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USA:  The FBI is warning people to be on alert for refrigerant substitutes that have not been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

These refrigerants sold as Super-Freeze 22a, Super-Freeze12a, Super-Freeze 134a, Enviro-Safe 22a have not been submitted to the EPA for review as alternative and accepted refrigerants. With some containing propane, which is flammable and can explode or catch fire if a spark comes into contact with the refrigerant; for example a technician servicing an air conditioner gets too close to the coolant while soldering.

These refrigerants are made primarily of fuel gas propane, but it is not odorized to alert people of "gas smell". The problem lies in the way they down play the flammability so the people don't realize it's actually barbecue grill gas they're handling.

According to the FBI they're sold as "drop-in replacement, second generation, non-ozone depleting hydrocarbons" They're usually called "R22a" with an "a" The investigation is titled "Super-Freeze" but it covers all the look alike products such as ecofreeez EF22a, Frost 22a, Dura-Cool, Envirosafe ES22a and others.

The EPA has said it knows of cases in the U.S. and abroad where people have been injured after using unapproved refrigerants in air conditioners. Additionally, the agency took action against a U.S. company in 2013 for selling an unapproved refrigerant that had the potential to explode.

If you have purchased any of the above refrigerants and/or received a letter notification from the FBI, you have been identified as a possible victim who may have unknowingly purchased flammable refrigerant.

If you believe you may be at risk or know that a flammable refrigerant has been installed into your air conditioning system, call a licensed air conditioning professional as soon as possible and do not attempt to service the system yourself.

If you have purchased one of the above refrigerants please complete the online form

Super Freeze Refrigerant Questionnaire

 

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USA:  The EPA (Environment Protection Agency) is proposing to increase the options for better environmental refrigerants in the United States.

If finalised as proposed, the rule would list hydrocarbon substitutes as “acceptable subject to use conditions” in a number of stationary air conditioning (AC) and refrigeration end-uses under the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program.

In addition, this action proposes to exempt from Section 608’s prohibition on venting, release, or disposal, the four hydrocarbon refrigerant substitutes that are proposed for being listed as “acceptable subject to use conditions” in specific end-uses, on the basis of current evidence that their venting, release, or disposal does not pose a threat to the environment.

The proposals include;

  • Household refrigerators and freezers: The EPA proposes to list propane (R290), as acceptable subject to use conditions as a substitute in household refrigerators and freezers and combination refrigerator/freezers subject to the following use conditions. The charge size for any household refrigerator, freezer, or combination refrigerator and freezer for each circuit using R290 must not exceed 57 grams (2.01 ounces).

 

  • Retail food refrigeration: The EPA proposes to list isobutane (R600a) and the hydrocarbon blend R441A as acceptable subject to use conditions as substitutes in retail food refrigeration (new stand alone commercial refrigerators and freezers only). The EPA proposes a charge size limit of 150 grams (5.29 ounces).

 

  • Very low temperature refrigeration and non-mechanical heat transfer (intended to maintain temperatures considerably lower than for refrigeration of food, for example, -80°C (-170°F) or lower): The EPA proposes to list ethane (R170) as acceptable, subject to use conditions, in very low temperature refrigeration equipment and in non-mechanical heat transfer. The EPA proposes a charge size limit of 150 grams (5.29 ounces).

 

  • Vending machines: The EPA proposes to list R441A, isobutane and propane as acceptable substitutes in vending machines. The proposed charge size limit amounts to 150 grams (5.29 ounces).

 

  • Residential and light commercial AC and heat pumps: The EPA proposes to list hydrocarbons propane (R290) and R441A, as well as HFC32 as acceptable subject to use conditions as substitutes in residential and light commercial AC for self-contained room air conditioners, including packaged terminal air conditioners and packaged terminal heat pumps, window AC units, and portable AC units designed for use in a single room. The EPA proposes that charge size limits be determined based on the type of equipment (e.g. window AC, wall-mounted AC, etc), the alternative refrigerant used, and the normal rated capacity of the unit. For example, the maximum design charge size for a 10,000 BTU/hr window AC Unit would amount to 260g of R290, 280g of R441A, and 3.47kg of HFC32.

In addition, this action proposes to exempt from Section 608’s prohibition on venting, release, or disposal, the four hydrocarbon refrigerant substitutes that are proposed for being listed as “acceptable subject to use conditions” in specific end-uses, on the basis of current evidence that their venting, release, or disposal does not pose a threat to the environment.

The EPA will be accepting comments on the proposal for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.  

Source: hydrocarbons21

AUSTRALIA:  The Automotive Air Conditioning, Electrical and Cooling Technicians of Australasia,VASA, has called for the introduction of tough new compliance measures over the use of hydrocarbons, after last month a suspected leak caused an explosion and severely burnt two people in Western Australia.

EnergySafety, the WA regulatory body responsible for safety laws for electrical and gas trades along with Worksafe is investigating the incident and while full details are not yet known but it is believed the explosion was the result of excessive pressure in the system that caused the expansion valve to fail.

“Directly linked to this explosion was the presence of highly flammable non-standard hydrocarbon refrigerant in the vehicle’s air conditioning system, which escaped into the passenger compartment and ignited,” VASA said in a statement.

“Many more could be hurt or killed by similar incidents if people are allowed to keep filling vehicle air conditioning systems with highly flammable non-standard refrigerants. Loopholes allow unlicensed operators to access flammable refrigerants and set up shop without proper training or safety knowledge.

“No vehicle sold on the Australian market has ever been engineered by or approved by the original manufacturer to use hydrocarbon refrigerants.”

 “It is alarming to find, in most instances, the vehicle owner has not even been informed before the highly flammable non-standard gas has been charged into their vehicle air conditioning system,” Stangroome said.

 “In most cars, the only refrigerant recommended by the manufacturer is R134a. Don’t get taken in by the natural and eco-friendly slogans used by the cheaper flammable products.”

VASA have now sent a formal letter to Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt and WorkSafe bodies in every state and territory in Australia. They have also contacted wholesalers and are preparing a submission under the federal government’s recently announced review of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas legislation.

“The submission will call for the introduction of licensing to use hydrocarbons. Right now anyone can use them and that is the real problem,” a VASA spokesperson said.

The mobile air conditioning code of practice is currently being updated for the first time since 2008. “Consultation with industry is set to begin on the code of practice and we will raise the hydrocarbon issue.”

VASA has a long history of issuing warnings about the dangers of using flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants in systems designed for R134a and believes this explosion is could be just the first of many incidents if something is not done.

To read VASA's full press release Click here