KISSIMMEE, FL — The history and future of refrigerants filled up Dick Shaw’s seminar at the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s (ACCA’s) 34th annual conference. Shaw, ACCA’s technical education consultant, presented a discussion on the topic, “Contractors, Are You Ready For the Next Refrigerant Transition?”

Shaw talked about where the industry is headed, citing the need to remove ozone-depleting chemicals as the No. 1 reason for change.

“HFCs are ideal for eliminating the ozone depletion problem,” he added. “Some or all of the hydrogen atoms in the base molecule have been replaced with fluorine. R-410A is a good example.

“Moving from HCFC refrigerants to HFCs is important because it makes our technicians more aware of the need to test refrigerants in the field, e.g., leaks, presence of moisture.”

Shaw estimated that by 2006, 80% of installations will be using R-410A as the refrigerant. He cited the effectiveness of R-410A as a replacement for HCFC-22.

“Copeland has over a half-million scroll compressors in the field right now using R-410A, and the return rate is remarkably low,” added Shaw. “Scroll technology is up in the forefront of change to HFCs.

“Maybe system redesign isn’t all that bad, either, to accommodate the new refrigerants.”


Shaw said there are several forces driving the change in refrigerant technology. He used an example of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE). “The CEE said that up to 50% more energy can be saved with the proper installation and sizing of commercial central a/c and heat pumps.

“Consumers are the No. 1 driver of change, followed by competition (we started with one manufacturer of R-410A and now have eight); environmental concerns (Montreal Protocol); technologies (the scroll compressor); and energy issues (we still consume more energy than we have resources for).”

Shaw added that there are methods of “managing refrigerants” within regulations. He cited four options:

Option 1 — Put refrigerant back into a system without recycling it.

Option 2 — Recycle it and put it back into the system it was removed from or back into a system with the same owner.

Option 3 — Recycle it, test to verify conformance to ARI Standard 700 prior to reuse in a different owner’s equipment, provided that refrigerant remains in the contractor’s custody and control at all times from recovery through recycling.

Option 4 — Send refrigerant to a certified reclaimer.

Shaw acknowledged that managing refrigerants can be a challenge, since transition is an ongoing process and there is pressure to reduce Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) to zero. However, there are opportunities, too.

“Refrigerant management gives us the ability to manage refrigerant,” he said. “We can aid energy efficiency by keeping older units in the field more efficient. We can encourage more planned maintenance by maximizing system efficiencies.”

Shaw said a key to managing refrigerants is to provide proper training for field people — especially in the handling of R-410A. He also put in a plug for manufacturers to deal with reputable contractors only, while praising the current “state of the trade.”

“Wouldn’t it be great if manufacturers trained us in the use of new refrigerants and only sold to qualified contractors?

“I can’t think of a more exciting time to be in a/c and refrigeration.”

Sidebar: Refrigerants – A Modern Timeline

1974Molina-Rowland theory posits that chlorine and bromine are responsible for stratospheric ozone depletion.

1978 U.S. bans all non-essential aerosols containing chlorine or bromine.

1987 The U.S. and 22 other countries sign the original Montreal Protocol establishing timetables and phaseout schedules for CFCs and HCFCs.

1990 The Clean Air Act (CAA) signed in the U.S. calls for reductions in refrigerant production, recycling, and emissions, as well as the eventual phaseout of CFCs and HCFCs.

1992 It is unlawful to vent CFCs and HCFCs into the atmosphere.

1994 Technician certification is required for purchasing and handling of CFCs and HCFCs.

1995 It is unlawful to vent alternate (substitute) refrigerants.

1996 Phaseout of CFCs includes production and importing.

1996 HCFC production levels capped.

1997 Kyoto Protocol is established in response to global warming concerns.

2010 HCFC-22 to be phased out for new equipment.

2020 HCFC-22 production to be phased out.

Publication date: 04/08/2002