Change is constant with A/C service and equipment

Technical Editor Dave Cappert answers your questions about A/C service.


DO A/C SYSTEM LEAKS HAVE TO BE REPAIRED BY LAW?

EPA does not make leak repair mandatory; however it’s usually the most economical alternative for your customers. Furthermore, proper refrigerant charge is essential for good system lubrication flow. Otherwise, serious system damage may result. With that said, there are some areas of the country that have chosen to supersede the EPA requirements by requiring leak repair. To be sure, check with your state and local authorities.

I RECEIVED MY SECTION 609 TECHNICIAN CERTIFICATION A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO. ARE THERE ANY REQUIREMENTS TO UPDATE OR RECERTIFY IN THIS CREDENTIAL?

At the present time, the EPA does not have a recertification provision in place. This may change, however, as developments in A/C system refrigerants and regulations change. For the latest information, along with a list of approved credentialing organizations, check: www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/609/technicians/609certs.html

ARE THERE ANY REQUIREMENTS RELATED TO THE EQUIPMENT I USE FOR REFRIGERANT HANDLING?

Yes, shops must certify to EPA that they have acquired and are properly using approved refrigerant recovery equipment. The information provided to the EPA must include the name and address of the service establishment, the name of the equipment manufacturer, equipment model and serial number, and equipment date of manufacture.

I'VE HEARD RUMORS THAT CARBON DIOXIDE IS SLATED TO BE THE "NEXT BIG THING" IN REFRIGERANTS FOR MOTOR VEHICLE AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEMS. SHOULD I START GEARING UP?

Not so fast. Over the last several years, it looked like CO2 (also referred to as R744) would become the refrigerant heir-apparent to R-134a, which has been around since the early 1990s. CO2 was heavily favored in Europe, mainly because of its ultra-low, Global-Warming Potential rating of 1 and that momentum appeared as though it was going to persuade the North American market to move in the same direction. Yet, just when it appeared as though CO2 looked like the sure thing, another alternative refrigerant emerged as a likely R-134a successor. Known as HFO-1234yf, it has a GWP rating of 4, which is somewhat higher than that of CO2.

There are a couple of reasons for the change of heart away from CO2. First, HFO-1234yf’s performance most closely resembles that of R-134a. Because of this parallel, it can bring reduced manufacturing changeover costs, since the main parts of the system require few changes. Second, even though HFO-1234yf’s GWP is 4, this refrigerant actually yields the least overall net impact on global warming. That’s because it takes less fuel to power an MVAC system charged with HFO-1234yf. Since CO2 runs at much higher pressures, it simply takes more fuel for compressor operation.

WHEN WILL NEW CARS COME FROM THE FACTORY WITH THIS NEW REFRIGERANT?

It’s possible that HFO-1234yf may be used as the original factory refrigerant starting with 2012 models. Remember, this is a preliminary estimate that’s subject to change by influences from the industry. We’ll make sure to pass on the latest developments as soon as they become available. As we’ve already seen in this arena, nothing is constant but change.

Submit your tool questions for “Tool Q&A” to Editor Brendan Dooley at brendan@pten.com. Please put “Tool Q&A” in your email subject line.

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