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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 - 06:00
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Sold in 10-pound containers, expect R1234yf to cost about 10x more than 134a. Image courtesy of DuPont

The European Commission was the first to act on HFCs, or “F” gases. In 2006 or so (EU Directive 2006/40/EC), it officially banned the use of R134a in new model platforms for sale in the European Union beginning Jan. 1, 2011, and gradually phasing out use in new vehicles for sale all together Jan. 1, 2017.

What model year are we in? Keep that in mind.

Specifically, the EU MACS Directive requires the use of a substitute refrigerant that has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) under 150. GWP is a comparative measurement of how greenhouse gases trap in the atmosphere, with carbon dioxide as the baseline (CO2 has a GWP of 1). R134a has a GWP of 1,300, meaning 1 gram of R134a is 1,300 times more harmful that 1 gram of CO2. While it will not meet the requirements in the EU for use in new cars, it is important to note that this directive is not a phase-out, but a phase-down. That means vehicles on the road already can continue to use R134a until they naturally pass out of the fleet.

The EPA’s proposed rule means the same thing here in the United States. They are not banning the use of R134a EXCEPT for use on new vehicles. So the answer to one of the questions on everyone’s mind is that there are currently no plans to retrofit any existing R134a system to a different gas. Thank goodness, you’ll be saying, as we continue this discussion.

So, with what are we going to replace R134a? You might think you know the answer.

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