A Primer on Refrigerants

  • By Josh Morphew
  • 19 Jun, 2017

Freon®, Puron® and more

As a facility or building manager, you face numerous decisions daily. Some of those may involve repair or replacement decisions for air conditioning or refrigeration equipment. Cooling technology is evolving to meet environmental standards and these changes could impact your decisions. In this article, we will discuss changes in refrigerant technology and their implications to daily operations.

Say Goodbye to R-22

Over the last several decades, the term Freon has been used ubiquitously to describe refrigerant used in refrigeration and cooling systems, much like Coke may be used as a catch all for soft drinks.

 In reality, Freon is a registered trademark of The Chemours Company which brands several halocarbon products with this name including R-22, one of the most common refrigerant products. Because these refrigerants have been determined to deplete the ozone layer, the EPA mandated their elimination by 2020.

Say Hello to R-410A

As a result, manufacturers have developed non-ozone depleting refrigerants using fluorine based chemicals instead. It is commonly known as R-410A and has been trademarked by several companies under different names including Puron, Foran 410A, Genetron R410A and others.

How the transition impacts your business

Since 2010, manufacturers have been ramping up production of equipment using R410A refrigerant and phasing out R-22 based equipment. As a result, if you have a 9 year old compressor or evaporator that needs to be replaced, it is unlikely there will be a match.

 Because R410A equipment is not interchangeable with R-22 based equipment, you will likely need to replace the entire unit.

Some customers have asked if they can just top off their R-22 equipment with R410A. The reality is the two refrigerants are very different and not compatible.

 When you replace R-22 equipment with R410A equipment, it is important to follow the manufacturer guidelines for refrigerant usage. Really. There are some differences in how R410A is produced and if you use the wrong type, you could void your warranty.  

When to start budgeting for replacing R-22 units

If you haven’t yet started budgeting for the replacement of R-22 based equipment, this is probably a good time to begin allocating funds for future use. Most R-22 equipment has passed the mid-point of life expectancy. 10 years ago, you could have extended the life of that unit by changing compressors, evaporators or even plugging leaks and re-charging the unit with R-22. Those options are all pretty much gone today, leaving you with the need for a full replacement system.

It isn’t all gloom and doom though. Our customers have found an offset in operating expense thanks to the higher efficiency of newer equipment. Many were also able to capture a rebate from their utility company.

Need help planning for future equipment replacement?

While equipment break downs can’t be fully predicted, an inspection of older equipment can help identify potential issues and estimate the remaining life of equipment. Combine that with quotes for replacement equipment and you can make decisions in advance about budgeting and timing. The Baxter Commercial Services team can help with inspections and quotes for any of your cooling units. Contact us today to learn more.

By Josh Morphew 29 Jun, 2017

  • Most refrigeration equipment operating on R-22 is likely many years old. Compare the age to the life expectancy of the equipment.
  • Is the unit still under warranty? If so, what type of repairs does the warranty cover?
  •  Review maintenance logs to determine the service vs. repair history of this equipment. How often has it required service?
  • What is the nature of the current problem? How significant is it?
  • A typical 25-ton commercially packaged unit will require about 25 to 30 pounds of refrigerant. If there is a leak, the entire system will need to be drained before testing can be done to isolate the leak. Those two steps alone may cost $1,000 or more. 
  • How much refrigerant has already been lost?

  • If the leak can be repaired, what is the cost of the repair and the cost to replace the refrigerant? The price of R-22 is subject to supply and demand. Prices have been steadily increasing with little to no new R-22 production.
  • It is not uncommon to see service/repair calls increase with equipment that is beyond the midpoint of its expected lifespan. If your unit needs too many services and repairs, it may be more economical to replace the unit.
  • You can no longer replace just a compressor or evaporator. Components manufactured today are designed for newer refrigerants and are not compatible with R-22.

By Josh Morphew 19 Jun, 2017

As a facility or building manager, you face numerous decisions daily. Some of those may involve repair or replacement decisions for air conditioning or refrigeration equipment. Cooling technology is evolving to meet environmental standards and these changes could impact your decisions. In this article, we will discuss changes in refrigerant technology and their implications to daily operations.

By Josh Morphew 19 Jun, 2017

For many businesses, backup generators serve a critical need. If they fail to perform when needed most, it can have a significant detrimental impact on business functions. Consider the critical nature of a backup generator at a hospital where a surgeon operates on patients or a call center with 1,000 agents waiting to close deals. One is life-and-death and the other could be if the call center is a 911 helpline.

