How to make sure the right refrigerant goes into your system….a.k.a don’t put diesel in a petrol tank….

I was stuck in traffic the other day (in Auckland, unbelievable I know) and happened to be behind a van for a company called Suckie Moto. Their sole purpose, an “incorrect fuel removal service”. I hadn’t realised that the number of people putting the wrong type of fuel in their car has meant a whole franchise now exists to help.

It got me thinking though; with all the changes happening in the refrigerant space, this is a pretty easy thing that can happen to you if you haven’t got the right systems in place. Here are my tips for making sure you don’t need to get “suckie moto” in for your HVAC or refrigeration system:

Know what refrigerants are in your system.

Seems pretty straight forward, but changes to legislation, retrofits and optimisation programs can make “what refrigerant where” confusing; particularly on sites with multiple systems and assets. We use an asset management system to track refrigeration assets and their particulars – at a minimum, you need a list of your assets and the refrigerants they are on, that is available and in an obvious place for those doing work. It also needs to be updated when your systems are.

Check in with your HVAC provider.

Before you have any Service and Maintenance work completed, make sure your provider has the right details and you both are on the same page. This could save you, and them, considerable time and money.

If you are undergoing a Retrofit, GET INVOLVED with the refrigerant choice.

Don’t let others choose for you and if you don’t understand what the options are, make sure your provider has gone through them with you. Make sure you understand the synthetic and natural options available and what that means in time, cost and performance. Some providers don’t have the training or experience necessary in all gases and may avoid giving you details on something that would work best for you.


Many gases are facing strict regulations and you don’t want to be stuck with an expensive or incompatible refrigerant or worse, one that’s no longer available. It is rare for a refrigerant to be a true “drop in” and some take more time and money to get right than others.

Use an accredited provider.

Make sure anybody doing work on your system has approved Handler and Filler certification and they are part of a registered body such as the CCCA. This means they have the right training to meet legislative responsibilities and can demonstrate competence in the safe handling, filling and management of refrigerant gases. Though anyone can make a mistake, these people are less likely to and if it does happen you know there is the right support behind them to “make it right”.

TOP TIPS for replacing refrigerants guidelines:

Needless to say, these are guidelines only – these are completely dependent on your system so get professional advice first.

  • R22 is no longer available for importation into NZ and local stocks are depleting fast. There is nothing on the market that can be put “on top” of a partial charge in the event of a leak. Get very clear guidance here as the options are not straight forward.
  • Only replace “naturals” refrigerant with the same type of refrigerant. E.g CO2 with CO2, Ammonia with ammonia etc.
  • HFC’s such as R404A, R410A, R507 and R134a are all older established HFC’s and able to be “topped up” – but shouldn’t be on put on top of each other. Newer blends such as R407C, R407F and R438A require more attention and understanding of their use so get advice. I’d suggest these are acceptable refrigerants for short to medium term use.
  • Only put Hydrocarbon’s (R290, R600 etc) into an existing Hydrocarbon system. Make sure your provider has been trained and is certified to use Flammable refrigerants.
  • Don’t let anyone use R32 unless you are absolutely sure they know what they are doing. In fact, don’t use any refrigerant unless you know what you are doing.

Look out for more info on what retrofit refrigerants options are available in my upcoming blog “What the F Gas is going on? Making sense of synthetic refrigerant alternatives.