I came across an article the other day referencing a refrigerant that I hadn’t heard much about. My curiosity was peaked so I began researching the product, what it was, and what possibilities existed. The refrigerant’s official name is R-458A but most of you may know of it as Bluon TDX 20. The TDX 20 is a relatively new refrigerant that has only been around for a few years now. It was designed as a replacement for R-22, R-404A, and R-507A.
If there’s anything the market needs right now it is a safe, cheap, and easy alternative refrigerant for the aging R-22 machines out there. R-22 isn’t coming down in price folks and if anything it is going to jump even higher as we inch closer to that 2020 total phase out. We’re going to be left with three choices fairly soon. The first is scrounging around for reclaimed R-22 refrigerant, second is talking your customer into purchasing a new R-410A unit, and the third is alternatives. But, are there good alternatives out there? And are they legal?
Now, I know that there are a lot R-22 replacements out there but a lot of them have not been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact I know of a few stories of refrigerant manufacturers selling unapproved SNAP refrigerants. I can assure you that it never ends well for them. One company out of Wichita ended up paying a one-hundred thousand dollar fine for selling unapproved R-404A alternatives. (Link to the article here.)
This is where things can get tricky. You do not want to be responsible for using an unapproved alternative. Before using ANY alternative to R-22 you have to make sure that it is approved by the EPA’s SNAP. There are so many people out there looking to make a quick buck during this R-22 phase out and a lot of them do not care about established laws.
The good news here is that Bluon’s R-458A is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to be used in commercial air conditioning, industrial process refrigeration, retail food refrigeration, as well as residential air conditioning including heat pump applications. In fact it was approved just last year on July, 21st, 2017. The link to the EPA’s official approval can be found at the bottom of this article in my sources header.
The TDX 20, or R-458A, is non Ozone depleting which is already a markeable improvement when compared to R-22. R-458A has a Global Warming Potential of one-thousand six-hundred and fifty. While that number is still quite high it is lower than R-22’s one-thousand eight-hundred and ten. (Nine percent better.) This refrigerant is also non-flammable and non-toxic. It receives an A1 for it’s safety rating. All of these facts are pretty standard but there is a very unique feature to this refrigerant that you don’t see elsewhere. TDX 20 is a blended HFC refrigerant made up of FIVE varying refrigerants. Yes, you heard me correctly. Five different refrigerants are blended to make R-458A. Some of these refrigerants you may very well recognize form dealing with other blends.
Bluon’s TDX 20 consists of 20.5% of R-32 (Difluromethane), 4.0 percent R-125, (Pentafluroethane), 61.4% R-134a (Tetrafluroethane), 13.5% R-226ea (Heptafluropropane), and 0.6% R-236fa (Hexafluropropane). These five varying refrigerants actually results in a five to twenty-five percent energy savings when compared to a standard R-22 application.
Something else that I noticed during my research is that this refrigerant actually comes with a warranty. You don’t see that everyday in this industry. From what I have read the refrigerant comes with a one year warranty on new machines and a ninety day warranty on existing machines. Now like with most warranties, any claim is subject to Bluon’s approval. More on Bluon’s warranty policy can be found on their website.
The thing that really caught my attention on this R-22 alternative is that it is a drop-in replacement. Now I’ve seen the words drop in and retrofit thrown around a lot over the past couple years. If there is any confusion on the difference let me explain. A drop-in is just that. You take out the old refrigerant and put in the new alternative. After that you are done. With a retrofit you will have change or replace key components of the machine in order for it to safely use your new alternative refrigerant. Retrofits are where things can get quite expensive for you and the customer.
The R-458A is a simple drop in. There are no equipment modifications required. In fact all there is to it is removing the old R-22, vacuuming out the system, and then recharging the unit with the TDX 20 replacement product. On a standard residential unit the job will take around three to four hours to complete. (Obviously, larger units will take more time.) Now, what I gave you above was a quick step process but please be aware that there are some more steps to a full conversion. If you are looking for a guide then I highly recommend watching the Bluon HVAC offical retrofitting video found below. They made it look easy!
So after writing this article about Bluon’s refrigerant I was only left with one question that I couldn’t get an answer for. What is the price on this product? Is it the same or even higher than R-22? If so, then why bother with it? To me the only thing this refrigerant is missing is a great price point and as I write this it very well may but I honestly couldn’t find much information about pricing. From the literature that I have read the product is marketed as significantly less expensive then R-22, but I am still wondering how much less expensive. Is it negligible, or is there a significant savings to the customer?
Lastly, before closing this article I wanted to reiterate that if you are converting a unit from R-22 over to R-458A to please please please re-label the machine once you are done with your work. There is nothing worse then coming to a site and beginning to work on a unit only to find that there is a completely different refrigerant in the machine then what the label says. Just like they teach us in elementary school, ‘Think of others!’