By Steve Schaeber, MACS Manager of Service Training
Rick Winick, Business Director, leads the Honeywell Fluorine Products Automotive Refrigerants segment. Rick and his team work to ensure global automotive OEM and aftermarket customers can turn to Honeywell as their long-term supplier to meet their need for near drop-in, low-global-warming-potential (LGWP) refrigerants. Under Rick’s direction, the Automotive Refrigerants team collaborates with customers throughout the implementation process—from beginning to end—to be certain the refrigerants Honeywell develops can be easily and economically adapted by global customers, allowing vehicle and equipment manufacturers to meet current and future environmental regulations.
MACS recently had another opportunity to ask Honeywell a few questions, and we’re sharing the conversation with our members. I asked Rick about the ongoing rollout of R-1234yf refrigerant, and what’s going on with regulations and Heavy Duty A/C.
- MACS: Are small cans of R-1234yf being manufactured and/or sold at this time? Has a submission been made / approved by US EPA regarding a unique fitting for small cans of R-1234yf?
Honeywell: No, small cans have not yet been approved by the EPA. Specifically, a SNAP application needs to be submitted and approved.
- MACS: When produced, will small cans of R-1234yf be equipped with self-sealing valves?
Honeywell: The EPA has addressed this as a part of the proposed Section 608 modifications. We believe that any application for the small cans should be aligned with the EPA’s requirements and will work to ensure Solstice yf complies with those requirements, while providing optimal performance for customers.
- MACS: What is Honeywell’s position regarding EPA’s proposed rule to extend the ODS sales restriction to include all mobile A/C refrigerants?
Honeywell: Honeywell supports efforts to reduce emissions of all refrigerants through training and proper services practices.
- MACS: What special considerations must be made by shops regarding the storage of a single cylinder of R-1234yf refrigerant?
Honeywell: NFPA (the National Fire Protection Association) has recommended practices for storing flammable compressed gases. Local regulations generally adopt the NFPA recommended practices. Some, however, may implement more stringent standards. All businesses storing or handling R-1234yf should consult a local regulatory expert on facility design and acceptable practices related to the occupancy class limitations for their operations and businesses.
- MACS: Are there any further considerations necessary for the storage of more than one cylinder, such as a special storage cabinet?
Honeywell: The regulations are not generally related to the number of cylinders but rather the total volume stored in a specific area of the building. The total volume stored dictates the occupancy classification and the requirements. NFPA standards should be referenced along with local building codes.
- MACS: What concerns, if any, are associated with using R-134a in a vehicle originally designed to use R-1234yf? For example, what would happen if R-134a was used to “top off” a vehicle which already contains R-1234yf?
Honeywell: Vehicles and their A/C systems are optimized and validated with a specific refrigerant. Filling a system with a refrigerant different from the original can lead to a sub-optimal cooling performance, as well as potential incompatibilities with the materials, as the refrigerant/oil combination is optimized around the material system selected. Additionally, replacing a low-GWP refrigerant with a higher-GWP alternative is considered by the EPA to be tampering with an emissions control device and is in violation of the Clean Air Act. We strongly recommend that technicians and vehicle owners follow the refrigerant servicing recommendations listed in their vehicle owner’s manual.
- MACS: What progress has been made regarding the use of R-1234yf in medium-duty trucks (Classes 2b and 3)?Has EPA finalized their proposed rule regarding medium duty trucks?
Honeywell: The risk assessment evaluated for light duty vehicles is being expanded for use in the medium-duty truck classes 2b and 3. The rule is not yet finalized, but is being discussed by the EPA and has reached the comment phase. The EPA is optimistic that a regulation/CAFE credit system can be reached by the end of 2016.
- MACS: Going forward, are there any plans to approve the use of R-1234yf in larger vehicles (Class 4 and up)?
Honeywell: The use of R-1234yf in heavy duty vehicles is assumed to be the next phase after classes 2b and 3. Due to their different HVAC architectures and larger refrigerant charge sizes, however, this will require a new risk assessment to gauge the risk of R-1234yf in everyday use, consistent with the risk assessment conducted for light duty vehicles.
- MACS: Has Canada finalized their R-1234yf regulations?
Honeywell: In terms of environmental regulations, yes, yf is approved for import, sale and usage in Canada.
- MACS: Apparently hydrocarbon refrigerants are legal to sell in many parts of Canada. What if someone there decided to replace R-1234yf with a hydrocarbon refrigerant? Is that legal in Canada?
Honeywell: There are no specific laws regarding replacing one refrigerant with another. It is illegal to mix—or top off—two or more refrigerants in one system. In addition to the legal implications, this is a safety issue. Vehicles and their air conditioning systems are optimized and validated with a specific refrigerant. Filling a system with a refrigerant different from how it was originally filled can lead to a sub-optimal cooling performance. In addition, there could be incompatibilities with the materials, as the refrigerant/oil combination is optimized around the material system that was selected. Plus, there is the increased risk of using a more flammable hydrocarbon in a system that was designed for a mildly flammable A2L refrigerant.
- MACS: We’ve seen several vehicle models during the past few years with A/C hoses indicating compatibility with both R-134a and R-1234yf. Are major changes in hose design or construction required to make these hoses compatible with R-1234yf?
Honeywell: SAE standards are in place that require A/C hose manufacturers to validate their hoses for the intended refrigerant(s) and they must be marked to indicate which refrigerant(s) were used. Some hoses might meet validation standards for more than one refrigerant. One of the major differences between hoses for R-134a and hoses for R-1234yf are the charging ports. SAE standards dictate that the charge port fittings be different and unique for the different refrigerants.
- MACS: Are there concerns about technicians misinterpreting these hose markings to mean that these A/C systems can be filled with either R-134a or R-1234yf?
Honeywell: Each vehicle is clearly marked with an under-hood sticker showing refrigerant and oil has been used. The SAE implemented this standard years ago, requiring OEMs to place an easily visible sticker under the hood, listing the refrigerant required in the vehicle. It should be obvious to anyone repairing the A/C system which refrigerant should be used in the vehicle. Hose standards or markings are not currently—nor have they historically been—the indication used by technicians to determine the refrigerant used in the vehicle. In addition the charge ports in the vehicle are designed to be used with either one refrigerant or the other (1234yf or 134a). Hose markings are not a way to determine which refrigerant to use with the system.
Note: Keep in touch with MACS at www.macsw.org to stay on top of the ever-changing world of mobile A/C!