Responsible Refrigerant Decision-Making

On behalf of the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, I am writing to express strong objection about "HFCs Are On Shaky Ground in Europe" (July 26). We attended the same meeting in Brussels where Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Unilever discussed alternatives to HFCs and find your headline and story misleading. The meeting's findings did not leave HFCs on shaky ground.

At this forum, only three companies discussed commitments to certain HFC-free goals in limited applications. For Coca-Cola, its pledge addresses only refrigerated beverage equipment (free-standing dispensing machines) - not their systems to cool their plants or their vehicle fleets, for example.

McDonald's has worked to develop an HFC-free restaurant but has stated, "It is not McDonald's immediate goal to open a second totally HFC-free restaurant." McDonald's has stated that they will use the findings of this pilot test as a stepping stone to continue optimizing the individual equipment technology and introduce equipment items as they become viable, depending on readiness of equipment and markets.

While anti-HFC opinions were expressed by different individuals at the meeting, the actual facts and technical findings provided no evidence that alternative refrigerants to HFCs are safer for the environment, more cost effective, or more energy efficient. HFCs and all refrigerants need to be used in a responsible and safe manner.

The environment does require responsible stewardship, but elimination of HFCs would not move us in that direction. One must evaluate the total environmental impact of the refrigerant, its safety, and the efficiency of a system's operation to arrive at good decisions. When that is done, results as ones exhibited at this forum show the continued need for ongoing research and responsible decision-making.

David Lewis
Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy
Arlington, Va.

It's Tough Wearing The White Hat

[Editor's note: This letter is in response to the July 5 article on refrigerant use titled "Which Hat Do You Wear On The Job?"]

I strive to be the guy with the white hat. Initially I got a 100-pound recycle drum and several 50- and 30-pound recovery drums. I dutifully pumped what I knew was "good" R-22 into the 100-pound drum, and the first batch brought 25 cents per pound. Good!

The next batch they exchanged for no charge. Then I took one back, and they didn't know what to do with it. I went to another supplier, who actually is my major refrigerant supplier. They initially offered to take the old drum, credit me with $125 for the drum deposit, then charge me $165 for deposit on the new drum. But when I showed up, they said they could not take back drums with refrigerant, only empty drums for cleaning. Finally, on a Saturday morning, I found the person who actually handled the recycle-recovery operation; he took the old drum and gave me a new empty drum at no charge. Good.

But what about mixed refrigerant and R-12?

When I asked about what to do with them, the response was, "Don't your recycle drums leak?"

I was gung-ho on recovery-recycle; even considered getting into the business seriously. I am glad I didn't try that!

I have nine cylinders on my truck now: two 30-pound 404As, a 30-pound 409A, a 30-pound recovery drum for removal/reuse only, one 16-pound drum of HP81 for the Manitowoc ice machines, one 30-pound drum of MP39, one 30-pound R-22, one 50-pound mixed recovery drum, and one purple drum which has something that replaces R-502. At the shop, I have a 100-pound recycle drum into which I occasionally pump what I believe to be unmixed R-22.

Also, I have a propane-containing blend to replace R-502, and a couple of partial 25-pound bottles of R-500. I have two recovery machines, one on the truck and one at the shop.

I am told I am not supposed to vent R-134a, but I went to Radio Shack to get a keyboard cleaner for my computer, and guess what it was? R-134a.

I do a good bit of commercial refrigeration work, and I like to convert R-12 units to R-134a. I do this with Copelemetics, where I can remove the mineral oil through the oil port in the crankcase. But at compressor changeout time, I cannot get tin cans (welded hermetics) with POE oil off the shelf. So, I am stuck with blends. So much for sight glasses on commercial equipment! I have yet to encounter R-410A, so that is another matter, so far.

Like I said, I want to wear a white hat, but what can I do? I do use nitrogen for some pressurizing, but serious purging and blowing requires more than a 20-cubic-foot drum. I have an air compressor, which I could use for coil blasting to clean condensers, but where will I carry it? I have a pickup, not a van, since I have to haul equipment from time to time. And I have yet to find anyone who will even take mixed refrigerants.

I turn 65 in September; my wife-dispatcher is 63. If it were not for my social security check, I would have had no income this year; she has been getting a check for something over $400 per week from the company. On the good side, I am current on my supplier accounts, in good health, and have no other payroll.

Thomas Johnston
CEO/Owner/Tech/Bookkeeper/Bill Payer/Driver, etc.
L.Q. Johnston Repair Shop Inc.
Troy, Ala.

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Publication date: 08/16/2004