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Are You Prepared for the Conversion?

July 20, 2009
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Butch Welsch

Those air conditioners in your warehouse are about to become pumpkins. Well, maybe not pumpkins, but about as worthwhile. Not long after Halloween this year, those R-22 air conditioners will no longer be made. I certainly hope you have taken steps in your company to prepare for the conversion to R-410A.

All of us in the industry have had plenty of time to prepare for this change, but I’m concerned that just like the conversion to 13 SEER from 10 SEER a few years ago, despite all of the press and articles, we again will not be ready. Why is it that for major changes in our industry we are like our kids who wait and do Monday’s homework at 10 p.m. Sunday?

Fortunately, it’s not quite Sunday night yet, and we have a little bit of time to prepare for the change. I know that many of you, especially you “Replacement only” contractors, have been specializing in R-410A for some time. However, many of the rest of us, especially those doing new construction, have had difficulty making the conversion.

While it has seemed so natural that the builders should start having us utilize the R-410A units, we for one have had difficulty getting them to pay the relatively small difference to let us convert. Despite our pleas that they are having us install a unit that will be obsolete in less than a year, it has been difficult to get them to make the change. All of us in the new residential market need to keep appealing to our customers to let us put in the units that are proper for the times.

In the replacement market, it is probably even more important because you are dealing directly with the customer. If you don’t install the most up-to-date, R-410A equipment, regardless of its SEER level, you are doing that customer a great disservice. It has been my experience that not doing the right thing for the customer will come back to haunt you. And speaking of doing the right things, are you properly installing the new R-410A units?

You should be changing out the evaporator coil on every installation. Also, if the refrigerant lines are accessible, you should be replacing them as well. If the lines are enclosed in a ceiling, soffit, or similar location, and you are unable to change them, then the lines need to be thoroughly flushed out with R-11 flush or equivalent in order to remove all traces of the refrigerant oil.

That leads to an interesting dilemma, which we have encountered. Over the years we have installed many 1-1/2- and 2-ton units in apartments and condos using what were properly sized 5/8-inch and 1/4-inch refrigeration lines. Typically those line sets ran above the ceiling from an interior equipment room to the condensing unit outside. Those lines are not accessible. Now we are told we should not install any R-410A unit on a 1/4-inch liquid line set.

Our company has always tried to quote and do things the proper way, even if that meant at times losing a job to an unscrupulous contractor who was willing to do the job the wrong way just to make a quick buck. Now we come to this situation where it is very hard to do the exact right thing. I can tell you that right now in these situations we are replacing the unit with a new R-22 unit - attempting to delay the problem for hopefully at least 10 years or so.

I’m curious to know what some of you other contractors are doing and also what your manufacturers are recommending that you do. To replace a set of refrigeration lines buried in a ceiling and wall is not only a very disturbing situation for the owner, but is very costly as well. Do any of you have any solutions that we can pass on to our readers to help with this issue? Please contact me and let me know. In the meantime, the first of 2010 is just a few months away and we all need to be prepared for the R-410A conversion.

Publication date: 07/20/2009
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