What Is a Refrigerant Recovery Machine?
A refrigerant recovery machine is a device which can be used to remove refrigerant from a cooling system such as a freezer, refrigerator, or air conditioning system. Several companies manufacture refrigerant recovery machines, and there are a number of applications for these devices. Due to concerns about environmental pollution caused by the release of refrigerants into the environment, many nations require people to have a certification before they can operate a refrigerant recovery machine, demonstrating that they know how to operate the machine safely and correctly.
When any device which uses refrigerant is brought in for service, the recovery machine is used to drain the device first, to ensure that refrigerant is not accidentally released during servicing and repairs. Once removed, the refrigerant can be filtered to remove impurities, and pumped back into the device after the cleaning and servicing is over. Refrigerants can also be reclaimed, which involves more extensive processing to purify the refrigerant so that it can be released for sale, and they can also be disposed of in locations which are designed to process refrigerants.
In cases where appliances which contain refrigerant are being disposed of, it is necessary to extract the refrigerant first. A refrigerant recovery machine is used to pull out the refrigerant before the device is broken down so that its components can be recycled and discarded. The extracted refrigerant may be reclaimed or disposed of, depending on policies at the processing site and the type of refrigerant involved. Many nations hold the final custodian of the appliance responsible for extracting the refrigerant, requiring scrap yards and appliance recyclers to maintain records which indicate that they are handling refrigerant responsibly.
Refrigerant recycling is environmentally important because it reduces the need to produce more refrigerants. Processing facilities are also slowly removing and disposing of harmful refrigerants like Freon by taking the refrigerant out of old appliances. Proper disposal is critical for older refrigerants which have been linked with damage to the Earth's atmosphere, and for modern refrigerants which are considered safe, recycling still saves money and reduces stress on the environment.
The basic design of a refrigerant recovery machine is designed to create a vacuum which is used to suck the refrigerant out of the system, with good machines having recovery rates over 90%. If the refrigerant is going to be pumped back into the system after servicing, the recovery machine recreates the vacuum in the system so that the refrigerant will be sucked back in, and the system is resealed.
The EPA has established "Safe Disposal Requirements" for appliances containing refrigerants. I'm not able to include the web address here. But, you can find information regarding this under section 608 of the clean air act.
The "dump," or scrape and recycling yard would be responsible for removing the refrigerant, or certifying there's no refrigerant.
Small appliances with a functioning compressor can have a one-shot recovery bag attached. The compressor is used to push the refrigerant into the bag, then you’re done. If the compressor isn't working, the recovery machine is needed, along with a recovery cylinder, hoses, gauge manifold set, and possibly more. These are all the things needed for standard, residential air conditioners too.
Certified technicians who knowingly release refrigerant to the atmosphere can be fined up to $37,500, and lose their certification. This is because they’ve demonstrated their knowledge of the harmfulness of refrigerants to the ozone by passing their 608 certification test(s). Older refrigerants like Freon (also called R-22), which is technically called HCFC-22, all other HCFC refrigerants, and all CFC refrigerants, all are major contributors to ozone depletion. It’s scary just how bad these chemicals are to the ozone. The newer refrigerants most commonly used in the US are called HFC’s. Older appliances can’t use the newer refrigerants, unfortunately. HFC’s don’t deplete the ozone. Good news, right? Not so fast. There’s still the GWP factor. GWP stands for Global Warming Potential. Your most common HFC household refrigerant, R-410a, is 2088 times the effect of carbon dioxide. In cars, your most common refrigerant is R-123 with a GWP of just 76.
So, if you hear a lot of hissing as a tech works on your AC, be sure to ask them what the difference is between acceptable “De minimis” releases of refrigerant and unacceptable. If it sounds like crap, they are probably taking short cuts that may impact the efficiency and life of your AC, on top of knowingly destroying our atmosphere.
The use of a refrigerant recovery machine is really a positive move in the right direction for environmental safety. I'd like to find out how an old fridge or freezer should be disposed of.
If you have a truck available, I can see where people would just load up the appliance and take it to the dump. Who is responsible for extracting the refrigerant and disposing of it properly? I'm sure the Environmental Protection has ways of monitoring this, but I just don't know.
This is a surprise to me. I had no idea that anytime a fridge, air conditioning system, or freezer needs to be repaired or needs to be disposed of, you need to remove the refrigerant in a special, safe way.
What if your refrigerator is serviced in your home, like many are since they are so big these days. Are the refrigerant recovery machines portable so it can be done in the house?
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