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All change for air-con refrigerants

aircon recycling
Are you geared up for R1234yf?
Nothing ever stays still for long, and air-con refrigerants are no exception. From the beginning of 2013, most manufacturers have been using the latest spec, R1234yf in vehicles. Are you geared up for it?

So what’s this latest change all about? We have all heard about the damaging effects on the ozone layer caused by refrigerant gases and the drive has been to mitigate this problem. To that end, refrigerants are rated for their ‘Global Warming Potential’ or GWP and under current law, all type approved vehicles from Jan 2011 must use a refrigerant with a GWP of 150 or less.

To put this into perspective, the most common refrigerant we come across in vehicles is R134a and that has a GWP of 1300 which is way above 150! The new kid on the block, R1234yf has a GWP of only 4.

The news about R1234yf isn’t all good, and three manufacturers (Mercedes, VAG and we think BMW) are still not using the new gas on safety grounds. R1234yf is flammable to an extent and requires a suitable recovery unit, so don’t go near it with a naked flame. Safety issues have been shown to be unfounded but until there is more clarity we can’t comment how the German manufacturers will proceed. The rest of the car industry are using R1234yf now and vehicle are finding their way into dismantler's yards already, making it impossible for those companies not geared up to complete the work.

It has taken from 2011 until now for vehicle manufacturers to use the new gas because there was a world wide shortage which had to be overcome prior to use but the refrigerant is now readily available from refrigerant suppliers in 5kg cylinders.

Another big difference in the new gas is cost. Whereas R134a retails in the region of £10.00 per kg, R1234yf costs £260.00 per kg but the price is anticipated to fall to around £110 per kg - still substantially more than R134a. For the dismantler this should mean added value if the refrigerant is recovered and recycled. R134a and R1234yf must not be mixed and new equipment is required to drain and/or recharge systems filled with R1234yf.

That brings us to another issue with air-con systems - what to do about hybrids? With the range and volumes of hybrids increasing there are some issues we have to consider. Electrically driven compressors are fitted to a wider range of vehicle these days, including conventional systems. They use integrated electric motors where the windings are submerged in the compressor oil similar to a domestic fridge. Often they use DC current which if the wrong lubricant is used, tracking can occur resulting in electric shock. PAG oil is used in conventional vehicle air-con compressors so equipment used for those vehicles must not be used when handling hybrid and EV systems. Recharging must be done with clean designated equipment or an automatic charging station with an internal flushing facility.

The latest range of refrigerant charging machines supplied by JAVAC from TEXA are specifically designed to recover R1234yf and R134a (if required and a duel machine is very useful) as well as manage any oil recovery and recharging. The variations and combinations of lubricants and refrigerants for all vehicles, including Hybrid/Electric which will soon appear with R1234yf as standard require new equipment. By 2017 all new vehicles must be charged with a refrigerant of 150GWP or less, although R134a will be available for many years to come.

When it comes to qualifications, there is no requirement for holding a refrigerants handling certificate. This is due to the low GWP aspect, although the flammability and value of the refrigerant should dictate that a qualified person be designated to control any procedures undertaken on these vehicle.

This area can be rather confusing and if anyone wants clarification on what they should be doing, then contact JAVAC who helped us with this article, or your current supplier of refrigerant handling equipment. Email JAVAC here, Visit JAVC's website or phone them on 01642 232880.

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