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:
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?
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?
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.
How will R-134a be handled in this phase out? Will all new vehicles be forced over to 1234yf?
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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-410A Pressure Chart
R-410A, or Puron, is one of the most popular refrigerants in today’s modern world. However, if you rewind just fifteen or twenty years you would find that very little people even knew about it. Most contractors and technicians worked with R-22 systems for home and commercial air conditioning. R-22 had been the standard bearer refrigerant for nearly fifty years. However, R-22 harmed the Ozone Layer and a replacement refrigerant needed to be found. This is where our friend R-410A came into play. New machines from 2010 and onwards were banned from using R-22. Instead, they were outfitted with R-410A.
If you would like to read more about R-410A refrigerant please click here to be taken to our refrigerant fact sheet.
Let’s take a look at our pressure chart:
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.
Greetings folks! Another month is nearly wrapped up and we are slowly inching towards spring. We’ve got a few more hard weeks here in Kansas but I’m looking forward to the day when I can start planting some trees.
I’m writing this article today as I was informed of more volatility in refrigerant pricing. Even though we’re only two months in, 2019 is certainty turning out to be an interesting year. In late fall early winter I always take the time to do my refrigerant pricing prediction articles. In these articles I do my best to predict what prices will be the following year by weighing a variety of factors and considerations. Some years I miss and other years I hit the mark. It looks like this year is going to be a miss.
Towards the beginning of January a notification went out to various refrigerant distributors from two refrigerant manufacturers. I cannot and will not names here, but the notification stated that there would be a six percent increase on your everyday refrigerant including R-134a, R-410A, and R-22. I had assumed that this increase would be the start of a trend of upward momentum for the year. I was wrong, very wrong.
What surprised me is that prices are going down and down. They are at levels I haven’t seen in years. Let’s take a look:
R-134A – Thirty Pound Cylinder Pricing:
Fall 2017 – $140
Fall 2018 – $85
Jan 2019 – $88
Feb 2019 – $70
Most people had thought we had reached the bottom of the barrel when it came to R-134a pricing. This was especially the case when that notification was sent out in January stating that prices were going up. People were used to paying around $90-$100 a cylinder.
This new price of $70 is the lowest I have seen in years. In fact it’s close to where it was when I used to buy R-134a in bulk back in 2008. Back then I was paying around $61-$65… but that was before tariffs. I am really amazed to see the price back to almost pre-tariff levels. Who knows how much lower it will go.
R-410A – Twenty-Five Pound Cylinder Pricing:
Fall 2017 – $140
Fall 2018 – $65
Jan 2019 – $68
Feb 2019 – $56
Just like R-134a, R-410A is going down and down. At this point it’s difficult to forecast what will happen. I honestly don’t know folks. Will we keep going down, or will we start creep back up as the summer season sets in?
R-22 – Thirty Pound Cylinder Pricing:
Fall 2017 – $550
Fall 2018 – $350
Jan 2019 – $410
Feb 2019 – $300 or Under
Obviously, the big story here is R-22. There are only ten months left until R-22 is completely phased out across the United States (January 1st, 2020). Everyone had assumed that the price would go up and up as we approached closer to that deadline. What actually happened is that we saw a spike in pricing hit in the summer of 2017. At certain points it was $600-$700 a cylinder. However, in 2018 the price started to go down and down.
There could be a resurgence in pricing as the summer season sets in and people began to realize that R-22 will be going away. But, we may also have just too much overstock in the market place which is causing prices to stay low.
The refrigerant market is anything but stable this year folks. It is tough to tell when the right time to buy is. You don’t want to get stuck with overpriced product but you also want the opportunity to buy low and sell high. Time will only tell. It’s as much as a guessing game for you as it is for me.
If you are interested in purchasing refrigerant please check out our bulk refrigerants page by clicking here. We are partnered with one of the leading distributors in the country and will get you a competitive price in today’s marketplace.
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.
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?
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.
There is no better indicator or barometer within the industry then the Carrier Corporation. After all, they are one of the biggest and most stable air conditioning manufacturers out there. They are one the ‘trend setters’ within the industry. When a business decision is made everyone watches, observes, and they may even imitate. The same can be said when they choose a new refrigerant.
That is exactly what happened. The Carrier Corporation along with Chemours announced today that Carrier would be transitioning their ducted residential and commercial air conditioning products away from R-410A and over to R-454B. This new refrigerant R-454B, also known as XL41, is an HFO refrigerant from Chemours under their Opteon brand name. The transition for Carrier is scheduled to begin by the year 2023. This is a big deal folks. This could very well be the beginning of the end for R-410A. Especially if other companies began to follow suit.
As most of you know there has been a battle going on for the past few years as to what refrigerant will be the golden choice to replace R-410A. It seems like Puron has only been around for a few years but now there are already companies and countries pushing it out and wanting a better more climate friendly alternative. As I write this article today there is still not one clear and defined winner. None of this isn’t for lack of trying though. There are all sorts of 410A alternatives out there, the problem is none of them were gaining significant traction. This news from the Carrier corporation adds fuel to the fire for R-454B. Along with Carrier some other prominent companies have announced their support for XL41 including Johnson Controls and York. With Carrier coming on board I wouldn’t be surprised if we begin to see more companies announce their support in the not too distant future.
