Easing the Concerns Over R-410A Technology

March 31, 2008
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Bart Powelson

If concerns by end users and contractors in specifying and installing equipment running on R-410A relate to a fear of the unknown, that should not be the case, say those involved in the development of the equipment. R-410A-related technologies - from unitary equipment to compressors, to oils, to filter-driers and manifold gauges - are readily available, as are the technical details to help end users specify such equipment, as well as training programs to help contractors install and service the products.

“R-410A technology has been around for more than a decade. The industry is comfortable with it. System availability is quite good in residential and coming along in commercial,” said Bart Powelson, director of commercial marketing, Emerson Climate Technologies, Air Conditioning Division.

Powelson and several other Emerson officials spoke by phone with The NEWS in early March because of concerns they had over the pace with which equipment specifiers are opting for equipment running on R-410A, especially in light of the rapid phaseout of R-22, for which shortfalls are expected as early as 2010.

Adaptation of 410A equipment has a sense of urgency because of the R-22 issue. “For the end users, there are long-term implications to staying with R-22,” said John Schneider, marketing director for the residential air conditioning market at Emerson. “The cost of R-22 equipment for service and replacement will increase a great deal after 2010. In fact, our contractors are already seeing price increases.”

Right now, he said, “The lack of readiness is disturbing. Our latest survey of contractors showed that only 6 percent are quoting R-410A exclusively and 39 percent say they don’t expect the majority of their sales to switch over to R-410A until 2010.”

Powelson said one technology that has allowed for R-410A to be used in a wide range of applications relates to the use of scroll compressors. He noted a long track record by scroll manufacturers, including his own experience with Copeland Scroll® compressors; that have allowed the current generation to “have a lower failure rate than any other platform and optimized performance.

John Schneider

“The concerns related to R-410A involving higher pressures than R-22 and the use of a POE oil instead of a mineral oil, have long been addressed by the industry,” said Frank Landwehr, vice president of marketing. He noted that R-410A scrolls have a shell thickness that addresses the higher pressure and specified POE blends have engineered characteristics designed to optimize performance. He said information on such specifics is readily available, as are training programs to help contractors and technicians adjust to working with R-410A equipment. “The whole purpose is to build confidence on the part of contractors in working with this equipment,” he said.

The Emerson officials said their company, like others who make R-410A products, are backing the call for a changeover with both marketing materials and statistical information. For example, a technical presentation from Karl Zellmer, vice president of sales, calls the move for R-410A “smart for the environment; smart for your business.”

Frank Landwehr

Zellmer noted a survey taken earlier in 2007 of contractors who said the economics of R-22 versus -410A remain the prime reason contractors are still recommending R-22 equipment. At the same time, the survey said, “contractors also view R-410A as being more efficient and providing a better, longer warranty.”

He also noted, “Contractors are not having trouble finding residential R-410A systems, but commercial R-410A systems are not as readily available.”

He cited the need for an “industry call to R-410A action,” including contractors getting employees trained, developing a marketing plan, getting trucks/equipment ready, ensuring inventory is in place, and seeing how a contractor’s business stacks up against the competition in such matters.

Publication date: 03/31/2008

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