What is the new R-1234yf refrigerant, you may ask. Per new EPA regulations in accordance with the EPA Clean Air Act, R-134a will be replaced with R-1234YF refrigerant for all new cars manufactured after 2021. This is to include all new cars and light trucks built for domestic sale in the United States.
Why is this happening?
The industry is transitioning to lower global warming potential (GWP) air conditioning refrigerants at the direction of European Environmental Agency and the US Environmental Protection Agency. R-134a, traditionally used for all Motor Vehicle Air Conditioners(MVAC) systems over the last 25 years, has a GWP of 1,430. R-1234yf has a GWP of 4. What this means is R-134a is 1,430 times more harmful than CO2 in the atmosphere. How that is calculated we don’t know but it takes into account the amount of time the gas is present in the atmosphere.
R-1234YF is extremely expensive.
In many cases it may be 8-10 times more expensive than the traditional R-134a. This is due to the fact that the gas is only produced by one manufacturer, Honeywell, as they currently hold the patent for use in A/C Systems. This will be the case until at least October of 2023 when the patent is set to expire. So from an industry perspective, expect to pay high prices for R-1234yf refrigerant for the whole 2023 summer season. Once the patent expires, prices should come down as more manufacturers will commence supply thereby lowering the overall cost.
Also, R-134a and R-1234yf are NOT interchangeable.
Unlike the early to mid 90’s transition from R-12 to R-134a where we could retrofit and switch gasses in the same system. The expansion valve setting for R-1234yf refrigerant is also different compared to R-134a. Using R-134a in a R-1234yf system may result in a system with incorrect refrigerant flow and heat exchanger mal-distribution which could cause a loss of cooling performance or durability concerns. In a nut shell, you cannot mix the two refrigerants in the same system.
As a matter of law, it is also illegal to retrofit or change refrigerants in your vehicle from what it was designed for prohibited by Section 203 of the Clean Air Act.
More importantly, if you are looking to recharge your vehicle’s A/C, you should check to see which refrigerant your car uses. Most cars on the road still use R-134a. However, all new cars and certain cars from Europe, as well as some domestically produced vehicles use R-1234yf. Use only the refrigerant your car’s A/C was designed for.
When working with R-1234yf systems, be very careful. Before you work on any system that could contain flammable refrigerant, proceed with caution. Electronic leak detectors can ignite if you use it to find leaks in systems holding flammable refrigerants. Even connecting and disconnecting service equipment, a small amount of refrigerant at the service ports might leak. This could also result in a fire if the leak ignites. In any of these situations, both could result in fires or even explosions.
In short, the government is continuing with this change. The good news is, if your car was originally designed to use R-134a, continue to use it. If you have a newer car then you will need to use R-1234yf. Retrofitting or tampering with the original design is actually illegal and prohibited by Section 203 of the Clean Air Act.
“The following acts and the causing thereof are prohibited …for any person to remove or render inoperative any device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine in compliance with regulations under this subchapter prior to its sale and delivery to the ultimate purchaser, or for any person knowingly to remove or render inoperative any such device or element of design after such sale and delivery to the ultimate purchaser;”