinese imported refrigerant that would inflate the cost of these refrigerants so that they would be more in line with the American market price point. In essence, it would level the playing field and put China product on equal footing with American.

There was quite a bit of debate on these suits and they took quite a while to come to fruition. I remember watching the headlines and the moment any potential ruling would come out the price on refrigerants would jump up or down overnight. Eventually, a decision was made by the Trade Commission. In the summer of 2016 the Commission agreed to install anti-dumping tariffs on HFC refrigerant blends. The big ones here are R-410A and R-404A. While having the tariff approved was great news… there was a small problem. The tariff was ONLY on the specific blended refrigerants, so only on R-410A and R-404A. (Other blends as well.) The tariff was NOT on the components of those refrigerants. In other words, if I imported Chinese R-410A refrigerant today I would pay the tariff. However, if I import Chinese R-125 and R-32 into the US then I face no tariffs. (R-125 and R-32 blended equals R-410A.) Begin to see the problem here?

Once this ruling was announced there was a change within the industry, but it was only slight. Now all of the Chinese importers moved from purchasing R-410A over to purchasing the component refrigerants and then blending the refrigerant in house. We are now back to square one due to a governmental oversight. The good news here is that R-134a is not a blend and an anti-dumping tariff was levied against it in spring of 2017.

The Future

In an effort to change the ruling from 2016 an additional suit has been filed with the International Trade Commission. This additional suit has requested tariffs be placed on imported refrigerant blend components as well. This would include your R-125, R-32, and other similar refrigerants. What’s unique about this is that manufacturers that are usually at odds with each other are working together to stop the flow of Chinese refrigerants. Arkema, Chemours, and Honeywell have all joined and pushed this suit forward to the Trade Commission.

At this point in time we are all still waiting on a ruling from the Trade Commission. It was announced last week that the Commission needs an additional two months before a decision can be made. (Link) They gave themselves the deadline of March 11th. We’ll see if that comes to fruition or not.

While we all sit patiently and wait to see what happens here I can only imagine what will happen to the prices of these refrigerants if a tariff is installed. Yes, it may be for the good of American companies but are American consumers and contractors happily going to pay the increased price? Will the price points with tariffs be perfectly in line with what the American market is? Or, will we price the Chinese product so far out of market that we consumers will buy American be default?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Pricing Prediction

Here it is in the middle of November and we’ve already had two snow storms here in Kansas City. As I write this article this morning the snow is still coming down. Luckily, I have the day off and am able to stay inside and watch the snow fall. Over the past few weeks here at RefrigerantHQ we have been focusing on our refrigerant prediction articles for the 2019 year. Most everyone was interested in our R-22 thoughts, and a bit of you read the 410A. I know that R-404A is a smaller market, but it still has it’s uses and is still kept the back of a technician’s van… even if it’s going to be phased out soon.

Last year in our 2018 prediction article we said that prices would be around one-hundred and sixty dollars a cylinder. Well folks, just like we were with R-410A… we were way off again. Today the price on a pallet of 404A is between eighty to ninety dollars a cylinder. So, the cost is about half of what I predicted it would be. This just goes to show you how much of a guessing game this all is. Again, like with R-410A, our increased cost prediction came from the shortage of Flurospar that we saw in the spring of 2017. For those that do not know, Flurospar is a key ingredient when manufacturing the refrigerant R-125 and R-125 is a key ingredient in the blended refrigerant R-404A. (R-404A is a blend of R-125, R-143a, and R-134a.) So, when Flurospar prices go up so does the cost of R-404A. Back in 2017 the shortage occurred due to environmental regulation changes in China. This was a one time change and the industry needed to adapt. For now, the market seems to have adjusted and the shortage has come to an end.

The question now though folks is what will the pricing do next year? Will R-404A keep going lower? Will it stay put? Or, will we see it climb back to the higher priced levels that most of are used to?

Considerations

I’ve mentioned this countless times before, but when I do a prediction article I like to take into consideration certain factors. I don’t like to just throw a dart on the board. No, instead I like to do an analysis and take a look at the marketplace. Once we determine these factors we can then determine what the market will do. Or, at the minimum, we can provide an educated guess. For those of you who read my R-410A prediction article you may notice that some of these considerations are the same for R-404A. That is by design folks. Remember, that R-125 is a key ingredient in both refrigerants. The key difference is that 410A is much more popular then 404A and that 404A is one of the first global targeted refrigerants to be phased down.

