CHICAGO — Most of those touting refrigerants at the AHR Expo openly acknowledge hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-22 is, indeed, going away. Only a few months prior, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put in place the final phaseout schedule on supplies of new and imported R-22 by 2020.

So, perhaps the No. 1 trend in HVAC refrigeration is the increase in R-22 prices as the supply-demand equation sorts itself out. In addition to rising prices, many exhibiting refrigerant manufacturers noted that hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) retrofit alternatives were available to go along with reclamation options, and issues related to the global warming potential (GWP) of HFCs remain ongoing.

“Given the EPA’s recent acceleration of the R-22 phaseout schedule, technicians will be facing steep increases in the price of R-22,” said Jay Kestenbaum, senior vice president, sales and purchasing, Airgas Inc. “Future supply outages are not out of the question.

“The EPA’s drastic 57 percent reduction (from 2014 to 2015) in allowances for production of R-22 has already resulted in several price increases and product allocations by manufacturers,” added Kestenbaum. “This means those servicing R-22 units will need to plan carefully for the quantities of product they will need for those service opportunities.”

Kestenbaum also touched on the importance of managing existing stockpiles of R-22. “Contractors must be diligent in recovering every pound of what comes out of the systems to be able to return that product to certified reclaimers. If they do not have ample supply, they must retrofit to new or alternative refrigerants.”

At the expo, Airgas reps emphasized how the company works with its customers to plan for their supply of R-22, taking into account their past history and future needs. Airgas claimed it can handle all refrigerants through its reclamation program with the availability of cylinders and services coast to coast.

“Gordon McKinney, vice president and COO of ICOR Intl. Inc., said: “Shortly after the EPA’s allocation rule was finalized, last October, R-22 prices increased sharply, and many anticipate market pricing, to be 40-50 percent higher in 2015.

“Increased R-22 pricing and the looming shortfall in supplies have reignited interest in alternative refrigerants, and conditions are slowly improving for the refrigerant reclaim sector,” he added.

At the expo, ICOR showcased R-422B (sold by ICOR as NU-22B) as an R-22 replacement. “It’s ozone-safe, non-toxic, nonflammable, and does not require an unnecessary oil change when converting an existing mineral-oil-based R-22 system,” McKinney said.

Count Steve Mella, CEO of ComStar Intl. among those who expect the price of R-22 to spike. “Not only do we expect the price of R-22 to greatly increase throughout 2015, but we anticipate availability becoming an issue. These R-22 issues will force contractors who have little-to-no experience with R-22 alternatives to get up to speed quickly. This fact may cause some unwanted system performance glitches in the short term.”

At the expo, Mella referenced R-424A and R-434A, which have been used in Europe and Asia for more than 10 years. Both refrigerants — which ComStar brands as RS44 and RS45, respectively — were described as “replacement refrigerants that are proven R-22 alternatives for high-, medium-, and low-temp R-22 applications.”

The company added that RS45 is an R-22 flooded-chiller replacement refrigerant that does not require an oil or component change.

Of all the issues the industry faces in 2015, none are more pressing to the refrigerant sector than the 57 percent reduction of R-22 in 2015, noted Joyce Wallace, refrigerants business and marketing manager for DuPont Chemicals & Fluoroproducts. “This phaseout heightens the importance of both utilizing replacement refrigerants and implementing refrigerant management plans to aid the transition away from R-22.”

Maureen Beatty, vice president of National Refrigerants Inc., said: “It is important to understand this R-22 phaseout does not mean a shortage will occur in 2015. There will be enough R-22 available, and contractors will be able to purchase R-22 in quantities sufficient to meet their servicing requirements.

“Of course, they should only purchase from reputable wholesale suppliers so they can be assured the product is actually R-22 and meets Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI)-700 Standards specifications. Additionally, a reputable supplier will stand by the quality of the product it sells and will be able to guarantee the R-22 was legally acquired in accordance with EPA regulations.”

Regarding the company’s participation at the AHR Expo, Beatty said: “National showed its complete line of refrigerant management options, including refrigerant banking and refrigerant and oil testing. NRI is an AHRI-certified testing laboratory and AHRI-certified refrigerant reclaimer. Customers can have confidence in the refrigerant management products and services offered by NRI.”

