Heat your house with propane (but not in the way you’re thinking)

geothermal-heat-pump-charged-with-propane

[Ralph Doncaster] has a geothermal heat pump which is responsible for providing heat for his home. He’s been looking into some hacks that would make it more efficient and decided that the freon (R-22) needed to be tweaked. Some would say the stuff is bad for the environment, so he decided to go a different route. He replaced the Freon with propane, using this rig to make the fuel-grade propane more like cooling-grade propane called r-290.

He purchased the gauge set which is used whenever a technician services an A/C system (but you can also see it in this other A/C propane hack). That’s important because it’s responsible for making sure the old coolant is recaptured (his hose failure nixed this part of the plan) and the new coolant goes where it should at the correct pressure. But before dumping in propane from the local hardware store he needs to dry it out. Fuel-grade propane can have moisture in it, which can be bad for the cooling system. He bought a drier device, the grey bulb seen above, and soldered it on one end to a propane torch fitting and to a valve connection on the other. Now he could remove moisture as he pressurized the system.

Everything is working again, and the cooling side of the system gets much colder. He plans to do more testing as time goes by.

Comments

  1. Garbz says:

    And thus History repeats itself. The primary reason to go from earlier refrigerants to CFCs was due to the danger early refrigerants posed, and now we using explosive propane. Back to square one.

    • draeath says:

      Propane is not explosive. Well, only at just the right pressure.

      • static says:

        Well as far as I know only explosive at the just right air/fuel ratio in a contained area.

        • mark says:

          I’m a service technician and using a flammable refrigerant is plain stupid. The problem comes when you call a service tech out to work on the unit. Some of the leak detectors get hot enough to ignite the propane. None of the reclaim machines normally on a service van are rated to reclaim explosive gasses. And should you have a catastrophic leak in your system by or in your house you’ve just unintentionally made a fuel air bomb looking for an ignition source. Your furnace, air handler, and condenser all have relays that spark when energized and deenergized. If you do put propane in a system, let the tecnician know so he won’t be injured by your stupidity.

          • Richard says:

            Propane can be vented outdoors with no restrictions for the amounts likely for this purpose. r-290 is not usually reclaimed – instead you would connect a hose and run it to a safe location and burn it off using a portable propane flare (up to 10 gallons burned per minute). Systems using flammable refrigerant must have the appropriate markings.

      • Garbz says:

        Wow. Really? A vaporised hydrocarbon mixture is not explosive?

        Tip for you. Any flammable substance that can be mixed with air is explosive. For hydrocarbons and other flammable mixtures this depends on their flash point. Some liquids need to be heated to form an explosive vapour. Others such as propane only need to be released into the air.

        Pretty much any solid is also explosive when ground down to an appropriately fine state and mixed with air.

    • SavannahLion says:

      We’ve been at square one for a while. Industrial coolers use (not “used”) some surprisingly nasty stuff with risk of fire very high on the list. Think about this though. One of the properties of propane is volatility. Look at a cooling system, what property do they usually leverage? So if you wanted the most effective solution and cost was an important factor, what would you choose?

      If safety was a huge concern, you might want to stay out of the industrial areas.

    • Taylorian says:

      Eh, safety is both an illusion and relative. Mitigate the factors you can and be prepared for those you cannot. Be aware that at some point you will be out of control of a situation(that’s what safety is about…control of the situation) and ready to respond to that.

      Also…the amount of propane used in this is likely not going to be enough to blow up and cause MAJOR damage. Some damage, surely, but not destruction of the house amounts. The danger posed also only occurs if there is a leak inside the house, where the buildup can become explosive(when proper fuel/air ratios can be achieved).

      Common sense, proper preparation and execution, and allowing for the unknown can make this as safe as any other coolant.

    • aztraph says:

      R-22 is explosive too, if you have oxygen to it, it is a form of methane after all, no difference with propane, as long as you remove the non-condensables from the system you should be fine. But the biggest compatibility issue is with the oil, if it isn’t miscible, it won’t do it’s job and you will damage your system.

