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The Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) has issued an urgent warning regarding R134A supplies.
The warning pertains to the possible contamination of R134 refrigerant cylinders. They recommend testing all cylinders with a reliable tester that are expected to be pure R134 to confirm that it is. According to several reputable sources, many cylinders have been found to be contaminated with and have counterfeit labeling.
This can be more serious than just a case of the refrigerant not working. There have been fatalities reported due to this issue. Most reports of contamination come from refrigerants coming from overseas. The most frequent contaminant has been found to be R-40 (Methyl Chloride). This is the worst possible contaminant. This compound is very flammable, toxic, and highly reactive when it is combined with aluminum. This is where the safety concern occurs. Any system that contains aluminum could lead to catastrophic consequences.
Some 30 lb. R134A containers have also been found to contain some R-12 and R-22 as well. All cylinders must read 100% on any approved refrigerant tester. Some contaminated cylinders were found to contain up to 40% of non R134A contaminants.
The Automotive repair industry has been dealing with constant changes to the refrigerant options for several decades now. Increasing regulation has forced the use of newer and more “environmentally friendly” refrigerants that are less harmful to the atmosphere. Now comes news that one of the new approved refrigerants, HFO-1234yf, will have onerous use rules attached to it. Companies and entities intending to use it, produce it, or transport it will be required to notify the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of their intended interaction with the refrigerant 90 days beforehand. The EPA states that the reason for this is because of the new refrigerant is considered hazardous. The EPA wants this added time to evaluate the intended use or interaction to assure that the interaction would not lead to an unsafe consequence.
One concern is that DIY users may not know how to properly handle this new, more hazardous substance. These users may be lead to believe that it can be handled much in the same way that it’s predecessors (R12 and R134a) were handled. The problem is that HFO-1234yf has much greater flammability properties.
Some argue that In the zeal to make us all safer in one aspect of the refrigerant process, the regulators and politicians have just made us less safe in other aspects. If a vehicle is involved in an automobile accident, this new refrigerant has a much greater likelihood to explode, or catch fire.
Another aspect is that technicians will need to be trained on the proper handling proceedures for this new refrigerant. Auto shop owners will need to purchase a new compliant AC Service Machine to handle the refrigerant as well. Just another expense for those struggling small business owners. Consumers will be shelling out more money as well, because this new refrigerant has a significantly higher cost.
What do you think? Is the rush to mandate new refrigerants worth all of the added burdens and costs?
The quest to find an alternative AC refrigerant for automotive Air conditioning systems is growing legs as GM is the latest auto manufacturer to announce that it will be using a new refrigerant, HF-1234yf, in many of their main auto models. The move is going to happen in 2013, as numerous models will make the shift, including mainstays such as Cadillac, Chevy and Buick cars.
The new refrigerant is HF-1234yf, and has been created by Honeywell.
Manufacturers are searching for a more environmentally friendly alternative to R134A, which has been in use for nearly two decades. This new refrigerant is 97% better for the environment. It is proven to have lower lifetime GHG emissions than HFC-134a or CO2. It also requires only minor modifications to current vehicle AC systems, compared to some other new refrigerants, which require a higher pressurized system.
Before R134A, R-12 was the refrigerant of choice for decades. The new refrigerant breaks down much quicker than R134A, which means less ozone depleting properties. Auto manufacturers are scrambling to come up with viable alternative to meet new, and increasingly strict EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulations on greenhouse gas production. The EPA just recently approved the use of this new refrigerant in February 2011. So the next time your car is up on the Garage Lift at the local auto shop, you may be a candidate for this new product.
Technicians and auto shop owners must always stay on top of the latest technology. For years, (Freon), R-12 was the refrigerant of choice for all automotive air conditioning systems. But in 1994, it was replaced with the more environmentally friendly R134a. Everybody knows that you cannot interchange or mix the two. Any vehicle that has an R-12 system must be retrofitted for R134a.
There are new refrigerants on the horizon. Car manufacturers are developing new refrigerants for their latest models. This means any system that is serviced after a certain date will need to be retrofitted for the new refrigerant.
Others are in development across the world as well. Other countries in Europe and Asia have mandated use of new refrigerant (CO2) to replace R134a.
Unfortunately, some new refrigerants under development don’t cool as efficiently, and are significantly more costly, so consumers won’t particularly like that. Some are also more hazardous, more explosive, and more flammable. But progress in the name of environmentalism will not be stopped.
These new refrigerants also mean increased costs for auto shop owners, because they will have to purchase new AC Service Machines to handle these new refrigerants. These machines are quite costly. They typically run in the $3500 to $5000 range. That’s quite an investment for a small shop.
The Automotive industry is always changing. Auto shop owners face increased expenses if they want to keep up with the competition.