HFO 1234yf Refrigerant Replacing 134A – FAQ’s at DenLors Tools

8:02 am Air Conditioning


Image courtesy of the EPA

© DenLorsTools.com Summary: Article covering the new type of car A/C refrigerant refrigerant for cars to be produced by Dupont and Honeywell. It’s actually called  HFO-1234yf to be used in automobiles in the near future. Many repair shop owners are asking the following questions; When will it be replacing 134A? Should I purchase a new 134A AC machine, or wait? Are there any other tools needed to help prevent contamination when handling this new refrigerant? Will the new Freon be a “drop in” replacement? These questions and more are answered regarding R1234 (HFO-1234yf) which is the replacement refrigerant for R-134A.

At the time of this article being written DenLorsTools.com is selling a record number of R-134A AC machines. The most popular ones right now are the Master Cool 69788 and the Robinair 34288. Both are great machines. We have also sold some of the more premium models with added features, including the Robinair 34788’s, 34988’s and the 17800B’s.  At this time though, there are no R-1234 yf machines available in the USA. I’m sure they will have prototypes field being tested at some of the new car

dealerships once the time gets closer. At a recent tool show, a Robinair trainer, informed us that’s what Robinair did with the Hybrid Recovery, Recycle and Recharge machines. There are a few shops that do testing, they use the machines, Robinair then can work out any issues with them before they will be available to the masses. Another possibility is that the European market will do the testing before the machines will be used in the USA.

Interesting Fact

CO2 was considered for replacing 134a but would have required coolant (or anti-freeze) in addition to the CO2 to be used. It would have circulated the coolant and used it to transfer hot and cold. No CO2 would have been circulated into the passenger compartment, the coolant would have been used for the heat/cold exchange. This would have been done because the pressures in the evaporator would have been dangerously high in the event of an accident.

We’ve had many questions from shop owners when it comes to HFO – 1234yf refrigerant, below is what we’ve shared.

Question – What is R1234 refrigerant and what makes it better? 

Answer – The new refrigerant is actually “HFO-1234yf”, we will refer to it as R1234 for short. It is a refrigerant that is less harmful to the ozone than 134A. It has similar characteristics as 134a. This makes it a more desirable replacement because of design and function issues that using something completely different would pose.

Question –  Why change the type of refrigerant used in automobiles now?

Answer –  The short answer is to help save the ozone. First a little information on the “good” stratospheric Ozone Layer (not to be confused with “bad” lower Gound Level Ozone caused mainly from industry and tailpipe emissions/pollution). The good “Ozone Layer” ranges approximately six to thirty miles above the earths surface. This acts as a protective layer which  filters out much of the Sun’s harmful UV rays. With a diminishing Ozone Layer, increased skin cancer cataracts, environmental problems along with a host of other harmful ill effects can be expected.

Main Cause – Freon leaking from automobiles continues to be one of the main causes of damage to the Earth’s Ozone Layer. The size of the hole in the Ozone Layer has increased over the years and this is the reason a change is needed. I’ll explain; CFCs along with other man-made Freons and Refrigerants, are actually called (ODS) Ozone Depleting Substances. They are the primary cause of the Ozone Layer being depleted. In the last Refrigerant change-up – 134A was determined to be less harmful to the Ozone layer than R12. However, scientists are still seeing a problem, so this has brought forth the move away from 134A. R1234 is less harmful to the Ozone layer than 134A. We know that most humans are not going to go without AC in their cars, so a change to a less harmful Freon is being implemented. Some refrigerants that were considered would have been even LESS harmful than R1234, but they wouldn’t of  have shared enough of the same operational characteristics of the refrigerant that we’re used to. The major design changes needed in car’s AC systems made those other refrigerants considered just “not viable” solutions. 

Question – Who decided that R-1234 refrigerant will be used? And who will be required to use it?

Answer –  Two scientists in California were credited with research that led to the realization that the Ozone was being damaged by chemicals that mainly derived from refrigerants. This conclusion was questioned and highly debated by Dupont. Dupont having very high stakes in the industry as one of the largest producers of 134A refrigerant, resisted and even argued against the findings. However, even the giant (Dupont) could not combat the consensus of nations, the world over. In short, a Vienna convention (for the protection of the ozone layer) attended by representatives from multiple countries was the deciding factor for the changes brought forth. All nations will ultimately be required to make the switch to R1234. Europe has taken the lead, but all countries will be required to switch.

Question – Why are the USA automakers switching now if it’s not required yet?

Answer – At the time of this article, the USA is not requiring the use of the new refrigerant. However, car manufacturers are realistic in their desire to compete globally. They are not likely to use 134A in the USA and R1234 in other countries. It would only

be logical to use ONE refrigerant for all markets. Also, the US government has given the car manufacturers an added incentive to make the switch early, I’ll explain. The US Government requires an increase in fuel mileage and a decrease in emissions for coming model years. Increased standards for fuel mileage are outlined in the (CAFE) Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements. All car manufacturers that sell in the USA must meet new fuel mileage requirements in graduated steps as time goes on. If the car manufacturers decrease emissions from any part of the car, whether it is from the tailpipe, fuel tank vapors or from any other chemicals that are present in the final product, they get a credit towards their CAFE requirements. This is one loophole, in the higher mileage requirements set forth by CAFE. The car makers want to use this loophole to help meet the mileage requirements. They can only take advantage of these credits for a limited time, because once HFO 1234yf is a requirement in the USA the CAFE credits will no longer apply.

