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Trucking

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

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

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

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

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

The Incoming Shortage

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

R-134a Refrigerant

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

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

Switching Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson
RefrigerantHQ

Elitech IR-200 Dual Sensor Leak Detector

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

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

Elitech

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

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

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

Product Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pros

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

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

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

Cons

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

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

Elitech IR-200 Leak Detector Display

What’s In The Box?

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Important Links:

RefrigerantHQ's Pressure Charts

One of the very first steps when it comes to diagnosing a home air conditioner, refrigerator, a vehicle’s air conditioner, or a commercial cooler is understanding the temperature and the current pressure that the 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 are 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-452A XP44 Basic Info & PT Chart

R-452A is a newer refrigerant that falls into the Hydrofluoroolefins classification family (HFOs). It can also be found under the Opteon XP44 brand name from Chemours. It is a zeotropic blend of R-1234yf (30%), R-32 (11%), and R-125 (59%). This refrigerant was designed to be an alternative to the extremely high Global Warming Potential refrigerants R-404A and R-507. R-452A closely matches the performance and energy efficiency of R-404A. You’ll also find that the compressor discharge temperature nearly matches when compared to R-404A/R-507 systems in both low and medium temperature applications.

While this newer refrigerant can be used in various commercial/industrial refrigeration, condensing units, and stand alone plug-ins you are most likely to find this refrigerant being used in transport refrigeration. These are your refrigerated trucks, vans, or reefer containers. This niche application is forgotten by a lot of folks but the sheer amount of refrigerated trucks that are out there is staggering. Think about it for a moment. All of the meat, dairy, and any other cold groceries are delivered by these refrigerated trucks. All of the meat being transported from processing plant to distributor use a refrigerated truck. Heck, even the ice cream truck that rolls down your neighborhood falls under this application.

452A XP44 is ideal for newer applications but can also be used for retrofits of existing systems. It uses POE oil so in most cases you’ll find that you do not even need to swap the oil as R-404A uses POE as well. The refrigerant is also rated with an A1 safety rating from ASHRAE. What that means is that it is non-flammable and non-toxic just like R-404A is rated.

I had mentioned earlier that the idea behind this refrigerant was to provide an alternative to the extremely high GWP that is R-404A. You see R-404A has a GWP number of nearly four-thousand! That is a huge number. The good news here is that with R-452A it reduces the GWP by forty-five percent when compared to R-404A. While that is a significant number that still leaves us with a high GWP of R-452A itself.

Yes, R-452A comes in with a GWP of two-thousand one-hundred and forty-one. If you compare that to other refrigerants it is still a VERY high number. Because of this fact I have to say that I do not see this newer HFO refrigerant from Chemours lasting very long. There will come a time in the near future that this refrigerant will be phased out shortly. If you are looking into switching over your 404A system it may make more sense to either wait until a lower GWP alternative comes out or to take a serious look at natural refrigerants out there like R-744 CO2.

Alright folks, with all that being said I’ve talked enough. Let’s get onto the actual pressure chart. When I create these tables I strive to create them as accurate as possible so if you see something that is not right please reach out to me and I will get it corrected as soon as possible.

Temp (F)Temp (C)Liquid Pressure (PSIG)Vapor Pressure (PSIG)
-94-70-10.84-11.61
-90.4-68-10.33-11.19
-86.8-66-9.76-10.72
-83.2-64-9.14-10.21
-79.6-62-8.45-9.64
-76-60-7.7-9.01
-72.4-58-6.87-8.32
-68.8-56-5.97-7.56
-65.2-54-4.99-6.74
-61.6-52-3.93-5.83
-58-50-2.77-4.85
-54.4-48-1.52-3.78
-50.8-46-0.02-2.63
-47.2-441.3-1.37
-43.6-422.88-0.02
-40-404.571.45
-36.4-386.393.02
-32.8-368.354.71
-29.2-3410.446.53
-25.6-3212.678.48
-22-3015.0610.56
-18.4-2817.612.79
-14.8-2620.315.17
-11.2-2423.1817.71
-7.6-2226.2320.41
-4-2029.4723.28
-0.4-1832.926.33
3.2-1636.5329.57
6.8-1440.3733
10.4-1244.4236.62
14-1048.6940.46
17.6-853.1944.51
21.2-657.9348.79
24.8-462.9153.3
28.4-268.1458.04
32073.6363.04
35.6279.3968.29
39.2485.4273.82
42.8691.7479.61
46.4898.3585.68
5010105.2692.05
53.612112.4898.72
57.214120.02105.7
60.816127.88113.01
64.418136.08120.64
6820144.61128.61
71.622153.51136.94
75.224162.76145.62
78.826172.38154.69
82.428182.38164.14
8630192.76173.97
89.632203.55184.22
93.234214.75194.89
96.836226.36205.99
100.438238.38217.53
10440250.85229.54
107.642263.77242.02
111.244277.14254.98
114.846290.99268.45
118.448305.3282.45
12250320.1296.97
125.652335.41312.05
129.254351.22327.73
132.856367.56344
136.458384.42360.89
14060401.84378.44
143.662419.82396.69
147.264438.35415.67
150.866457.46435.44
154.468477.15456.07
15870497.41477.64

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

EPA

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

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

Air Conditioning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retail Food Refrigeration

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

Let’s take a look at these refrigerants:

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources:

Colorado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources:

 

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

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

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

[formidable id=2]

Anhydrous Ammonia Leak

R-717, or Anhydrous Ammonia, is widely regarded as one of the most efficient refrigerants in the world. Not only is it efficient it also has zero Ozone Depletion Potential and has a Global Warming Potential of zero. So, you have a highly efficient refrigerant with no impact on the climate. It is these two reasons why we have begun to see more and more companies and countries use Anhydrous Ammonia.

In fact Ammonia was one of the very first refrigerants to be discovered and used. This can be said for a lot of the natural refrigerants such as Ammonia, Carbon Dioxide, and the various Hydrocarbons like Propane or Isobutane. All of these were the grandfathers of refrigerants. It was in the 1930’s that CFCs and HCFC were introduced and we began to see the demand for these natural refrigerants start to dwindle.

After all, these newer CFC/HCFC refrigerants didn’t have any downsides. Natural refrigerants did. Carbon Dioxide operated at very high pressures which caused premature failures. Hydrocarbons were flammable. Ammonia was toxic and flammable. Yes folks, Ammonia is rated as a B2L from ASHRAE. This B signifies refrigerants for which there is evidence of toxicity at concentrations below four hundred parts per million. Refrigerants in the 2L sub-classification are slightly flammable and have a burning velocities less than or equal to 10 cm/s (3.9 in./s)

It is directly because of the downsides on natural refrigerants that I mentioned above that we saw the rise of CFCs and HCFC refrigerants such as R-11, R-12, R-502, R-22, etc. When these refrigerants were phased out due to their effect on the Ozone a new king of artificial refrigerants was announced, HFCs. Some of your most common HFCs out there are your R-125, R-32, R-410A, R-404A, and R-134a. These reigned supreme for about twenty years until we realized what impact that they were having on Climate Change and Global Warming.

The world had realized that we substituted one wrong for another. There had to be a better solution then these climate damaging refrigerants, right? Well folks, that is where the age old debate between natural refrigerants and artificial refrigerants come into play. Honeywell and Chemours (Formerly DuPont) have spent countless hours and money on developing a new classification of artificial refrigerants known as HFOs. These refrigerants are said to have very low Global Warming Potential while also being relatively safe. An HFO might be a 2L, but at least it is not toxic as well.

But, the problem is a lot of folks have felt they have been suckered too many times. First it was CFCs, then HCFCs, then HFCs, and now it’s HFOs? Whose to say that HFOs won’t be gone in another ten years? Why invest money into a machine that could be obsolete in a decade, or worse yet, illegal? I swear the ink wasn’t dry on the 2010 phase out of R-22 and we had already started to hear about phasing down R-410A. This constant changing can wear people out.

The appeal of natural refrigerants is enticing. They have been around for centuries. They are not damaging to the climate. These two facts alone ensure that you will never run into a phase down or phase out situation with these refrigerants. The question though is are they worth the risk? Now, when I say risk I’m not talking about Carbon Dioxide, or even Hydrocarbons for that matter. My focal point here is Ammonia.

As I mentioned earlier Ammonia is both toxic and flammable. Now many companies will minimize this and state that it is perfectly fine and safe if the proper precautions, maintenance, and regulations are followed. This very well may be true, but what happens when a mistake is made? If you’re just dealing with a smaller charged application then it’s not too big of a deal. However, if you are using Ammonia refrigerant in large quantities then disaster can strike.

Before I go further I want to preface this with that I am going to get a lot e-mails on this article. It seems that whenever I bring up Ammonia I get a lot of feedback. Some folks for it and some folks against it. Most of the time though it is folks arguing for it. So, in this article I am going to go against the grain here and try to paint you a picture of what can happen when Ammonia leaks or spills can occur and why we should be looking at alternative refrigerants.

A few years back I wrote an article about an unfortunate event in Canada. An Ammonia leak had occurred at a small town’s ice rink. Three workers, who were trying to repair the leak, died due to Ammonia exposure. An entire city block was evacuated by the local fire department. It was a tragedy for the small town. This one event, while extreme, shows you what kind of damage Ammonia can do.

To give you an even clearer picture I searched around Google and pulled Ammonia leak related stories over the past eighteen months. While fatalities are rare, they can still occur. The common theme throughout these leaks is evacuations and injuries. The sheer amount of incidents below should give you an idea of why I am not for Ammonia refrigerant use. (In large charge applications.)

Conclusion

If you are looking at a new system for your plant, factory, ice rink, or whatever else please consider something other then Ammonia. Review the latest HFO refrigerants out there. Or, if you want to stay with natural refrigerants then take a good hard look at Carbon Dioxide R-744. CO2 has made great strides over the past decades and is quickly becoming one of the major players within the refrigerant industry.

If you do end up going with Ammonia though just know that there is a chance of any one of the events I listed above happening at your location. It could be a small leak that is handled right away or it could be a catastrophe like what happened in Canada. Be absolutely sure you schedule proper maintenance and take any and all precautions you can so that you can give your employees and your customers a safe place to work and visit.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

MRCOOL DIY Series Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner & Heat Pump

A friend of mine is approaching retirement. He has just a few years left and he is already making plans. One of these plans of his was to purchase a small cottage in the Ozarks. For those of you who aren’t from Kansas City, the Ozarks are a few hours south of here and are very similar to Appalachia. There are lots of forests, rivers, and hunting to be had. The place he purchased came with over thirty acres to play around with. The home though was rather small at only around twelve-hundred square feet. The home was also very old and did not have a central air conditioning system. There was an old window unit in the living room that did a mediocre job of cooling the home but it didn’t help for the winter months, it didn’t reach the bedrooms, and it needed to be replaced anyways.

