Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might have heard about the new regulations and requirements for R-1234yf usage. Not sure? Well, it’s time you crawled out from under that rock and get ready for some of these new regulations that will affect you and your profession.
SAE standard J2843, for “R-1234yf (HFO-1234yf) recovery equipment for refrigerants used in mobile air conditioning systems,” establishes the minimum equipment requirements for the recovery, recycling and recharging of R-1234yf. This regulation covers all the refrigerant that has been removed, filtered and reused for any mobile air conditioning system designated as an R-1234yf system.
During the past four years, R-1234yf has been adopted by automakers before the 2021 mandate. Many vehicles with R-1234yf are now out of warranty. Sooner or later, one of your customers will bring one to your shop.
Don’t worry, R-12 and R-134a will not be phased out, but they will be regulated and taxed heavily. This is good news for shops because the days of DIY A/C repair in a can are numbered.
Most shops have been cruising along with their R-134a recovery machines for the past 20 years. As long as it was making money and pushing refrigerant, not much thought was given to the machine’s overall condition. Of course, some shops make it a habit of changing the filter on a regular basis or at least once at the beginning of the season, but for others it’s not on their “to-do” list at all.
The biggest difference with the new generation of machines is automation of the recovery, recycle and recharge process. Many of these functions are carried out without any technician intervention. In the past, all of these processes were left up to the shop or technician and were loosely monitored. The latest requirements for the new recovery machines have taken the decision making out of the operator’s hands and have taken control of a lot of these concerns when determining the integrity of the system. If there is a problem, the machine stops the process and alerts the operator. This includes if the machine detects a problem with the purity of the refrigerant in the system.
Refrigerant identification is a big concern because of the small capacities of R-1234yf that are required for newer systems. Some newer system require only 12- to 14-ounces of refrigerant to fully function. Any contamination or blended refrigerants can quickly impair the thermal transfer.
Identify, Identify, Identify
All recovery machines should meet the J2843 and J2927 or J2912 government standards. SAE J2927 is for built-in refrigerant identifiers. (Recovery machines that can service both R-134a and R-1234yf systems are covered by SAE J3030.) New SAE standards for recovery, recycling and recharging machines require integration with a refrigerant identifier. This is to avoid cross-contamination. Most machines just determine the purity.
Even if an A/C machine can identify a refrigerant, the downtime and loss of productivity can cost your shop money. With most new SAE standard A/C machines costing more than $5,000, it makes sense to prevent a contaminated vehicle or cylinder from being connected to your A/C machine. A refrigerant analyzer can be an effective “firewall” to protect your machines and refrigerant inventory. An analyzer can also be used as a diagnostic tool if a vehicle has compressor function, but is not able to effectively cool the vehicle.
Another benefit of an external refrigerant identification tool is to make sure your cylinders for refrigerants are what they claim to be. Some suppliers may blend or recover refrigerants from salvaged vehicles. These mixes may include R-1234yf, R-134a and R22. In some cases, hydrocarbons like propane have been found. Some refrigerant may also contain excessive amounts of moisture.
The other factor that might cause a system to be contaminated is the human component based on the expense. The cost of the new refrigerants means there is a greater chance of a “bootleg” R-1234yf, R-134a and blended refrigerants getting into the marketplace.
In the past, filter replacement on older machines was often neglected or, in some cases, completely ignored. However, the new standards have stepped up the priority of filter replacement to a point that you will not be able to ignore it or overlook it anymore. To meet this new mandate for moisture and contaminant removal, the filter must be replaced after 331 lbs. of refrigerant has been filtered through the machine.