Dr. Kool‘s

Where Good Neighbors and Good Servicemen Meet

The Ozone Layer Crisis—Fact or Folly?

The "Ozone Depletion Theory," claims that refrigerant from everyday air conditioning and refrigeration appliances is destroying the ozone layer. Without the protective ozone layer, harmful radiation from the sun would no longer be filtered out, and life on earth would be endangered.

I see this as another Chicken Little scenario: "The sky is falling!"—that was Chicken Little's warning. The real danger is not to the ozone layer, but to Western Civilization as we know it. By finding environmental "crises," radicals are more and more gaining control over industries that are vital to our consumer-driven way of life.

I was born in 1939. Our home in Kentucky was without indoor plumbing, electricity, etc. (For the entire story, see About Dr.Kool.) Obviously we didn't have a refrigerator, an air conditioner, a radio, or even an electric fan to circulate air. Finally in 1948 we got electricity. I have no desire to return to those "natural" days, but that is exactly where environmentalists are leading us. (If you want to live in "The Natural State," move to Arkansas.)

At this time, their focus is on the ozone layer. But make no mistake about it, this is just the beginning. After that, they will spotlight "Global Warming." They will continue until America is "safely" returned to the 19th century.

Government edict initiated the forced conversion from time-tested, proven refrigerants to expensive new experimental ones. Environmentalists and capitalists make strange bedfellows, but the "Ozone Depletion Theory" made it happen. It looks like the new opportunity for a profit was too much for traditional conservatives to resist. They quickly surrendered to the "inevitable."

The First Primrose Path

Starting July 1, 1992, the "Clean Air Act" made it illegal to vent household refrigerants into the atmosphere. Thus began an unparalleled re-engineering effort that is called "The $5 Trillion Mistake," by "Machine Design" in its January 24, 1994 issue. Let me quote from the article by Rogelio A Maduro and Bob Holzknecht:

Driving this "devolution" of modern production methods is the theory that CFCs and other man-made chlorinated compounds deplete the ozone layer. But there is no consensus among the scientific community on this theory. And while the public has been bombarded with tales of potential devastation from ozone depletion, little has been said about the consequences the CFC ban will have on humans and society. Some estimate the worldwide ban will cost consumers and governments $5 trillion.

Refrigerants and Equipment

For decades, three refrigerants R-12, R-22, and R-502 have performed flawlessly for cooling and refrigeration. Refrigerant leaks have never caused an inhalation problem for people or animals—Freon is harmless. Let me quote again from the above article:

This is the most radical and far-reaching change that has ever occurred in the industrial processes used in manufacturing, transportation, and refrigeration. And it is a change being driven not by the discovery of new improved technologies, but by government edict, whereby more expensive, technologically backward, and inefficient alternatives are being forced on manufacturers and consumers under the guise of saving the ozone layer.

Since 1983, I have served as an air conditioning contractor and serviceman. I'd like to report my experience since the "Clean Air Act" became law.

Recovery of Used R-22 Freon

From the beginning, accepted practice was to vent unwanted Freon into the atmosphere. I personally believe the environmental impact is about as significant as another quart of water going over Niagara Falls. Since July 1, 1992, I carry a recovery machine on my service vehicle, and dutifully pump the refrigerant into a tank. At first, recyclers would pay for the used refrigerant. Now I pay them $50 for every 40 lbs I turn in. And, of necessity, I pass the cost on to my customer.

Balancing the Refrigerant Charge

A spring check-up requires a Freon check. If a valve core leaks, I have a special tool that allows me to replace it without losing Freon. I then add Freon to restore what was lost. What if I overshoot, and need to remove a little? I can't release it into the atmosphere, and I can't pump it back into the tank. I can do one of two things: leave the air conditioner in an overcharged condition—I'll bet some guys do that—or I can break out my recovery tank, and remove the excess.

Confusion by Design

AC and refrigeration technicians, who used to carry no more than three different refrigerants on their service vehicles, are now faced with a myriad of new and confusing options: several types of refrigerants, more than one recovery unit, and matching recovery tanks. Oh! And let's not forget different sets of gauges, that require different pressure/temperature specifications. The chances for error are enormous.


One technician transferred 18 lbs of Freon from a failed compressor to a recovery tank. Then after installing a new piece of commercial AC equipment, he transferred the used (contaminated) Freon into the new unit.

So what was he thinking? He wasn't.