He brought this up a few weeks ago when we were having a few and I told him to look into getting a ductless system. You see a ductless system can give you significantly more power then a standard window or mobile air conditioner. Along with the additional power it is much less of an eye sore. I didn’t see the old window unit that he had at his home but I can only imagine what it looked like. You’ve all seen them. Those old rusted looking units that look like they could fall at any moment. A ductless system mounts to your interior wall and to the outside of your home. You don’t lose a window. You don’t have to cut a huge hole in your wall to fit the wall unit. All you need is a three to four inch hole to fit the refrigerant lines through and you are good to go!

Personally, I am a big fan of ductless systems. Obviously, I am going to go with a central unit first if it’s possible, but if it’s not then I am going for the ductless. Yes they are more expensive but you are getting a better product too. In this article we are going to take an in-depth look at one of these ductless systems, MRCool Do-It-Yourself Smart Air Conditioner and Heater.

Please note that this will be a comprehensive review. I will try and cover everything including sizing requirements, installation, product features, the pros, and the cons. You can expect a lot of reading on your part but at the end you will definitely know what you are getting into and if this is the right product for you and your family.

Before You Buy

Ok folks so before we get into the features and the pros/cons of these air conditioners from MRCOOL I want to cover a few topics: Sizing and Installation. These sections are key for when you are shopping for a ductless system. The sizing allows you to accurately predict exactly what size air conditioner that you need and the install section will give you an idea of what to expect when the air conditioner arrives at your home.

Sizing

Before you buy we need to understand how sizing in air conditioning system works. It is not as simple as just picking the biggest and baddest model on the market. If you purchase a unit that is rated to cool one-thousand square feet and you put it in your one-hundred and fifty square feet office your air conditioner is going to have difficulty extracting the humidity from the air as well as evenly distributing the cooler air. The end result will be hot and cool spots throughout the room. That isn’t even mentioning the increased monthly cost to run a much larger machine then you needed in the first place. This will leave you feeling frustrated due to the hot and cool spots as well as paying more money per month then you should be.

Now, if we do the inverse of this scenario and buy a smaller air conditioner for a much larger area your unit will be running constantly all day and night just trying to keep up by cooling the larger square footage. This will result in the room not being as cold as it should be as well as significantly increasing the energy bills for running your AC non-stop. Remember folks, air conditioners are supposed to hit a desired temperature, turn off, and then turn back on when the temperature begins to rise. If they are running constantly that means higher bills as well as quicker parts failure on the unit.

To understand air conditioner sizing you need to understand British Thermal Units, or BTUs. If you have already been looking online or in stores you have probably noticed that window air conditioners always have a BTU number in their description. BTUs are the traditional measurement unit of heat.  In the air conditioning world BTUs are a measurement of the cooling capacity of your window air conditioner. The bigger the number of BTUs the more powerful and the higher cooling capacity of your A/C unit.  As a standard measurement an air conditioner needs around thirty BTUs for each square foot of living space that you wish to cool. Using that standard measurement let’s do some match based off of the 24,000 BTU rating example we pulled from earlier.

24,000 / 30 = 800 square feet

To ensure that you are buying the right sized air conditioner for your room it is best to measure it. To get the square footage of your room measure the width and depth of your room and then multiply the numbers together to get your square footage. As an example if you have a ten foot by eleven foot room you have one-hundred and ten square foot.

There are also other considerations when looking at your room. Yes, the size of the room definitely matters but these other scenarios could have a play into what kind of air conditioner you should purchase such as is the room sunny all day? How many people will be in the room at a time? How tall is the ceiling? Is the room in the kitchen or other hot appliance? All of these are signs that you need to increase the BTUs for your air conditioner.

The MRCOOL Ductless Systems come in a variety of sizes. To give you a better idea of what square footage they all fall under we’ve broken it down for you below. Just keep in mind folks that if you have some of the exceptions we mentioned above that you will need to increase the BTUs required.

Install

This product is marketed as a do-it-yourself project. While that is great and doing it yourself can save you a bundle when it comes to hiring a professional HVAC technician, you should know exactly what you are getting into before you purchase. Doing it yourself doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy and if you guess your way through it then you not only risk voiding your warranty but you could also end up harming yourself or others when it comes to the electrical work. If you do wish to install the unit yourself then please continue reading on exactly what will need to be done.

First, the good news is that everything is included in the kit including a detailed installation manual. This manual can also be found at the bottom of this article under our ‘Important Link’s section if you wish to view an online copy. It should be noted that this kit does NOT come with exterior mounting brackets and superficial coverings. If you wish to go this route you will have to purchase these extra. The right brackets and coverings though can easily be found on Amazon by clicking here for the brackets and here for the coverings. The coverings are more aesthetic then anything, but they can provide an extra bit of protection to your lines. It is up to you if you want the extra expense or not.MRCOOL DIY Series Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner & Heat Pump1

Now, for the install there are four main sections that will have to be done. The first two are the easiest. When you order this product you will receive an indoor section and an outdoor section. The outside section can either be mounted against your home using support brackets or it can be installed at ground level as long as you create a completely level floor pad. Most folks opt for the floor pad option as it is overall easier to install this way and if you have to do maintenance on the unit down the road you will have much easier access. Creating the floor pad can be done with bricks, cinder blocks, or even your own concrete pad.

The inside unit will need to be mounted up against an exterior wall. Some folks have done interior walls, and while yes it is possible… I would not recommend it. Remember, that once the interior section is mounted you will need to connect the refrigerant pipes and the condensation line to the outside unit. This is why it makes sense to have them on the other side of the wall.

When mounting the interior unit be sure to mount it high up against the wall, close to the ceiling. This is done for two main reasons. The first is that the fan or blower is located at the bottom of the unit. So, the higher the unit is mounted in the room the more easily the air can be distributed. If you have it towards the bottom of the room then all your cold air is blowing up against the floor. The other reason is the condensation line. This is where the water will drain through when excess humidity is removed from your home. This line is gravity fed so if your unit is floor level that water will have nowhere to go.

Alright folks so now we have the easy parts covered. The next point, and a tricky point for a lot of folks, is feeding the refrigerant and condensation lines through your home and connecting them to the exterior section. In order to do this you will need to cut a three and a half inch hole in the wall nearby where you have chosen to mount your interior unit. This is where you will feed the lines. When planning this out you should note that the MRCOOL unit comes with twenty-five feet of refrigerant line. To some this amount of piping is a blessing and to others a cruse. If you only have about ten feet needed then you have to be creative and find a way to ‘hide’ the other fifteen feet.

This unit from MRCOOL comes precharged with refrigerant. What that means is that the system is ready to go and no vacuuming or charging of the system is required. While this is a great pro it can also be a detriment as you have to be extra careful when routing these refrigerant lines through the hole and to the outside unit. Make no mistake, this is the hardest part of the install. You can NOT bend the lines. You can NOT cut or modify the tubing. If any of this occurs and a crack or leak forms in the tubing then all of the refrigerant will leak out and you will have a useless machine. If this does happen then you need to identify the source of the leak, patch it, and then charge your system again with refrigerant. You will most likely need a HVAC professional’s help in this scenario. But, hopefully it doesn’t come to this and you are very careful with the piping.

Once the tubing has been routed through the hole and both sections have been mounted you are now ready to seal the three and a half inch hole we made earlier. A lot of folks used weather proof insulation. I like the spray foam that expands. Either way, you need to seal this hole up to prevent drafts, water, and anything else from getting in there.

Alright folks, the last section of the install is the electrical portion. The twelve-thousand BTU unit requires a one-hundred and ten connection whereas the larger sizes require a two-hundred and twenty volt connection. Please note that regardless of what size of ductless system you choose it will have to be hardwired to your circuit box either through a one-hundred and ten or a two-hundred and twenty volt connection. Now, I’ll be completely honest with you here folks, I do not have much electrical expertise and it would be wrong for me to steer you a certain way for the install. From my research though I have found that you need a fifteen amp breaker for the smaller twelve-thousand unit and a twenty amp breaker for the larger sizes. Now, as to how to install these and connect them I am not knowledgeable enough to guide you. If you are not familiar with how to do this then I would recommend reaching out to an electrician once you have the unit itself setup and ready to go. It is best not to guess with electrical work and if you do it wrong then you risk voiding your warranty… not to mention harming yourself. Electricity is no joke.

Once you have finished the electrical work and everything else is done it is recommended by the manufacturer to run the air conditioner for ten to fifteen minutes and monitor the system for leaks. If the air conditioner passes then run the heater for ten to fifteen minutes as well. Note that the heater may take longer for it to truly start up so it may be best to let it run for a half-hour or so just to ensure everything is working as it should be. For any further questions or concerns when it comes to installation please click here to be taken to the official Mr Cool’s installation instructions. This should answer any questions that you have BEFORE you purchase.

Product Features

Now that we have the sizing and installation sections covered we can begin to look at exactly what these products from MRCOOL have to offer. The first and most important point here is to recognize the various modes that these units come with. Each mode is important and can help you in making your purchasing decision. These units come with an Auto mode, a Cool mode, a Fan mode, and a Dry mode (Dehumidifier). Let’s take a look at these:

  • Cool – This is your air conditioning mode and can cool your home all the way down to sixty-two degrees. Although most folks prefer temperatures between sixty-eight to seventy degrees. This cool mode will work to cool your home even when outside temperatures range from five degrees to one-hundred and twenty-two degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Heat – These units from MRCOOL also come with a full heating mode. What is most exciting about this feature though is that the heater’s BTUs are mostly aligned with the air conditioners BTUs. What I mean by this is that in other air conditioners/heater combos you see the air conditioner has a significantly higher BTU number then the heater. This results in a far less powerful heater and requires you to have supplemental heat in your home along with this heater. But, with these units from MRCOOL the heater is very close the air conditioner BTUs. This heater will also work at maximum capacity with temperatures as low as five degrees Fahrenheit. Anything below five degrees then the heater will work but it will see diminished capacity.
  • Auto – The auto mode is pretty self explanatory. This is similar to most homes with a central system that have an auto mode. All this does is determine if the heater or air conditioner needs to be on. It will actively monitor the temperature in the room and turn one of these on to reach your desired temperature level. This is more of a hands off approach. I’ve never been a fan of auto myself. I like to have ‘heat’ mode in the winter and ‘cool’ mode in the summer, but that’s just my personal preference.
  • Dry Mode – Dry mode is actually just a dehumidifier mode. This allows you to dehumidify your home without cooling your home. I’m not sure how often you would use this as the air conditioner itself is a dehumidifier as well and most of the time if you are trying to dehumidify then you needing to cool as well. This dehumidifier will work between the inside temperature range of fifty to ninety degrees Fahrenheit. Outside temperature range between thirty-two to one-hundred and twenty-two degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fan – The fan mode is just that. It is a fan without any cooling or heating effects. This is just the blower of the interior running and circulating air. This may be great to have if you have a fire in the fireplace and don’t necessarily want the heater on as well. The fan will help circulate the warm air without kicking that heater on.

