For more than 15 years now, The News has been documenting the industry’s move away from CFCs and HCFCs and the use of mineral oils that work with those refrigerants. In recent years, attention has been on HFC refrigerants and the POE oils used with them.
Even though a lot of people would like to label HFCs running on POEs as the long-term answer to a decade and a half of instability, the situation may not be that simple.
In fact, things are a bit confusing. First of all, there are refrigerant manufacturers out there who contend they have HFC refrigerants that work with mineral oil. This is a consideration because mineral oil still carries a lower price than POEs, and mineral oils are a more familiar product for technicians.
At the same time, compressor manufacturers with new equipment are very specific about the POE oils that should be used with that equipment. They are entering a New World of redesigned systems that still need to respond to energy-efficiency and noise-level considerations.
Then there is the question as to the future of HFCs in general. A few European countries are moving to phase out the use of those refrigerants under the guise of a concern about global warming issues, but more often in response to much noise from environmental minorities who seem to hold a few seats on regional legislatures within a number of countries.
The Greens overseas promote hydrocarbons (HCs) or CO2 as alternative refrigerants. For the most part, we in the United States scoff at such solutions. We argue about the flammability issue of HCs and the cost of running a CO2 system.
Yet, research in both areas goes on in the United States. An HC refrigerant manufacturer was even exhibiting at the most recent AHR Expo in Atlantic City, NJ, while a frozen food processing plant running on CO2 as the primary refrigerant is under construction in Jonesboro, AR.
Much of what is being talked about and being written now regarding HFCs with mineral oil, HCs, and CO2 may be a bit confusing. The issue will sort itself out eventually.
But in the meantime, here’s some advice to contractors: Take your current age and subtract that from the age you plan to retire. If that number adds up to more than 10 years, it might be a good idea to keep up with the latest developments in HFCs with mineral oil, HCs, and CO2.
Powell is refrigeration editor. He can be reached at 847-622-7260; 847-622-7266 (fax); or firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).
Publication date: 04/01/2002