Well folks it is that time of year again. The mornings are already getting cooler here in Kansas City and we’re only a week away from Labor Day weekend. Our neighborhood pool has already closed due to the unseasonable August temperatures. Those of you who are familiar with Kansas weather the month of August is usually filled with one-hundred degree humidity filled days. So far this month I do not believe we’ve seen one and there are only a few days left. While the temperature is comfortable it definitely hurt sales as I’m sure it did for you as well in your part of the country.
The one upside to having a mild summer is that refrigerant prices will stay pretty constant. As most of you know refrigerant prices can be wild and unpredictable especially in summer. There was a time a few years ago when I was responsible for purchasing R-134a that I saw the price climb from sixty dollars a cylinder all the way up to two-hundred and forty per cylinder in the middle of a particularly rough August.
So, What Happened?
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular refrigerants on the market today.
R-134a is a whole different animal. Those tariffs that everyone was so afraid of were ruled in favor of this year in March. (Source) That means that there is now a tariff ranging from 148.79% to 167.02% on imported R-134a from China. At the time I thought this would effect the market hugely and cause the price to skyrocket over the summer. The price did go up, but honestly not that much.
When I did a review of pricing last year on 134a it was selling at about one-hundred and fifteen dollars a cylinder. Today, if we look at it we can see that the average retail price for a thirty pound cylinder is between one-hundred and forty dollars upwards to one-hundred and seventy dollars depending on where you look.
As far this winter and the future I can pretty confidently say that this price will not be going down. We may see a bit of decline in December and January but as the season heats up again I could see this easily going over two-hundred dollars a cylinder and that’s not even counting the dead heat of summer. It could surpass two-hundred and fifty without blinking an eye.
I was pretty close to spot on my prediction article from last year on R-410A. At the time 410A was hovering between one-hundred and thirty to one-hundred and fifty for a retail purchase. I had predicted that it would stay right around the same price point for the 2017 year. Well folks, looking at pricing today on 410A we can see that the average retail price is hovering right around… you guessed it one-hundred and thirty to one-hundred and sixty dollars.
As I predicted last year correctly I’ll end up saying right about the same thing here. I expect the cost to be relatively flat for the winter and into next year’s season. This is one of the refrigerants out there that if you buy a bundle in winter you might not actually end up saving much money.
At the end of last year R-404A was averaging out at about one-hundred and forty-five for a twenty-four pound cylinder. It was about this same price as we moved into Spring. I’m not sure where but somewhere along the summer months the price began to climb and climb. The average price now for a cylinder is two-hundred dollars. Most of the time you’ll find it for one-ninety-nine on resale sites but you may be able to get under one-hundred and seventy-five by going through a distributor.
It’s tough to say if this price will go back down over the winter. There are a lot of factors in play on R-404A at this point in time. 404 is the second HFC refrigerant to see a major push for phase-out. The plan is to replace it with lower GWP HFOs or alternative Hydrocarbons such as CO2. In 2015 there was an announcement of mandatory phase-out that the EPA issue but now that phase-out has been overturned and no one really knows what is going to happen next.
When I wrote my pricing prediction article towards the end of last year we had R-22 at just over six-hundred dollars for a thirty pound cylinder. As we crept closer to the summer the price of R-22 begin to creep up and at some point it went over seven-hundred dollars a cylinder. However, as the summer wore on the price began to fall back down towards that six-hundred dollar mark. You can even find some that are under six-hundred.
I believe this decline in pricing is for one reason and one reason only. Yes, the refrigerant is phased out and supply is going lower and lower with each passing year but you have to remember that the demand is lowering with each year that passes as well. There are less and less R-22 units on the market today and the ones that are still out there are at least seven years old, soon to be eight. I believe that the price of R-22 will stay relatively the same for the next few years until we hit the next milestone of the phase out in 2020.
There wasn’t much change on this newer HFO refrigerant this year. Honestly, I didn’t expect it to go up or down much. There just isn’t enough demand for this refrigerant yet. Sure, with each year that passes more and more models are now using 1234YF but the aftermarket demand is still quite low. Prices at the beginning of the year were between six-hundred and fifty and seven-hundred and fifty for a ten pound cylinder.
When we get to the point of no return on R-134a the price on 1234YF may begin to rise but there is also a consideration to be made that the manufacturers may be raising production in tandem to keep prices fairly level. The downside here is that Honeywell and Chemours have a near monopoly on this market so the only one who knows where the price is going are them.
Summer is over in just a few weeks and the worst of the heat has passed us. The prices that have spiked will slowly being to settle back down and when winter hits their prices will be as close to normal as they can get.
If you are thinking about replenishing your stock then I would highly suggest you buy in the months of December and January. Sales are nearly non-existent at this point and you can usually get yourself a deal before the summer’s heat comes roaring back.