Other Features

Along with your other basic modes that we mentioned above there are some other ancillary features that come with these Mr Cool air conditioners. These aren’t huge features but still good to know. The first is what’s known as the auto-restart. Let’s say for example it’s in the middle of summer and a bad storm rolls through the neighborhood and cuts power from your home. When power is restored at your home then your MRCOOL unit will turn back on and at the same settings it was at before. This is one less thing that you have to worry about resetting when your power comes back on.MRCOOL DIY Series Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner & Heat Pump1

Another neat feature is what’s known as ‘louver angle memory.’ What this means is that when your appliance is turned off and then turned back on it will automatically remember the angle of the louvers from when it was last shut off. This is similar to the power loss feature we mentioned above. It ensures consistency when powering on your air conditioner.

This next one will be very important for those of you who elect to install this product yourself. Remember how I said earlier that you had to be very careful with the refrigerant lines and that you were not to bend them? If worse comes to worse and you do get a leak in your system the MRCOOL unit will actually alert you of said leak. If a refrigerant leak is occurring you will get an ‘EC’ error message come up on the inside unit. As to how to find the leak that is a whole other story. I did an article on this topic a few years ago which can be found by clicking here.

This product from MRCOOL comes with a remote and built in WiFi. The WiFi allows you to connect your phone to the appliance through the MRCOOL application. From here you have your own personal remote on your phone that will allow you to adjust temperatures, modes, and any other settings you require. The remote gives you the same functions as the phone app does but is overall easier to operate.

There are two extra features though on the remote though that I want to point out. The first is what is known as the ‘Follow Me’ function. This option will actually have the MRCOOL appliance read the temperature in the room where the remote is. So, if you have the inside unit setup in your living room but the remote is in your kitchen then it will keep running until the desired temperature is reached within the kitchen. This is a handy feature as it will give you a degree of separation between the cold air blowing and the thermostat itself. Otherwise, you will have the thermostat right next to where the cold air is coming out.

The last feature I’ll mention here is what is known as ‘Sleep Mode.’ This sleep mode is only accessible through the remote. When this is turned on the product will slowly adjust the temperature up or down every hour depending on if it’s in cool or heat mode. It will hold these temperature for seven hours and when the time is up it will revert back to it’s previous programmed temperature. This is a great function for you folks who want to save on your energy bills.

Pros

A lot of the pros on this product we have already covered in our product feature section, so there may be some repetition here. The biggest pro on these MRCOOL products are the various modes and the capacity of these modes. What I mean by that is you have a fully functioning air conditioner and a fully functioning heater that can work in temperatures as low as five degrees and up to temperatures of one-hundred and twenty-two degrees. This product has you covered. The only exception I would say is that if  you live in the far north and experience temperatures way below zero routinely throughout the year. Otherwise, this unit can handle whatever you throw at it.

The other big pro here is the warranty on the unit. These products come with a five year parts replacement warranty. Along with this you also get a seven year replacement warranty on the compressor. This keeps you covered in case of any your parts fail. The extra two years on the compressor is great as well as compressors are some of the most commonly failed parts when it comes to air conditioning. This warranty is much better then the competition. If you look at the Pioneer ductless system you will only find a two year parts warranty. Quite the difference if you ask me.

This warranty is NOT voided if you install this unit yourself. Remember folks, this is a do-it-yourself product. The only caveat here is that if you guess you way through the electrical work then you could void the warranty. If you are unsure on how to do the electrical connection then I would hire a professional to ensure you warranty stays in tact. For more on MRCOOL’s warranty click here to be taken to their official warranty page.MRCOOL DIY Series Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner & Heat Pump1

The last pro I want to mention here is the overall volume of the unit. For those of you who have experience with window units you will know just how loud they can get during operation. You will not have this problem with this ductless system. No, these units are extremely quiet. In fact many folks don’t even realize the machine is on. It is that quiet.

Cons

We are now ready for the cons of this ductless system. Before I get into this though I first want to state that overall this is a great product and the cons I mention below are similar to what you find with other ductless systems. The big con here, especially on this MRCOOL system, is the expense. These units are very expensive, especially compared to some of the competing lines like the Pioneer model we mentioned in our pros section. The difference though is that with the MRCOOL brand you are getting a fully functioning heater whereas with the Pioneer you don’t get that same function. You also have less heater operating temperature range with the Pioneer unit. So, while this is more expensive you are getting more product and a higher quality product.

The other big con here is the install. Now this can be said with any ductless system. Do not be fooled, these are not an easy install. You have to mount both units. You have to feed the lines through… and you have to create a three and a half inch hole in your exterior wall. On top of all of that you have to connect it directly to your circuit breaker. Do you feel comfortable with all of that? If so, then this won’t be a big deal at all. But, if you are not then you either may want to hire a professional to help with the install or purchase a window or mobile unit that is much easier to just plug-in and go. The problem with the window/mobile units though is that their capacity is much lower and they are an eyesore.

The last few cons I want to mention are somewhat minor but still deserve to be mentioned. Some folks have stated problems with leaking refrigerant. While this can be a huge problem and will cause your unit not to work… it is most likely caused by poor install. They most likely bent the pipes or did something else to cause a fracture in the pipes which caused the refrigerant to leak out. Just be careful during install and follow the directions carefully. If you do this then you shouldn’t have this problem.

Remember the ‘follow me’ function we mentioned earlier? There were a few reviews that stated this wasn’t working properly. I only saw this a few times during my research, but the complaint was that the follow me function would try to reach the desired temperature through heat and cool in a back and forth fashion. In other words, if the temperature was set to seventy-two then cool would kick on to get it down to seventy-two… but then it accidentally goes down to seventy-one, so then the heater kicks on to get it back to seventy-two and then that accidentally goes to seventy-three. And so on and so on. This didn’t seem to be a prevalent complaint though so I don’t know much stock I would put into this.

The last con here is that some of the ductless systems are what’s known as a multi-zone system. This means that you can have one outdoor unit and multiple indoor units to cool your home in different rooms. These MRCOOL systems are NOT multi-zone. You only have one indoor unit and that is all you can have. If you need more then one then you will have to purchase the entire machine again.

Conclusion

Alright folks so we have gone through sizing, installation, features, pros, cons, and everything else there is to possibly know about this product. Bottom line is that this is a great product and will definitely do its job of cooling your home, garage, loft, workshop, or whatever other area you are looking at this for. But, don’t just take my word for it. If we look at Amazon.com we can see that this MRCOOL product has over two-hundred reviews on it all with an average rating of four and a half stars. That is the equivalent of a ninety percent approval rating. It is a solid product. If you’d like to purchase this unit please click here to be taken to our Amazon partner.

One last point of note here is that we here at RefrigerantHQ are not responsible for the install of this unit. If you purchase this product the installation process will be solely on you or a hired professional. If you are unsure on what to do rather it be through routing the refrigerant lines or doing electrical work then it is always best practice to contact a professional. You know what they say, it is always better to be safe then sorry.

Thanks for reading and I hope this review was helpful,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Important Links

Ivation 30, 50, & 70 Pint Energy Star Dehumidifier

Back in 2009 I bought my first house. It was rather modest but it was in a nice neighborhood. My wife and I got a hell of a deal on it as it was a foreclosure and there was quite a bit of work that needed to be done. After we bought it and had moved in we started fixing things around the house. In the beginning it was smaller stuff but as we learned we were able to do some larger projects. One of the first things I noticed though was that when I was in our basement there was a damp almost musty smell. It was rather unpleasant, but there wasn’t any standing water or signs of water damage anywhere.

After some research online I understood that the humidity levels in my basement were too high. You see the best humidity range for our homes is between forty to sixty percent. If you go lower then forty percent then you will begin to notice drying or cracking of the skin. In some cases low humidity can cause your respiratory tract to dry out which will lead to infections and other sicknesses.

The inverse of all that is when your humidity is too high. In these cases if your room or basement has a humidity level above sixty percent then that damp or musty smell may be the least of your problems. You see that bad smell in your basement is one of the first warning signs. If the problem is left unchecked then you may begin to see water beading on the inside of your windows, on your walls, or even on your floors. In some cases you may see standing water in your basement or affected rooms. All of this moisture can lead to a host of other problems. If this is left untreated then your basement or home will become a perfect place for allergens to start growing. These could be dust mites, fungus, and even mold.  Mold can be bad for your health if you are a perfectly healthy, but imagine what it can do to someone who has respiratory problems or who are allergic to it.

The solution to these excess humidity problems is adding a dehumidifier to your basement, room , or home. A dehumidifier will do just what it’s described. It removes the excess moisture from your room. This will get your area back to that perfect range of between forty to sixty percent. The question though is what dehumidifier should you purchase?

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of options out there. It can be daunting to look at them all. In this article we are going to take an in-depth look at the three dehumidifier models manufactured by Ivation. We’ll dive into the various sizes, the product features, the pros, and the cons. By the time we’re done you’ll know everything there is to know about this product… and maybe a bit more then you should!Ivation 30, 50, & 70 Pint Energy Star Dehumidifier

Sizing

The first thing that we need to do before purchasing a dehumidifier is determining exactly what size of product that you need. Now there are two considerations when it comes to the size of your dehumidifier. The first is the overall square footage of the room. Square footage is easily measured by taking the length and width of the room and multiplying the numbers together. I’ll warn you right now though that many manufacturers, including this one, state that their dehumidifier can work in rooms up to XX square feet. While this may be true, there is another consideration that has to be reviewed before this square footage promise can come to fruition. (Personally, I always cut the manufacturer’s square footage claims by half, just to be safe.)

The other consideration is the overall dampness or wetness of the room. You see the more damp the room is the more power that you are going to need from your dehumidifier. So, let’s say you are trying to dehumidify a twelve-hundred square foot room. If the room just has a musty smell but has no signs of water, mold, or any other dampness indicators then we can call this room damp. You may get away with the smallest size, the thirty pint model.

However, if you notice water beading on the windows, walls, or even some standing water in that same room then you are going to need a larger sized dehumidifier. Luckily, these models from Ivation come in three different sizes: thirty pint, fifty pint, and seventy pint. Now, I like to tell people to get the fifty or the seventy. Yes, the thirty will work in the damp scenario we gave earlier but with the fifty unit your room will dehumidify quicker and if the room is damper then you thought then there isn’t a problem.

  • IVALDH30PW – This is the thirty pint model. In other words, it can remove up to thirty pints of water within a twenty-four hour period. This is the smallest size and while it will work for a moderately damp area you will get better results if you move to the fifty pint. (If your area is a thousand square feet or under you can get away with the thirty pint without an issue.) This unit also works great for a small room or bathroom that you are looking to dehumidify.
  • IVALDH50PW – This is the fifty pint model. In most cases this is going to cover your needs. Even if you have some moisture beading on your walls. This will dehumidify up to fifteen-hundred square feet as long as you don’t have actual standing water in your home. Again, this is great for your basement or large open area within your home or office.
  • IVALDH70PB – This is the seventy pint model. This is the biggest size of this model range and will be more then big enough to handle a two-thousand square feet area with standing water. Most folks recommend going a size larger then what you need when it comes to dehumidifiers. Your machine won’t work as hard and will last longer.

