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Thread: R-22A : An HVAC Disaster in the Making!

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    "Yes... I AM IRONMAN..." 60dgrzbelow0's Avatar
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    R-22A : An HVAC Disaster in the Making!

    Thanks to the need to keep ourselves, our children and our grandchildren from getting skin cancer from over-exposure to Ultraviolet radiation from the sun, the laws regulating the use of CFCs (Chloro-Fluoro-Carbons) and HCFCs (Hydro-Chloro-Fluoro-Carbons) have been in effect for several decades now to cause the elimination, removal, recovery and recycling of these refrigerants. Their less offensive replacements however, while not being the great destroyer of the Ozone Layer, are nonetheless still regulated by the EPA and in conjunction with other legal limiters and restrictions because they are still classified as "Green House Gases". These realities have pretty much marginalized any of us who might imagine working on our own in-home HVAC problems and fixing things along the way as almost being out of the question.

    For the last few weeks, I've been cobbling together a raft of cooling fans that move with my family members from room to room like a troop of quartered soldiers while I've been cobbling together all the replacement parts and pieces to replace the dead air handler up in my attic. Naturally, since I cannot buy the parts I need without having to deal with the professional HVAC Parts Houses that often refuse to sell anything to lay persons, eBay and Craig's List have come in handy while finding replacements such as the 3 Ton Trane AH and a decent TVX to simplify the liquid line metering at the evaporator inside.

    It was during some of these searches that I came across what I thought would be an almost too-good-to-be-true replacement for the R-22 that leaked out of a weakened brazing point in the old, worn out and FUBARd evaporator coil. The stuff was called R-22A and was touted as being a more efficient refrigerant than the stock R-22 gas, and also had the added ability of keeping the compressor head pressure much lower and needed a fraction of the amount usually required. The last and probably most significant aspect of this R-22A was that it could be purchased without the need for a license, since the new gas was not regulated by the EPA. Well... so far, so good ...I thought...and so without further ado... I ordered the stuff from an eBay company. I mean just imagine... it uses the same equipment and gauges with no changes necessary in either the compressor fridge oil or physical hardware... Pretty Cool ...right? Wrong... Very Wrong...

    Some few days later... I started looking on some HVAC forums to get all the safety dope I wanted to know about the need to replace the various sections of Hi/Lo coolant lines in the attic and the importance of not allowing any air and moisture in the lines while brazing everything back together using Dry Nitrogen Gas to purge the system...when some of members mentioned something about "This NEW stuff called R-22A...Doesn't it have an additive that prevents or limits its COMBUSTION?..." I thought... You mean this sh*t burns? Uh Ohhh... Fire???!!! WTF???? So I read on for the reply as an experienced HVAC member was chuckling through his response by saying, "Yeah... but only if they sell you a Fire Extinguisher with each pound of the stuff..." So now I thought to myself, "Dammit, Bob... You Dumb-Ass!!! You should have done more research before flying off the handle and buying this stuff on impulse!"

    Well... after doing the Boo-Koo Research I should have started with... I found out what the deal was: R-22A is nothing more than a highly refined gas mixture of Propane and Butane fuel. Apparently, such Hydro-Carbon "HC" gas mixtures possess the same incredible ability to act as refrigerants that rival even the CFCs like R-12 and R-22... with the darker side being that should this gas ever escape its confinement in a cooling system under high compression, several very bad things can possibly happen.

    1.) If the escaping jet of R-22A is instantly exposed to an ignition source... the resulting flame will become a burning blow torch and eventually melt the copper tubing and spray flame up inside the open attic area.

    2.) If the escaping gas does not immediately ignite, since the gas is heavier than air, it can pool and pose a suffocation risk...or even pool and upon later accidental ignition...explode like a bomb and burn everything down around it.

    Needless to say...unless this stuff is being used in a limited industrial application, it has no place being used in either vehicles or especially occupied dwelling and business locations. As much as I would like the ease of its use to help my situation out... I WON'T be using it in my home. I'll have to pay a certified HVAC Tech with a 608-609 EPA license to re-charge the system with R-22. (Believe it or not...The Aussies regularly use this stuff in their cars!)
    Last edited by 60dgrzbelow0; 05-07-2010 at 06:20 PM.