Mixing Refrigerants

I hear stories of technicians who accidently add R-22 refrigerant to a R-410a system. The entire mix must be removed, the system evacuated, and then re-charged.

Incompatibility of Compressor Oils

Oil used in R-410a compressors is different from the mineral oil used in R-22 systems. When converting from R-22 to R-410a, the technician is supposed to flush the old lubricant from the copper tubing, or replace the tubing entirely. What if he doesn't?

Blended Refrigerants

Traditional refrigerants such as R-12, R-22, and R-502 are homogeneous, and can be added as a gas or a liquid. Technicians who are accustomed to refrigerant uniformity, are now asked to deal with blended refrigerants.

Both R-134a and R-410a are blends that must be added as a liquid. This requires that the refrigerant tank be turned upside down. If the technician fails to do that—if he tries to add either of these new refrigerants as a gas—the result will be fractionation. The two components will separate, and the composition will change.

The same principle applies when a refrigerant leak develops. It will leak out selectively, and change the composition of the refrigerant that remains in the system. Let's say a valve core leaks refrigerant, and has to be replaced. With R-22 it was a simple matter of topping off the charge to restore what was lost. That becomes risky when dealing with a blend—it depends on how much was lost.

With R-12 or R-22, the technician could rely on the composition of the charge. With R-134a and R-410a there will be times when he will replace the entire charge because he is uncertain of the composition.

At What Cost?

In 1983 my customer paid me $4/lb for R-22 refrigerant. Soon it will cost him $30/lb for R-410a refrigerant. Besides that, an entire recovery industry has been spawned. A machine removes the old refrigerant, and the stuff is stored in a special recovery tank. Finally the refrigerant has to be returned to a recycle facility, but that's not all. Eventually every piece of existing equipment will have to be replaced. Big Bucks!

Follow the Money

The best I can tell, the manufacturers of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment are happy with the new regulations. Ditto for the manufacturers of the new refrigerants, the manufacturers of recovery equipment, recovery tanks, etc. It's good for business.

Environmental Extremists and Political Ideologues

The Greek philosophers loved to debate such esoteric topics as "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" Today the question is "How many CFC molecules can attach themselves to an ozone molecule?" … or some such foolishness.

Theory vs. Truth

Einstein's Theory of Relativity was proved when it actually worked, for example, The Manhattan Project and the nuclear power plant. But some theories can neither be proved nor disproved. Such theories remain nothing more than theories. But in the meantime pseudo-scientists and zealous professors debate and teach as if the theory were fact.

At The Expense of the Consumer

While the "scientist" debates and the professor teaches the "Ozone Depletion Theory"—while refrigerant manufacturers rake in the cash from new, expensive refrigerants—while the manufacturers profit from the sale of new equipment—the consumer pays the bill.

The Most "Hostile" Refrigerant

In 1992, R-12 was said to be 20 times more hostile to the environment than R-22. So the initial effort was to replace R-12 with R-134a. But even R-134a is an interim refrigerant because it is said to contribute to "Global Warming." Mama Mia!

Conversion from R-12 to R-134a is pretty much complete. It has affected mostly the automotive and refrigeration industry. An automobile might require 2-3 lbs of R-12, but there are losses due to leakage. A refrigerator might require 16 ounces of R-12 Freon. It seldom leaks, but it might be replaced once in its 30 year lifetime due to a compressor change out. Big deal!

The forced refrigerant conversion has caused a severe impact on low income people. Poor people drive with their windows down, and a new refrigerator is not cheap. To dispose of a worn-out refrigerator or freezer, one must first pay to have 1+ lbs of refrigerant removed by a professional. Disposal costs can easily run $90.

The Least "Hostile" Refrigerant

It has been years since the 1992 "Clean Air Act," but they no longer talk about R-22 being only 5% as "hostile" as R-12. The "clean air" guys have turned their full attention to household air conditioning which uses R-22 refrigerant.

Conversion from R-22 to R-410a is just getting started. This will affect the environmental market. It's possible, poor people who now have central air conditioning will soon use strategically placed room units--it will be all they can afford. If one is really poor he can always use a fan.

At the Expense of Common Sense

The whole idea is to replace refrigerants which are said to be hostile to the environment with refrigerants that are environmentally friendly. R-410a is said to be a friendly refrigerant. One manufacturer uses R-410a and calls it Puron.

