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Refrigerant Changes Lead to Higher AC Repair Costs

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The following article has been copied from the latest newsletter from RockAuto.com in the USA. It is a interesting read, but whether changes will be made in Australia will be a wait and see.

Owners of 1994 and newer cars, this is the time to fix your air conditioner. Not just because warm summer days are coming (hurray!) and RockAuto has AC compressors, condensers, evaporators, and other AC parts that we are eager to sell. Fix your AC because you will soon officially be joining the owners of 1993 and older cars in having environmentally unfriendly and expensive refrigerant under your hoods.

In 1994, R-12 (branded as Freon) refrigerant was replaced with R-134a in new vehicle AC systems. R-12 had contributed to holes in the earths ozone layer. Production of new R-12 was banned in the United States and most other countries. The price of recycled R-12 skyrocketed. R-12 smuggling became as lucrative as drug smuggling. The last time I had an AC system charged, the R-12 cost $60 a pound.

Now R-134a is on the chopping block because it has a global warming potential (GWP) of 1400. Carbon dioxide is the baseline with a GWP of 1. This means R-134a is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming 1400 times as much as an equal amount of CO2.

Regulations now specify that refrigerants have a GWP of less than 150. New vehicles in Europe are required to have low GWP refrigerant starting this year. In the US, low GWP refrigerant will be phased in from 2013 to 2016 depending on the vehicle manufacturer.

The preferred new refrigerant is something called R-1234yf. It has a GWP of only 4. It requires special lubricating oils and handling equipment. It is also slightly flammable. AC fittings will be changed to help prevent the mixing of R-1234yf with R-134a.

This time around the production of the old refrigerant, R-134a, will not be banned. But R-134a will be federally taxed so its price is forced up from about $10 a pound to about $40 a pound, the expected price of R-1234yf. The tax is intended to further discourage people from attempting to use R-134a in one of the upcoming new cars designed to use R-1234yf.

This means refrigerant for the typical two pound R-134a AC charge will cost $80 instead of $20. That lost $60 might buy an AC O-ring set, an AC receiver drier or help pay for labor or other needed air conditioning parts. If your AC system needs work or frequent recharging, you will likely save some money by fixing it sooner rather than later.

Tom Taylor,



Edited by Ozzcaddy
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