For years, R22 refrigerant was used in the majority of in-home air conditioning systems and considered the king of refrigeration. Well, the times have certainly changed.
Since January 2020, the production and importation of R22 has been banned, allowing only for continuing use of R22 from recycled or stockpiled reserves because of its negative impact on the environment. By January 2030, the EPA’s goal is to phase out the use of R22 almost entirely.
Considering that the majority of air conditioning and other cooling systems manufactured and installed before 2010, when heavy R22 regulations began, utilize R22 refrigerant, these mandates have changed much about the education and practices of HVAC technicians when it comes to refrigerants.
It has spurred us in the HVAC industry to explore and understand more environmentally and efficient refrigerant alternatives as well as inspired technicians to educate their customers on the matter. After all, the phasing out of R22 refrigerant is also going to put customers in the position to make some important decisions regarding their systems as well.
When those questions and decisions do come up, as an HVAC technician or a technician in training it’ll be your responsibility to help your customers make the best and most informed decisions for understanding and replacing their R22 refrigerant systems.
Here are some of the most important things for you and your customers to understand about R22 refrigerant.
Why R22 refrigerant is banned
The reason refrigerant has fallen under so much scrutiny over the past few decades is the negative impact it has been found to have on the environment. Refrigerants can produce emissions that are destructive to the Earth’s ozone layer and contribute to global warming.
This revelation spurred the EPA and governments across the world to begin enforcing stricter regulations on the use of refrigerants and creating new required certifications for HVAC technicians on the handling and disposal of refrigerant, such as the EPA 608 Certification.
So, while 2020 was a year that ramped up restrictions on production and importing of R22 refrigerant, regulations on environmentally harmful refrigerant has been ongoing for decades, with 2010 being a major turning point.
Your customers can continue to use their equipment
The most common question you are likely to encounter from your customers regarding their R22 refrigerant units is “am I still allowed to use it?” The answer is, of course, yes. While the ban exists to cease the production and import of R22, it doesn’t ban the ongoing use of it. So, it is important to put your customer’s mind at ease on this fact.
However, while the ongoing use of their current system is fine, it will present some serious issues for them going forward. As their HVAC technician, someone they should value and trust as an expert in your field, you do have an obligation to inform your customers of what they will be dealing with long term with these systems.
Maintaining their R22 refrigerant system is going to cost them
Because of the ban in production and import, ongoing repairs and replacements on R22 refrigerant systems will have to come from the remaining stockpile of reserves – a stockpile that will continue to rapidly dwindle over the next few years.
As supply diminishes and repair and maintenance demand for these systems (many of which installed before 2010) increases, it will create a landscape in which the cost of these repairs will rise and rise and rise. In the next few years, a refrigerant replacement job that would normally be fairly straightforward and relatively inexpensive will cost your customers a great deal more because of the limited supply.
As you encounter customers with cooling systems that utilize R22, it is a good idea to make this situation known to them and help them understand their options going forward. They may be stubborn and OK with paying more for the sake of living with their system until it finally kicks the bucket. However, you should make them at least understand the value of upgrading and replacing their cooling systems with more efficient and environmentally friendly modern systems.
As HVAC technicians continue to work in a post-R22 world, knowing the available R22 alternatives will help you be a better and more well-rounded HVAC technician, as well as become a more valuable resource for your customers when they are searching for replacements for their outdated cooling systems.
While no refrigerant is perfect and each has their own pluses and minuses, our preferred R22 alternative is R421a. R421a has 0 ODP, is non-flammable, is useful in a number of different applications, can in many cases can be used as a direct R22 replacement, and most importantly is one of the more environmentally friendly refrigerants available.
R32, R407c, and other greener refrigerant alternatives are also available and preferred by some. Like we said, there is no end-all be-all refrigerant choice. Good HVAC technicians will familiarize themselves with as many as they can and come to their own conclusions as to which they prefer and recommend to their customers.
The Training Center of Heating and Air Conditioning takes the health of the beautiful world around us very seriously, so refrigerant education is something we take very seriously and even make EPA 608 certification a part of the requirements for graduation from our school.
If you are interested in learning more about a career in HVAC as a technician, check out upcoming schedule of classes to find the session that best suits you.
If you have spent any time around HVAC, either in a classroom or just chatting up an HVAC technician, there is a decent chance you’ve heard the expression “beer can cold.” “Beer can cold” is an expression that originated in the early days of air conditioning, back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. It was created to describe the temperature at which an air conditioning system has been properly charged with refrigerant.
The idea is if you were to grab a properly charged suction line it would be as cold as a cold beer can. It is also a completely irrelevant, incorrect, and outdated expression that shouldn’t be applied anywhere near modern-day HVAC. In fact, if you ever hear a fellow HVAC technician using that term earnestly turn the other direction and run away.
“Beer can cold” is an expression that no longer holds any relevance for HVAC technicians and should be left in the past. If you are an HVAC technician or in training to become one, here are three reasons to forget everything you may know about “beer can cold.”
What is “beer can cold” anyway?
One of the biggest arguments against “beer can cold” is that in a very precise industry this kind of measurement is not even remotely precise. What is the exact temperature of “beer can cold?” You can technically drink beer at any range of cold temperatures and different folks may have a different take on what the ideal temperature of a cold beer is.
