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R404A units still sell despite warnings

UK: As the UK’s leading refrigeration wholesalers announce another round of HFC price increases, a major supplier implores the industry to stop using R404A in new equipment.

The Beijer Ref group has announced further increases of 40% on R404A, and 30% on other HFCs, from July 1 through its Dean & Wood, HRP and RW outlets, while FSW has announced a 50% increase on R404A. Climate Center is believed to have imposed similar increases.

With the market price of R404A now exceeding the price of medium GWP alternatives like R448A and R449A, many are questioning why equipment using R404A is still selling in such high quantities.   

Peter Dinnage, technical director of  refrigerant supplier Climalife, maintains that there should be no need to still be using R404A in new equipment and warns of difficult times ahead for those still using that refrigerant.

Writing on the company’s website, he says: “Compressor manufacturers have approved a number of different refrigerants, and selection software and line sizing information is available, as is warranty for approved refrigerants.”

There is no ban in Europe on the use of R404A in new equipment until January 1, 2020, but on that same date the use of virgin R404A will also a banned from being used in the service and maintenance of systems with a charge greater than 40 tonnes CO2e (around 10kg of R404A).

Peter Dinnage questions why anyone would install new equipment on R404A now if there is a doubt that it may not be able to be serviced in the near future.

“Whilst reclaimed product will be allowed to be used beyond 2020, if enough systems are not converted beforehand, there won’t be enough reclaimed product available,” he says.

“Supermarkets are using carbon dioxide in new equipment. Large industrial plant is using ammonia. Lower GWP HFC and HFO blends are growing in use but the demand for R404A is not shrinking fast enough.”

R404A is now around 5x the cost it was at the beginning of the year, and the increases show no sign of tailing off. Refrigerant manufacturer Chemours informed distributors of a 100% increase on R404A on orders from July 1, and competitor Honeywell has already announced that it will cease sales of R404A in Europe next year.

So, how much further will R404A prices rise?

“There is no easy answer to this,” says Peter Dinnage. “It will depend on demand. If it continues at current levels and outstrips supply then the answer may be how much are you prepared to pay for it?”

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