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FIGHTING BACK AGINST FAKE REFRIGERANTS
Counterfeit and illegally imported refrigerants pose real safety and health concerns to HVAC technicians and consumers, as we detailed in our earlier post (see Beware of Fake Refrigerants!). In recent years, with the curtailment of the refrigerant R-22 and its subsequent rise in price, this problem has gotten worse. Now, there is much more scrutiny by the various authorities such as the EPA, IRS, and customs officials.
The Industry Fights Back
The HVAC industry now has much greater focus on recordkeeping and knowing the source of all supplies. To fight against counterfeit labeling, one refrigerant manufacturer has added a patented security hologram that provides immediate visual verification that the refrigerant is a genuine DuPont product. The Izon® label is a unique 3D security system and contains an embedded code that allows for greater product tracking and traceability (see more info here). Some refrigerant suppliers have begun routinely testing the contents of refrigerant cylinders they receive, using a halide test or a portable refrigerant analyzer, to spot contaminants and counterfeit products before they wind up in a consumer's system.
What You Can Do
Here are some things you do, to avoid becoming a victim of counterfeit refrigerants:
Price: If the pricing you are quoted seems too good to be true, it probably is. The going price per pound for R-22 is about $45-95, and for R-410a it is $30-70. Know what you're getting and whether the price includes installation. Get quotes from multiple suppliers. If one seems crazy low, it could be it is an illegal import or counterfeit.
Selling to Consumers: Although you can find cylinders of refrigerant selling online for much cheaper, it is illegal for a retailer to sell directly to consumers or to anyone who does not possess EPA 608 certification. If they will sell directly to you without this certification or do not ask to verify your certification, that is a big red flag!
Know your Supplier/Contractor: How long has your supplier or contractor been around? What is their reputation? Can you get in contact with them when you need to? Seek online or first-hand reviews from their customers. Verify that your HVAC technician carries Section 608 certiï¬cation from the EPA. If they can't or won't show you proof of certification, that is a big red flag.
Verify the Cylinder: Look closely at the labeling of the refrigerant your technician is using. Product names such as R-22a, 12a and 290 should not be used in a residential HVAC system. Verify that the technician is adding refrigerant from a cylinder that is clearly marked to be the "right" kind (if your system needs R-22 that it says R-22 on it) and has the manufacturer's name on it.
Label Your Unit: Always insist your contractor/installer label your unit with the type of refrigerant they added. If they did use a legal R-22 substitute, such as R-422D, make sure it is labeled as such. That way, the next technician working on the system won't put R-22 in your now 422D unit.
If you're having to add refrigerant to your system, it means you have a leak (see our post Fix the Refrigerant Leak Now!). If you have an older HVAC system that uses R-22, consult a reputable HVAC technician to see if it makes sense to continue investing in your existing system or if you'd be better off replacing it with a system that uses the more environmentally friendly R-410A refrigerant. Unfortunately, R-22 charged units are not compatible with R-410A refrigerant, so you'll have to replace the entire system (to help you weigh the pros and cons, see our post Repair or Replace?). On the bright side, if you do invest in a new unit, it will be more environmentally friendly and energy eï¬ƒcient, so you'll save money on your monthly cooling costsâ€¦ and those long-term savings can really add up!