Also, a beer out of a cooler full of ice maybe 32 degrees and one out of the fridge maybe 35 to 38 degrees, but they feel relatively the same to the touch. Air conditioners today are manufactured with distinct specifications on charging temperatures, and the tools HVAC technicians have at our disposal today make taking accurate temperatures much simpler than relying on getting a relative temperature by hand.
“Beer can cold” is misleading
Extremely hot working conditions are very common for HVAC technicians, especially here in Houston. If you were to grab a suction line that is about 50 degrees on a 100-degree day outside, that suction line is going to feel extraordinarily cold even though it is only 50 degrees. Now, if you grab that same suction line when it is only 60 degrees outside, it is not going to feel anywhere near as cold. Also, if there is a lot of moisture in the air, the suction line will be wet and feel colder than a dry line at the same temperature.
Aside from not having an exact reading for “beer can cold,” taking a temperature by hand can lead to horribly inaccurate and misleading readings that can lead to serious errors during installation and repair. Using this method on the job will likely cause you to make serious mistakes.
It’s not the ‘50s anymore
The truth about “Beer can cold” is that even though it is an expression that began in the ‘50s, it was an outdated expression even back then. So much about air conditioning in the past 60 years. Back then, compressors were oversized, coils had a lot of extra space, and fan motors were higher in horsepower. Flexibility in the charging of refrigerants was not a significant issue since a pound over or under would not cause any drastic changes.
Today’s air conditioning units are built much differently. Units are built to be just big enough, their coils are not oversized and their compressors are barely large enough. This all makes the efficiency rating of units higher, but also means the charge of refrigerant has to be within 2 ounces of the correct amount. Unlike the old days, air conditioners require a much higher level of precision.
The mantra of “beer can cold” is not only outdated, it was truthfully never a helpful or accurate reading to begin with. Here at the Training Center of Heating and Air Conditioning, we teach our students how to use the advanced techniques and tools at their disposal to do the job and charge the air conditioners they work on the right way, leaving “beer can cool” where it belongs: In your hands after a hard day’s work and you are relaxing at home in your hammock.
Learn more about enrolling in upcoming classes at the Training Center of Heating and Air Conditioning here.
Being an HVAC technician involves a lot of very technical and precise work, particularly when it comes to AC installation. This is why a proper education and training is so important for a long and successful career in the industry.
Unfortunately, not all technicians get things right during AC installations. In fact, there are a few practices that HVAC technicians actually get wrong more often than not. Why is that? It could be many things from displacency to simply not receiving proper education.
So, why is it important to talk about the shortcomings of AC technicians? In such a precise field that so many people rely on for their important service, these shortcomings are unacceptable. For those that are considering pursuing a career as a certified HVAC technician it is just as important to know the wrong way as the right way.
As an HVAC professional, you want to strive to provide the best care and service to your customers that depend on you to stay safe and cool. Knowing where others in the industry fall short can help you know where you can avoid the same pitfalls and become a more successful AC technician.
Keep in mind these common mistakes that HVAC technicians make during AC installation. You’ll notice the biggest pattern that emerges from these improper installation missteps is that they each can have serious negative impacts on the performance, efficiency, and lifespan of the air conditioning unit.
70% of technicians don’t follow proper vacuum procedures
One of the most important things technicians ignore not following proper AC vacuum procedures during installation. Vacuuming is important because it helps remove any excess moisture left within the system. Over time, moisture build up can cause long term damage from poor performance, corrosion, and even freezing with the AC system. Never skip this important step in the post-installation process.
70% of technicians don’t adjust for proper air flow
Ensuring an air conditioner has been adjusted for proper air flow ensures that it can efficiently and easily keep in-home air cool and comfortable for the customer. Proper air flow lets air more easily reach all the nooks and crannies, ensuring no random hot spots. When not adjusted properly, the system has a harder time performing and has to put in extra effort to keep the home cool, which not only can shoot up a customer’s utility bill but also causes AC’s to burn out faster than they should.
70% of technicians don’t charge unit per manufacturer recommendations
Correctly charging your customer’s AC system will ensure there is proper refrigeration to pull out hot air and keep their home cool. However, despite the fact that most manufacturers provide step-by-step instructions and offer their best practice recommendations, this correctly charging units often gets overlooked. The result is either an undercharged unit that can’t keep up with the heat and overwork itself or an overcharged unit that is loud and draws far more energy than it needs to.
90% of air conditioning installations are incorrect
Since these three steps during AC installations are so important, it may not be surprising to hear that more installations are done incorrectly than not. But, for an industry that prides itself on hard workers and providing a necessary service to its customers, this is a number that simply cannot continue to last.
Here at the Training Center for Air Conditioning and Heating, we are attempting to lower the statistics through a comprehensive training and education program for the next generation of HVAC technicians. The course is designed to teach students the skills and techniques required for entry-level employment into the residential and light commercial heating ventilating and air conditioning so that they can not just install and repair heating and cooling systems, but do it the right way to better serve their customers and help make them a more successful professional.
Interested in enrolling in an upcoming class? Learn more about how to join here.