    • Nick Morgan says:

      As a former Refrigeration Mechanic, I have to say that this retrofit is probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever read.
      A short in your compressor, or any other ignition source and *boom*.
      But I suppose as long as you don’t get anybody else to work on this death trap, and if you accept that one day it could blow your house up then each to their own.

      • Rondo says:

        As others note, R-22 is basically methane and it seemed efficient and “safe” enough until Dow’s patents expired…

        Besides, this will not go BOOM just from a spark. It might just *burn* the house down but it’s not gonna go boom.

  2. Andy7 says:

    I like this and I’d love to experiment with a heat pump for heating / cooling my new office – but doesn’t using propane introduce a bit of a risk factor? I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that.

    • hungrymyst says:

      Have you never been in a house that uses natural gas?

      • Andy7 says:

        Yep. Like most people my house has gas for cooking and heating. I’ve successfully tackled all areas of DIY in my house, plumbing, electrics etc so if you’ve ever joined one pipe to another you’ll KNOW that there’s always the risk of a leak. That’s why in the UK it’s (sensibly) illegal to work on any gas pipes etc without the proper safety cert. Like all the other sensible people here it’s BLATANTLY obvious that even a tiny leak can lead to death and distruction. The project is a great idea but remind me again why inert coolants that are used in all commercial systems aren’t suitable for this build?

        • Rondo says:

          You’re missing the critical fact that those gas lines entering your house can flow one heck of a lot of product through a leak while the AC system uses a closed loop holding a miniscule supply. I know it can leak but the point is it’s impossible to leak more than a quart, at fairly low pressure. It’s like comparing a potential mishap with a car battery to one involving the mains current entering from the street. One can be bad while the other is just BAD. And lots of not-terribly-smart people manage to not die with car batteries every single day.

    • smee says:

      What do you think is in those miles and miles of natural gas pipes that are saturating most any modern environment? I’d wager you are within 30 feet of an explosive gas in amounts two orders of magnitude more than this contraption uses, and it is even on tap!

  3. BLKMGK says:

    You might want to look into the “risk factors” that existing coolants have to include flammability and damage to tissue. The existing stuff is no p[icnic either and I’m not sure that this refrigerant is all that much worse.

  4. dave says:

    R-290 is a Group A# refrigerant. in the USA, it is against the refrigeration code to use this in a non-industrial occupancy. This hack is highly illegal in the USA.

  5. Tim says:

    While the explosive potential of a leak is less, the by-products of heat and R-22 aren’t so great either.

  6. Ren says:

    A frequent argument against using propane as the coolant in automobile air conditioners, is the “explosion” factor. But there is another more explosive gas
    under the hood of a car (gasoline) and it is frightfully dangerous (in movies).
    (tongue in cheek)

  7. Hungry_Myst says:

    In terms of environmental friendliness this actually makes me cringe. It would have been one thing if the system needed to be recharged, or was otherwise malfunctioning, and he switched to propane then. But freon is only bad for the environment if it leaks out; otherwise the freon in air conditioners is part of a closed system and harmless to the environment.

    Instead of leaving it safely contained he ended up venting it into the atmosphere effectively obliterating any environmental savings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for hacking your stuff, but this one strikes me as irresponsible.

  8. Yates says:

    While a lot of people here are going to complain about propane’s flammability, I actually have no problem with this. As long as you are doing it to your own system and don’t sell the house with the propane still in there you assume all the responsibility if something goes wrong and you’re house burns down. Just know you’ll probably never convince an actual AC technician to touch the unit again. Oh and please please Please I want you to write next to the service valves in permanent marker “Charged with Propane” just in case, otherwise your putting anyone at risk who doesn’t know and tries to work on this system.

  9. llingnau says:

    Split air conditioning units around here use R410A, I don’t know what it is, but maybe you could check it out.

  10. Starbuck says:

    Wow, BRAZED full pressure propane connections. At least that part isn’t permanent. It probably would have failed if it weren’t being used with the 1 pound cannisters – a full 20 pound tank at 60F hooked up with no excess flow restrictor (at roughly 325 psi) would have probably caused that joint to fail.

