Illegal Refrigerants: Why risk it?

Published:  09 August, 2019

Honeywell is urging garages to make sure they don’t source illegal refrigerants when dealing with air con systems this summer.
    
“Air conditioning is by far the most popular at-cost optional extra for UK car owners and drivers, “said Lee Hermitage, Marketing Director, Honeywell Fluorine Products Europe, Middle East and Africa. “It is not only a comfort perk – it is more often considered a safety feature, too. And rightfully so, since air conditioning can prevent drowsiness and help keep drivers alert. That all is good news for UK garages, because the more air conditioning units are in cars on British roads, the more maintenance they will require.For air conditioning to work, the system has to use a refrigerant and these refrigerants are subject to some pretty tough environmental requirements policed by the Environment Agency to limit emissions from air conditioning units in cars.”
    
Since January 2017, all new vehicles must be equipped with a low global-warming-potential refrigerant. In most cases this is R-1234yf. However, older vehicles are still equipped with R-134a.
    
Lee continued: “The first step when servicing car’s air conditioning system, is therefore to understand which refrigerant it contains, since it is illegal to service R-1234yf systems with R-134a.”
    
It is also essential to check if the product has been legitimately placed on the market: “Counterfeiting or smuggling are not words usually used when talking about refrigeration,” said Lee. “However, they became a reality of the industry lately. In the European Union, illegal products are estimated to make up 20% of the refrigeration market and create 20 million MT of CO2 a year – equivalent to the emissions of four million cars. According to the Environmental Investigation Agency’s study, 72% of users have been offered refrigerant in non-returnable containers, a clear sign of the refrigerant being illegal.
    
“With illegal products, users do not know what refrigerant really is in the container. Such unknown mixtures can represent a health hazard for technicians working with these refrigerants. An illegal product can also impact the performance of the air-conditioning system, ranging from increasing the fuel consumption to damaging the air-conditioning compressor.
    
There are consequences: “Being found to be in possession of these illegal products may mean fines are imposed and it may result in custodial sentences. While there is a lot of risk associated with illegal refrigerants, there are steps a business can take to make sure they never use these products.”

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