Let’s take a look at some of the considerations that can affect the R-404A price next year.

Repeal of EPA’s SNAP Rule 20

I’ve written about this extensively over the past few months, but in August of last year a Federal Court overturned the EPA’s planned phase down of HFC refrigerants across the country. While there were many appeals done over the past year each one of them has failed. That includes an appeal to the Supreme Court. What we are left with now is a patchwork of States putting together their own HFC phase downs. The reason I mention this as a consideration is that R-404A was one of the first targeted HFCs to be phased down. This is due to the extremely high GWP of 404A. (Three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty-two.) Most everyone was expecting the 404A phase downs to begin very soon, but now everything is in question and that can cause price instability.

Flurospar Shortage

I mentioned this earlier in our previous section. If we travel back about eighteen months ago this was a HUGE deal. The majority of the world’s Flurospar comes with mines in China. During the spring and summer of 2017 there were governmental regulation changes that affected the efficiency and overall output of the mines. This lower output is what accounted for the world’s shortage. In my previous analysis I assumed this shortage would carry into 2018, but I was incorrect. Will we see a shortage though in 2019? It is impossible to say. The only thing I can point to is the overall stability of the Flurospar market over the past year.

Chinese Refrigerant Imports

Back in 2016 there was an anti-dumping tariff instigated against Chinese HFC refrigerant blends. Included in this tariff was R-404A. I won’t get into all of the details here, but essentially there was a tariff put on R-404A. (For more information on the tariff click here to be taken to TheCoolingPost.) Here’s the thing though folks, this tariff was installed on ONLY the R-404A blended refrigerant and NOT the components of the blend. In other words R-404A was taxed but R-125, R-143a, and R-134a was not. (Well, R-134a was taxed, but through a different tariff.)

Refrigerant distributors took advantage of this loophole and began importing mass quantities of R-125. Once imported they would then blend the refrigerants in their own facility. The dumping of cheap HFC refrigerants continued. This mass import of Chinese product has attributed to the lower cost of R-404A that we are seeing today. Tom Lenz of Lenz Sales & Distribution said,

The price on 404A has been relatively stable over the past few months. Most of the time it stays right above 410A at around fifteen to twenty dollars higher. (A cylinder) Some distributors mix in house while others buy in bulk from China.

Trump & His Tariffs

Most of the country has felt the effects of the various tariffs that the Trump Administration has issued over the past year. This could either be through your employer or just paying for basic things. In my day job I had to travel to Belgium a few months back to work with our corporate office. The reason for the trip? Trump’s Tariffs and how to enact them throughout the company. Whatever your politics are, we can definitely say that these tariffs have had an impact. Refrigerant, for the most part, has been left unscathed on these tariffs. With all of these imports coming from China though, how long is it before a tariff is enacted? What if one is enforced on R-125? How will that effect the marketplace? Inevitably it will lead to higher prices, but how much?

Prediction

I’ve been doing these refrigerant pricing articles for nearly four years now and over those years I have been able to gather a historical pricing tracker on R-404A. This tracker allows us to see trends and possibly what’s to come next.

  • 2015 – $90.00 – Source
  • 2016 – $110.00 – Source
  • 2017 – $200.00 – Source
  • 2017 (Winter) – $175.00  – (Ebay.com)
  • 2018 (Fall/Winter) – $80-90 a cylinder.
  • 2018 (Fall/Winter) Retail – $150.00 – (Ebay.com)

Our previous articles had focused more on the retail side of pricing as you can see from the above historical records. However, this year I wanted to focus more on wholesale pricing. That is why I included the $80-$90 a cylinder section for 2018. The question now on everyone’s mind is what will 404A do next year? Like with my other articles I have consulted with experts and distributors within the industry for their thoughts. The consensus that I received was that the price would remain relatively stable over this winter and into the summer of next year. The only wildcard out there that I am aware of are Trump’s Tariffs. If he installs a tariff on refrigerants, say R-125, we could see price rise substantially. If no tariffs are instigated then I could see the price remain stable.

