Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Substitute Refrigerant Safety
As R22 prices increase and R22 availability decreases, many technicians have at least thought about using a substitute refrigerant in place of R22. Usually, we are looking for a drop-in which can be used to charge a system instead of R22. My primary consideration is safety. Of course I want any substitute refrigerant to work well and be environmentally friendly, but most of all, I want it to not hurt me or my customers. The refrigerant manufacturer should be able to show that their refrigerant is listed on the EPA SNAP list of acceptable replacement refrigerants. If they can’t, I would not use it. Another source of safety information is the required MSDS sheet. Any chemical sold in the United States must have an MSDS sheet. If the seller cannot provide an MSDS sheet, I would not consider using the refrigerant. The MSDS sheet will list important information such as toxicity and flammability. One replacement refrigerant that is advertised on the internet has enough information on the MSDS sheet to let me know I don’t want any part of it. The proper shipping name is “Petroleum Gasses Liquified.” Other statements include “Vapor may ignite if exposed to static discharge", and "Flammable vapor may form if allowed to mix with air. Accumulation of gas is an ignition hazard. Vapors are heavier than air and may travel to an ignition source." R22 systems are not built to operate safely with a flammable refrigerant. There is no way I would put this in a system designed for R22. Last year technicians were killed while working on refrigerated shipping containers that exploded.(See post about it). They were R22 systems which had been charged with a flammable substitute refrigerant. Although the EPA has recently approved the use of flammable refrigerant in limited charge applications, it is important to note that there are many requirements a system must meet to be safe with flammable refrigerants. R22 systems meet none of these. For more information on flammable refrigerants, take a look at my previous post on Flammable Refrigerants. For more information on R22, take a look at my previous post on R22 Conversion. A couple of simple rules to follow will help keep you safe. Can you buy the refrigerant at your local wholesaler? If you can only get it over the internet or from a guy at a flea market, you don’t want it. Is the refrigerant listed on the EPA SNAP list for the specific application? If not, you don’t want it. Does it seem too good to be true? If so, you probably should avoid it like the plague.