Mislabeled refrigerants make everyone shudder

July 20, 2000
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CHICAGO, IL — Brad Jones is miffed over misidentified refrigerants in ice machines, and some ice machine manufacturers are concerned that this could mean misapplied refrigerants.

Jones, of Jones Refrigeration in Lockbourne, OH, raised the issue in a recent Letter to the Editor to The News. He noted that he was called in to service a small, undercounter ice machine that needed a compressor changeout.

“The identification label had the refrigerant section peeled back a little and someone had lightly written ‘12’ in pencil,” he said. Jones was able to determine that the unit was originally designed to operate on R-134a, but someone had put in R-12. He was uncertain if the R-134a was totally removed, or the R-12 was just added to the 134a already in the system.

One of Jones’ concerns was over previous service technicians not clearly labeling the work that had been done on a machine.

In a telephone interview, Jones suggested that while the next service tech may not be from the same contracting company, there should be some professional pride in work that has been performed.

Jones also pondered what would happen if a different refrigerant was added than the manufacturer had intended. Nothing good, was the general response of several manufacturer representatives who were informally polled during the recent National Restaurant Association Restaurant-Hotel-Motel Show held here in Chicago.

Refrigerants and compressor burnout

One representative contended that the use of R-12 on the R-134a unit raises an oil question that could lead to a compressor burnout.

An added problem, he noted, is that putting R-12 in a system designed for R-134a voids the warranty.

If there is any question as to what is in the system, the representative said it is necessary to recover all the refrigerant in the system, and drain the oil from the system. Then the unit can be brought back up to speed by putting in the correct amount of refrigerant and oil (in the case of the undercounter unit, that would be R-134a and POE oil) according to manufacturer specifications.

Another representative noted that many ice machine companies put specifications on more than one place on a piece of equipment, so if a tech isn’t sure what an exterior plate says, s/he may be able to find another plate on the inside of the machine.

All representatives urged that technicians call the equipment’s manufacturer if the techs are unsure of the situation they are facing with a piece of equipment.

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