David Callender CMS
Technical Support Supervisor
By now most of us in the HVAC industry are aware of and have been affected by the rising cost of R-22 due to the EPA allocation announcement earlier this year. For those of us involved with the refrigerant side of the industry, this announcement did not come as a surprise. We were well aware that the R-22 supply was abundant and its phase out was not meeting EPA expectations. We see this announcement by the EPA as the inevitable phase out of HCFC’s happening sooner rather than later. Whether we like it or not, R-22 is going away and technicians need to look at their best options and solutions to work with the phase out. One of my responsibilities in the Technical Support Department is to take phone calls from technicians. I field several phone calls a day from technicians and ACR equipment owners from all across the country. With this latest issue with R-22, many of these calls are related to the skyrocketing price of the refrigerant and its limited availability. They want to know what is happening, why it’s happening so fast, and what their options are. An option available to all competent service technicians is to recover and recycle refrigerant. NOTE: Recycling refrigerant is the basic process of removing particulate matter, moisture and acid with a filter drier, or series of driers, and possibly separating some of the oil. This on-site process does not purify refrigerants and should not be confused with Reclamation. Onsite recycling has been an option for many years but not seriously considered until now due to the uncertainty and rising cost of R-22. Many technicians in the field today were not around during the CFC phase out so they may not be familiar with proper recovery, recycle, and reclaim procedures. A disturbing trend we are hearing about recently, to avoid purchasing expensive R-22 and to save time on the job, is that some technicians are recovering R-22 and recharging equipment with the same R-22 but without any chemical analysis or using any accepted recycling procedures. I can say as a veteran service technician, with over thirty years of field experience, this practice should not even be considered. It can lead to a number of serious and expensive problems including repetitive service calls (call backs) and even system failure. What was considered a time and cost saving procedure, at the time, will commonly become an expensive and labor intensive headache. On-site recycling of refrigerant is a growing concern and we encourage users to return their recovered refrigerant to an EPA certified refrigerant reclaim service provider (now commonly offered by most wholesale distributors). This will insure the refrigerant is distilled properly and returned to a virgin standard of purity (ARI-700). Here a few simple ways that service technicians can reduce the potential for system contamination.
• When possible, check for acid. If acid is present, replace recovered refrigerant with new. Cleaning contaminated refrigerant in the field is not practical. • Ensure the recovery tank is clean and dry. Pull it into a good vacuum. • During the recovery process, run the refrigerant through a filter/dryer. • Install new filter/dryer on equipment and vacuum to 500 microns prior to recharging.
We know time is an important factor, but this is one area that taking a shortcut should not be considered. Doing it right the first time will help prevent costly call backs. Do your part to keep comfort cooling affordable.
David Callender is a NATE certified technician with over 30 years of service experience in the commercial HVACR industry. He is a Certificate Member Specialist of the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society and has been a Technical Support Supervisor for ICOR International, Inc . since 2006.