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    Because stock sucks... pocket-rocket's Avatar
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    My instant thoughts are good catch on not using it in your home. Cars a/c systems are much smaller and much more open to worry about since they won't require as much as a home to run. I thought I had read somewhere that you could use R134a to replace R22 in window a/c and refrigerator units, so I was actually going to try charging our home a/c system with 134a once upon a time. I believe that some sort of chlorine gas has been used as a refrigerant in RV a/c units and refrigerator units (another suffocation hazard, not to mention I believe it's a corrosive to human skin as well). It makes sense about propane and butane as a refrigerant. Think about how cold your grill tank and butane lighter refill tank can get when used at a decent rate.
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    "Yes... I AM IRONMAN..." 60dgrzbelow0's Avatar
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    On the periphery of this repair...and since I like having more than just a thumb-nail sketch when it comes to doing anything that has the slightest hint of hazard associated with it (with this present situation a lesson for me to keep my guard up better in the future) I glommed this HVAC book by Audel off of eBay (Circa 1984...but very relevant to the basics and even deeper aspects of HVAC repair and builds) for two dollars, just to "Better Prepare...For the Repair" and on page 169, Theo. Audel describes a surprising and bewildering array of chemicals and gases that all share their common utility for use as refrigerants... with varying degrees of hazard associated with the use of each one under a given set of HVAC conditions. These include Ammonia, Methyl Chloride, Ethyl Chloride, Carbon Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide and something that sounds suspiciously similar to "R-22A" he calls "FREEZOL" which is a flavor of Isobutane... (For all intents and purposes: High Octane Butane). This list would not be complete without a proper nod to all the myriad flavors of Dupont's homegrown "Freon" family with number variations too numerous to list here. But if the one you (Pocket-Rocket) mentioned for A/C use in Trailers, etc...Methyl Chloride, it can be especially dangerous because it is non-irritating in the local confined atmosphere and therefore provides no warning that there might be an insidious leak somewhere... making anybody's vacation a problem if they cannot wake up to hit the open road.
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    Last edited by 60dgrzbelow0; 05-09-2010 at 05:53 PM.

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    W-Body for Life! robertisaar's Avatar
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    i imagine the "FREEZE-12" stuff on ebay is likely the same R-22A stuff... never would have thought...
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    Destroyer Of EVERYTHING!! walterdude's Avatar
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    Now if you get some balloons and some paper bags I'll bet you could make a nice BOOM!!! I wouldn't use that anywhere!! Luckily I've got a friend in the HVAC Bizz that has it for the home.. Another friend is in the auto AC trade and has that...
    GOOD Catch Bob,,,
    Tom...

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    Been there, Built that. Superdave's Avatar
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    Sounds like good stuff to use in a potato cannon

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    And the idiots in the E.U. were actually trying to fit Co2! Anybody for a 1500-2000psi refrigeration system on board?

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    Because stock sucks... pocket-rocket's Avatar
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    I take back my chlorine comment. It was Ammonia they use in RV applications (besides the chassis a/c that runs off the engine like a car).
    -60v6's 2nd Jon M.
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    "Yes... I AM IRONMAN..." 60dgrzbelow0's Avatar
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    Gotcha, P-R... God... Ammonia... Who would have thought that stuff would work?

  11. #10
    "Yes... I AM IRONMAN..." 60dgrzbelow0's Avatar
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    This link is topical and perfect in its way relating to the problem of fixing or upgrading home HVAC systems:

    http://www.inspectapedia.com/aircond...gerantsEPA.htm

    Interestingly enough... I finally found a 1-4-1 replacement for R-22 called "R-421A" made by a company called RMS up in Georgia and called commercially: "Choice R-421A". Its their proprietary binary HCF flavor (Zeotropic) that is a blended refrigerant that is well matched in performance with R-22 and which is also "Non-Explosive, Non-Flammable and has Low-Toxicity"...and that beats my R-22A experiment right into the ground for hitting all my required safety hazard requirements. The only remaining question is: Does it require an EPA 608 - 609 License(s) to purchase? And I'll find the answer to THAT question when I call them on Monday coming. The other "cool" part is that is comes ready with its own oil in solution and will not require any retro-fitting to the existing R-22 based Heat Pump Split System that I am trying to get up and running.
    Last edited by 60dgrzbelow0; 05-14-2010 at 06:17 PM.

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