 

Facility managers are often the people responsible for the proper care and maintenance of backup generators. After years of installing and servicing generators, our team of electrical contractors has identified a list of reasons why backup generators fail as well as a guide on what can be done to prevent these failures. This is not an exhaustive list, but it does represent the most common problems throughout the facilities that we service:

By Josh Morphew 12 Jun, 2017

Electronics are vulnerable to electrical spikes: surges in voltage that occur for several reasons such as:

·        a power line or phone line being struck by lightning,

·        utility power being restored after an outage,

·        utility services being interrupted from construction,

·        an accident or a fire, and/or

·        high winds that cause power lines to cross and acr.

 

Even seemingly small occurrences, such as normal motor or compressor cycles within a facility, can render small but damaging fluctuations to electronics.

By Josh Morphew 05 Jun, 2017
This particular case study covers how commercial lighting solutions helped Yukon Public Schools to save 400,000+ kWh annually by retrofitting their lighting and participating in the 2013 OG&E’s Schools and Government Efficiency Program. Four Yukon Public Schools were retrofitted with lighting and 70% of the total project costs were covered by OG&E incentives. Several schools in Oklahoma have been able to afford lighting retrofit projects thanks to the OG&E incentive program.   At a time when every educational dollar counts, a program like this can potentially put money back into a school district’s budget.
By Josh Morphew 29 May, 2017

When commercial HVAC systems breakdown, it can be a huge negative impact on the business. We have found that preventative maintenance can assist in reducing or even eliminating the risk of breakdowns and failures. Below is a case study to illustrate.

In mid 2013, Baxter Commercial Services was approached by a client who owned and managed a retail shopping center with 20 individual units. The problem was that the HVAC systems were frequently breaking down.

This caused several problems including lost retail revenue, ongoing costly repairs, angry tenants and lease renewal implications. The landlord wanted to discuss preventative maintenance programs as the breakdowns were becoming far too frequent and costly.

Following the discussion, Baxter Commercial Services technicians performed complete diagnostics and inspections of all 20 units. The team discovered clogged coils and filters on many units and other signs of little to no maintenance had been performed on units. The experts further advised landlord that some units were older and the lack of maintenance had cumulative impact that would likely result in the need to replace several units during the year.

It was also advised that after the  initial round of maintenance, ongoing maintenance would be performed every six months. During the first year, 5 older HVAC units failed and were replaced.


Once Baxter Commercial Services was in charge of the HVAC system upkeep, consistent maintenance was performed every 6 months over the following 3 years.  During this period, there we no unit failures nor breakdowns.   The before and after contrast was significant. The landlord avoided costly repairs and could either re-invest those dollars into other projects or increase the operational profit margin.

Moreover, the landlord said that tenants reported lower utility bills and were happier in general resulting in a higher percentage of lease renewals.

By Josh Morphew 15 May, 2017

Ever notice that the light bulb section in your local hardware store is getting bigger and the choices are getting more complicated? Bulb size, wattage, base type, dimmable or not, color temperature and more are all decision points today. Not to mention price. If you have ever come home with the wrong light bulb, you have plenty of company. For commercial lighting applications, multiply the difficulty level several times.

 

A simple looking ceiling fixture may not be as simple as it looks. Historically, commercial buildings have used fluorescent lighting for office areas and a combination of other fixtures for warehouse and even parking garage lighting . Many businesses are converting both types of lighting to LED lighting for energy efficiency, reduced maintenance, and improved light coverage. Converting from fluorescent to LED may be as easy as swapping out one light bulb for another, but, given all the nuances of commercial lighting fixtures, spending some extra time researching and planning will save time and headaches in the end.

To make a comparison, with automobiles, some parts like wind shield wipers are interchangeable between vehicle brands and models, while other parts are very vehicle specific. The same concept applies to commercial lighting fixtures. To add a level of complexity, if portions of a commercial building were built at different times, light fixtures may appear to be the same, but, can actually be different.

By Josh Morphew 01 May, 2017

The enactment of the Montreal Protocol came with implications for owners, equipment operators, and managers of commercial buildings.  The international environmental agreement requires nations and states to phase out all the refrigeration and air conditioning systems , that uses the R-22 refrigerant, a commercially-produced hydrochloroflourocarbon (HCFC-22). This substance is listed among the most notorious ozone depleting substances. It was expected that by 1st January 2015, all the existing refrigerators running on the fluid, would be phased out. However, some companies and individuals are yet to do so.

By Josh Morphew 24 Apr, 2017

Simply defined, smart lighting is lighting technology designed for energy efficiency. This can include everything from the light bulbs to light fixtures, to switches or electronic controls that adjust lighting automatically.

By Josh Morphew 17 Apr, 2017

When systems fail or equipment breaks, there are often far-reaching implications. For a manufacturer, it could mean that a production line is shut down. A restaurant may not be able to prepare food. Or a senior living center may have to make provision for patients that are sensitive to temperature swings.

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