The big distinction here and the reason companies are switching to XL41 is that it has a significantly lessened Global Warming Potential then the other alternatives out there. R-454B has a GWP of only four-hundred and sixty-seven. That is nearly eighty percent less GWP then R-410A and even thirty percent less then the proposed R-32 alternative. This very low GWP gives companies and manufacturers peace of mind knowing that they will meet future climate targets today if they make the switch. I would be apt to purchase one of these machines if I knew it was going to stand the test of time and not have to go through a phase down/phase out period.
The downside though with this newer HFO refrigerant is that ASHRAE has it rated as an A2L. The 2L is what may worry some of you, as that means that the refrigerant has lower flammability rating and a lower burning velocity. While some of you may already have experience working with lower or even mildly flammable refrigerants others may not. In reality though folks, flammable refrigerants are perfectly safe as long as you follow all of the proper precautions and safety procedures.
For more information on R-454B please click this link to be taken to our official fact and information sheet on the refrigerant. This sheet attempts to provide any and all information you would ever need on 454B. Rather it’s the GWP, the chemistry, what’s in the blend, the temperature glide, or anything else we aim to have it in our fact sheet. If while reading you find something that isn’t accurate or if you found that we missed something please do not hesitate to reach out to me and let me know. I want RefrigerantHQ to be a great resource for those of us in the industry and I can’t do that if I have mistakes up!
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.
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?
Not a lot of you may have heard the term or name Puron before. But a lot of you have most likely heard the name Freon before. Freon and Puron are two different types of refrigerant and to understand this difference we first need to understand where these names come from. First, let’s take a look at Freon.
The term Freon is actually a brand name trademarked by the DuPont, now Chemours, corporation. What that means is that Freon is a brand of refrigerant. It is the same way that Dr. Pepper is a brand of soda. We don’t call every soda out there Dr. Pepper. No, we either call it soda or we call it by it’s proper brand name. The same can be said about refrigerants.
Freon is a brand name of a specific type of refrigerant, mainly R-12 and R-22. The term Puron is also a brand name. The Puron brand refers to the HFC refrigerant R-410A. R-410A is the refrigerant that has replaced Freon R-22. You see, R-22 Freon was phased down across the country due to the Chlorine that it contained. When vented into the atmosphere the Chlorine would damage the Ozone layer. In order to stop this R-22 Freon was phased down and was replaced with the non Ozone depleting Puron R-410A.
Puron, or R-410A, is a blended HFC refrigerant that is made up of R-32 and R-125. (About fifty percent of each.) This 410A refrigerant is now the primary default for home and commercial air conditioners. Any air conditioner manufactured in 2010 or newer will most likely be using R-410A Puron. If you’re unsure what refrigerant your system uses you can find out by checking the sticker label on your outside unit.
While Puron is the ‘king’ refrigerant right now (2018) it may not stay on the throne forever. Puron doesn’t have an Ozone depletion potential but it does have a very high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. GWP is a measurement of how much a certain chemical contributes to Global Warming. The higher the GWP the more damage a chemical or refrigerant can do to the environment.
As I write this article there isn’t a preferred successor to R-410A but there are some contenders out there such as the HFC R-32. No one knows for certain when, or even if, R-410A Puron will be phased down or not. For now, we carry on with 410A.
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.
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.
Most people couldn’t care less about the pricing of refrigerant. I’m sure you didn’t care at all until your air conditioner broke down. Now you have a contractor at your home or office looking over the damage, or perhaps you have already received a quote from them and you are a little surprised by how much they are charging for refrigerant. Whatever your reason is for reading this article we are going to do our best to answer your question and to give you a fair estimate on what the going price per pound on some of the most common refrigerants on the market place today.
First and foremost, let me first explain that there are hundreds of different types of refrigerants out there. No two refrigerants are the same or work the same either. The air conditioner that you are using is designed specifically for a certain refrigerant and no others. The science of refrigeration and air conditioning all boils down to basic chemistry and understanding when a refrigerant changes states either from gas to liquid or liquid to gas. Each machine is designed to accomdate that refrigernat’s specific saturation point. If you were to add the wrong refrigerant to your air conditioner you could damage or even destroy the system. You wouldn’t put diesel into a gasoline sedan would you? The same principle applies.
In this article we are going to go over some of the most popular refrigerants out there today, their applications, and where they can be found. It will be up to you to determine exactly what refrigerant you need for your repairs.
So, What Kind of Refrigerant Do I Need?
As we mentioned above, there are hundreds of varying kinds of refrigerants out there. A lot of times this can be overwhelming and confusing to a laymen as to what kind of refrigerant they need. The good news here is that for most applications there are only a select few refrigerants that are used here in the United States. In this section below we are going to highlight the most commonly used refrigerants, what their applications are, and what their price per pound is. The price per pound section will have a link to the exact price per pound on that refrigerant.
Let’s dive in and take a look:
Automotive Application – Nowadays nearly every vehicle is using R-134a refrigerant for their vehicles. In recent years a new refrigerant known as HFO-1234yf is being used on newer models. If you car is a few years old or brand new then you will need to check if it takes 1234yf or not. Otherwise you are fairly safe to assume that your car is taking R-134a. For those of you who are into restoring classic cars you’ll find that you may end up needing R-12 Freon.
Home or Commercial Air Conditioner – These ones can be a little tricky. Depending on when you got your unit you most likely either have an R-22 unit or a R-410A unit. As I said in previous articles, R-22 was phased out in 2010 for new air conditioners. R-410A has been around since 2000, but it’s popularity didn’t really take off until the 2010 deadline hit for R-22. When it comes to cost though you better hope you have a R-410A unit rather than R-22. The difference in price between the two refrigerants is astonishing.