Product Features

Alright folks now that we’ve covered the sizing requirements we can begin to get into the details and features of this dehumidifier. To start off I think it makes sense to look at what this unit can do as far as dehumidifying your home. As we mentioned above, there are three sizes. The thirty pint model will remove thirty pints of water from your home within a twenty-four hour period. The same logic can be applied to the fifty and to the seventy pint.

When you turn the machine on you will see the current humidity in the room. You are then able to adjust the humidity up or down to your desired level. Remember that somewhere between forty to sixty percent is ideal. The dehumidifier adjust by five percent increments, so if you’re at sixty and lower it once you’ll be at fifty-five. This is all displayed on the digital display on the control panel of the unit. These three products have a range between thirty to ninety percent humidity and will work in temperatures ranging from forty-one to eighty-nine degrees Fahrenheit.

Along with the basic concept of dehumidifying these products also come with a few other features. The first is what’s known as an auto-restart. If you lose power during a rain storm or other event then your dehumidifier will instantly turn back on and at the settings it was at before the power loss. This is a handy feature if you’re away from home for a period of time or even if you forget to turn the unit back on.

There are also two speeds on the fan. There is your regular mode and then a turbo mode. The faster the speed of the fan the faster moisture will be removed from your room. It may be a good idea to start your unit in the turbo mode. This will help you get to your desired humidity faster. Then, once you’ve reached your desired level you can set the speed back to normal. Along with the fan settings there is also a timer setting. The timer will allow you to program the appliance to stop or start after a certain amount of time has passed. You could set it for an hour or all the way up to it’s maximum setting of twenty-four hours. This is a great tool as it lets you set it and forget it.Ivation 30, 50, & 70 Pint Energy Star Dehumidifier Control Panel

All dehumidifiers come with a water tank. After all, that water you are removing from your room has to go somewhere…right? In the case of these units from Ivation the tank can hold 1.6 gallons. Once capacity is reached you will need to remove the tank and empty the water in a sink or bathtub. To make things a bit easier for you Ivation added a water level window so that you can easily monitor the water in the tank and empty it once it fills up. Continuing with the water tank, there is an auto shut-off on these dehumidifiers if the water tank becomes full. This will prevent water from overflowing from your tank and spilling out onto your floor. When the auto shut-off occurs there will be an indicator on the control panel informing you that the tank needs emptied.

Emptying the water tank is relatively easy. The tank slides out from the bottom and has a handle attached to it for easy back and forth carrying. However, if you are not a fan of having to empty the tank every time it fills up then there is an alternative option available. These dehumidifiers come with an opening for continuous drainage. This means that you can connect a hose and route that house to a nearby floor drain. Now all the water that would go in your tank goes down the hose and into the drain. It should be noted that this drain is gravity fed. In other words, the drain you are feeding the water into will HAVE to be lower then the dehumidifier itself. It will not work correctly if you try to route the hose to a sink that is above the dehumidifier.

For those of you that do not know, a dehumidifier is basically just a mini air conditioner. You see dehumidifiers operate the same way that an air conditioner does. They use refrigerant and they go through cycles of liquid and gas. In the case of these products from Ivation they all use the popular HFC refrigerant known as R-410A. This is the same type of refrigerant that you will find on newer home split systems. The only difference between a dehumidifier and an air conditioner is that with the dehumidifiers there is an extra feature. This extra feature is a heater that warms the air backup to room temperature.

Just like with air conditioners there is a risk of your dehumidifier’s evaporator coils accumulating frost and ice. If this happens then your unit will freeze up and it will no longer be able to operate. The good news is that these products from Ivation have an auto-defrost feature. This defrost feature recognizes when ice has begun to build up and then resolves the problem. If ice is found the unit will shut-off except for the heater and the fan. The warmth of the heater and the fan will melt the ice on your evaporator. Once the ice has been melted the dehumidifier will start up again just like new.

The filter on these dehumidifiers is quite easy to remove and maintain. First make sure the unit is shut-off and not plugged in. Then all you need to do is remove the water tank and then, above the water tank, you will see the filter. Slide it out easily. Once you have it in your hands it can be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner or with water. If you decide to use water please ensure that the filter is dry before reinserting it into your dehumidifier.

Ok folks, last couple points before we move onto the Pros section. The first is that all three of these models comes with a standard one-hundred and ten volt plug-in. The cord reaches up to six feet so it gives you a bit of leeway to position the unit. Lastly, moving these products is fairly easy as well as they come with handles and wheels. The largest sized unit, the seventy pint, only comes in at around forty pounds. So, this shouldn’t be too difficult to move around your home.

Pros

I have a bad habit of doing this folks. I go through and write everything that I absolutely can for the Product Features section. You see, I want to be thorough. I want to ensure you understand everything that you’re getting into. Because of this I kind of shoot myself in the foot when it comes to the Pros section. A lot of the features that we mentioned earlier can also be considered Pros. Take for the example the auto-defrost or the auto-restart during a power failure. Both are Pros to look at when you consider buying. That being said, there are a few other Pros that I haven’t mentioned yet. Let’s take a quick look.

All three of these products are Energy Star certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. What that means is that you will save money versus other competing dehumidifiers. The Energy Star program is designed to evaluate various appliances and determine if they meet the EPA’s efficiency standards. An Energy Star appliances is on average about fifteen percent more efficient then a competing machine. So you will save on your power bill each month if you purchase this unit over a dehumidifier that is not Energy Start certified.

Along with the Energy Star rating you also get a one year full warranty from the Ivation manufacturer. Having a warranty is always good and protects you from any defects right out of the box. I will say that a one year warranty is pretty standard and is mostly what you will find on competing models as well. Ivation’s customer service can be contacted by phone at 1-866-849-3049 or through e-mail at info@myivation.com.

Cons

Every product, no matter who makes it, will have drawbacks. That’s just how it is. That being said, it was difficult to find specific cons on these products. Instead, nearly all of the complaints that I read through were towards the delivery of the product. Remember before how we stated that dehumidifiers are very similar to air conditioners and refrigerators? Well, just like with refrigerators you cannot turn or ship a dehumidifier upside down.

Earlier this year I was helping my father move a refrigerator and we were very careful not to tilt it too far. The reason for this is if the refrigerator or dehumidifier is upside down or tilted too far then the oil can drain out of the compressor. Without proper lubrication your compressor will fail and the compressor is by far one of the most important components of your air conditioner, refrigerator, or dehumidifier. Many folks have reported premature failures of their dehumidifiers… but this is most likely due to them turning on the product right away after it being upside down. If the product did arrive upside down then turn it right side up and then wait for quite a while, maybe even a day. Then, start your dehumidifier up and you shouldn’t have any issues.

It also may be best practice to wait a day or two before turning on your new dehumidifier. The product may come to your home right side up, but who is to know if it was like that earlier that day. Always better to be safe then sorry. The good news here though is that if your dehumidifier does end up not working after a few weeks or months Frigidaire offers a one year warranty. Through my research I had found cases where Frigidaire offered a complete replacement product. It’s good to know you’ll be protected here.

Cleaning

One of the main objectives of a dehumidifier is to lessen the possibility of mold growing within your home. But, what happens if the very thing that is supposed to be preventing the mold starts to grow mold itself? Well, this problem has happened to a lot of folks. Some may argue that this is a manufacturing defect and others would say that the consumers who had this problem didn’t take care of their dehumidifier in the first place.

A dehumidifier needs to be cleaned regularly. That means checking and cleaning the filter. Again, I couldn’t find this information to be one-hundred percent sure, but most of these dehumidifier filters come with what’s known as an anti-bacterial mesh. This mesh aims at preventing bacteria. If you attempt to clean the filter with water then you risk washing away this protective coating. Instead you should either try to shake it out or use a low powered vacuum with a hose attachment. This will clean the filter and still protect your coating. It’s not just the filter though that needs to be cleaned. Ensure that the machine itself is as clean as can be and if you began to suspect mold growing within it then take it apart and try to identify the culprit area. When dealing with water day in and day out there is always a chance that some could spill and get isolated within the machine only to stay there and become stagnant. This is a prime candidate for mold growth. This is why you need to stay vigilant and ensure the unit is as clean as it can be.

Conclusion

Alrighty folks I think we have practically covered everything there is on these dehumidifier models from Ivation. We have gone over all of the features, pros, and cons. If you are thirsty for more information though you can view each of these model’s instruction booklets as well as their specification sheet in our next section titled, ‘Important Links.’

If you are thinking about buying this unit I can assure you that it is a good product. But, if you are unsure we can also take a look at our Amazon partner. These products have over two-hundred reviews on Amazon and all have an average rating of four and a half stars out of five. That is a ninety percent approval rating, or an A grade if you are in college. If you’d like to purchase this product please click here to be taken to our Amazon partner.

However, If you find that you need to do additional reading or need a different dehumidifier entirely please check out our dehumidifier buyer’s guide by clicking here. This guide will take you through everything you would ever need to know about dehumidifiers. We go into sizing requirements, what features to look for, and many other topics.

Thanks for reading and I hope this review was helpful,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Important Links

How Much Does It Cost?

Greetings ladies and gentlemen. It is that time of year again. It’s just a few days before Thanksgiving and here I am sitting in my office having a nice cup of coffee and taking shelter from those thirty degree temperatures outside. As I sip my coffee I have begun to think about the various types refrigerants and what we can expect from each one in 2020. Yes, I’ve always got refrigerant on the mind and today is no different. You see, that is what we do here at RefrigerantHQ. Even during these cold winter months we are planning for the next season. In fact, it’s actually easier to get a lot of writing and preparation done in the winter as the demand is gone and it gives us a little bit of time to rest and gather our thoughts.

While most of our articles are more of a technical nature designed for HVAC technicians, this article is orientated towards homeowners. Over the past four years RefrigerantHQ has published a series of articles right around this time. Each of these articles goes into exactly how much you can expect to pay per pound on a specific refrigerant. Unfortunately, a refrigerant recharge is one of the most overcharged services out there. It is this way due to one simple fact: Homeowners have no idea what a refrigerant’s price per pound is. It is an unknown concept with no real point of reference.

This is where we come in folks. In this article, and the other articles I published today, we will be diving deep into exactly how much each refrigerant is per pound. So, say your air conditioner needs a repair and a refrigerant recharge. Once you know how many pounds you require you can do the math based on the numbers in this article. However, before I get further into this article I do want to give you a warning that I can be rather long winded at times. While this is all good information about your air conditioner and how it works… if you find yourself just wanting to know the price of the refrigerant then you should scroll down to the bottom of the article and look for a section titled, “Price Per Pound.” This is where you will find the pricing details.

 Know This Before You Purchase

Now before I get into the price per pound information you should first understand the R-22 market and your R-22 air conditioner a bit more. The first point of note is do you have an R-22 system? The only way you can be exactly sure is by looking at the outside section of your air conditioner. There should be a white sticker located somewhere on the machine. This sticker will indicate exactly what kind of refrigerant your split-system is taking. If you are in the United States then the chances are that it will be one of two refrigerants. If the unit was manufactured and installed before 2010 then the chances are high that it takes R-22. However, if the system was manufactured after 2010 then it most likely takes the HFC R-410A. Again, it is always best to check for the sticker to identify exactly what kind of refrigerant you are dealing with.

