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Some More Thoughts On HCs

June 6, 2011
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Peter Powell

My May 2 column talked about interest among manufacturers and regulators in introducing more HC refrigerants to the HVACR sector. Toward the end of the story, I wondered how accepting contractors would be in using such refrigerants.

I did receive an e-mail shortly after the column appeared from a contractor in Texas who offered some thoughts.

He basically said that he and his fellow contractors would be willing to install and service such equipment - but only after issues related to lawyers and industry support are clarified. As he put it, “The manufacturers will do what the lawyers tell them they can do without getting sued.”

So let’s sort this out. First, as I noted in the previous column, contractors outside North America work on propane residential systems and have so for years. The standing joke is that it's possible because, as one adage goes, “There are fewer lawyers in Europe per person than North America.”

There may be something to that, because the United States seems to be a more suing nation than many others. The local radio station I listen to each morning inevitably has the two program hosts describing some seemingly frivolous or off-the-wall lawsuits.

The Huffington Post website listed some, such as:

• A woman who filed suit for $15,000 against the owners of a haunted house she voluntarily went into because it was “too scary.”

• A doctor who was served divorce papers by his soon to be ex-wife and he in turn sued her for return of a gift he had given her - a kidney - or $1.5 million in compensation.

• A guy who filed suit for $5.4 million for “emotional distress” because he walked into a men’s restroom at a crowded concert and found women using the urinals.

• And a woman who sued a television station because its weather person predicted fair weather. So she dressed lightly, only to have it rain on her causing her to get sick for a bit.

Anyhow, there is currently a fear that working with flammable refrigerants could result in lawsuits against the contractor. This is where the legal situation has to be clarified and firmed up. All the regulatory bodies and manufacturers in the world can allow and introduce HCs, but the legal sector has to have some semblance of acceptance of the technology.

INDUSTRY SUPPORT

The other point the writer makes is how much support HCs will have when they are introduced. Right now, there are some manufacturers advocating their use; regulatory bodies seemingly lean toward accepting them; and some applications are being tried in smaller reach in coolers or dispensers. But how much more will the HC sector need to grow before it can be described as widespread?

At the same time, HCs are entering an industry that is still decidedly onboard with HFC refrigerants, with no regulatory restrictions in place against HFCs. And even if they were to face a phase down in the future, the industry is presently looking at HFOs as next generation. So, as I noted in a recent article on HFOs, are HCs the “next-next” generation or will interest in them run parallel to HFOs.

For contractors it is wait and see - both in terms of legal aspects and successful installations such as installations done by manufacturers. From a strictly installation and servicing standpoint, the contractor from Texas who contacted me sounds like several others I talked to. Our contractors are certainly capable of working on HC equipment.

Call it American Know How. After all, if your contractor peers in Finland, Germany, and Japan can do it, so can you.

Publication date: 06/06/2011
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