Situation: You made a deal with your contractor for a new AC system that uses R-410a refrigerant (retails for $30/lb). After seven years, there's a compressor burn out, which means that both the compressor and the refrigerant must be replaced. Since R-410a is environmentally friendly, it's okay to vent it to the atmosphere. WRONG! Your contractor must remove the refrigerant using a recovery machine, and you will pay to have that done.

So why not vent an environmentally friendly refrigerant? In contrast to traditional refrigerants, substitute refrigerants are a possible danger to humans, particularly to service personnel, who are exposed to the vapors on a daily basis. Also release of R-410a might contribute to "Global Warming."

An Expensive Farce

The truth is this: Millions of AC and refrigeration systems develop leaks, and like the proverbial "finger-in-the-dike," it's impossible to prevent refrigerant losses. Mega-tons of Freon are lost by leakage from cooling coils. You might want to read Freon Leaks & Evaporator Coils, by yours truly.

The typical air conditioning company installs, into AC and refrigeration systems, hundreds of lbs. of refrigerant each year. I have no statistics on refrigerant recovery, but I estimate about 30%. My estimated 70% loss (due to leakage) is not going to change. And what are we to conclude? The entire refrigerant recovery effort is meaningless—an expensive farce.

Government Mandated Efficiencies

Energy efficiency is measured by the SEER rating. If you replace an old 7 SEER AC with a new 14 SEER one, your new energy cost will be 7/14 or 50% of your old energy cost.

I believe in high efficiency equipment, but I also believe in freedom—freedom that is being taken away under the pretense of saving the ozone layer.

Ever escalating SEER rating mandates will hasten the switch to R-410a refrigerant. Already the higher SEER rating equipment is only available using R-410a refrigerant.

Beginning January 2006, it was unlawful to manufacture air conditioning equipment with less than a 13 SEER rating. The major impact is being felt in the rental market that uses 2 ton split systems. The 13 SEER condenser costs considerably more. Often, it doesn't interface with the existing evaporator coil. The extra cost, of necessity, will be passed on to the renter.

Government Mandated R-410a Conversion

By 2010, the landlord will face another problem: He will not be able to buy AC equipment that uses R-22.

Situation: The compressor on a 25 year old condenser just quit. The landlord used to replace the entire condenser. A 7 SEER condenser would be replaced with a new 10 SEER one. The landlord would get a new piece of equipment, and the tenant would get a 30% energy saving.

Government regulations may lead the landlord to keep his old condenser, and just replace the compressor. People who have never considered installing used equipment will do so for economic reasons.

Let me tell what Dr. Kool has done for his own AC system. January 2006, I installed a brand new 14 SEER R-22 system, and I plan on keeping it until the Lord comes.

Is There Hope?

It looks like there's no turning back, but appearances can be deceiving. Who ever dreamed Soviet Communism would cease to threaten the free world? But it happened. There are people who believe the IRS can be abolished, and replaced with what they call "The Fair Tax." That, too, might happen.

The world is mostly populated by poor people who cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, afford air conditioning. Americans are relatively rich, but the day may come when even we cannot afford the higher cost of R-410a AC systems. Hopefully, if that day comes, there will still be enough money left to return to technologically superior R-22 cooling.

Summary and Conclusion

America has already converted from R-12 to R-134a. If present plans succeed, and R-22 AC systems are completely converted to R-410a, there will be a second primrose path. Second generation conversion plans will then emerge to deal with the threat of "Global Warming"—that is my prediction!

As I said earlier, they will continue until we are "safely" returned to the 19th century. Probably, it will be legal to own and operate a bicycle, as long as you don't try to couple it with an internal combustion engine.

So where is this stuff coming from? The environmentalists include people in high places. The "Clean Air Act" was passed during the watch of President George H.W. Bush.

In his book, Earth in the Balance… Vice President Al Gore calls the internal combustion engine the greatest threat to mankind. He has also written a book on global warming.

Ultimate Unkoolness,

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Dr. Kool

Doing The Right Thing: You can always count on Americans to do the right thing--after they've tried everything else.Winston Churchill
Blessings: The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.Sir Winston Churchill
Good For The Soul: Confession is good for the soul, but hard on the reputation.Merle Krafthefer
Going for Broke: The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money.Margaret Thatcher
Between a Rock and a Hard Place: If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do, you're misinformed.Mark Twain
Socialism 101: Never waste a good crisis.Hillary Rodham Clinton
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Winning: It's really hard to win an argument when you're wrong.Dr Kool
Kool Kommunity: Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
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