A Refrigerant by Any Other Name

August 2, 2001
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Words like “drop-in,” “near drop-in,” and “direct replacement” have been tossed around in the refrigerant sector ever since the demise of CFCs.

The terms were attached to a wave of HCFC-based alternative refrigerants that were created to allow the continued use of systems that once ran on CFCs.

Several years ago, a fuss was raised over the use of the designation “drop-in.” Opponents of that term contended it was misleading because it could imply that no fine tuning of the system was needed, or that a drop-in refrigerant could be used to top off a system that still had CFCs.

The term lost its luster, giving way to “near drop-in” or “direct replacement.”

In early July, a caller to The News said the term drop-in has surfaced in conjunction with some HCFC-based refrigerants being sold at wholesalers. The caller wondered about the legality of using such a term, maintaining that the Environmental Protection Agency has, in the past, raised a fuss about it.

A Discouraging Word

EPA’s Dave Godwin, an environmental engineer, said that there is “no regulation forbidding use of that term.” However, he added, “We have stated that we discourage the use of the term drop-in.”

He referenced an EPA fact sheet that dates back to 1996 that he said is still valid. In a section on “advertising of alternative refrigerants,” it reads:

“The term ‘drop-in’ may imply to many consumers that the product can either be added to existing CFC-12 refrigerant or may be substituted without making other changes to the system. Neither claim is true.

“The ‘use conditions’ prohibit charging a new refrigerant into a system that contains CFC-12 without first removing the CFC-12, and require changing the service fittings. Thus, this term should be avoided or the advertising using this term should make clear that both conditions must be met. Again, this is of particular concern in advertising directed to shop technicians or do-it-yourself consumers.”

Terms like drop-in, near drop-in, and direct replacement are really nothing more than sales pitches used to market certain refrigerants.

Any technician working with alternative refrigerants should look beyond the promotion and clearly understand where and how to use them. Manufacturers usually supply detailed written retrofitting procedures with each canister, and wholesalers can be consulted for guidance.

Powell is refrigeration editor. He can be reached at 847-622-7260; 847-622-7266 (fax); or PowellBNP@aol.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 08/06/2001

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