In my last column, I noted that it was being written before the Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Expo in Orlando so there would not be much to talk about. And there wasn’t. Now that the AHR Expo is over and I had a chance to wander the expo floor for a few days, there is a bit more to discuss.

R-22 SUPPLIES

Every time I step aside from what’s formally being talked about in the industry, I usually end up with more antidotal comments from folks I’m informally talking to. And they sometimes say something different than the official word.

For a few months up until the expo, I was hearing more and more about supplies of R-22 being in fairly good shape for some time to come, despite the big drop off in production of virgin R-22 as of this past Jan. 1. The contention was that adequate supplies would remain because of the end of the use of R-22 in new equipment, stockpiling, more HFC retrofit options, and use of reclamation.

But the more informal talk at the expo was that shortfalls of R-22 were more than likely, even though nobody was going on the record as to exactly when. The argument was that contractors were still not bringing back enough R-22 or looking at HFC retrofits at a high enough level to ensure adequate supplies of R-22 for reclamation and to service existing R-22 units that will not be retrofitted with an HFC alternative.

So who’s correct? Perhaps the best answer is not to even think about the answer. Just assume that more reclaim efforts are needed. And HFC retrofits need to be considered. This is not really a roll of the dice decision. Reclaim and retrofits do far more to protect your business than assuming supplies of R-22 will be adequate.

Peter Powell

THE FUTURE OF HFCs

At the expo, there was little, if any, talk showing concern over the long-term viability of HFC refrigerants. And there is a lot that goes into that being pretty much a non-issue for the time being.

There is still much talk outside our industry over ways to curb global warming - or as it is being called more often these days, climate change. And those outside our industry are still considering HFCs as contributing to global warming. They want some kind of regulation on those gases.

The industry seems to being saying that, yes, there might be some regulations coming some day regarding HFC production, but it would be best if it was a phasedown rather than a phaseout with enough HFC around to service HFC equipment, both installed and still being produced, for the life time of that equipment and until another alternative arises.

At just about the same time such talk was taking place at the expo, there was that special election in Massachusetts won by a Republican who vowed to oppose President Obama’s health care reform. His presence apparently gives Republicans in the Senate power to stem what they consider overly aggressive objectives.

Climate change legislation could be considered another of Obama’s “aggressive” objectives; and talk at the expo concerned how long it would take such legislation to work its way through Congress or if it ever would.

HFOs

If HFCs were ever to face a phasedown, advocates of HFOs more than likely will be ready to offer their HFO refrigerants as an option - just as proponents of CO2 will continue their efforts advocating their favorite refrigerant. There was much more talk at the expo about HFOs than CO2, which is not necessarily a measure of anything, just a statement of fact.

HFO advocates will have their true measure of their refrigerant when HFO-1234yf is introduced in the automotive air conditioning in Europe in a few years. And plans continue to have a similar HFO eventually available for stationary equipment.

ON TRACK

The expo didn’t exactly offer any major shifts in what has already been known. But it demonstrated that the industry has a solid handle on a wide range of issues facing contractors. There are solutions already in place for many matters, and efforts underway to find solutions for situations that could be faced in the future.

Publication date: 03/08/2010