Cheap A/C Refrigerants Not Worth the Risk

September 28, 2010

Hoses are critical.
Cheap, hydrocarbon-rich refrigerants can quickly degrade hoses and gaskets on the high-pressure side (in red) of an air-conditioning system. When these poor substitutes for HFC-134a leak, they pose a serious fire risk.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is warning commercial vehicle owners to avoid hydrocarbon refrigerants being sold as inexpensive substitutes for HFC-134a and CFC-12.

Hydrocarbon refrigerants, marketed under such names as OZ-12, DURACOOL 12a, and HC-12a, may contain large quantities of propane, butane or other highly flammable gases. EPA says there is insufficient proof that hydrocarbon refrigerants are safe for mobile air-conditioning systems, and that leaking systems charged with hydrocarbons pose serious risks of fire or explosion.

"These products are sold online and at flea markets as direct replacements for EPA-approved refrigerants," said Gary Hansen, vice president of engineering at Red Dot, which produces air-conditioning systems for heavy vehicles.

Hansen said using hydrocarbon refrigerants will void the system warranty. No vehicle manufacturer has authorized their use in its current A/C systems.

"Hydrocarbon blends can degrade gaskets and hoses designed for HFC-134a or CFC-12, making leaks more likely," he explained. "If you suspect improper service, a trained, certified A/C technician can run a test to make sure your air conditioner has been serviced with the refrigerant it's designed for."

For information call the Ozone Protection Hotline: 800-296-1996.

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