From the onset, the federally mandated phase out of R-22 has been rife with controversy, and the confusion created by fluctuating prices as well as the never-ending supply and demand uncertainty has left refrigerant distributors, users, and equipment owners, extremely vulnerable.
A number of
obscure companies have been selling R-22 alternative refrigerants that are
marketed as “Natural Refrigerants”, and “Drop Ins”. They boast that these
refrigerants are “Inexpensive”, “Do not require any certification to purchase”,
and “Can be mixed with R-22”. The horrible truth is that these so called
“Natural Refrigerants”, are comprised primarily of highly flammable gases such
as propane and they are illegal for use in AC applications.
The FBI has
recently issued a warning to be on the alert for refrigerant substitutes that
have not been approved by the EPA. Reports are on the rise worldwide of
explosions, fires, and severe injuries, including fatalities, as the result of
these flammable refrigerants being used in unapproved HVACR applications. In 2013
the EPA took action against at least one U.S., company for selling an
unapproved flammable refrigerant, yet many believe that without an increased
enforcement effort, this problem will lead to even greater safety hazards and
tremendous liability issues.
safe, and well established, non-ozone depleting refrigerants, but some HVACR product distributors, and refrigerant users,
have been lured into supporting inferior products because of their cheap price.
Along with the many hazards that flammable refrigerants pose to users and
equipment owners, there are a few other “cheap” R-22 alternative refrigerants
being misrepresented, and subsequently misapplied, that are leading to serious
losses in system efficiency and compressor failures. Products like R-407C are
relatively inexpensive, but are not suitable for use as a direct replacement
for existing R-22 applications without changing the mineral oil to POE oil and
flushing the line sets. The cost of the additional system conversion
requirements make R-407C, and other products with similar requirements, the
least practical option for servicing existing R-22 equipment.
term liabilities associated with selling and using hazardous, and or inferior
R-22 replacements, are causing many to realize that cheap options are very
seldom the best options.
The bottom line is, a cheaper, non-approved EPA product could end up costing more in the long run. It could cause the system to malfunction or lose efficiency. At worst, these unapproved refrigerants are very flammable and basically made of propane which can easily cause an explosion.