R-22 Phase-Out

You may have noticed from my section above that the year 2010 is significant when it comes to R-22. Well folks, that is because there was a mandatory phase-down implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency that started in 2010. You see, as of January 1st, 2010 no new R-22 machines could be manufactured or imported into the new United States. (This excludes ‘dry systems’ which could be manufactured as long as they didn’t contain R-22.) At the time of this phase-down nearly every home and office air conditioner in the country was using the HCFC R-22. Yes, there were some exceptions here and there… but for the most part the country ran on R-22.

The phase-down was put in place due to the damage that R-22 caused to the Ozone layer. R-22 contained the chemical known as chlorine and when R-22 was leaked or vented into the atmosphere that chlorine made it’s way up to the Stratosphere and eventually into the Ozone. The chlorine would then eat away at the Ozone layer causing damage and the eventual formation of a hole above the arctic. As most of you know, back in the 1980’s a treaty was signed by over one-hundred countries known as the Montreal Protocol. This treaty aimed at phasing out Ozone damaging substances around the globe. The first to go was the refrigerant known as R-12. There were other phase-outs over the years but the last one, which started in 2010, is R-22.

The phase-down from the EPA was a staggered approach. There was a production and import limit installed in 2010 and then there was another one in 2015. The last one, which is coming up here in just a few weeks is January 1st, 2020. When that date hits R-22 will no longer be able to be produced or imported within the United States. The only way to get your hands on R-22 refrigerant from then on is either through stockpiles of refrigerant that distributors bought up on before the phase-out, by using reclaimed R-22, or by using an R-22 alternative product.

R-22 Pricing Variables

Starting in 2010, when the phase-down began, the pricing of R-22 has been anything but consistent. In some cases it can change wildly from month to month. There are a number of reasons for this but there are a few main drivers that cause the price to go haywire. The first is the basic concept of supply and demand. The more supply out there then the less the price will be. The more demand the higher the price. The other reason is speculation. This is a common term when people discuss the price of oil. Speculators drive the price up or drive the price down. These speculators are folks trying to make a profit based on the rising and falling tide of oil prices.

For those not in the industry I like to compare refrigerant pricing to that of oil. You always hear of oil prices changing day to day. You always hear of speculators and supply/demand issues. Refrigerant is the same way. Since the phase-down started in 2010 we have seen R-22 prices go from a high of twenty-five dollars a pound all the way to nine dollars a pound. That twenty-five dollars per pound was the highest price point that I have seen and that occurred in the summer of 2017. The reason this got so high is that everyone was buying as much R-22 as they could in preparation for the upcoming 2020 phase-out. Because everyone had the same idea of buying up early the price continued to rise and rise.

A lot of folks thought that the price would stabilize at that twenty-five dollar mark. Others thought it would go even higher. Many companies bought up thousands or millions of dollars worth of R-22 in anticipation of an even higher price. Well folks, the inverse happened. After the summer season in 2017 the price on R-22 started to drop. And drop it did. Over the past few years R-22 has been the lowest it’s been in years. Throughout the summer of 2019 R-22 was pricing around ten dollars a pound. In some cases, like right now, it’s around nine dollars a pound.

No one knows for sure what will happen to the pricing when January 1st, 2020 arrives but a lot of the articles I have read predict more of the same. That same price of around nine or ten dollars a pound. This is due to the overwhelming amount of stock-piles out there still.

Age of your R-22 Unit

Before you consider repairing your R-22 system you should ask yourself a few questions. The first is exactly how old is your air conditioner? Is it over fifteen years? If so, then it may be time to look at purchasing an entirely new system that uses the newer refrigerant known as HFC R-410A. I say this for a couple of reasons. The first is that most air conditioners last between fifteen to twenty years. Once you hit that fifteen year mark you are also going to start running into repairs. It could be that your compressor goes out, a capacitor is blown, or a whole host of other reasons.

Whatever happened, your air conditioner isn’t cooling and you need a repair. If the price on R-22 is on a higher upswing then you could risk paying a substantial amount just to repair your unit. Remember, that you have to pay for the repair AND the refrigerant as well. So, say your compressor needs replaced. That could be a two to three-hundred dollar repair. Factor in the refrigerant recharge of about twelve pounds of refrigerant at twenty dollars a pound then you’re looking at a repair bill of around five-hundred and forty dollars.

The question that you will have to answer is are you ok with paying that repair bill? Remember, that your unit is older and with each passing season you are going to have more and more repairs come up. The alternative is spending three-thousand or so and get a brand new 410A air conditioner. While this is a big expense upfront it does prevent you from having a future headache of yearly repair bills.

R-22 Alternatives & Reclaim

Continuing on with the above section if you find that the cost to purchase and install a whole new system at your home or office is too expensive then there are some other options available. If the price of R-22 is high during next year’s summer and you’re looking at possible twenty or twenty-five dollars a pound then there are some alternative choices. The first is what’s known as reclaimed refrigerant. Reclaimed refrigerant is R-22 refrigerant that was used in another machine at one point in time. The used refrigerant is extracted from that machine, put in a recovery cylinder, and then sent to an EPA certified reclaimer. The reclaimer removes any impurities or containment from the used refrigerant. When they are complete the refrigerant is clean and able to be used again.

Many technicians frown on the use of reclaimed refrigerants. I’m not exactly sure why this is as these reclaimers have to go through a rigorous inspection process by the EPA. These guys know what they are doing. The only reason I can see for the skepticism is similar to when you take your car to the dealership. The dealership will ask you if you want new or remanufactured parts. Most folks buy new as they’re not comfortable with a remanufactured. I’ve never had a problem with buying reman/reclaim but that decision will have to be up to you. There is savings involved so that could perhaps be your deciding factor.

Along with reclaimed refrigerants there are a number of alternative refrigerants to R-22. At this time I believe there are over one-hundred different alternatives out there from all different companies and manufacturers. Each alternative is different as well. Some of these products may require very little retro-fit to get the alternative refrigerant to work in your R-22 based system. Others will require a complete overhaul on your machine to get it to work with an R-22 alternative.

Alternative refrigerants are cheaper… as long as R-22 is at or above eleven dollars per pound. If it is lower then that, like it is today, then alternatives won’t do you much good. After all, why pay for an alternative product if you can get the real thing at the same price… or even at a cheaper price? However, if you see R-22 prices going up and up again then alternatives are a great choice for those of you who don’t want to purchase a whole new system.

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-22 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 idea as there are a lot of intricacies that need to be accounted for. As an example, let’s go through and ask a few simple questions that a technician would either have to do or consider:

    • Do you know how to flush your system?
    • Do you know what refrigerants can be vented?
    • Do you know what the Superheat and Subcool are for R-22?
    • Are you 608 certified with the EPA to handle HCFC refrigerants?
    • Do you know how to find, let alone fix, a refrigerant leak?

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

Your AC Unit is a Closed System

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

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

If you find that your unit is low on refrigerant or is completely out do NOT just refill your machine with a new refrigerant. I repeat do NOT do this. Your system does not need a top off. It does not need just a little bit more refrigerant to get by. No. If you are running out of refrigerant that means that somewhere in the refrigerant cycle there is a leak. Your unit is leaking refrigerant and will continue to leak refrigerant until a repair is made. If you dump more refrigerant into it without fixing the leak you are literally throwing money down the drain. Potentially a lot of money too if yours is an R-22 unit.

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

R-22 Price Per Pound

Alright folks so we’ve gotten through the precursor of this article. Now we can begin to look at the meat and potatoes. This is the reason you came to this article. Let’s say that for whatever reason your air conditioner is no longer working and your house is getting warmer. You call out a technician for a repair quote. Now in most cases when something goes wrong with your air conditioner the refrigerant will most likely leak out. Say for example one of the lines get a crack in the pipe. The refrigerant is going to leak through that pipe so not only do you have to replace the copper tubing but you also have to recharge your system with refrigerant. This is where it can get expensive. Just how much should you be paying for R-22 per pound?

Now, 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-22 market price. It’s so simple. All I do is just go to Ebay.com and search for R-22 cylinders. By doing this I can see what the going rate is per pound of R-22. As I write this article today I can see that R-22 is priced between three-hundred and seventy-five and four-hundred dollars a cylinder. Now, let’s do some simple math to get your price per pound. Let’s take the higher amount of four-hundred just to be safe.

$400 / 30lbs = $13.33 per pound.

There you have it folks, $13.33 for one pound of R-22 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-22. (You used to be able to purchase on Amazon.com as well, but it has since been removed due to illegal online sales.)

Listings from eBay

Ok, so now that we have the cost per pound of R-22 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 $13.33 per pound number we came up with earlier = $159.96 for a completely fill up of your unit.

Conclusion

Alright folks, that should about cover it. I’ve gone through everything you should know when refilling your air conditioner as well at what price point to expect. One last thing I wanted to mention before closing this article is that you have to remember that there will be mark-up involved from your technician or HVAC company. The price that I gave you is going to be very close to their cost. So, while you may not get that $13.33 price per pound article it does give you a starting point for negotiations. Remember, that everything in this world is negotiable and if they quote you forty-five dollars a pound then you do your best to get them down to twenty-five dollars a pound using this article as a point of reference.

Thanks for reading and I hope this article was helpful,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Inofia GA2 30 Pints Dehumidifier

There are a variety of reasons as to why you would purchase a dehumidifier. It could be that you have an allergy or an asthma sufferer and you need clean air circulating throughout your home. It could be that you have noticed water collecting on the inside of your windows in certain rooms of your home. Or, it could be that you have noticed a damp or somewhat musty smell emanating from your basement.

If left unchecked excess humidity in your home can cause a host of problems. This could be something as simple as that mildewy smell that we mentioned above or it could something more sinister such as mold growing on your floor, walls, and blankets. You see folks, the ideal humidity for us is between forty to sixty percent. Anything below forty percent and our skin and even our respiratory tracts begin to dry out. This can lead to sickness and painful rashes. On the other end of the spectrum if the humidity is too high then you could run into standing water as well as allergens such as dust mites, fungus, and mold.

Adding a dehumidifier to your home is a great way to treat the symptoms of a higher humidity environment. It should be known though that a dehumidifier will only treat the symptoms and will not fix the issue. So, if you have reoccurring standing water in your basement or other room then you should look into correcting that as well. A dehumidifier will get rid of the dampness and prevent mold from taking hold but you will still need to identify and correct the cause of your humidity issue.

Whatever your reason for purchasing a dehumidifier there are a variety of choices that will have to be considered. That just seems how it is in today’s world. The problem with this is that folks don’t know what to pick. Which one is best? Which one is worth your time? In this article we’re going to take an in-depth look at one of these dehumidifiers: Inofia’s thirty pint dehumidifier. Is this the right unit for you? Let’s dive in and find out!