    I mean I applaud, I don’t weep for the environmental impact mostly because this act is miniscule and at least he ATTEMPTED to recover it. For the number of people crazy enough to pull this off, even if they didn’t recapture, the environment impact is probably quite small compared to the impact of all the freon up to say, the start of 2013.

    And it’s illegal. Like most of my favorite hobbies :-P

    • fonz says:

      why should it fail? refrigeration connection are alway brazed, r22 and propane have very similar pressures

      as for recovering, r22 is a bit worse than r134a, but airhorns, air-in-can dusters, freeze spray all contain r134A and normal use is venting it straight to the atmosphere

    • DainBramage1991 says:

      Brazing is the industry standard for refrigeration systems, and is as effective as welding. Actually, when brazing bronze to bronze, you are welding.

      The most likely failure point in this setup is the schrader valve, something that is present on almost all commercial A/C systems.

  11. biozz says:

    there is NOTHING that can POSSIBLY go wrong with this! this can ONLY go good!

  12. supershwa says:

    “Some would say the stuff is bad for the environment” — a bit of an understatement? Aside from punching holes in the ozone, it’s a $30k fine to release it into the air, with a $10k bounty.

    Ralph did a good job of recapturing the old freon…looks like I’m not having lobster for dinner. ;)

  13. King of the Hill says:

    Just had a conversation about this with my brother-in-law this morning who is a fire investigator and just came back from a fire investigation conference (yes they have a conference for everything). One of the main speakers was from the UK and gave a long presentation on how propane cooled refrigerators are exploding more and more. A small leak will accumulate in the internals until just the right mix… the ever present spark from poorly shielded and sealed compressors causes and ignition. If the owner is “lucky”, the fridge door and sides blows out. The unlucky ones have an explosion mixed with a rapid burn off of insulation material that causes major fire damage if not total loss of the house.

    Now throw in a semi-pro hack and… well, you get the picture…

    • aztraph says:

      Unfortunately that is not a complete story. the biggest problem with refrigerator repairs is the laziness of the technician who doesn’t remove any oxygen from the system before charging it up. there is so little refrigerant (whatever they use) in the system to cause a major explosion before it all leaks out and makes the equipment unusable before it explodes. but if you have oxygen present, even with an r-22 system (which is classified as a form of methane) in the compression chamber of the compressor, it will spark an explosion, no leaking out required. of course the followup explosion releases flammables into the air in the presence of a shockwave and it takes off from there.

      I repaired a refrigerator today and the most important thing you do is put a vacuum pump on before you add your freon, it doesn’t take long since the system can only hold about 7.5 ounces of r-134a.

  14. Natalie says:

    I’m afraid the one pass through a filer drier will not remove 100% moisture and contaminates present in garden store propane. Hope the converted system get a fresh dryer and moisture indicator

    • aztraph says:

      The kind of filter he used is a liquid line filter, emphasis on the liquid, it will dry a little bit but is designed for liquid refrigerant primarily. as in a previous post of mine I spouted on about evacuation of the system, if you don’t get all the oxygen out of a system (i.e. amounts less than a gram) the oxygen left in it will combine with the propane and water would be the byproduct. oxygen contamination in greater concentrations reach a tipping point between adding moisture and acidic byproducts to your system and blowing it up outright.

  15. asheets says:
  16. Chad says:

    The danger of propane in a residential application such as this is that, in the event of a leak, the propane will pool in low spots in the home. Propane is heavier than air and does not disperse well in a home. Natural gas is lighter than air, so it can escape through many of the places that conditioned air (heated or cooled air) normally escapes a home.
    In an automotive application, propane is much less dangerous because of the small amounts that are used, as well as the very open environment. A propane leak in a car would only amount to about 1-2 pounds of liquid and it goes away very quickly, especially if the leak is under the hood.
    In a home, the AC or HP uses up to 16lbs of refrigerant. Couple the large amount of “refrigerant” with its inability to escape, and natural tendency to sit in low spots, then you have a dangerous situation.

