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The new A/C challenges

The days of R134a are nearing an end. What challenges will that bring us?
Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - 07:00
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GWP is a comparative number, with CO2 as the baseline. Here is a comparison of the different refrigerants and the EU requirement.

In early February, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its plans to issue a proposed rule that would eliminate the use of R134a as a refrigerant in new motor vehicles and as an aerosol in many consumer products. According to the press release, this action is being taken in support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to “develop an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in the U.S.”

I hate to say it, but I told you this was coming almost 5 years ago in a blog I wrote for our online community, the AutoPro Workshop.

What does this all mean for our industry? Will we see a repeat of the R12 phase-out many of us experienced firsthand? Will we be performing retrofits to older systems, and if so, with what?

To understand the future, we need to review a little history.

Climate change and R134a

Get used to seeing this label, and notice both the flammability warning and the qualified technician-only symbol. Image courtesy of MACS

No matter your personal opinions on global warming and climate change, most authorities agree that R134a is not a good thing for the environment. Quantities of R134a in our atmosphere have grown steadily over the years, and it (along with other hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs) acts as an insulating blanket surrounding our planet. Its lifespan is estimated at more than 13 years, so the impact is multiplied over time.

How it all got there is a matter of debate, but let’s just say that is one reason organizations like the Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) and noted members of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Interior Climate Control committee have been advocating the ban of small DIY cans of refrigerant like those you can find in every Walmart in the country.

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