Our prediction on R-404A next year is right around the same price we have today between eighty to ninety dollars for a twenty-four pound cylinder.  The market should remain stable throughout next year, especially due to the EPA’s Rule 20 being rescinded. Chad Schnuelle of Refrigerants Inc said,

It seems that 404 has been rather stable for the past two years. I checked my purchase history and it has not moved over twenty dollars per 24lb cylinder since January of 2017. Again, I feel the Chinese market still dictates the USA market. In my opinion I feel the only factor that may change the price will be if refrigerants are added to the Trump tax.

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-404A 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-404A.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Owner

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?

Hello folks, and welcome to RefrigerantHQ. As I write this article in early November the cold has just now set in. We even have some snow expected in a few days over here in Kansas City. Right now I am watching this cold day from my living room window. I can see the leaves blow by while I sip on my coffee. While I stare out my window I can’t help but think about refrigerant. Yes, you heard me right. Over here at RefrigerantHQ we always have refrigerant on the mind and today with this no article is no different.

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-404A 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 contractor is paying for their R-404A refrigerant. What that means is that you can expect a markup. After all, the technician and the HVAC contractor 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 ideas 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?
  • Do you know what the Superheat and Subcool are for R-404A?
  • Are you 608 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 contractor 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 have a contractor come to your home and look at your 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. Potentially a lot of money too if yours is an R-22 unit.

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.

Purchase Restrictions

Up until last year there were a lot of homeowners and business owners who were purchasing their own R-404A refrigerant cylinders. They would do this either through big box stores or through online outlets like Amazon or Ebay. This all changed on January 1st, 2018. On that day the Environmental Protection Agency enforced a new rule known as ‘Refrigerant Restrictions.’ These restrictions already existed on HCFC and CFC refrigerants but they were now moved over to HFC refrigerants as well. This included R-404A. What this means is that you are no longer legally able to purchase R-404A unless you are 608 certified with the EPA. Now, there are a few slight exceptions to this such as:

  1. Providing the vendor you are buying from with an intent to resale form. What this means is that you state that you will NOT be using this refrigerant yourself but that you intend to resell it to another party. In this case the legal record keeping requirements would be passed onto you.
  2. The other exception is that if you purchase small cans of refrigerant that are under two pounds of refrigerant or less. This works great for automotive applications but can be difficult when trying to recharge your system with only a few pounds of refrigerant at a time.

If you do not meet the above exceptions and you try to purchase R-404A you will be asked for your 608 license number. If you cannot provide one then you will not be allowed to purchase. For more on the Refrigerant Sales Restriction click here to be taken to the Environmental Protection Agency’s official website.

R-410A Price Per Pound

Alright folks, now that we have that out of the way let’s dive in and find the true price per pound of R-404A refrigerant. Let me paint a picture for you. Let’s say your air conditioner/refrigerator/freezer is no longer working due to an unknown failure. When the technician comes out he identifies the problem and quotes you for the repair. The problem though is that the failure of your air conditioner caused all of your refrigerant to leak out. Now on top of your part replacement you also need to pay for a full refrigerant recharge.

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-404A market price. It’s so simple. All I do is just go to Ebay.com and search for R-404A cylinders.  By doing this I can see what the going rate is per pound of R-404A. As I write this article today I can see that R-404A is priced between one-hundred and forty to one-hundred and sixty dollars for a twenty-four 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 dollars just to be safe.

$160 / 24lb cylinder = $6.67 per pound.

There you have it folks, $6.67 for one pound of R-404A refrigerant. Now, please keep in mind that as I said above these prices can change at any given time. 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-404A:

R-404A - 404a - R404- R404a - Refrigerant 24 LB Cylinder - MADE IN USA

$128.95
End Date: Saturday Sep-21-2019 11:42:46 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $128.95
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

R404a Refrigerant 24lb Cylinder***** LOWEST PRICE ON EBAY ***** FACTORY SEALED

$122.89
End Date: Friday Sep-27-2019 5:59:11 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $122.89
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

R-404A, R404a, 404a Refrigerant 24 LB Cylinder--FACTORY SEALED

$154.95
End Date: Friday Oct-11-2019 11:06:22 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $154.95
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Conclusion

There you have it folks, that is the true cost per pound of R-404A 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 contractor’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.

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

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