• SkillCat Team

Refrigerant Management

EPA 608 Type 1 Chapter 4 (Take full course for free)


In this module, we will review retrofitting and discuss restrictions on using hydrocarbons in retrofit applications. We will also look at how mixed refrigerant affects appliances and talk about how to prevent the mixing of refrigerants. Skip to quiz!


1. Retrofit Refrigerants


Recall that retrofitting is the modification of systems components in order to use different refrigerants in the system. Generally, we retrofit systems that operated on phased out CFC or HCFC refrigerants in order to use new refrigerant blends.


For example, since R-22 is phased out, we could modify or retrofit an R-22 system to operate on a different refrigerant like R-407c. SNAP regulates what refrigerants are acceptable for retrofit, depending on the appliance’s category.

Make sure that the refrigerant you want to retrofit for is approved by SNAP as acceptable for use as a substitute in that category. For example, if we want to retrofit a household refrigerator containing R-22, we want to look for acceptable substitutes for retrofitting household refrigerators.


SNAP regulates the use of a refrigerant for retrofitting separate from new appliances. For example, SNAP can find a refrigerant acceptable as a substitute for retrofit purposes but not acceptable as a substitute for use in new appliances.


For the household refrigerators and freezers, SNAP deems R-407c:

  • Acceptable as a substitute in retrofit applications, but

  • Not acceptable as a substitute in new appliances

Alternative refrigerants that are labeled acceptable substitutes by the SNAP program may be used in existing systems. But these alternative refrigerants cannot be used without retrofitting, or modifying components of the system. The system must first be modified to accommodate the alternative refrigerant.


A drop-in refrigerant is a refrigerant that can be used as a replacement for the original refrigerant without any modifications to the system. According to the EPA, there are no “drop-in” substitute refrigerants for R-22. We must retrofit a system in order to use another refrigerant in the system.


Remember that we cannot retrofit a system to operate on hydrocarbon refrigerants. This is because they are highly flammable and it would be dangerous if retrofit components failed. Hydrocarbons can only be factory charged.


2. Mixed Refrigerant


The thermal properties of a refrigerant allow the refrigerant to go through phase changes at specific temperatures and pressures. This needs to happen in order for the refrigerant to do its job of moving heat from one place to another.


Mixed or contaminated refrigerants can have unpredictable thermal properties. The unpredictable properties cause the compressor to operate inefficiently and can cause damage to components.


Imagine mixing diesel and regular gasoline together and then using the mixture in your car. This is essentially what is happening if we put contaminated refrigerant in our system.


Recall that refrigerant must be reclaimed to virgin specifications in order to change ownership. We need to send the refrigerant to an EPA certified reclaimer to get the refrigerant reclaimed.


If you send mixed or contaminated refrigerant to be reclaimed, the reclaimer may either

  • Refuse to accept it, or

  • Charge you extra to try to remove contaminants from the refrigerant.

To prevent the mixing of refrigerants, we need to first check what refrigerant is contained in an appliance. If you are recovering refrigerant, make sure that the recovery cylinder is used for the same refrigerant as what is inside the appliance.


For example, let’s say we check the appliance and see that it contains R-22 refrigerant. We’ll need to make sure to recover the refrigerant using a recovery cylinder that is only used for R-22.


Recall that recovery cylinders can only be used for one type of refrigerant. For example, recovery cylinders previously used for R-12 cannot be used to recover R-22 refrigerant. This would contaminate the refrigerant you are recovering.


If you discover that refrigerant is mixed, you must turn it in to a reclaimer to try to get it reclaimed. The reclaimer will access whether the refrigerant can be restored to virgin specifications for the refrigerant. If not, you will likely have to pay a fee for the reclaimer to destroy the refrigerant.


3. Conclusion


In this module, we looked at two refrigerant management practices: retrofitting and preventing the mixing of refrigerants. In order to use a different refrigerant in any system, the system must first be modified to operate on the new refrigerant.


We want to prevent mixing of refrigerant because reclaimers can refuse to reclaim it or charge you extra. And mixed refrigerant can cause component failure so we don’t want that in our appliances anyway. If you discover any refrigerant is mixed, you must turn it in to a reclaimer to try to reclaim it.


Question #1: If a household freezer contains R-22, we can retrofit it to operate on:

  1. R-12

  2. R-600a

  3. R-410a

  4. None of these

Scroll down for the answer...











If a household freezer contains R-22, we can retrofit it to operate on R-410a.

When we retrofit appliances, we modify components of the system to operate on a newer refrigerant. Generally, this will be a refrigerant blend that is much more environmentally friendly.

  1. R-12 is a CFC refrigerant. This would be going backwards in terms of environmental friendliness. R-12 is actually worse than R-22 in ozone depletion

  2. Hydrocarbons are not approved for retrofit applications in the category of household refrigerators and freezers, as covered in the SNAP module

  3. Correct, this is a possible candidate for retrofit

  4. Incorrect because (c) is a possible answer

Question #2: For R-22, there are no drop-in substitutes.

  1. True

  2. False

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True!

The EPA does not recognize any drop-in substitutes for systems that operate on R-22.

If we want to use a new refrigerant in an R-22 system, we must retrofit it.


Question #3: Which of the following is not correct for household refrigerators?

  1. Hydrocarbons are sometimes not approved for retrofit applications

  2. Hydrocarbons are highly flammable

  3. Hydrocarbons can only be factory charged

  4. Hydrocarbons are acceptable substitutes with use conditions

Scroll down for the answer...










Hydrocarbons are sometimes not approved for retrofit applications

  1. False. Hydrocarbons are not approved for retrofit applications for household refrigerators

  2. True

  3. True

  4. True

Question #4: Contaminated refrigerants can cause the appliance to:

  1. Last longer

  2. Cool less efficiently

  3. Optimize cooling

  4. None of these

Scroll down for the answer...











Cool less efficiency

Contaminated refrigerants in a system will decrease cooling efficiency and even cause the system to fail.


Question #5: Which of the following is true?

  1. You can only sell refrigerant that is reclaimed to virgin specifications

  2. Reclaimers can refuse to accept contaminated refrigerant

  3. Reclaimers can charge extra for processing contaminated refrigerant

  4. All of these

Scroll down for the answer...










All of these are true.


Question #6: If we have two HFC refrigerants, we can use the same recovery cylinder because they are the same type of refrigerant.

  1. True

  2. False

Scroll down for the answer...











False!

We can only recover one type of refrigerant in any recovery cylinder.

Even though they may be both HFC refrigerants, they still have different properties. For example, R-32 and R-134a are both HFC refrigerants. But they must be recovered using different recovery cylinders because they still have different properties.


Question #7: If we find refrigerant that is mixed, what must we do?

  1. Destroy it

  2. Send it to the EPA to be reclaimed

  3. Send it to SkillCat to be reclaimed

  4. Send it to a certified reclaiming facility to try to reclaim it

Scroll down for the answer...











Send it to a certified reclaiming facility to try to reclaim it

Recall that reclaiming can only be done by a certified reclaiming facility. If this is not clear, you can review our Section 608 Core module.

If refrigerant is found to be mixed, we must send it to a reclaimer so they can try to process it to virgin specifications.


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