Refrigerators and Freezers (Home and Commercial) – The go to refrigerant for these applications has been R-404A. There are some other alternatives out there such as CO2 (R-744), R-502, and some other new HFO refrigerants coming out soon but today if you were having to recharge one of these you are most likely going to run into 404A.
I hope that this article was able to answer your questions on refrigerant pricing and to also open your eyes on the wide variety there is within the refrigerant industry. There are two things that I want you take from this post. The first is the relative price per pound of the refrigerant you need and the second is the understanding that your contractor needs to make money too. Sure, you might know his price but you should not haggle down to zero. You should negotiate to a fair price that allows profit but also prevents gouging.
Lastly, if you are unsure what type of refrigerant your system needs please check the label/sticker on the machine. Normally it will state the refrigerant that it takes. However, if you still can’t find it then you can either contact the manufacturer or you can call a HVAC professional out to take a look. This is never something that you want to guess at.
Hello folks and welcome to RefrigerantHQ. As I write this article today Halloween has just passed and the weather has already begun to get cold. We’re expecting snow in just a few days here in Kansas City. All of this is happening outside and here I am sitting at my desk, sipping on some hot cocoa, and thinking about refrigerant. Yes, I know that sounds rather odd… but that is what we do here at RefrigerantHQ. Refrigerant all the time. Today I am thinking about R-410A. What can we expect from it next year? What will consumers be paying for it?
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-410A 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, BUTif 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-410A 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:
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
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.
Up until last year there were a lot of homeowners and business owners who were purchasing their own R-410A refrigerant cylinders. They would 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-410A. What this means is that you are no longer legally able to purchase R-410A unless you are 608 certified with the EPA. Now, there are a few slight exceptions to this such as:
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.
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-410A 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-410A refrigerant. Let me paint a picture for you. Let’s say your air conditioner 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-410A market price. It’s so simple. All I do is just go to Ebay.com and search for R-410A cylinders. By doing this I can see what the going rate is per pound of R-410A. As I write this article today I can see that R-410A is priced between ninety-five and one-hundred dollars a cylinder. Now, let’s do some simple math to get your price per pound. Let’s take the higher amount of one-hundred just to be safe.
$100 / 25lb cylinder = $4.00 per pound.
There you have it folks, $4.00 for one pound of R-410A 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-410A. (You used to be able to purchase on Amazon.com as well, but it has since been removed due to illegal online sales.)
Ok, so now that we have the cost per pound of R-410A now let’s determine how many pounds that you need to recharge your air conditioner. Now the typical rule of thumb is between two to four pounds of refrigerant per ton of your air conditioner. (You should always check the exact specifications of your machine, but most of the time the two to four pound guideline will be sufficient.) Most home air conditioners are between one ton and five tons. (Anything over five tons is considered a commercial grade unit.) So, let’s get on with our math problem. Let’s pretend that you have a middle of the road three ton air conditioning unit that is on the fritz with no refrigerant in it. In order to refill your unit entirely you will need the following:
4 pounds of refrigerant * 3 ton unit = 12 pounds of refrigerant needed.
12 pounds of refrigerant times the $4.00 per pound number we came up with earlier = $48.00 for a completely fill up of your unit.
There you have it folks, that is the true cost per pound of R-410A 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.
Over the past few weeks we have been writing RefrigerantHQ’s pricing prediction on various refrigerants for 2019. We have covered some of the most popular refrigerants out there including R-22, R-134a, and R-1234yf. Today’s prediction article will be focusing on R-410A Puron. Most everyone’s mind has been on R-22 and what’s going to happen next year with the 2020 phase out deadline. With all of this change it is easy to forget about Puron, but the 410A market share is only growing and it’s pricing impacts can have a substantial effect on contractors and consumers. After all, R-22 is on it’s last legs and it is not going to be around much longer. Sure there are other alternative refrigerants out there but like it or not R-410A is the king right now.
Looking back at my prediction on R-410A from last year I have to say that I was way off. I had predicted a 2018 summer price at around two-hundred dollars per twenty-five pound cylinder. While that may have sounded crazy, we should consider what we saw in the 2017. Last year there was a shortage in the chemical known as Flurospar. Flurospar is a key ingredient in fluorinated refrigerants like R-125. (R-410A is a fifty percent mixture of R-125 and R-32.) This shortage of Flurospar created a rippled effect on the supply chain and caused the price of 410A to skyrocket over the summer season and into the fall and of 2017. Last year’s prediction was based off of that pricing trend. I assumed that the shortage would continue. That is where I came up with my two-hundred dollars a cylinder number.
What actually happened was quite different. In the early months of 2018 the price per cylinder was around ninety dollars per twenty-five pound cylinder. It had come down quite a bit from the previous summer’s price. What was surprising though was that the price kept on going down even as we got into the hotter months. Usually as the summer months come we see a slight or large increase in refrigerant pricing due to the increased demand. This year however we saw the opposite. The price for a R-410A cylinder dropped by near twenty-five dollars. It went from around ninety dollars to sixty-five. That is nearly a thirty percent dip in price. One of our distribution contacts stated that R-410A was more volatile then R-134a this year. That is quite the change as R-134a is usually all over the place.
The question now though folks is what will the pricing do next year? Will R-410A keep going lower? Will it stay put? Or, will we see it climb back to the higher priced levels that most of are used to?
