When I first started working at my dad’s refrigeration shop back in the 1980s, we carried three refrigerants on our service trucks: CFC-502, CFC-12, and HCFC-22. For the most part, these three refrigerants covered the majority of the systems we serviced. There were, of course, other refrigerants we encountered, but that was a rare occurrence for us.
With the phaseout of CFC and HCFC refrigerants, and now the push to use refrigerants with a lower GWP, there are many more refrigerants in use today. Deciding which refrigerants to carry today takes a little planning. Ultimately, it will depend on the size of your service truck and the equipment you currently service. But now you also have to develop a plan to handle systems using refrigerants you do not normally carry. This is a little more difficult, but here are some possible ideas.
When possible and when it makes sense, convert your customer’s system over to a refrigerant you normally carry. Again, this is not always possible, and may not be economically feasible on a repair, but when the opportunity presents itself, it will help you manage your refrigerant inventory.
You will probably need to keep some uncommon refrigerants at your shop and transport them as needed. This can become a bit of a headache and may require additional time when you have to go and get the refrigerant. This can become a real issue in some major cities where traffic can be a real pain. If possible, try to determine the refrigerant while scheduling the repair. If working with a new customer, it may not be possible, but with existing customers, good recordkeeping can help. Always record the type of refrigerant used in every system you service, even if you do not have to add any refrigerant as part of the current repair. If it is not one you normally carry, you can bring it with you on the next repair. A simple spreadsheet can be very helpful.
A difficult situation to handle is when you come across a system that uses only a small amount of refrigerant that you do not carry and do not stock at your shop. If you need to add refrigerant to the system, you will now have to buy 24 or 30 pounds of it and you may only need to use a pound or less to solve the current issue. This could be a good time to see if you can convert the system over to a refrigerant you do carry or have at your shop. If this is not possible, you can either invest in buying the new refrigerant or ask if any of your refrigeration colleagues have this type of refrigerant and can you buy some from them.
Developing a plan for refrigerant usage today is an important part of servicing commercial refrigeration systems. You should periodically review your truck stock and determine whether to continue to carrying that refrigerant, take it off your truck, or add a new refrigerant to your truck’s inventory. This will likely become more important as we continue to transition to a new a generation of refrigerants.