  17. TheRecklessEngineer says:

    Funny…I’ve just done exactly this on my car. Works a treat! Now I just need to find the leak. Anyone got a lighter?

  18. In the name of... says:

    Um, in the US, messing with your HVAC refrigerant without a license can get you in big time trouble, and as someone above also said, you can actually get $10k for snitching on someone for doing it.

    That said, when I’m not out driving around looking for people messing with their condenser unit, I find time to cook, using PROPANE (complete with compression fittings, no brazing here)… As many people in rual areas who don’t have a natural gas line near by, so if this is sooooo unsafe, why is it any different than running your central air with propane? I don’t see it as any more of a risk. And its totally the HVAC industry that got those silly-ass laws passed so you at home can’t get around needing a “professional” to top-up your HVAC system, environment my ass….

    • DainBramage1991 says:

      Spoken like someone who has absolutely NO IDEA about HVAC systems. As a trained and licensed HVAC tech, I can tell you that there are many, many good reasons why you don’t want to mess around with the equipment unless you have been properly educated. Leave it to the experts, or you’ll hurt yourself or end up in jail.

      • Kris Lee says:

        Why not make this information available to the people instead of menacing?

        I actually think that we should not depend on the technology at home that you can not manage or tweak by your self with enough preparation.

        We should not be that helpless in case of the emergency.

        Of course for the most of the people, calling professional would do the job.

        • aztraph says:

          It IS available to people, It’s called TRAINING . . . and SCHOOLING. and Like dainbramage, I am also a licensed and trained hva/c-r technician, and you know what, I’m also a homeowner and a tinkerer. and it’s my TRAINING that allows me to know what I can/should do with my air conditioner, and what is doomed to failure, but the most important part is to see the why its a bad idea and what is going to go wrong before I attempt it. That’s called EXPERIENCE. you should try getting some.

          • my2c says:

            Yeah, because we should go to school for two years to learn how to replace a HSI in our furnace when it won’t start. Or we could just google for some friendly info, get a $10 part from the local shop, and fix it ourselves in 10 minutes. Or we could sit in our cold house, and wait for a tech to be able to come at some point and give us a $200 invoice. But wait, I forgot we need 2 years of TRAINING, SCHOOLING and EXPERIENCE to use a screwdriver according the the HVAC industry.

          • aztraph says:

            HEY! first of all, If someone calls me looking for a hot surface ignitior, I’ll sell it to them, warn them that if they damage it I won’t replace it, but it’ll be THEIR choice, I got no problem with that. I look at these people and wonder if they would come work for me. but this is getting off topic-

            i’m talking about refrigeration, and that you do have to have training, to know if the problem is an expansion valve or weak valves on a compressor, plugged liquid line filter. or partially actuated reversing valve. I solve what most of MY local competition can’t figure out. Yes it is my experience, but that all starts with training, so don’t get on your soap box about the cost of a service call. Most of my clientele have no problem paying for the SERVICE I provide.

          • my2c says:

            Ok, I’ll clarify my overall ‘unjustness’ frustration with the HVAC industry was more broad and not specific to refrigeration. -My hat is off to you on the above for your handling of the example of an HSI replacement part request. I personally have run into that, and did luckily end up finding a company who had a local tech who met up with me sold me one off his truck for $20, but that was after calling a number of them who would not, or if they would had a ridiculous upcharge on the part. My frustration is to the ‘closed offedness’ of the industry; how when googling to verifying what you’re planning to fix or do, 98% of what you run across is people toting “don’t touch it, CALL A PRO” no matter how basic or complicated the request. I do understand some regulation is needed, particularly in the refrigeration areas, but a $30K fine and $10K bounties push well past regulation and into the audacity of ‘only we can touch it, OR ELSE’ of the HVAC industry. My apologies for pegging you as the ‘NEVER touch it’ type I have usually come across. If I’m going to fix something or build it myself, I’m going to put in my due diligence and research it first, and if it is dangerous make darn sure I’m confident in what I’m doing. I don’t feel that should be illegal. I’m fine with something unsafe being illegal, and fine the heck out of someone who does their own work without having a clue and it is found to be unsafe, or if they do something like vent a system to atmosphere.