I love doing analysis. It is what I do at my day job and it is why I write these kinds of articles. It can be fun to dig into the details and all of the factors that can affect pricing. When doing a pricing analysis like this I like to first provide the reader what considerations that I took and reviewed to come up with my pricing prediction. These help the reader understand my point of view and where I am coming from. Let’s take a look at some of them now:
I mentioned this earlier in our previous section. If we travel back about eighteen months ago this was a HUGE deal. The majority of the world’s Flurospar comes with mines in China. During the spring and summer of 2017 there were governmental regulation changes that affected the efficiency and overall output of the mines. This lower output is what accounted for the world’s shortage. In my previous analysis I assumed this shortage would carry into 2018, but I was incorrect. Will we see a shortage though in 2019? It is impossible to say. The only thing I can point to is the overall stability of the Flurospar market over the past year.
Chinese Refrigerant Imports
Back in 2016 there was an anti-dumping tariff instigated against Chinese HFC refrigerant blends. Included in this tariff was R-410A. I won’t get into all of the details here, but essentially there was a tariff put on R-410A. (For more information on the tariff click here to be taken to TheCoolingPost.) Here’s the thing though folks, this tariff was installed on ONLY the R-410A blended refrigerant and NOT the components of the blend. In other words R-410A was taxed but R-125 and R-32 was not. Doesn’t make much sense if you ask me.
Refrigerant distributors took advantage of this loophole and began importing mass quantities of R-125 and R-32. Once imported they would then blend the refrigerants in their own facility. The dumping of cheap HFC refrigerants continued. This mass import of Chinese product has attributed to the much lower cost of R-410A that we are seeing today.
Trump & His Tariffs
Most of the country has felt the effects of the various tariffs that the Trump Administration has issued over the past year. This could either be through your employer or just paying for basic things. In my day job I had to travel to Belgium a few months back to work with our corporate office. The reason for the trip? Trump’s Tariffs and how to enact them throughout the company. Whatever your politics are, we can definitely say that these tariffs have had an impact. Refrigerant, for the most part, has been left unscathed on these tariffs. With all of these imports coming from China though, how long is it before a tariff is enacted? What if one is enforced on R-125? How will that effect the marketplace? Inevitably it will lead to higher prices, but how much?
R-410A & Reclamation
With the end of R-22 coming in just about fourteen months the industry will be relying more and more on refrigerant reclaimers. These reclamation facilities can process this used R-22 refrigerant, clean it, and then issue it back out into the world for reuse. This is the ONLY way for ‘new’ R-22 to be found after that January 1st, 2020 deadline. Remember, once the stockpiles of R-22 run out reclamation is all that is left.
Why am I talking about R-22? Well reclamation for R-22 is key for having a stable supply. With R-410A it is quite different. Reclaiming R-410A refrigerant, at least at this time, is not feasible. There is no profit in it. I was discussing this very matter with Chad Schnuelle of Refrigerant Inc just today. He stated that:
It is too cheap to sell reclaimed R-410A in the market and make a decent margin because of the fractionating factors. It’s a two component refrigerant blend of R32 and R125 with a 50/50 mix ratio. If there is a leak in a system one component bleeds off faster than the other. This means we have to add that component back in to get the 50/50 blend once we reclaim it.
So a reclaimed R-410A refrigerant actually has new refrigerant in it. This adds an extra layer of cost. Having that extra cost and then trying to compete with virgin R-410A at the rock bottom prices it is right now is nearly impossible. If the price of R-410A begins to rise, or if we get new tariffs instated like we mentioned above then the possibility of more reclaimed on R-410A market is there, but for now it remains out of reach.
I’ve been doing these price prediction articles for a few years now and it has given me a unique opportunity to see the trend in pricing of R-410A over the years. Before I get into my prediction let’s take a quick look to see how the pricing has climbed over the years. Keep in mind that these prices are based off the standard 410A twenty-five pound cylinder. The prices are obviously lower if you are purchasing larger quantities.
Looking at the above numbers we can really begin to see the deep dive in pricing that occurred this year. There was a time where a price between ninety to one-hundred dollars was pretty standard no matter what season it was. Now with today’s dirt cheap price of around sixty-five dollars a cylinder it is tough to say what will happen next. In an effort to help myself with this prediction I reached out to a few refrigerant distributors before writing this article. I wanted to know what they thought of the market this year and what they thought next year would bring. Each of them said more or less the same thing. Prices will be low, but stable. In other words folks, this sixty-five dollars price per twenty-five pound cylinder is here to stay at least for 2019.
That’s right, our thoughts for 2019 R-410A pricing is the exact same price it is today. Last year I high balled it and got burnt so this year I am going to play it safe and take the advice of our distributors. Our official prediction is that the price will hover between sixty-five dollars to seventy-five dollars a cylinder. There will be some moving back and forth due to seasonality and all of that but for the most part the price will be stable. At this time the only wildcard that I know of is if Trump adds a tariff on R-410A or one of it’s components. If this happens then the pricing point is anyone’s guess.
I want to close this article by stating that this was a prediction and it is just that, a guess. No one knows for sure what will happen to the R-410A market next year and if they say they do then they’re lying. It’s a complete guessing game. I can only provide my analysis on the matter and go from there. Lastly, I want to mention that this is one man’s analysis on the market. We here at RefrigerantHQ are not liable for any business losses or gains when it comes to buying and selling R-410A.
