Beginning on page one of this issue of The News, we present feedback from a series of questions we sent out to some of the major refrigerant manufacturers. We did so because refrigerants continue to be a major topic in the industry - even though it has been almost 20 years since warning flags first went up over the future of long-used CFCs.

My mind boggles at the endless wave of questions and confusion that accompanied virtually every month of every year for nearly two decades.

I can recall sitting in on a refrigerant forum at a Refrigeration Service Engineers Society meeting in the mid-1980s, when an Environmental Protection Agency official dealt with a barrage of pointed questions (including the chestnut about how come nobody is regulating swimming pool chlorine). That official at first didn't really understand the HVACR industry but learned about it - at the same rapid pace as technicians did in understanding governmental regulations.

I remember the excitement of manufacturers when they called press briefings or appeared at industry functions to announce interim alternatives to cope with the phaseout of CFCs, when they figured out how to make certain oils work with the new refrigerants, and when a company showed the first air conditioning unit that actually ran on R-410A.

I remember being in Denmark a few years ago, when a major manufacturer there that produces equipment using HFCs was starting to deal with the fact that its homeland wanted to phase out the refrigerant.

What's Next?

Recently I've been trying to sort out the overall issue of what refrigerants, if any, are there beyond HFCs.

The questions answered in this issue came from a range of sources, from technicians in the field to presentations at major industry conferences. We are also dealing with some rumors floating around the industry. (Hard to believe that this industry has rumors and incorrect info floating around, isn't it?)

To get as balanced an overview as possible, we asked the same questions of all the manufacturers we contacted.

We add this caveat: Nothing is etched in stone, and if you are finding this article in the archives many months or years after it was first published - be kind, especially in those cases where a crystal ball was being used.

I know the dangers of archiving information. When I first came to this industry in 1985, one of the first Service Hotline questions I noticed concerned the use of R-11 to kill wasps. The person answering that question thought it was a great idea.

Actually, there is one recurring theme that probably will hold up for years to come. It involves contractors being urged to employ the most up-to-date and proper servicing practices, to keep themselves educated on the latest developments, and to contact manufacturers and supply houses for assistance whenever they are not totally sure how to handle a situation.

Peter Powell is refrigeration editor. He can be reached at 847-622-7260, 847-622-7266 (fax), or peterpowell@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 02/02/2004