Inofia GA2 30 Pints Dehumidifier
Inofia GA2 30 Pints Dehumidifier

Sizing

First thing’s first folks. We need to determine if this unit is the right size for you. You see there are three main sizes of larger dehumidifiers. They come in thirty pints, fifty pints, and seventy pints. The pint sizing is a measurement on how much water these units can remove from a room during a twenty-four hour period. The Inofia dehumidifier comes in a thirty pint size. This is one of the smaller sized units.

There are two questions that you have to consider before your purchase. What is the square footage of the room you are wanting this appliance for? Secondly, how damp or wet is the room? If the room is just damp and has a musty smell and the room is under one-thousand square feet then this dehumidifier will work great for you.

However, if the room is larger or if the room is wet then you will need a larger unit like a fifty or seventy pint. A room is classified as wet if you notice water beading on the floors, walls, or windows. You could also see moisture seeping in at the edges of the room. In the extreme cases you may actually having standing water. In these cases it is best to go with a larger dehumidifier unit. The only con that there is when going with a larger unit is the price. I won’t get too much more into sizing requirements here, but if you’d like to read more then I suggest you click here to be taken to our dehumidifier sizing guide.

Product Features

Ok folks, now we can dive into all of the details on this product. First let’s look at the most important feature and that is the humidity control and setting. This unit from Inofia has a humidity range between thirty to eighty percent. It can be operated in rooms with a variety of temperatures ranging from forty-one degrees to ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit. The humidity can be adjusted by clicking in the ‘Setting’ button. Each click of the button will adjust the desired humidity in five percent increments. You will also be able to see the desired humidity level in the digital display as shown on the image within this article.

Along with the humidity settings there are a few other features we should take a look at. The first is the overall fan speed of the dehumidifier. This can be adjusted from high to low. Next is what’s known as the timer feature. This setting will allow you to set the unit to run for a specific amount of time and then shut-off. It’s a set it and forget it feature. With each click of the button you add an hour to the shut-off time. This can be stacked until you reach the limit of twenty-four hours. You are also able to see via an indicator light if the timer is on or not.

Another cool feature on this unit is the auto-defrost setting. For those of you who do not know, a dehumidifier works exactly like an air conditioner does. And, just like an air conditioner, a dehumidifier can occasionally accumulate frost or ice on it’s evaporator coils. When this happens the appliance is no longer able to function as intended. Well folks this unit from Inofia has an auto-defrost feature. When frost is detected the compressor and all other sections of the machine will turn off. This prevents any more ice from accumulating. The only thing that remains on is the fan. This fan will constantly be blowing against the ice which will cause it to melt. After the ice has melted the system will turn back on and begin dehumidifying again.

Inofia GA2 30 Pints Dehumidifier Control Panel

All dehumidifiers come with a water tank. After all, the water that they are removing from the room has to go somewhere, right? In the case of this unit it comes with a 1.8 liter water tank. This equates to about a 3.8 capacity. So, if this unit removes thirty pints a day then you’ll have to empty the bucket seven or eight times per day. This is also where a larger unit may come in handy… or you could go with the continuous drainage route. The continuous drainage is what I would recommend, but you have to realize that the hose is gravity fed only. That means that the target drainage area HAS to be lower then the dehumidifier itself. This will work great if you are using this in a garage or basement where there is a floor drain. If there is not a drain then you may have to get creative or stick with emptying the water tank a few times each day. The good news is that if you stick with just using the water tank there is a water tank full indicator on the machine and the appliance will shut-off automatically to prevent water from spilling onto your floor. If the tank is full a flashing light on the control panel will inform you.

This appliance does come with a filter that will have to be cleaned regularly during operation. The filter can be popped out and either cleaned with a vacuum or washed with warm water. This is an easy task that won’t take more then a few minutes. The unit itself is relatively light weight and can be easily transported around your home. It comes in at only twenty-five pounds and has a handle at the top of it for easy mobility.

Pros

I seem to always do this to myself, but I ended up doing it again. You see a lot of the Pros that I wanted to mention have already been mentioned above in our ‘Product Features,’ section. That being said, I am sure that I can find some more. First, let’s take a look at the warranty on this product. There is a full one year warranty policy. This is pretty standard for most dehumidifiers but there was something that did stick out to me. This unit comes with a sixty day money-back guarantee. So, if you are not satisfied after a month of use you can return the product and get a full refund. That’s quite the benefit and it also shows you how much they back their product.

The next Pro is the overall sound of this appliance. This dehumidifier has a decibel rating of forty-four.  That noise level is the equivalent of a hushed conversation within a library. That is quite a difference when compared to other dehumidifiers who range between fifty to sixty decibels. This unit would be great if you need a dehumidifier for your bedroom but you are also a light sleeper. Noise level is also one of the constant complaints that I see on other dehumidifier models. So, this is quite the Pro.

Cons

The biggest con that I can find on this unit is it’s overall size. Yes, this will get the job done for a smaller room but if you’re looking at dehumidifying an entire basement then this may not be the right unit for you. I always like to make the recommendation to go up that extra size. Yes, there is more money involved but you’re getting a nicer unit and it will resolve the humidity problem that you’re having that much faster. On top of that you’ll get a larger water tank and other extra features. But, if you’re just looking to use this unit in a small room then I would recommend it. You have to be the judge though. Do you think you need a larger unit, or will this one suffice?

Another important point of note here is that if your unit arrives to your home upside down then do NOT start it right away. As I have mentioned earlier a dehumidifier works just like an air conditioner or a refrigerator does. I’m sure that you’ve heard of not turning a refrigerator upside down, right? Well, the same principle applies. You see if the unit arrives upside down then all of the oil has most likely drained out of the compressor. With no oil this will cause a premature failure and your unit will be useless. If it has arrived upside down then put it right side up and then LEAVE it for a few days. I’d say two to three. By then the oil will have drained back to where it should be and you shouldn’t have any issues down the road. A good portion of the ‘negative’ reviews on this product is strictly because of this problem. It can be avoided though simply by doing the above instructions.

Be sure to clean your dehumidifier often. Also do not let water sit in the tank for a large amount of time. While yes, the dehumidifier removes humidity from your home, it won’t do you any good if you leave it in your dehumidifier. If water is left in there or if you do not clean your unit regularly then you’ll end up mold growing on the inside of the unit. This defeats the entire purpose of having the dehumidifier as you now have your very own mold host! Be sure to clean your unit folks.

Conclusion

Well folks we’ve gone through absolutely everything that I can think of when it comes to this product. We have looked at sizing requirements, all of the features, the pros, the cons, and everything else in between. The question now though is this the right dehumidifier for you?  Don’t just take my word on this product though folks. There are over five-hundred reviews on Amazon on this dehumidifier from Inofia. All of these review come together for an average rating of four and a half starts out of five. I am very confident that you’ll be happy with this product as long as it fits your sizing requirements. If you are looking to purchase this product please visit our Amazon partner by clicking here.

On the other hand though, if you find that you need to do additional reading or need a different dehumidifier entirely please check out our dehumidifier buyer’s guide by clicking here. This guide will take you through everything you would ever need to know about dehumidifiers.

Thanks for reading and I hope this review was helpful,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Important Links:

It was announced last Friday that an agreement had been made between the Federal Government’s EPA/Justice Department and the company Southeastern Grocers (SEG). Southeastern Grocers is a large grocery store chain that operates nearly six-hundred stores across the southern United States.  They operate under various supermarket chains including BI-Lo, Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Mas, and Harveys Supermarket. They have over forty-five thousand employees and over eight billion in revenue.

The court case emerged from the Environmental Protection Agency accusing SEG of not following the Clean Air Act. Specifically, on the refrigerators within their stores. These refrigerated units use HCFC refrigerants and were not being actively monitored for leaks. Along with that, there was not proper record keeping on what maintenance had actually been done.

The agreement states that SEG will work to solve their issues over the next three years. Part of that is investing four point two million dollars to reduce SEG’s dependency on Ozone depleting systems. SEG will also pay a three-hundred thousand dollar fine. But wait, there’s more! It’s not just fines and investment that SEG will have to go through. Along with all of that they will also have to put in place a corporate policy when it comes to refrigerant management. This will include a bi-monthly leak monitoring program to ensure leaks no longer go undetected and if they do then they get repaired in a timely manner.

Most grocery stores/supermarkets have an average leak rate of twenty-five percent. SEG will now be expected to maintain a twenty-one percent leak rate in the first year, a nineteen percent in the second, and a seventeen percent by the third year (2022). They also are mandated to use non-Ozone depleting advanced refrigerants in all of their new stores as well as in fifteen existing stores. (These would be any of the SNAP approved refrigerants for commercial refrigeration.) If any of these requirements are not met over the next few years then SEG could face additional, possibly harsher, fines and penalties.

The Clean Air Act states that owners of commercial refrigeration equipment that contain fifty pounds or more of refrigerant must regularly be checked for leaks and if a leak is occurring to have that leak repaired within thirty days of detection. It should be noted that there is a threshold here, not EVERY leak has to be repaired right away. A determination needs to be made as to how large the leak actually is. I won’t get into all of the details in this article, but the EPA states that for commercial refrigeration the leak cannot exceed a rate of twenty percent. (This used to be thirty-five percent, but was changed at the beginning of this year.) If you’d like to view the EPA article on this topic click here.

Conclusion

While this fine and mandated investment may seem like a lot it is just a blimp in the radar for a company like Southeastern. They bring in billions a year, this won’t have much impact on them. Don’t let that fool you though folks, the EPA doesn’t discriminate when it comes to company size. If the Clean Air Act isn’t being followed then your business could be at risk as well. It’s just that SEG was a much bigger target for an investigation. This initial agreement is subject to a thirty day public comment period and then final approval from the court.

If you walk away with one thing from this article know that proper record keeping is essential. Even if you have regularly scheduled maintenance if you don’t have the records showing so it is all for not. Be sure to cross your Ts and dot your i’s in these matters to prevent any future risk of EPA investigations. Use these companies that are going through the EPA headaches as warnings to others out there.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

United AirLines

The past few weeks have been rather crazy on my side of the world. I started a new job a few weeks ago, put a contract down on a house, and the kids start school in just a month. Time is definitely flying by. I’m hoping here in a few months things will begin to calm down… but we will see.

Overall the news has been rather slow in the refrigerant industry the past few weeks. One story I did come across today though was that United Airlines has announced that they will be spending twenty million dollars to replace their aging air conditioners. These aren’t the air conditioners on the plane though. No, these are mobile units that are used while the plane is parked at the gateway to keep the plane nice and cool for when passengers leave or board the plane.

Truth be told, I didn’t even know these existed. I had assumed that the planes had their built in air conditioners running while on the tarmac through an auxiliary power unit. (Similar to what we do with heavy duty semi trucks.) Instead, airlines have these units called Air Conditioning Units for Aircraft (ACUs) and Pre-Conditioned Air Units (PCAs). They are a heating and cooling unit that can be moved to any plane on the tarmac. It makes perfect sense and is most likely more cost efficient then having APUs installed on each plane.