Most of you are familiar with what’s known as the Refrigerant Sales Restriction. This restriction comes directly from the Environmental Protection Agency and aims at preventing novices and do-it-yourselfers from purchasing and handling refrigerant. By preventing these laymen from handling refrigerants we in theory shrink the amount of refrigerant that is leaked into the atmosphere.
This restriction was especially critical in the beginning stages of phasing out CFCs and HCFCs refrigerants such as R-12, R-22, and R-502 in the 1990’s and 2000’s. These refrigerants contained chlorine and chlorine was directly attributed to the damaging and thinning of the Ozone layer. Each time one of these refrigerants was vented into the atmosphere rather intentionally or by mistake damage was done. By imposing the sales restriction, imposing a host of other regulations like leak requirements, and by slowly phasing down chlorine refrigerants the Ozone was allowed time to repair.
In the summer of 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency came out with a new set of rules from their Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP). This new rule, deemed Rule 20, was aimed at phasing down the popular HFC refrigerants across the United States. Along with this new rule it was announced towards the beginning of 2017 that the EPA’s Refrigerant Sales Restriction would be carried over to HFC refrigerants as well.
You see, in the past you couldn’t buy CFC and HCFC refrigerants without a 608/609 license but you could still purchase HFCs. They didn’t require a license. That meant I could have walked into an Autozone and picked up a cylinder of R-134a without any licensing required. Well, all that changed this year folks on January 1st, 2018. That is when the new purchase restrictions went into place by the EPA. This move was expected by many in the industry and not a lot of folks were shocked by it.
What did surprise us though was a court’s ruling in August of 2017. When the EPA introduced their SNAP Rule 20 there were two companies, Mexichem and Arkema, that filed a lawsuit stating the EPA had overstepped it’s legal bounds. I won’t get into all of the details in this article, but the short version is that Arkema and Mexichem won the suit and the EPA’s Rule 20 was tossed out. There were appeals. There was even one to the Supreme Court, but none of them worked out.
Earlier this year the EPA announced that they were withdrawing their Rule 20 regulations and that they were looking into forming a new rule. Along with that it was announced by the EPA that they were rescinding their HFC leak regulations. Lastly, it was announced that the EPA was considering removing the sales restrictions on HFC refrigerants. There is nothing official here on if this will happen or not, but the EPA is definitely considering it.
Restrictions: Yes or No?
The HFC sales restriction may only last for the 2018 year and then may fade away. The question though is, is this good or bad? What repercussions will there be?
About five years ago I had a small side business that sold individual or multiple refrigerant cylinders online through stores like Amazon or Ebay. It was mostly R-410A and R-134a cylinders shipped to individuals across the country. There wasn’t a lot of money in it, but it gave me that entrepreneurial experience. Before the HFC restriction was in place there were dozens of places for individuals to purchase refrigerant cylinders. You could walk into a Sam’s Club and purchase a few cylinders of R-134a. There were online shops, dealerships, and retailers all selling refrigerant.
While this made things easy for consumers it also made it very easy for people who did not know what they are doing to get a hold of large quantities of refrigerant. If they made a mistake, which they would, then that large thirty pound cylinder of refrigerant would get vented into the atmosphere. And while HFCs do not damage the Ozone they are a Green House Gas and they do contribute to Global Warming.
So, by creating a sales restriction we can limit the amount of refrigerant that is vented and help reduce potential Global Warming problems but we also have the side effect of hindering business and do-it-yourselfers from working on their own equipment.
If I was to wager on what will happen I would bet that the restriction will go away soon. The current EPA and Presidential Administration has been very against nearly everything the EPA has done over the past few years and this appears to be no different. If the restriction is removed we will see the availability to purchase refrigerant online and through retailers come back and we will also see a slight increase on refrigerant price due to the flood of all of the do-it-yourselfers purchasing again.
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.
Well folks it has been a hell of a few weeks in the refrigerant industry. The past few months have been rather quiet and then we get all of this news all at once. It always amazes me how fast this stuff can happen.
Just a few days ago the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they would be removing their rule that went in place back in September of 2016. (The official EPA Fact Sheet on this rule can be found by clicking here.) This rule applied Section 608 CFC/HCFC leak controls and regulations to appliances using HFC refrigerants that contained over fifty pounds of refrigerant. Basically, it passed on the same regulations that we had on CFC/HCFC refrigerants over to HFCs.
The EPA’s reason for overturning these regulations is that the EPA exceeded its own authority by issuing these laws back in 2016. Their reasoning is that these laws and regulations were all meant for CFC and HCFC refrigerants. They centered on the Ozone and the Chlorine in the refrigerants. HFCs do not contain Chlorine and thusly do not damage the Ozone layer. Instead, they are Greenhouse Gases and contribute to Global Warming. Both are bad for the Climate, but both are distinct separate issues. I do tend to agree with this as the law was bent to accommodate HFCs. Along with that the EPA also announced that they plan to save over forty-million dollars in regulation expenses enforcing these laws.
Before the law goes into effect it will be published in the Federal Register and then there will be a forty-five day comment period. The EPA will also be hosting a public forum fifteen days before the rule goes into effect. This will be held at Washington, DC and you can register by visiting the EPA’s site. Now, instead of rehashing what the EPA wrote I am going to take an excerpt from their site that way there is no confusion.
