Letters to the Editor: A Vote for Ammonia

November 22, 2000
I have read the July 31 edition of The News and was interested in both of your articles in [the] Focus [section]: “Ammonia’s Advantages” and “The Case for HFCs in Refrigeration.” I am a mechanic and have worked my way up from small hvacr to large industrial refrigeration. Right now, I am employed by an outfit that is primarily an ammonia service. I have worked with CFCs, HFCs, and ammonia.

As for the case for ammonia, I have seen well-maintained systems and poorly maintained systems, and I can tell everyone from experience that even the poorly maintained ammonia systems still achieved the desired refrigeration effect, regardless of the shape they were in, as well as the age of the equipment. As far as major ammonia releases go, these very same, poorly maintained plants hardly ever had a major leak. The anhydrous ammonia that we use is the very same stuff the farmers use to fertilize corn and other crops. Try that with CFCs or HFCs.

Now, as for CFCs and HFCs, I would like to make a statement: The hvacr mechanics in the field have done more to reclaim and recover CFCs and HFCs than anyone else, including the manufacturers of hvacr equipment, simply because the federal government forced us to in order to keep our jobs. But who’s forcing the manufacturers? Nobody.

The CFC and HFC equipment producers have turned to cheaper assembly techniques and now you are “pretty damn lucky” if the system you install doesn’t go to leaking out the refrigerant in less than three years, not necessarily because of poor field installation but of poor manufacturing techniques.

This leads to poor field performance of CFC and HFC equipment and lots of maintenance costs. As far as industrial refrigeration goes, we have used the same equipment and piping used on ammonia systems and applied it to CFC and HFC systems with better results because of the “ruggedness” of such equipment.

Furthermore, it does not cost as much to maintain ammonia equipment as a lot of people are led to believe. I know because I have “been there and done that.”

The “bottom dollar” in refrigerating any product is who can turn out the most product at the lowest price and, from a service tech’s point of view, the ammonia has them all beat hands down. Now, I do not know who the hell A.G. Little (one of the names mentioned in the article) is. I will suggest that he, she, or they get out of their CFC or HFC air conditioned office, take their dresses off, put their work clothes on, and get out in the field with the rest of us where it’s hot and cold, and maybe they will see the facts instead of dreaming them up.

John O. Mahathy

Service Tech

American Refrigeration

Stapleton, AL

Publication date: 11/27/2000

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