SNAP into Action

Matt Ritter, director of government activities for Arkema Inc., said: “In 2015, contractors will see an increase in HFC-404A new equipment installations due to the proposed EPA Significant New Alternatives Program’s (SNAP’s) removal of R-404A from commercial refrigeration applications, effective in 2016. R-404A will still be approved for servicing existing installations. Also under this proposed rule, half of the R-22 commercial refrigeration retrofit refrigerants will be removed, but R-427A and R-407A are still SNAP-approved.”

Patti Conlan, marketing manager for Arkema, said: “With the R-22 phasedown, contractors can continue to service units with R-22. If they are looking for an R-22 retrofit, they should look at an easy retrofit like R-427A closely matching R-22 with no TXV [thermostatic expansion valve] replacement and comparable capacity to R-22.”

The EPA’s final rule regarding SNAP’s delisting of HFCs by application, expected the second quarter of 2015, is also of high importance,” said Wallace. “Of special interest is the proposed delisting of 404A/507 in new and retrofit applications as early as January 2016. Key questions remain regarding the timing and applications that will be impacted.”

Ken Gaglione, global business manager, aftermarket, Honeywell Refrigerants, said: “We expect tightening of supplies in 2015. As a result, demand for new alternatives and existing retrofit products will increase as we progress into the selling season. With R-22 matters settled, regulatory attention in Washington is shifting toward removing problematic high-GWP HFC refrigerants through its SNAP authority.”

R-22 Alternatives

DuPont exhibited its R-438A (ISCEON® MO99™) refrigerant, touting it as an appropriate replacement refrigerant for R-22.

It was also reported that DuPont plans to commercialize low-GWP refrigerants for stationary equipment in the U.S. in the second half of 2015. These refrigerants range from 45-84 percent reduction in GWP with similar or improved performance, and they are nonflammable, the company said.

Brad Kivlan, speaking on behalf of Dynatemp Intl., pointed to the use of HFC refrigerants as retrofit alternatives. He cited R-421A — which Dynatemp markets as Choice® R-421A — as a replacement for R-22 in air conditioning and medium-temperature refrigeration applications. “R-421A is a nonflammable, two-component blend with pressure and temperature characteristics that closely match R-22. Contractors can still use their trusty R-22 manifold gauges and hose sets. In most cases, R-421A retrofits do not require a change in oil or modification to the existing equipment.”

Contractor training and certification protocols will be more important than ever, said Honeywell’s Gaglione. “Commercial refrigeration customers are expecting their contractors to not only be familiar with immediate solutions, but also support long-term strategies to help them futureproof any capital investment in refrigeration.”

Gaglione pointed to interim R-422D and R-407F (branded by Honeywell as Genetron® 422D and Genetron Performax® LT) as “gaining wide acceptance for their compatibility with existing R-22 systems and potential to save energy in most refrigeration applications.”

He also noted that Honeywell introduced a line of hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) refrigerants at the AHR show in Chicago. “These new products are non-ozone-depleting, have low GWPs, and offer performance advantages in products that are compatible with most equipment,” he said.

Those refrigerants announced at the expo included:

• Solstice zd: “A nonflammable HFC with a GWP equal to 1 for use in low-pressure centrifugal chillers.” The Honeywell announcement included the mention that “Trane will use Solstice zd in its new Series E CenTraVac large-capacity chillers in Europe, the Middle East, and other 50-hz markets.”

• Solstice ze: “An HFO refrigerant that can be used in equipment that traditionally used R-134a.” It is said to have a GWP of less than 1.

• Solstice N13: “An HFO blend for chillers as well as medium-temperature applications such as supermarket display cases and self-contained refrigeration units.” It is designed as a nonflammable R-134a replacement.

• Solstice N40: “An HFO blend for low- and medium-temperature re-
frigeration equipment such as supermarket freezer cases.” It is designed as a nonflammable replacement for R-22 and R-404A.

Publication date: 2/23/2015