“If finalized as proposed, this action would rescind the leak repair and maintenance requirements at 40 CFR 82.157 for substitute refrigerants. Therefore, appliances with 50 or more pounds of substitute refrigerants would not be subject to the following requirements:
conduct leak rate calculations when refrigerant is added to an appliance,
repair an appliance that leaks above a threshold leak rate,
conduct verification tests on repairs,
conduct periodic leak inspections on appliances that exceed the threshold leak rate,
report to EPA on chronically leaking appliances,
retrofit or retire appliances that are not repaired, and
But wait, there’s more! The EPA’s above proposal to remove the requirements on HFC appliances also comes with the option for public comment on removing additional leak requirements on different applications. Again, this is from the EPA website:
“EPA is also requesting comment on rescinding other provisions that were extended to substitute refrigerants, including the following:
anyone purchasing refrigerant for use in an appliance or handling refrigerants (e.g., air-conditioning and refrigeration service contractors and technicians) must be a Section 608-certified technician,
anyone removing refrigerant from a refrigeration or air-conditioning appliance must evacuate refrigerant to certain level using certified refrigerant recovery equipment before servicing or disposing of the appliance,
the final disposer (e.g., scrap recycler, landfill) of small appliances, like refrigerators and window air conditioners, must ensure and document that refrigerant is recovered before final disposal, and
all used refrigerant must be reclaimed to industry purity standards before it can be sold to another appliance owner.”
Did you get all that? There were some big ones in there. One in particular that I noticed was the removing of 608 certification in order to purchase HFC refrigerants. This law has only been effect since January of this year. That would be a BIG deal if that was removed as we then open the flood gates for all of the laymen and novices to purchase refrigerant again. This could also create a rise in pricing if enough people who are unregistered purchase.
Along with that we get that appliances don’t have to have their refrigerant evacuated before being brought to the dump. That’s not the scariest one though, what scares me is that last point. If it gets rescinded we are then removing the purity standards from reclaimed refrigerants. There are already so many people who are against purchasing or using reclaimed refrigerants and removing this provision is going to seriously hurt the reclamation industry’s reputation.
These are very confusing times. We have the various States in the Climate Alliances proposing and enacting their own HFC refrigerant laws and regulations and then we have the Federal Government and the Environmental Protection Agency removing previous laws.
As time goes on we’re going to have additional States join the phasedown and I have a feeling this new announcement from the EPA is only going to fuel the desire for the States to take matters into their own hands.
After the past few weeks of various States announcing their plans to phase out HFC refrigerants and the expectation of more States to follow it got me thinking about how these changes will end up affecting the pricing of HFC refrigerants across the country. The worse thing that can happen is for us to fall into the trap that the European Union finds itself in. Over there the prices on various HFC refrigerants have gone up hundreds of percent. These huge rises in price have caused many basic refrigerants to be out of reach for consumers and contractors.
The high prices in Europe has also caused a rash of crime on refrigerants. The crimes vary from illegal smuggling, to using disposable containers, to selling refrigerant online without proper documentation, and to mass theft from warehouses. Each one of these crimes have occurred due to the high profit and reward due to the inflated prices.
The good news here folks is that with these State by State phase downs here in the US the chances of prices sky-rocketing here are reduced significantly. The problem that occurred in Europe was that there were mandatory production and import regulations put in place.
These regulations restricted the flow of refrigerant and caused the supply to shrink all the while keeping around the same demand. I understand the intention of these restrictions, but they have caused a lot of pain to end users and contractors. Most regulators in Europe have just told people to tough through it. After a few years of hardship most of the HFC applications will be replaced by HFOs or Natural Refrigerants.
The US Market
The United States did something similar when it came to popular HCFCs like R-22. With R-22 there was a staggered phase down over a ten year period. The restrictions began in 2010 and are coming to a head in 2020. (In 2020 no import or production can occur on R-22, the only exception is reclaimed R-22.)
As can be expected, we saw similar price hikes on R-22 due to these regulations. At it’s peak last year we were seeing prices for a thirty pound cylinder at around seven-hundred dollars. Today’s price is much lower at only around three-hundred dollars a cylinder, but it is still quite high when comparing to it’s HFC counterpart, R-410A, that comes in at only around one-hundred dollars.
With these State by State laws there is not mention of production or import caps. (Not that I have seen anyways.) Instead, these laws focus on the applications that these HFC refrigerants use. To me, this seems to be the smarter way to go about it. By targeting the applications and mandating the converting of new systems over to a more climate friendly refrigerant we will win the war on HFCs simply by attrition. After a certain amount of time has passed the demand for HFCs will shrink and shrink until they eventually disappear and are fully replaced by alternative refrigerants. All of this would be done without restricting the flow of refrigerants into the country/state.
This my friends, seems to be the way to do it. We are not hamstringing ourselves by restricting supply and causing prices to skyrocket. No, instead we wage our war against the new machines out there and reward those who want to retrofit their old systems. Basically, this all boils down to the carrot versus the stick. Do we want to give our contractors and manufacturers incentives and mandates on new systems, or do we want to just cut-off the supply entirely and let everyone scramble to figure it out?
Last week I wrote about New York announcing their plans to phase down HFC refrigerants over the coming years. This announcement came shortly after California finalized their HFC phase down law at the end of last month. Shortly after I wrote that article two more States announced that they would be phasing down HFC refrigerants as well: Connecticut and Maryland.
Like the other previous States, Connecticut announced that their new regulations would be modeled off of the previous EPA’s SNAP rules from 2015. Remember now, that these EPA SNAP rules were overturned in the courts last year and it was announced earlier this year that the regulations would no longer be enforced by the EPA. While now defunct, these previous EPA rules seem to be the standard bearer for future States and their HFC regulations.
