Contractors Slowly Embrace R-410A

February 5, 2007
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As the availability of systems running on HFC-410A refrigerant becomes more the norm, manufacturers and wholesalers are encouraging contractors to opt for such equipment when discussing comfort cooling with their customers.

Some contractors who are actively involved in promoting the installation of such equipment are reporting customer acceptance along with few installation problems if such installations are done properly.

Other contractors see the trend to R-410A units growing, but say price-driven customers still opt for new units using R-22.

CONTRACTOR CONSIDERATIONS

D. Brian Baker, president of Custom Vac Ltd. in Winnipeg, Manitoba said he has installed more than 150 R-410A (and 13 SEER) units over the past four years, which comprises the vast majority of his HVAC work. In fact, he said, he has installed only a few R-22 units and those in the lower Btu ranges at times when R-410A options were not available in those ranges.

“There is no magic or mystery in these (410A) units,” he said. “Initially a lot of people were concerned about the higher pressures. But we are used to high pressures when we work with oxygen and nitrogen.”

Baker installed his first R-410A unit in late 2002. He said the initial learning curve caused him and others to advocate a formal training program specifically for technicians working with R-410A. He and others launched one of the first ever such daylong programs in March 2003 in Winnipeg. More than 50 technicians attended and nearly all reported a significantly increased comfort level in working with the new refrigerant.

“The emphasis was on safety and using proper procedures,” Baker said. “Problems result when proper procedures are not followed.”

He said he is also getting customer acceptance of 13 SEER units with R-410A, with most of his customers accepting his recommendation for the new equipment. In fact at the time of this interview he said had 50 such units sold that were in line to be installed.

Phil English who is involved in purchasing for TD Industries in Dallas said his company has done some R-410A installations in apartment/condos and at a couple of clubhouses. However, some customers still view the pricing of R-22 in a more favorable light.

English further noted that there is going to be “an increase in the purchasing of R-410A units sooner than later” especially as manufacturers draw down production of R-22 units as the 2010 deadline for no new units using R-22 nears.

English said that technicians still face “a learning curve to get up to speed” on working with R-410A.

In a survey published in the on-line edition of The NEWS, preliminary results found responding contractors saying that anywhere from 2 to 50 percent of their installations involve R-410A.

USING

R-410A units continue to come into the distribution pipeline at ever increasing rates. “R-410 is here to stay,” said a release from American Refrigeration Supply - a wholesaler with branches in Virginia, Texas, Arizona, California, New Mexico and Nevada; and a major advocate of the new technology.

ARS, along with other distributors, stressed that technicians need “to know the facts that keep them and their customers safe.

“The newly designed R-410A systems employ thicker-walled tubing and compressors,” the wholesaler said, “capable of withstanding the higher pressures of R-410A. The R-410A systems require different installation and service procedures. Air conditioning systems require service personal to shift to different tools and equipment, safety standards and fundamentals when installing, changing out older split A/C systems, and repairing systems in the field.”

Among points raised concerning R-410A is that it:

• Should only be used in equipment specifically designed and constructed for higher-pressure refrigerants;

• Operates at considerably higher pressures and requires the use of special tanks, gauges, and recovery equipment;

• Needs service personnel to understand that all refrigerant flow controls, valves, and driers have changed and must be properly applied with newly designed and built compressors;

• Needs training of installation and service personnel in the proper and safe handling of R-410A.

The supply house noted that it, like other sources, offers a R-410A training and certification program. “This program will prepare air conditioning professionals for the challenges of R-410A. It is important that service personnel understand the safe handling, proper charging, operating characteristics, proper applications, and general use of R-410A.”

There is a Universal R-410A Safety and Training Manual in print form or on CD, which provides “the necessary training and practical knowledge to safely perform service on systems containing R-410A and R-407C (the latter another HFC alternative to R-22, although not as widely embraced by the HVAC industry as R-410A).”

Those who successfully pass the test receive a wall certificate, a certification card, and an embroidered shoulder patch.

CHOOSING

“Replacing an older HVAC system with a unit that utilizes the environmentally friendlier R-410A refrigerant - three years before the chlorine-containing R-22 refrigerant is phased out (in 2010 for new equipment) - is a wise decision,” said Lennox Industries, Inc., in a statement released early last fall.

Among its suggestions for choosing a refrigerant:

• Work with a manufacturer that has “a wide range of R-410A systems. A wider selection allows you to order exactly the type of system you want, including your choice of energy-efficiency ratings, variable air volume designs, humidity control options and more.”

• Make sure you have technicians who “are R-410A certified and have been thoroughly trained in the installation and servicing of these units. Manufacturers have redesigned units to handle the new refrigerant’s higher pressure, and these units must be installed and serviced differently than other systems.” (There is an example of the training required for installing R-410A units at www.lennoxcommercial.com.)

• Select a system from a manufacturer with the ISO 9001 quality designation. “This is an assurance that consistent processes are in place to create products that meet the industry’s highest standards.”

The report went on to say that “while manufacturers may continue producing units that use the R-22 refrigerant until 2010, there are several reasons to act now to replace a unit that is 10-years old or older with a new R-410A system.”

End users “that install a new R-410A unit will be able to realize the full life of their equipment without concern over the future availability of R-22 refrigerant and necessary service components. Production caps are expected to significantly increase R-22 servicing costs, so R-410A units can help minimize future expenses.

“Today’s R-410A units are significantly more efficient than older systems.” That means end users that have a new R-410A unit installed will be better able to control their energy usage. “And because R-410A contains no chlorine, its meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s newest, most stringent environmental guidelines.”

For more information, visit www.lennox.com, contact a Lennox sales representative at 800-9-LENNOX, contact a local American Refrigeration Supply, or visit ARS at www.ars-net.com.

Publication date: 02/05/2007

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