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Refrigerant reminders

By Richard Hawkins, MACS contributors

The following are some excerpts from the article Regulatory Update from the February 2022 edition of MACS ACtion.  To read the entire article, please go to the following link:  https://read.nxtbook.com/macs/action_magazine/february_2022/regulatory_update.html

  • By now you’ve probably heard that something is going on with the supply of thirty-pound refrigerant cylinders.  We sure have as the MACS office has taken many calls from members across North America.  They want to know why their local stores have run out of product to sell, and (probably just as important) why the price per cylinder has more than doubled in just a few short weeks. We started getting these calls “supply and price” calls back in mid- November.
  • Last summer, we expected only to see a modest increase in price at this point, considering that the new regulations call for only a 10% reduction for 2022 thru 2024. We also didn’t expect to see shortages of this magnitude.
  • One member in Florida said their supplier (a large national retail auto parts distributor) had completely discontinued sales of 30- pound cylinders of R-134a in central Florida because their main warehouse in Orlando had none in stock (as of December 20, 2021).   
  • A member in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) told MACS that their shop is currently restricted to purchasing only one cylinder at a time (and at a 50% markup on the September price).
  • In California a member commented that their price had tripled, and going back to Florida another member said he cannot get refrigerant from any of his suppliers. His comment was”…even if I could get any, they want to charge me more than double of what I just paid in November.

With all of that going on, indications are that it could be a challenging year keeping adequate supplies of R-134a on hand and it will be more expensive.  In the past when similar conditions have existed some questionable “rogue” refrigerants have appeared in the marketplace.  Sometimes they are blends of various refrigerants.  Sometimes they are counterfeit containers of reputable brands of refrigerant   which are contaminated.  Of the utmost concern are highly flammable refrigerants which are composed of propane and butane.  With that being the case, there is the potential for more of these “rouge” refrigerants to be offered for sale and to be introduced into vehicles this year than there has been for many years.  

To avoid potential problems, the following cautions should be observed:

  • Make sure you use a reputable supplier for refrigerant purchases.
  • If the printing on a refrigerant box or on a cylinder of refrigerant looks to be of poor quality, that is a sign of possible counterfeit refrigerant.
  • Beware of brands of refrigerant that you have never heard of before.
  • Make sure the new refrigerant you purchase meets SAE J2776 and/or the ARI 700-2006 purity standards.  See picture #1.
  • If a deal is offered on refrigerant that seems to be good to be true, it probably is (buyer beware).
  • It’s a good idea to use a refrigerant identifier on each cylinder of virgin refrigerant before any of it is used for charging even if it does come from a reputable supplier.
  • Be sure to use a refrigerant identifier on every vehicle that comes in for service before connecting a manifold gauge set or R/R/R machine to it.

Picture #1: From the MACS Section 609 Certification Training Manual.

This reminds me of a similar time back in the mid-2000s. Supplies of R-134a were tight and the price had come close to tripling from the prior year. Check back in next week and I will recap an interesting conversation I had with a customer who was considering using a rogue refrigerant during that time.

Remember to purchase refrigerant in quantities of two pounds or more you must be Section 609 certified. Learn more about certification here on the MACS website.

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