ACHRNEWS

Trying to End the Love Affair With R-22

February 18, 2008
This display of available refrigerants at the booth of Honeywell shows the complexity of the refrigerant issue facing contractors.

NEW YORK - Figuring out what refrigerants contractors will be using in the years ahead and for how long remains an issue in flux, based on presentations and conversations at the 2008 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo).

Here are some general impressions after walking the floor for three days.

• The use of HCFC-22, which the industry hoped would be on the decline, has actually been increasing, thus raising the likelihood of an R-22 shortfall much sooner than later. More and more of those on the show floor were looking at 2010 as the shortfall year, rather than the previously anticipated 2015.

• To cope with R-22 equipment in the field, a number of refrigerant manufacturers are offering nonHCFC refrigerants that are not subject to phaseout, as is R-22. These encompass HFCs and HFC/HCs, the latter of which contain a small amount of propane or isobutene. In general, these are not “one-size-fits-all” solutions, meaning that the application range of any one refrigerant may not be as broad as R-22. Contractors are being strongly encouraged to check with each manufacturer about capabilities and limitations of each refrigerant.

• Compounding the issue is little effort on the part of contractors to bring back recovered R-22 for off-site reclamation. The best guess is less than 10 percent of all the R-22 that could come back for reclaim is actually coming back. This is adding to the concern about aftermarket R-22 supplies. (The March 13 issue of The NEWS will take a detailed look at refrigerant reclamation issues.)



USING TOO MUCH 22

“Today’s demand for R-22 is higher than what was expected in 1998 when the phaseout of R-22 started,” according to a statement issued by Honeywell (www.honeywell.com/genetron).

“While a number of non-ozone-depleting compounds have been available for many years, R-22 equipment is still the best seller. New equipment and an ever-growing installed base are driving market demand for R-22 to historically high levels.”

The Honeywell statement said causes include a strong economy driving sales of familiar R-22 air conditioning equipment, the 13 SEER mandate (“which has increased refrigerant charge size by 30 percent on average”), a slower transition to HFC-410A than anticipated, and “uncertainty around the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 decision on how much R-22 to allow for (aftermarket) a/c and refrigeration applications.”

All this is happening despite what Honeywell noted were rapidly rising costs of R-22 that will result “in aging equipment becoming more expensive to operate and maintain.”

The manufacturer urged contractors to “begin to recommend to their customers a change to alternative refrigerants that are 100 percent non-ozone depleting and are not subject to phaseout.” The company recommended R-410A, -404A, -507, -407C, and -422D, as well as stepped-up reclamation efforts.

During a press briefing at the expo by DuPont Refrigerants (www.refrigerants.dupont.com), Kevin O’Shea, North America marketing manager, said that in 2007, “75 percent of new equipment was R-22-based,” despite the phaseout plans for production of virgin R-22.

Also during the briefing, Dianne Iuliano Picho, global business manager, drew attention to that phase down. “In about 100 weeks, we expect the HVACR industry will experience an increasingly tight supply of R-22, as well as available labor to support the transition to alternatives. Implementing immediate reclamation and recovery practices, and proactively transitioning to HFC as an alternative, is critical. Transitioning to alternatives now, rather than in an emergency, is environmentally responsive and just makes good business sense,” she said.

The presenters drew attention to its company’s line of Isceon® refrigerants that are HFC/HCs, which can be retrofitted into equipment that had been running on HCFCs.



BEYOND R-22

A number of manufacturers on the show floor echoed the same message of the Honeywell and DuPont presentations and offered their own responses to the dynamics of the refrigerant market.

ICOR International (www.icorinternational.com) featured HFC/HC-422C, which it markets as One Shot®, “one of the most affordable non-ozone depleting low-temperature refrigerants on the market today.” The refrigerant works with mineral oil, the company said.

Arkema (www.arkema.com) introduced refrigerant HFC-427A, which does not have a hydrocarbon component and relies upon what the company said was a “single flush” to replace mineral oil with the POE needed for use with it in a retrofit of R-22 equipment. The company said R-427A has “performance comparable to R-22 and is one of the lowest global warming potential retrofits available on the market today.” The company also used the expo to announce that the “EPA has notified Arkema that it intends to grant the company Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP)” recognition for R-427A.

In another refrigerant dynamic, ComStar International Inc. (www.comstarproducts.com) introduced RS-45, which has the ASHRAE designation of HFC/HC-434A. Rather than being geared for the retrofit aftermarket, the company said the refrigerant is an alternative for equipment OEMs interested in continuing to provide the type of equipment once designed for use with R-22.

“R-434A can be adapted by equipment OEMs that want to continue using their R-22 systems without going through the re-engineering required for an R-410A system,” said Steven Mella, chief executive officer of ComStar.



PROMOTING 410A

The most highly promoted alternative to R-22 in new equipment remains R-410A, and it got attention at the expo. Most refrigerant manufacturers advocated its use, as did component suppliers. For example, Emerson Climate Technologies (www.gotoemerson.com) issued a statement that said it showcased “the broadest lineup of R-410A-optimized products.

“We are a company committed to helping our customers be ready for 2010,” said Tom Bettcher, Emerson CEO, noting the year when virgin R-22 will no longer be able to be charged into new equipment by unitary manufacturers. “This is why we have worked hard to provide the best and broadest selection of products optimized for R-410A, the air conditioning refrigerant of choice for 2010.”



BEYOND HFCS?

There was a smattering of equipment on the show floor designed for use with R-744 (CO2), a refrigerant being touted for wider use should HFCs face phaseout pressure due to global warming issues. Such pressure is more prevalent in Europe than in North America. One such product was a CO2 compressor from Carlyle (www.carlyle.com), billed as having a valve system optimized for the refrigerant.

Luvata (www.luvata.com) issued a statement calling R-744 “a superior alternative to environmentally damaging HFCs as well as being nonflammable, nontoxic, and less expensive.”

Giovanni Simeoni, head of sales and marketing, product development and R&D for Luvata’s Eco-Heatcraft Division, said, “In addition to the environmental advantages, it has a higher head-transfer coefficient than traditional refrigerants, which can lead to increased efficiency in the heat transfer equipment it is used in.” The company noted that its coils and coolers division has been selected by Coca-Cola to develop “environmentally friendly vending machines for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.”



A LUBRICANT TWIST

A product being developed with what was said to have the potential for use as a lubricant in secondary-loop supermarket systems was shown by Quaker City Chemicals (www.chemical.net). The product, QC35 Corn Glycol with Susterra™, is promoted as an “exciting, new heat transfer fluid.”

The use of corn in the equation means the product is “a 100 percent renewable sourced material, eliminating the need for petroleum-based feed stocks, while providing low toxicity and biodegradability,” the company said.

Publication Date: 02/18/2008