A Warm Weather Warning: Stay Away from Flammable Hydrocarbon Refrigerants

A more detailed version of this release is also available on our Web site.

Warrendale, PA (April 27, 2005) - With May being Clean Air Month and warm weather already here or just around the corner, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International), along with several other vehicle manufacturers, automotive parts suppliers and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are warning car and truck owners to avoid the use of flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants.

"Existing mobile air conditioning systems are not designed to use a hydrocarbon refrigerant that is highly flammable and similar to what supplies the fire in your backyard barbeque," said Ward Atkinson, Chair of the SAE Interior Climate Control Standards Committee. Such refrigerants are not authorized for use, but are being marketed on the Internet, at flea markets and swap meets, and in some service shops. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting the use of a flammable refrigerant in mobile air conditioning systems. The states are Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

In the United States, it is illegal to use hydrocarbon refrigerants to replace CFC-12, which was used in cars manufactured before 1994. Hydrocarbon refrigerants used in newer vehicles designed for refrigerant HFC-134a will void the air conditioner warranty and may endanger service technicians. Leaking air conditioning systems charged with hydrocarbons pose serious risks of fire or explosion under the hood or inside the passenger compartment.

The motor vehicle service community and environmental authorities are working to phase out the use of CFC-12 refrigerants that deplete the stratospheric ozone layer and to reduce the emissions of HFC-134a, a greenhouse gas.

Vehicle warranties are voided for any air conditioning system that has been charged with hydrocarbons. Vehicle manufacturers only recognize HFC-134a as acceptable for use in their current mobile air conditioning systems. Easy identification by service technicians using sophisticated refrigerant identifiers will help avoid the risk of explosion and guard against the contamination of equipment when refrigerant is recovered and recycled.

SAE International, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Mobile Air Conditioning Society Worldwide (MACS), ACC Climate Control, Red Dot Corporation, General Motors and the U.S. Army agree that hydrocarbons are unsafe as refrigerants in vehicle mobile air conditioning systems designed for CFC-12 and HFC-134a.

What Can Car Owners Do to Protect the Environment?
" Service your A/C using quality parts and trained certified technicians.
" Insist that leaks be repaired before systems are recharged.
" Retrofit CFC-12 systems to HFC-134a.
" Service your HFC-134a air conditioner only with HFC-134a.
" Have your refrigerant tested for hydrocarbons if you suspect improper service.