How Long Does It Take to Recover Refrigerant?

Global warming is one of the immediate problems humanity is experiencing – extreme weather, water scarcity, drought, and possible health problems. Humanity is now experiencing the extremes – nature is giving back what people owe. Over the past years, legislative demands partaking in ways to minimize the causes and maximize the effective use of nature. And a call for the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning industry to safely and efficiently recover refrigerants.

Refrigerant recovery is one of many regular tasks HVAC professionals perform – especially in maintaining and repairing air conditioning units. Refrigerants in air conditioning units play a huge role in the heating and cooling process, making a cool and cozy feeling possible all day long.

Recover, reclaim, and recycle - why?

Since the institution of the Clean Air Act of 1990, the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning industry is mandated to follow recycle, recover, and reclaim refrigerants or face a hefty fine by the government. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been phasing out certain refrigerants in the market, this is because some refrigerants are causing drastic effects on the depletion of the ozone layer and increasing the risk of global warming. Proper refrigerant recovery methods are essential to keeping the environment free of chemicals and toxins as well. 

Most commonly R22 refrigerant is not being produced anymore, neither is the HVAC system using R22. R22 is being replaced with a more environmentally friendly R410A. The old system still in use that required R22 gas has to simply be replaced or take the increasingly expensive price of the scarce R22. 

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are some of the most common refrigerants used in air conditioning units. And since then, it is said to be one of the primary causes of ozone layer depletion. That is why the Environmental Protection Agency prohibited HVAC technicians from intentionally and knowingly venting refrigerants that can increase the chances of ozone layer depletion under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act. Furthermore, Section 608 establishes guidelines for HVAC technicians to recover refrigerants containing CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs instead of venting them.

Aside from the law, there are other important reasons to recover refrigerants. It is favorable in the side of the environment since it reduces the number of toxins and chemicals entering it.

Safety First Protocol.

When it comes to refrigerant recovery, safety is a must. Always wear protective gear – safety goggles and a good pair of gloves – to keep away the debris that might get into your eye and to prevent the potential frostbite from recovering refrigerant. It is in your best interest to understand all the guidelines and protocols, and using the right tools and equipment to avoid possible damage to your air conditioning unit, especially to your health and safety. This will ensure a trouble-free refrigerant recovery.

Methods of Refrigerant Recovery:

Here are the three basic methods on how to recover refrigerants in air conditioning units.

1. Liquid Refrigerant Recovery: In the liquid refrigerant recovery, the refrigerant is transferred while it is still in the liquid state. This method is ideal for transferring refrigerants from one container to another.

2. Vapor Refrigerant Recovery: In this method, the refrigerant is removed from the air conditioning system in a vapor state. Firstly, the vapor is condensed into a liquid form by the recovery unit, and then, transferred into the recovery cylinder.

3. Push-pull Recovery: The push-pull recovery method is used to transfer a large number of volumes of liquid refrigerant – typically more than 20 pounds of refrigerant.

So, how long?

Refrigerant recovery is not something like “abracadabra!” – there is no sorcery behind this. There are a lot of factors to determining how long it takes to remove all the refrigerant from a system, especially considering the unit size and recovery unit size. Usually, it takes about 10 to 30 minutes of chilling to produce some considerable tank cooling, depending on present conditions. Keep in mind, the greater the quantity of refrigerant in the tank, the longer the process. Refrigerant recovery, just like technology, evolved through the years with faster equipment coming out periodically.