While Maryland has not come out with a formal plan yet they have stated that their intentions are to have regulations similar to that of California. The details of their plan are expected to be hammered out soon.
What Comes Next?
Last week was a busy week when it comes to HFC refrigernat news. We had three additional States come out in favor of phasing down HFCs. The question now on everyone’s mind is who will be next and how many more will come forward with their own plan?
The answer to this may be found by looking at what’s called the United States Climate Alliance. This alliance is a gathering of States and Territories that aim to uphold the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. For those of you who do not remember, this was the agreement that the Trump Administration pulled the United States out of in the summer of last year.
Once this pull out was announced this alliance was formed on June 1st, 2017 in an effort to honor the goals of the agreement the best that they could. While there are only seventeen States involved in this agreement the size of these States is something to be considered. Over forty percent of the United States population resides in these States and over forty-five percent of the Gross Domestic Product of the US comes from these States.
So far, four out of these seventeen States have announced their intentions to phase down HFC refrigerants. (Three of these in just one week.) Has the snowball started to roll down hill? Will we be seeing the other States in this grouping announcing their own plans shortly?
States in the alliance are:
As more states make their announcements, we will begin to phase out HFCs by default. If we think about it for a moment, if just under half of the country’s population are living in HFC phase down States then it wouldn’t make sense for companies to continue using HFCs in newer applications. Why make two different models for different States if we can just make the switch and have one model in both States?
Tying directly into this, the CoolingPost.com reported yesterday that major HVAC and Refrigerant manufacturers have announced their support for California’s HFC phase down law. I won’t list everyone of these companies, but just a few of them are: AHRI, Goodman, Carrier, Lennox, Chemours, and Honeywell. These are the big players in the industry and if they are in favor then we are inevitably going to see the end of HFC refrigerants here in the United States, maybe even close to the same timeline that everyone was planning on based off of the EPA’s regulations from 2015.
It’s funny how all this worked out. I’m a big fan of States’ Rights so this couldn’t have gone better in my opinion. We removed the Federal regulations and had the States do their own laws to FORCE the industry to change on it’s own.
HFCs, or HydroFluroCarbons, are a commonly used refrigerant classification used across the globe. Some of the most common HFC refrigerants that you may have heard of are R-134a, R-404A, R-410A, R-125, and R-32. These refrigerants are used in a variety of applications from automotive, to home air conditioners, all the way to industrial refrigeration. In recent years there has been a push to phase out HFC refrigerants due to their impact on the environment, but I’ll get into that a bit later into this article.
HFC refrigerants first started becoming popular and widespread in the early 1990’s. This came about due to the implementation of the Montreal Protocol. The Montreal Protocol was a treaty that organized and targeted the phase out of Ozone damaging refrigerants like CFCs and HCFCs. These Ozone depleting refrigerant such as R-12 and R-22 were the go to refrigerants for decades and were used all over the globe. It was in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that scientists discovered these refrigerants were releasing Chlorine into the atmosphere when they were vented or leaked. This leaked Chlorine couldn’t break down in the atmosphere and ended up eating away at the Ozone layer. The more Chlorine that was released the faster the damage occurred.
There was an immediate push from various countries to phase out CFC and HCFC refrigerants. The first target was R-12 in the early 1990’s. R-12 was majorly found in car air conditioners and it was replaced by the HFC refrigerant known as R-134a. Not too many years afterward R-404A began to see popularity after replacing R-502 and recently in 2010 R-22 was phased down and intended to be replaced by the HFC R-410A.
We have been chugging away with HFCs for the past few decades and the Ozone has nearly healed from the earlier damage. But now, we have a different problem when it comes to these new refrigerants. While HFCs do not contain Chlorine they do have a very high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. GWP is a measurement that is used to measure the impact a Greenhouse Gas has on the climate and environment. The higher the number the more harmful the substance is to the climate. As a zero base for the scale R-744 or Carbon Dioxide was used. R-744 has a GWP of one. Whereas, R-134a has a GWP of one-thousand three-hundred and forty-four. Think about that difference for a moment folks and let the impact sink in.
The HFC Phase Downs
While HFCs saved the Ozone layer we now understand that they are not a sustainable alternative refrigerant due to their high GWP. The push is on now to begin phasing down or completely phasing out HFC refrigerants for lower GWP/Non Ozone depleting alternatives. Depending on where you are in the world you may have already seen the ramifications of these phase downs.
The European Union phased out R-134a on new automobiles back in 2015 and are now actively working on phasing out R-404A as well as R-410A. Their replacements have either been lower GWP HFC refrigerants such as R-32, natural refrigerants such as R-290 or R-744, or the new classification of refrigerants known as HydroFluroOlefins or HFOs. While there is not a perfect alternative yet to HFCs many companies and countries are working towards multiple alternatives. Also, in the fall of 2016 an Amendment to the Montreal Protocol was signed. This amendment, called the Kigali Amendment, was aimed at phasing down HFC refrigerants across the world. Over a hundred countries signed the document.
I won’t get into all of the details here but the United States has had an interesting table to phase out. We signed the Kigali Amendment but haven’t ratified the treaty in the Senate. The EPA planned to phase out HFCs but their regulations were over turned by a Federal Court. We now have States doing their own policies on HFCs.
Prices & Purchase Restrictions
Chances are if you have a home air conditioner or an automobile from 2015 or earlier than you are reaping the benefits of an HFC air conditioning system. Over in Europe the cost of HFCs have skyrocketed to astronomical levels due to their phase outs. It’s so bad over there that organized crime has begun to take part in black market refrigerant sales.
