The A/C service technology of the future
From the beginning of next year Europe’s automotive manufacturers will be obliged to use an environment-friendly refrigerant in the A/C systems of their vehicles – without any ifs and buts. “Environment-friendly refrigerants”, says the EU regulation, are refrigerants with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of less than 150. As a result, the new, relatively expensive R 1234yf refrigerant is going to be introduced in all new vehicle models to be registered in Europe.
A/C service gets more expensive
There is a catch in it, however: A/C service is going to be significantly more expensive for workshops as well as for their customers. This is because prices cannot be expected to be on the same level as for the conventionally used R 134a refrigerant. The average market price for R 1234yf will be about 130 euros per kilogram, which is roughly ten times as much as for R 134a. Prices for the “old” refrigerant are also bound to rise steeply, because availability is cut by the EU’s fluorinated greenhouse gas regulation (F-Gas Regulation for short). The intended market shortage of R 134a will entail significantly higher prices in the future.
Low Emission Concept achieves refrigerant loss rate of close to zero
Taking this fact into account, A/C specialist WAECO came up with a patented LowEmission concept early on, at the Automechanika trade show in 2010. With this technology, the company’s product designers achieved a refrigerant loss rate of close to zero. The core component of the LowEmission concept is a hermetically sealed used oil container combined with a high-precision weighing cell. It measures the weight increase of the separated refrigerant and regulates a valve to ensure that only minimal amounts of refrigerant can escape into the used oil container. Competitor service units are normally using a time-controlled process – regardless of whether there is still used oil contained in the tubes of A/C service unit. In most cases, that means that up to 30 grams of refrigerant are lost – bad for the environment, and bad for the business. The WAECO LowEmission concept ensures there are virtually no service emissions during used oil drainage and on the vacuum pump .
We have the solution
As the introduction of the R 1234yf proceeds the market justifiably calls for a technical solution to avoid costly refrigerant loss. WAECO meets this demand already now with its A/C service stations ASC 2500 G for R 134a and ASC 5500 RPA for R 1234yf. These models feature a uniquely designed used oil container, which allows the recovered refrigerant to be returned to the internal refrigerant tank. Another key issue of the LowEmission concept is to reduce the refrigerant loss on the vacuum pump to zero. “To this end, the vacuum pump of the said A/C service units are linked up both with the compressor and the internal refrigerant tank,” explains Guido Sasse, Head of Business Development and Marketing EMEA at Dometic WAECO. “This enables our service units to deeply discharge the vehicle A/C system without letting refrigerant escape into the environment.”
In this way, says a survey of Fachhochschule Osnabrück, a German technical college, up to 120 grams of refrigerant remain in the service unit and are not released to the atmosphere. This not only saves refrigerant resources and contributes to a cost-efficient A/C service, it also allows full compliance with the F-Gas Regulation.
And the LowEmission concept can do even more. On competitor service units, the amounts of refrigerant lost are usually not registered and hence not indicated on the display. If the amount of refrigerant lost during recovery is not displayed, this can lead to a situation where the service technician assumes there is a leak in the system while there is none. In other words, WAECO LowEmission technology also avoids unnecessary repairs. “The workshop mechanic can immediately tell from the amount of refrigerant recovered if the vehicle A/C system is tight,” says Guido Sasse.
Innumerable A/C workshops have realised this, and also premium car manufacturers like Audi, BMW or Volkswagen. After thorough test runs, they have approved the WAECO LowEmission technology for their authorised workshops.
WAECO is now extending the use of the patented LowEmission technology to buses and rail vehicles, a continuously growing, interesting market where the savings potential is, by nature, much higher than in the car and utility vehicle segments. Several new products will already be on show at this year’s Automechanika in Frankfurt.
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