Tag Archive | "Air conditioning"

INDUSTRY CRACKDOWN ON ILLEGAL REFRIGERANT

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INDUSTRY CRACKDOWN ON ILLEGAL REFRIGERANT


By Greg Whitaker

Illegal and potentially hazardous air conditioning gas has been entering the UK and European aftermarket, partly as a result of a reduced supply of legitimate R134a refrigerant, according to a director of Honeywell.

As the EU has been pursuing its climate change policy, the amount of harmful fluorocarbon gasses (known as F-gas) allowed to be sold has reduced significantly in the last few years. The first big cut was in 2018 when the amount of gas allowed in the market was reduced by 37 percent.

Tim Vink, Director of Regulatory Affairs at Honeywell International Inc, explained: “The problem comes when people think ‘I can make a bob out of this’, so they get offers from suppliers, essentially from South-East Asia, and possibly unwittingly started importing gas without having an adequate quota. They’d then offer these products [to the market].”

The problem is apparently so widespread in some places that genuine suppliers face what Vink describes as an ‘existential problem’ for their businesses.

Banned containers

Product that has no business being in the market is obviously harmful to legitimate refrigerant suppliers, but the issue has wider implications: “The problem is, you can’t be sure what is on the packaging label is actually in the container and that could cause serious issues with the functioning of the system. It could have a completely different vapour pressure which could blow up the compressor,” warned Vink. “If you are not using the right lubricant and the compressor runs dry, you get a burn out and all that sort of stuff, so you have to be very careful with the material you put into an air-conditioning system”.

Another concern is the container. Vink said that many of the products taken off the market so far have been in non-certified and non-refillable gas bottles, of a type that has not been legal in Europe since 2006. Honeywell and other F-Gas producers have formed a trade body, known as the European Fluorocarbon Technical Committee, or EFCTC, with the aim of informing the market and pursuing culprits through legal channels.

“The members of EFCTC have taken the initiative to take an integrity line where people can report anonymously if they receive anything suspicious in the market and that information can be used to build a picture of where those products are coming from in the market,” explained Vink. The ‘action line’ and legal action against perpetrators is taken by an independent third party, because as Vink explained: “We are not experts in prosecution and providing the right sort of evidence”.

Action line

The initiative has already seen some success. “Material has been seized in the Netherlands, Spain and Poland,” said Vink. “We as an industry are spending a considerable sum with a third party investigation unit that will go to prosecutors in the countries where material is found”.

Vink believes that the spurious product is being sold both online and by cold callers to aftermarket businesses, offering discount gas. Ultimately, the problem will be relieved by an adequate supply of legitimate gas back in the market and Vink assures us that a low-GWP drop-in replacement for R134a is being worked on at the moment, with a launch slated for early 2020.

Get more information about the EFCTC campaign at fluorocarbons.org

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A/C IN NEW VEHICLE MODELS REQUIRE A GREENER GAS

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A/C IN NEW VEHICLE MODELS REQUIRE A GREENER GAS


PROMOTION ARTICLE ON BEHALF OF AUTODATA

R134a is 1,430 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2). New vehicles are required by law to use a greener refrigerant. Is your workshop prepared?

R134a has been used in the automotive industry for over 20 years. When compared to the progressive development of today’s vehicles and advances in other fluids and lubricants used in the motor industry, change in AC refrigerants is long overdue.

In 2011, the European directive 2006/40/EC came into effect. The new law required all newly designed cars and vans built for use in the EU, and equipped with air conditioning (AC) must use a refrigerant with a global warming potential (GWP) of 150 or lower.

The GWP scale measures how much energy a gas absorbs compared to the same quantity of carbon dioxide (CO2), over 100 years. The higher the number, the bigger the problem! CO2 has a GWP of 1, so the limit set by the European directive for new vehicle refrigerants is 150 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2).

R134a, the automotive industry’s refrigerant of choice before the new law was introduced, has a GWP of 1,430. With its global warming potential significantly higher than the amount set out by the new law, a new refrigerant had to be sourced to replace R134a.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) was considered due to its extremely low GWP, but test results revealed that it worked poorly in very hot climates and required much higher operating pressures. This raised concerns in the industry about safety and the increase in fuel consumption. A new refrigerant that met the requirements set out by the directive was eventually identified. HFO-1234yf or R1234yf, as it is commonly known, has a GWP of just 4. So, it’s easy to see why this refrigerant was selected to replace R134a.

When R1234yf was first introduced into the automotive industry, there were safety concerns about the new refrigerant’s flammability. However, due to the environmental benefits of a gas with such a low impact on the atmosphere, simple solutions have been adopted to utilise this gas. To ensure that the repair industry is aware of R1234yf’s flammability, refrigerant labels contain a flame and some manufacturers have even included this symbol on the service connector cap.

The service connectors are almost identical to those used on the R134a predecessor, but subtle differences ensure dedicated R1234yf charging systems must be used to prevent cross contamination, as these refrigerants cannot be mixed.

Can you spot the subtle differences between R1234yf (left) and R134a (right) service connectors?

Due to the large number of R134a equipped vehicles, dual charging stations are available to cater for the legacy refrigerant as well as the ‘new kid on the block’, R1234yf. These consist of separate refrigerant tanks and hoses for evacuating and charging the AC circuits.

For those that already own an R134a charging station, specific R1234yf equipment is also available, making it an attractive proposition for workshops looking to delve into the R1234yf market.

However, the cost of the new refrigerant is currently significantly higher than R134a. Workshops offering recharge services should be mindful of this when planning any fixed price offers. For those looking to offer AC charging for the first time, any technician carrying out this work will also need to be F-Gas certified.

Autodata’s dedicated Service Air Conditioning module, provides technicians with all the manufacturer approved technical information required to safely and effectively service AC systems using both types of refrigerants. To find out more and to try Autodata today, visit www.autodata-group.com.

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