A few days back I was speaking to an acquaintance of mine. It was a relaxed setting with a few beers and good food. Sometime during the conversation the topic of refrigerant came up, mainly 1234yf. You see, he manages a service center at a Ford dealership. He has been doing this job for over a decade and this fall was the first time that he came across a vehicle needing an air conditioning repair that used R-1234yf. They didn’t have any on hand and worse yet, they didn’t have a recovery machine fit for 1234yf either. They ended up having to purchase the refrigerant from a local autoparts store and paid way more then they should have for a recovery unit.
Up until this point everyone at the dealership had been trained and accustomed to using R-134a. After all, pretty much every vehicle on the road within the past twenty to thirty years was using the HFC R-134a. The concept of vehicles using an alternative refrigerant, like R-1234yf, was foreign to a lot of service managers and technicians. Service employees could have twenty years of experience and not know the first thing about this new 1234yf refrigerant.
Over in the European Union it was a different story as R-134a had been completely phased out for years now. While they may have run into the same problems we are having today, the length of these were short lived due to the mandatory switching from 134a over to yf. If EVERY new vehicle on the road was taking 1234yf then you are going to run into it quite often and you will begin to know exactly how to handle it. Things are different here in the United States.
Current Situation in the USA
As I write this article today there is no set phase down of R-134a in vehicles in the United States. Originally, the goal was to have R-134a labeled as unacceptable in all new vehicles in 2020. (2021 model year.) This deadline was set by the Environmental Protection Agency back in 2015 through their Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP). Years went by as this being the status quo and so vehicle manufacturers here in the US began to slowly switch their vehicles away from R-134a and over to R-1234yf. This trend started in 2015 and with each year that has passed more and more vehicle manufacturers have begun switching more and more models over to yf. Chances are if you check your company’s new vehicles you will see some of them are taking R-1234yf.
There was a wrench thrown into all of this in the summer of 2017. In August of 2017 a federal court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency’s new SNAP rules had overreached the EPA’s authority. I won’t get into all of the court details here, but basically the EPA used the same set of laws in the Clean Air Act that were intended for Ozone depletion refrigerants and applied them to Global Warming refrigerants. Ozone depletion does not equal Global Warming. They are two different matters and that is how the court saw it as well. The EPA’s proposed 2020 phase down of R-134a was thrown out the window. There were numerous appeals by varying companies and there was even one to the Supreme Court but the court rejected the case and the previous ruling standed. Today we are in limbo between R-134a and R-1234yf.
Preparing for 1234yf
Regardless of what happened in the courts the fact of the matter is that 1234yf is coming. The only thing the court ruling did was muddy the waters and slow down the rate of change. Now instead of having a mandated change and forcing everyone to ‘rip the band aid off’ we now this slow dribble of vehicles coming into shops with 1234yf refrigerant.
What we find is that service managers and technicians are not prepared. When a vehicle does come in needing a repair there is a scramble to first find a source for the needed yf refrigerant and then to find an adequate recovery and identifier machine compatible with yf. The good news here is that 1234yf and 134a aren’t that different mechanically speaking. A few of the major differences that you will see when dealing with 1234yf are listed below:
- At the very minimum you will need to purchase a new refrigerant recovery machine if you plan to be working on 1234yf units in the future. The machine will have to meet SAE spec J2843.
- There are slight design differences in the design specs of certain components like TXVs, ports, evaporators, and condensers.
- Service ports are different then 134a. This is done to alert the technician that this is a 1234yf unit and also prevents the technician from accidentally connecting the wrong hose and mixing refrigerants. So even if you aren’t paying attention and try to hook up your 134a hose you’ll quickly realize you’re working on a YF unit. This is very similar to what was done with diesels back in 2007 during the Diesel Exhaust Fluid change. (DEF)
- With 1234yf systems they have added a Suction Line Heat Exchanger, also known as an internal heat exchanger. This is an additional component located before the expansion valve. It is a state change helper that is used to improve overall efficiency of the unit.
- The operating pressures and temperatures of 1234yf are VERY similar to that of 134a. This was done intentionally to make for an easy transition.
- 1234yf uses PAG oil just like R-134a but please note that it does use a different type of PAG oil. It is always safest to read the sticker labels under your hood or to consult the instruction manual before adding in any oil.
- Evaporator designs must meet JAE standard J2842. Yf is tougher on evaporators then 134a and this new standard is to prevent wear and tear and premature failure.
- 1234yf is classified by the ASHRAE as a 2L flammable gas. That means that 1234yf is rated as mildly flammable.
The good news here is that we still have some time to prepare before the onslaught of 1234yf repairs begins to hit your dealership. The average length of time before a significant air conditioning repair is needed is between five to six years. Yf really began to pick up steam amongst vehicle manufacturers in 2015 and has increased each year that goes by. So, what that means is that we have five to six years from 2015 before the real quantity of repairs begin to come in. While it’s already 2019 we still have around another year or two before we start seeing yf every day in the shop. The worst thing you can do though is bury your head in the sand and hope that the problem goes away. The change is coming.
Will your dealership be ready? Have you already purchased your yf recovery machine? Do you have a source for purchasing yf refrigerant? If not, then I highly recommend contacting us by filling out the form below to receive a quote. We will get back to you with an aggressive price point. Also, please note that in order to purchase yf you or your technicians will need to be 609 certified with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Lastly, for more information on R-1234yf please look at our official 1234yf Refrigerant Fact and Information Sheet.