The Investment

The ACUs and PCAS that United Airlines have are aging and use the HCFC R-22. As we all know, R-22 is completely phased out here in just a few months. (January 2020) While this is good news I will say that United Airlines isn’t doing this out of the goodness of their hearts or to protect the climate. No, it is a business decision. These older units are not performing where they should be and in some cases are not able to fully cool the plane. Along with that they are also breaking down more and more frequently. This is not only costing in repairs but it is resulting in downtime for United Airlines. Downtime means money lost.

The plan is to invest twenty million dollars in replacing sixty-seven GPUs and eighty-five PCAs across their network. While that may seem like a large number, it is only a dent when compared to their total of five-hundred GPUs and four-hundred and sixty-four PCAs. Everyone has to start somewhere though. Along with replacing older R-22 units they will also be making the switch away from diesel/gasoline models and over to all electric. While electric models in the end cost more to operate United Airlines is seeking government grants to help offset the extra expense. So, I do have to give them credit here. They are making an effort at being green with these new units.

Conclusion

There doesn’t seem to be an end to the versatility of R-22. I swear, it’s everywhere. For most of us when we hear R-22 we picture a home or office building’s air conditioner. It’s the most popular and widely used R-22 application. But, since I’ve been doing this site I have seen R-22 ice rinks, R-22 fishing boats, R-22 shrimp boats, R-22 refrigerated transport, R-22 supermarket freezers/refrigerators, and now R-22 airline air conditioning.

The business owners who operate these machines are a whole other animal. These aren’t your residential customers who have an air conditioning unit that’s ten or fifteen years old that needs replaced. No, for the most part these business owners hold on to these R-22 air conditioners for as long as they can, sometimes longer then they should. This is all due to the investment needed to either retrofit their systems or to purchase a whole new HFC, HFO, or natural refrigerant system.

Sure, a homeowner may spend five or ten-thousand dollars on a new R-410A air conditioner. But, what about United Airline’s spending twenty million dollars on new portable air conditioners? That number is staggering and it is only about fifteen percent of their air conditioners. This is from a huge conglomerate like United Airlines. Now imagine a small town having to replace an R-22 ice rink. Or, a fishing company have to replace their refrigeration system on five or ten boats. The costs can be staggering and in some cases unaffordable. Many folks just kick the can down the road and hope their situation will improve a year or two later.

I don’t know if this constitutes as good news or not, but R-22 is at record low prices right now. This was unexpected in the market place and the assumption is that there is just a massive oversupply in the market place right now. Everyone has bought up and is holding onto what product they can. In some cases I have seen reports of small business owners buying pallets of R-22 just in case their aging system breaks.

The end is coming for these R-22 machines. We can bury our heads in the sand and ignore the problem, or we can come up with solutions. Is a retrofit possible? Is there an alternative refrigerant available for the application? Could the conversion be done in baby steps like what United Airlines is doing? Whatever way is decided, these R-22 systems need to be retired.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources:

There are a variety of reasons why you may be in the market for a dehumidifier. It could be that you are trying to get rid of that damp musty smell coming from your basement. Or, perhaps someone in your family is suffering from rather severe allergies and you are looking for a way to improve the air quality within your home. My father for example suffers from extreme asthma and having a dehumidifier in the home is just one of the things we can do to make him more comfortable.

Whatever your reason is it can be a bit overwhelming when you decide to purchase a dehumidifier. If you look online at the various e-commerce websites you will see dozens, if not hundreds, of different models, sizes, and options. How do you know which one is right for you? And, if you go into a big box store how do you know that you are getting a quality product?

In this article we are going to strive to answer those questions for you by taking an in-depth look at the Frigidaire dehumidifier models FAD301NWD, FAD504DWD , and FAD704DWD. Normally I do one review for each product but in this case these dehumidifiers are exactly the same. The only difference that you will see is the pint size. (I’ll get into that later.)

Frigidaire

Now before I ever buy any product, especially an expensive one, I always like to take the time and research the company and the brand behind the product. After all folks, a company’s brand name is paramount to a company’s success. If you have a recognizable and reputable brand name then people will know your product. They will know what to expect. Look at cars, as an example. You know what to expect if you buy a Lexus. You expect a premium car that is top quality. The brand name tells you that. The very same principle can be applied to dehumidifiers. Yes, I know it’s not as exciting as a new Lexus, but it is still worth it to do our research and understand the name and the company behind the product we’re looking at.

Frigidaire FAD301NWD Dehumidifier2
Frigidaire FAD301NWD Dehumidifier2

The Frigidaire company is one of the oldest refrigerant and air conditioning companies out there. In fact, I bet most of you have already heard of this company name. Chances are if you go into your kitchen right now that you’re going to find an appliance from Frigidaire. I don’t care if it’s a dishwasher, a microwave, an oven, or even your refrigerator. Speaking of refrigerators, did you know that Frigidaire was one of the very first companies to invent, patent, and began selling refrigerators? All the way back in 1916 Frigidaire was around and they were selling refrigerators. Over one-hundred years ago.

Since that date so long ago Frigidaire has grown and prospered. Over the years they have innovated, developed, and invented all new applications. With a century of experience behind them I would say that they are a great candidate to purchase a dehumidifier from. They have the knowledge, the development, and one of the most recognizable brand names within the industry. Along with all of that they have a variety of dehumidifier  products to choose from. If you find that this unit is not the right fit for you then I highly encourage you to visit Frigidaire’s online Amazon.com store so that you can find and select the perfect product for your needs.

Product Features

In this section I like to go through the various product features that can be found on this Frigidaire dehumidifier. This lets you know what you are getting into. Once we are through this we’ll then take a look at the Pros and Cons of the product.

Sizing

First things first though, before we start talking about the various features this product has we need to determine if this is the right dehumidifier for you. This product comes in three different sizes. We have the thirty pint, the fifty pint, and the seventy pint. There is a method when choosing the right sized dehumidifier for your home, I’m going to give you the quick summary but if you want to read the full article feel free to click here.

  • FAD301NWD – This is the thirty pint model. In other words, it cane remove up to thirty pints of water within a twenty-four hour period. This is the smallest size and while it will work for a moderately damp basement you will get better results if you move to the fifty pint. (If your basement is a thousand square feet or under you can get away with the thirty pint without an issue.)
  • FAD504DWD – This is the fifty pint model. In most cases this is going to cover your needs. Even if you have some moisture beading on your walls. This will dehumidify up to fifteen-hundred square feet as long as you don’t have actual standing water in your home.
  • FAD704DWD – This is the seventy pint model. This is the biggest size of this model range and will be more then big enough to handle a two-thousand square feet area with standing water. Most folks recommend going a size larger then what you need when it comes to dehumidifiers. Your machine won’t work as hard and will last longer.

Ok, so now that we’ve got sizing understood let’s take a look at the various other features that these products have.

Features

A lot of folks may not know this, but dehumidifiers are basically small air conditioners. You see an air conditioner actually removes humidity from the air as well. This is why your central air conditioner’s evaporator (The part above your furnace.) will drain water through a hose to your basement floor. This is the removed humidity. This is also why your basement can sometimes floor if this drainage pipe is clogged. The only main difference between an air conditioner and a dehumidifier is that the dehumidifier actually warms the air back up before it expels. All of the same parts are there though including refrigerant. These Frigidaire models use the HFC refrigerant known as R-410A. While this refrigerant has a higher global warming potential then we would like it is widely used and will be around for quite some time.

Frigidaire FAD301NWD Dehumidifier
Frigidaire FAD301NWD Dehumidifier

Ok, so now let’s take a look at the controls this Frigidaire dehumidifier offers. These units come with a digital display that allows you to set the desired humidity percentage within your home. (Remember that the perfect humidity for our homes is between thirty to fifty percent.) These units have a humidity range of between thirty-five to eighty-five percentage so you have more then enough flexibility to find that perfect setting for you and your family. You are also able to control the fan settings through this digital display. There are three settings of high, medium, and low. You are also able to set a timer. This timer will allow you to customize when your dehumidifier runs. This is a great feature if you want to be energy unconscious or want to have it turn off/on during the night.

Continuing on with the digital display you also get an indicator on when your filter needs cleaned and you get a full tank alert indicator that when your water tank has reached capacity. Speaking of water tanks, this unit can hold just over sixteen pints of water. The tray comes with a splash guard to minimize spills and can be easily pulled out from the front of the machine. If you don’t like having to empty the tray during operation you can also have continuous operation if you connect a hose to the unit and lead the water to a drain. This would work best in basements as you can have it drain through the same place where your air conditioner goes through. Also note that this hose is gravity fed, so the water will not flow unless the drain is lower then the dehumidifier. (Your kitchen sink won’t work.)

This dehumidifier comes with an anti-bacterial mesh filter. Remember not to ‘wash’ these filters with water. If you do then you risk damaging the anti-bacterial coating. It is best to shake out or to take a vacuum hose attachment to it. This filter is located at the bottom of the machine and can slide right out. It is best practice to clean the filter and the entire machine regularly to prevent any water or mildew from building up from within the machine. If uncleaned there is risk of mold growing within the appliance.

All three of these dehumidifier models come with a noise level right around fifty-three decibels. This is a little bit louder then a refrigerator running in your home or about the volume of a quiet conversation in your home. I won’t lie to you here, while the machine may not be loud… you are still going to notice the sound. Just be prepared for that before your purchase. This bothers some people and not others. Personally, I don’t hear very well so I doubt I wouldn’t even notice it.

Even the largest sized of these units, the seventy pint FAD704DWD, only comes in at forty-six pounds. The other two are under forty pounds. It’s a rather light machine but to make moving it easier for everyone Frigidaire has added rollers/wheels to the bottom for easier transport. Along with that there is also a top handle for an easy grip. There shouldn’t be any problem in moving this dehumidifier around.

The last point I want to make is that the smaller sized thirty pint model FAD301NWD is missing some of the features of it’s bigger brothers. With the thirty pint model you only get one fan speed and you do not get the digital humidity readout, instead you get mechanical controls. If it was me I would purchase the fifty pint as you get the extra features and just overall more capacity of water removed per day.

Pros

As I mentioned in the last section, the two fifty pint and seventy pint models are where it’s at. While yes, the thirty pint will get the job done, I would opt for the better controls and larger capacity. Regardless of what model you choose you can be safe in your buying decision. Throughout my research on this product I have found nothing but raving reviews. For example, on Amazon.com, there are over twelve-thousand reviews with an average rating of four out of five stars. With the features we mentioned above you are sure to get a quality dehumidifier to suit your needs.

All three products are Energy Star certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. The Energy Star program is designed to evaluate various appliances and determine if they meet the EPA’s efficiency standards. An Energy Star appliances is on average about fifteen percent more efficient then a competing machine. Along with the Energy Star rating you also get a one year full warranty from the Frigidaire manufacturer.

Cons

Every product, no matter who makes it, will have drawbacks. That’s just how it is. That being said, it was difficult to find specific cons on these products. Instead, nearly all of the complaints that I read through were towards the delivery of the product. Remember before how we stated that dehumidifiers are very similar to air conditioners and refrigerators? Well, just like with refrigerators you cannot turn or ship a dehumidifier upside down.