Here in the United States things are a lot less hectic. The price on HFC refrigerants has been pretty stable over the past few years. Sure, we’ll always have our ups and downs, especially in the summer, but we haven’t seen anything like the European price jumps.
There is one thing to note for those of you looking to do your own repairs. On January 1st, of 2018 the Environmental Protection Agency extended their refrigerant sales restriction over to HFCs. What that means is that if you are not certified with the EPA (Either 608 or 609 certified) then you are not legally able to purchase or handle HFC refrigerants. This has frustrated a lot of do-it-yourselfers who are used to doing their own repairs.
There are a couple exception to this that should be noted:
If you are purchasing cans of refrigerant in under one or two pound quantities then you are still able to buy without being certified.
If you provide a signed document to your vendor stating that you will NOT be using the refrigerant you are purchasing then you can still purchase. Basically, you have to prove that you will be retailing the refrigerant and not using it yourself.
In the United States HFC refrigerants are going to be around for quite a while. The transition away from them is going to be a long and slow process. We are already beginning to see some signs of with automotive manufacturers voluntarily moving away from R-134a and opting for the HFO 1234yf. On top of that some states have announced they will be doing a full phase down and phase out of HFCs. (California and New York.) There are more states expected to announce similar plans.
Regardless of what happens, HFCs will be around for the next few decades, but as time moves on we will be seeing less and less of them until they are eventually as rare as an R-12 cylinder is today.
Well ladies and gentlemen like dominoes in a line we now have a second state coming forward with their own HFC refrigerant phase down laws. At the end of last month we had California make their HFC phase down bill become official when their legislate voted in favor on August 30th. This new law known as the California Cooling Act (SB 1013) is aimed at reducing HFC usage across the state with a carrot and stick approach.
The carrot is that the state will be offering incentives for low Global Warming Potential refrigeration systems. To start the main target of these incentives will be focused on supermarket and industrial refrigeration applications. The stick approach is preserving the now defunct Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20.
As most of you know, the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 was the announced planned phase down and eventual phase out of HFC refrigerants across the United States. This Rule 20 was announced back in the summer of 2015 and was to begin phasing down HFCs progressively year after year. The EPA created this regulation based off of their power found in the Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol. There was a problem in this logic though, the Montreal Protocol and the section of the Clean Air Act that was used strictly specified Ozone depleting chemicals such as CFCs and HCFCs. HFC refrigerants such as R-404A and R-134a do NOT contain Chlorine and therefore do not fall under the Clean Air Act/Montreal Protocol.
A Federal Court ruled against the EPA’s Rule in August of 2017. The ruling came as a shock to those in the industry and there was an appeal filed only a few weeks later by Honeywell and Chemours. The appeal court ruling occurred early in 2018 and the court again ruled against the EPA and Honeywell/Chemours. The EPA had overstepped it’s bounds and could not phase down HFCs without proper legislation.
With the current administration in power there was and is little hope of a comprehensive HFC refrigerant phase down bill from being passed. Another hope for climate advocates was the Kigali Amendment. The Kigali Amendment was an addendum to the Montreal Protocol that was signed by various countries in 2016. This amendment again aimed at phasing down HFC refrigerants across the globe. Over the years many countries have ratified this amendment, however one of the remaining countries to do so is the United States. No one is for sure what the Trump Administration will do on this amendment. Will they push it to the Senate to ratify, will they kill it, or will they just sit on it and let it drift off into purgatory?
This is where the States’ Rights have come into play. I’ve always been a big proponent of the States making their own decisions and this is no different. California signed their bill late last month and just today we have an announcement from Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, that New York will be adopting the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20 as law in New York. This is now the second state to create their own EPA type regulation in order to combat the impact of Greenhouse Gases like HFC refrigerants.
Like the California law the New York regulation is very similar. The goal is to enact the proposed changes from the EPA’s original ruling. What that means is that we are going to see impact right away in a few sections of the industry. The biggest and most significant impact is automotive.
In the original ruling the EPA stated that R-134a would no longer be accepted in new vehicles from model year 2021 and beyond. Now, a lot of car manufacturers have already begun switching over from 134a over to 1234yf, but not all of them have. This now gives car manufacturers only a few years to comply with this new law if they want to sell vehicles in California or New York. The hope with these regulations is to force the hand of manufacturers to only use GWP friendly refrigerants and if enough States sign on then this very well may happen.
Another change will be the food refrigeration equipment found in supermarkets, vending machines, refrigerators, and freezers. With the first major change hitting in 2020 targeting supermarket systems and vending machines, the next change in 2021 targeting household refrigerators and freezers. And in 2023 targeting industrial cold storage warehousing.
The last major change will be on stationary air conditioning equipment such as centrifugal chillers and positive displacement chillers. The target for these is January 1st, 2024.
Are these two states the first of many? Will we begin to see the dominoes fall so to speak and see other states fall in line? If so, should we even bother with the Kigali Amendment or should we just let the States decide and move on from there?
Time will tell, but if enough states get on board then companies will begin to feel the pressure and proactively transition away from HFCs and over to HFOs or Natural Refrigerants.
https://refrigeranthq.com/ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and The E-Bay Partner Program, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com or E-Bay.com. We do not directly sell any products or refrigerants, but rather provide information, knowledge, and explanations to the consumer.
Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon Services LLC. This content is provided 'As is' and is subject to change or removal at any time.