Question – When will it be in the USA?

Answer – There could be some European models enter the country at any time since their requirement date precedes ours in the USA. The General Motors Corporation has announced that they will have several Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models using the new refrigerant in 2013 for the USA market. It could be several years before all of their vehicles have been changed over to R1234.   

Question – Will R1234 be a “Drop-In” replacement for 134A? Will 134A car A/C systems be able to be converted? 

Answer – The term “Drop-in” replacement is a little misleading. The car manufacturers consider it a “drop in” replacement mainly because they won’t have to completely revamp how the A/C systems are designed. Re-engineering AC systems and also retooling to install them would be much more costly. FortunatelyR1234 shares similar characteristics to 134A so the systems will be very close to how they are now. Putting R1234 in a 134A system will NOT be legal. It wouldn’t even make sense to use R1234 as long as 134A is available and less expensive. It is more likely that 134A would be used in R1234 systems, however that too would be illegal.

Question –  Is R-134-A still going to be produced?

Answer – There are no plans at this time to stop the production of 134A. Any shop considering the purchase of a 134A machine would be very safe in making a purchase. 134A will likely be the predominate refrigerant in automobiles for many years to come.

Question – How much will R1234 cost? Will 134A systems be converted and are there any additional tools be needed to service these systems?

Answer – In the beginning R1234 will be approximately 10 times more expensive than 134A. 134A systems could conceivably be converted, but the cost would prevent it from being feasible. Strict regulation will be in place in an attempt to reduce cross contamination. Refrigerant identifiers will most likely be as commonplace as electronic leak detectors.

Question – Will I need a new leak detector?

Answer – Since R1234 is similar to 134A, your old refrigerant leak detector will be capable of sniffing out leaks of R1234, however R1234 is flammable! It’s best to check with the

manufacturer of your leak detector to determine if it can safely be used for HFO-1234yf.

Question – Will there be a combined or dual purpose AC machine made to service BOTH 134a and R1234?

Answer – It is not likely that there will be dual purpose (R1234/134A) machines. Most shops will already have at least one 134A machine. By having ONE machine to service both types of refrigerant would probably double the cost of the machine. Ultimately, if there’s enough demand for a “dual purpose” machine it could be produced.

Question – Will the MACS (Mobile Air Conditioning Society) certification include R1234?

Answer – It’s likely that additional questions will be added especially in areas of contamination and identification of refrigerants are concerned. Also, since R1234 is slightly flammable, safe handling questions surely will be added. The same practices and precautions should be considered as dealing with other flammable gases used in repair shops such as acetylene and gasoline vapors.

Related Car Repair Articles and Products

Adding Freon to Car AC – Gauge Readings Explained

Car AC Not Blowing Cold Air – Charging Tips and FAQ’s

Other AC Articles

2012 MACS (Mobile Air Conditioning) Convention – Peter Coll of Neutronics answering questions in the video below.

4 Responses
  1. Daniel Duff :

    Date: February 23, 2012 @ 6:42 am

    Will a new a/c card be required or will the Macs card everyone has be okay? When the time comes will you be able to either top off R134a with 1234YF or be able to recover 134a, make repairs and refill with 1234YF?
    I was told yesterday by a friend and a vendor here in Richmond that DuPont plans to stop R134a production this July. I also read the part saying that it will be unlawful to mix. The MACS card question I was wondering about is even though there will be new areas to be concerned about is will we have to take a test to be able to purchase 1234yf and /or work on it. Also will people like with 134 be able to buy it without a card. Thanks

  2. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: February 23, 2012 @ 7:19 am

    Daniel, I would say that Macs (Mobile Air Conditioning Society) will make updates to their tests just as they did when 134A came along. As the article said, where I’ve highlighted in yellow, it will NOT be legal to convert a system, from 134A to 1234yf or from 1234yf to 134A which would be cheaper based on predicted refrigerant costs at this time. There’s no plans right now to stop production of 134A anytime soon, so that doesn’t seem to be a problem. I believe, 134A will be around for a long time, in fact at the 2012 MACS convention Peter Coll of Neutronics stated that R134A will be produced for another 18 years which would be 2030.

    The EPA has not ruled at this time if a certification will be required to purchase 1234yf. Right now though, it seems unlikely that do-it-yourselfers will find it feasible to purchase 1234yf at 10-12 times the cost of 134a. Also take into consideration that 1234yf will likely ONLY be sold in large containers (exact size yet to be determined). See the YouTube video at the bottom of the article for more information.

  3. Aki Bola :

    Date: August 3, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    Here is the why:
    “In the beginning R1234 will be approximately 10 times more expensive than 134A.”

    Dupont and Honeywell, cha-ching.

    Don’t even think of using dirt cheap pure propane. You didn’t hear that from me.

  4. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: August 3, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

    Aki, Thanks for the comment. I’m not sold on the Global Warming thing being all “man made” but it makes sense to me to minimize our negative impact on the environment whenever we can. Sure, everything is more expensive in the beginning – can’t stop that. As it’s used more, the price will come down some. Propane in an AC system, really? I’m all for saving money when it makes sense (to me, this doesn’t). And with the new systems, even using the wrong type refrigerant oil can cause serious issues. I guess we could all just roll our windows down!

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