Just yesterday I was helping my father move a refrigerator and we were very careful not to tilt it too far. The reason for this is if the refrigerator or dehumidifier is upside down or tilted too far then the oil can drain out of the compressor. Without proper lubrication your compressor will fail and the compressor is by far one of the most important components of your air conditioner, refrigerator, or dehumidifier. Many folks have reported premature failures of their dehumidifiers… but this is most likely due to them turning on the product right away after it being upside down. If the product did arrive upside down then turn it right side up and then wait for quite a while, maybe even a day. Then, start your dehumidifier up and you shouldn’t have any issues.

It also may be best practice to wait a day or two before turning on your new dehumidifier. The product may come to your home right side up, but who is to know if it was like that earlier that day. Always better to be safe then sorry. The good news here though is that if your dehumidifier does end up not working after a few weeks or months Frigidaire offers a one year warranty. Through my research I had found cases where Frigidaire offered a complete replacement product. It’s good to know you’ll be protected here.

Another point worth mentioning is the cleanliness of the inside of your dehumidifier. I touched on this briefly but I’d like to bring it up again as this was another common complaint. A few consumers stated that they had mold growing on the inside components of their dehumidifier. Mold grows due to stagnant water. Normally this will not happen if the appliance is taken care of. That means having the filter cleaned regularly, have the water tank emptied in a timely manner, and a just overall cleaning. If you do start to notice a mildew smell or see signs of mold then you can do one of two things. You can take apart the dehumidifier and do your best to clean the unit. In most cases this works fine and you are up and running again. If the mold is extreme then you may need to scrap the appliance and purchase a new one.

This leads me to my next point. These dehumidifier models won’t last forever, nothing does. From what I have read these models tend to last anywhere from two to four years. After that the quality or the amount of humidity removed begins to go down. In some cases the machine no longer operates at all. Most consumers just opt for buying another model after theirs fails. This is up to you, just be aware that if you purchase you may end up doing again in another three or four years.

Conclusion

Ok, folks. We made it through! We covered absolutely everything on this product that I could fathom. If you are still thirsty for more information please check out our ‘Important Links,’ section below for the official instruction manual, installation guide, and more. If you are interested in purchasing this unit then please click here to be taken to our Amazon.com partner where you can have the product shipped right to your door.

Lastly, if you find that you have more questions or think you may need a different dehumidfier please visit our dehumidifiers buyer’s guide by clicking here.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Important Links

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

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

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

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

The Inquiry

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

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

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

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

Pricing Impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

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

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

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

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

The Suit

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

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

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

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

Pricing Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

A Look

I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little when it comes to a transcritical system. I have seen it mentioned numerous times and have also seen that it is starting to become a trend in certain newer environmentally friendly applications. In an effort to educate myself I’m going to take a look at transcritical systems and how they work in this article.

We are all familiar with subcritical refrigeration process. This is the same process that is used in most every air conditioner or refrigerator across the world. It consists of four specific processes known as evaporation, compression, condensation, and expansion. A subcritical system has ALL of it’s processes occur below the refrigerant’s critical temperature.

When parts of the cycle process take place at pressures above the critical point and other parts below the critical pressure the cycle process is referred to as transcritical cycle. Transcritical systems are found when using R-744 Carbon Dioxide refrigerant. This is due to R-744 having an extremely low critical temperature of thirty-one degrees Celsius. As a comparison, R-134a has a critical temperature of one-hundred and one degrees.

There are many cases where the ambient temperature could be between twenty-five to thirty degrees Celsius. If your critical point for R-744 is only at thirty degrees then how can you expect to remove the heat?

Difference of Subcritical & Transcritical

The key difference with transcritical systems is that the heat rejection process is different. There is in fact no condensation. This is due to the low critical temperature of certain refrigerants. In transcritical systems the heat rejection takes place at temperatures above the refrigerant’s critical temperature.

When a refrigerant reaches a temperature above it’s critical point it is no longer known as a gas or a liquid but instead known as a fluid. This fluid condition is also known as a gas condition or state. So, when rejecting heat with a transcritical system it is known as ‘gas cooling.’ Therefore the heat exchanger in an transcritical system is known as a ‘gas cooler.’

Besides the difference in heat rejection though the rest of the refrigerant cycle remains the same. We will go into the transcritical process in our next section:

The Process

A transcritical process begins with the compressor just like it does with a subcritical system. The difference here though is that as the compressor compresses the vapor refrigerant the temperature rises and rises until it reaches past the refrigerant’s critical temperature. This is where the state change differs. Instead of a liquid we get a state in between liquid and vapor known as fluid.

The next step in the process is the rejection of the heat gained from compressing the vapor. The heat exchanger, or gas cooler, expels the heat all the while having the temperature staying above the critical point. During this process you will also have the temperature vary between the point it left to the compressor to when it goes to the expansion valve.

Next, as you know, is the expansion process. At the time the refrigerant comes into the expansion vale it is above the critical temperature and in a fluid state. When leaving the expansion valve the refrigerant is no longer above the critical temperature and it is a mixture state of liquid and vapor.

Lastly, we are at the evaporator. In the evaporator the refrigerant comes in as a liquid at a constant pressure. Obviously, during the evaporation cycle we change states again to vapor that is slightly superheated. The vapor then makes it’s way to the compressor to start the process over again.

One thing to note that with a transcritical system superheat and subcooling temperature aren’t as important. While they can still be helpful, most folks only look at evaporating and condensing temperatures. In fact, with a transcritical system there is no condensation process and therefore no subcooling.

Questions

Are There CO2 Systems That Aren’t Transcritical?

  • Yes, most often these are found in what’s known as cascade systems. These systems contain two types of refrigerants. In these examples the CO2 refrigerant is used during the low temperature stage of the refrigerant cycle. This ensures that the refrigerant does not rise above the critical temperature.

Are there other popular transcritical refrigerants?

  • From what I have researched CO2/R-744 is the only transcritical systems used today. I also went through a list of all refrigerants and their critical temperature and only found a few that were very low. R-744 was the only common one that I found that is used today. If you know otherwise, please reach out and let me know.
    • One reader reached out to me and informed me that in some cases R-410A can be used in a transcritical system. That is because 410A’s critical temperature is only one-hundred and sixty-two degrees Fahrenheit. If you are in a warmer climate, in the summer, and the sun is beating down on a rooftop condenser then temperatures could very well come close tot hat one-hundred and sixty degrees mark.

How often do we use transcritical systems?

  • With constantly improving technology and the push to move the worlds towards greener refrigerants we are seeing a substantial rise in transcritical systems across the globe. Most of these new systems are found in Europe and other countries but the United States is making inroads as well. We’re always just a bit behind Europe though…

Are transcritical systems more expensive?

  • Yes, they are when compared to traditional HFC systems. This is especially true here in the United States as there aren’t as many technicians who are familiar with the technology and the parts aren’t as readily available. In the US these systems are nearly twice as expensive but in the EU they are only around thirty percent more.
  • The good news here is that CO2 systems are slightly more efficient then HFC systems and the cost of R-744 refrigerant is significantly cheaper then HFC refrigerants.

Why Should I Choose a Transcritical CO2 System?

  • Yes these R-744 systems are more expensive but you get peace of mind with a transcritical CO2 system. They are never going to be phased out like a R-404A application will be. CO2 has a negligible environmental impact and will be around for decades to come. It is a safe investment in the future of your business.

Conclusion

Well folks I learned quite a bit during writing this article. I had to dig through some articles to educate myself. All of my sources articles can be found below. If you have further interest in learning about transcritical systems then I highly recommend the first two sources from ACHRNews & Danfoss. These articles are great and go in-depth on the transcritical process as well as including diagrams and illustrations to help drive the points home.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

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

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

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

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

The New Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Price & Availability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Greetings folks! I hope everyone had a great January and was able to stay warm during the Polar Vortex. Kansas City didn’t get it as bad as some other areas as we only got down to negative five. (Only!) I apologize for not updating the past few weeks but we all need a little R and R every now and then.

As most of you know I came from the automotive industry, specifically trucking. While in this industry I was responsible for purchasing R-134a for our dealerships. After doing this for a few years I found that the absolute best time to buy is right now. Yes, January and February are the best time to purchase refrigerants rather it be R-134a, R-410A, R-404A, or anything else.

The Why

There are a few reasons you should consider buying right now. As the year progresses and we get into the spring and summer months the price on refrigerants steadily begins to creep up. This is due to demand and the hotter weather. As we all know, more demand equals higher pricing. This is why it makes sense to buy most of your company’s yearly demand in the down season while the prices are still quite low.

That being said, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing in November or December either. Depending on the year you could see the high summer prices extend even to the fall months. With some years I’ve seen exceptional pricing last all the way to mid November. The demand and the pricing that followed finally begins to die down in December and is pretty much non-existent in January. This causes the price to drop to it’s lowest point.

Even though January has the absolute best prices a lot of companies will wait until the magical month of February. This may be due to the pricing being right around the same and that we’re another month closer to spring and summer. That’s one less month of sitting on expensive inventory.

Late last month we had a trucking company go through our bulk purchasing program. After some negotiations they ended up buying a full trailer load of R-134a from us. For those that don’t know, a trailer load consists of twenty pallets of forty cylinders each. (Eight-hundred cylinders.) Just about a week later we had another trucking company purchase just under five trailer loads. That’s nearly four-thousand cylinders.

All of these large purchases are designed to give companies the best price in the market, to insulate them from seasonal price increases, and to also fill their demand for the entire season.

The Risk

It’s not all a bed of roses though folks. There is a risk to purchasing like this. Refrigerant is a commodity and it’s pricing can change with just the snap of a finger. In previous articles I equated it to the price of oil. We always see in the news that oil prices are going up and down every week or even every day. While refrigerant isn’t as volatile as oil is, it is important to know that the prices can go down or up at any moment.

While it is fairly standard for prices to go up during prime season it is not always the case. There are a variety of reasons that prices could actually go down in the hot months of summer. It could be oversupply across the country. Or, it could be a very mild summer and the need for air conditioning just isn’t there. Whatever the reason is, you should know that there is the possibility of prices going down as well as going up in prime season.

Let’s look at a worst case scenario. Say your company bought a trailer load of refrigerant this week and you got what you believe was an aggressive price. As the months go by and summer arrives you begin to notice that you are getting priced out of the market. Your competitors are quoting fifteen to twenty percent lower then you. You are now stuck with overpriced product. Do you sell at a loss? Do you buy some at the lower price and hold onto your current inventory? Do you write off the cost difference as a loss and move on?

Conclusion

While the above scenario isn’t a pretty picture I can assure you that the other end of the spectrum is. Imagine for a moment that you purchased a trailer load product at ninety dollars a cylinder. Then, as summer arrives, the price goes up and up until it hits over one-hundred and fifty dollars a cylinder.  Now you are in a great position to make a killing and still undercut some of your competition.

Whatever you decide to do with your company’s refrigerant needs this year just remember that there is no right or wrong answer. No one knows for certain what will happen within the market this year. There are always going to be winners and losers. Here’s hoping you’re on the winning side!

If you are interested in purchasing please contact us and we’ll do our best to get your an aggressive price.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