          • aztraph says:

            Thank you for that, and I think all the HVA/C Techs out there (most all of the them WON’T openly admit this) agree with you on the fine. But we had to take certification tests in order to get the license to handle refrigerant. I’m not a snob about it, but you really should know what your doing, the new hfc r-410a runs 60% higher pressures than r-22 on a residential ac or heat pump, you put gauges only rated for r-22, and you are going to get hurt when the hose or gauges come apart in your face and give you freeze burns.

            My rant is for not that you can’t find out, but most people don’t realize there is any danger at all and plow through and get themselves killed.

            As for the fines, If WE are going to be watch dogged about refrigeration . . . well what would you do if you were certified, spent thousands of dollars on school, got a license, and someone comes along and does the work without the training and screws something up, investigations happen, YOUR life gets put under a microscope and business suffers, What would YOU do to prevent that i wonder.

          • That’s a bunch of arrogance. I’m a university dropout (computer science) and understand HVAC much better than most of the licensed techs. Thankfully hackaday doesn’t buy into the BS that you can’t do any of this stuff unless you have formal training and a licence.
            “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth” – Einstein

      • my2c says:

        - Agree, HVAC industry is a bunch of B.S. “Let us do it or you go to jail”. Why don’t we do that the same with auto repairs, and heck, why not changing a light bulb out? I bet electricians would love that!
        – Yes, it might be unsafe for many to work on their own car, and there are lots of dangers to doing your own work, but that is our own call to make, not lawmakers or the industry writing us out invoices. Granted many people should not be doing their own work, but that is their call. The info should be public domain like car repair manuals, not hidden and made illegal to use.

        • aztraph says:

          see my post above, I’m tired of repeating myself. But Wait, there’s more! I couldn’t care less if you want to try out for the darwin awards, but please don’t take your neighbor with you, if you don’t end up in the hospital or the morgue, you might go to jail or face a property damage lawsuit because you blew up your house and took out half the block, if you have a licensed hva/c tech on your side, at least you can blame it on them, all for the measly price of a service call. your choice.

          • my2c says:

            That’s the problem, it’s not my choice. And odds of taking out half the block are about as likely as my neighbor taking out half the block while changing out the propane tank on his grill.

          • aztraph says:

            not even close, and it’s obvious you don’t know what your talking about, so go get some real training or ask someone YOU TRUST who has, and ask them. I can’t make anyone as obtuse as you believe anything you don’t want to believe.

          • stormdog says:

            “took out half the block…”
            With ~15 ibs of propane?
            I don’t think I can do the math for the explosive potential of 15 lbs of propane, but intuitively that seems really far-fetched. Can you fill in some details?

          • mark says:

            my2c,
            you have no idea what you are talking about. Over the years I’ve seen a number of catastrophic failures on residential ac systems that, had they been charged with propane would have taken out the house and at least a neighbors house. You and others may complain about a 200 dollar spot call. The equipment carried on our trucks to do the job correctly starts at around 15 to 20 thousand dollars. The machine that reclaims the refrigerant starts at 600 dollars and goes up. I don’t like the mandates of recovering refrigerant by the government, if we did not clean up after ourselves our country would sadly start to look like china, one of the most filthy polluted countries on the planet. I’m all for hacking, but when it comes to this stuff (flammable refrigerant), you don’t just endanger yourself, you put at risk all those in your house. And, if you want to find out how to fix the unit yourself, you can go to the manufacturers website or numerous blogs to figger our what is wrong. aztraph is right.

          • aztraph says:

            If you light gun powder it will burn, wrap it in paper and you get a fire cracker, put it down the barrel of a gun and drop a lead ball on it and it will explode. the difference is what contains it.

            now look at gas, on your stove and grill, it burns. contain it in a closed grill or a closed house, and it goes boom, but put it inside a metal casing without removing any oxygen that got in there while you were working, well you don’t need an spark to set that off, Rudolf Diesel (happy birthday Rudolph) proved that if you have combustibles under enough pressure, ignition is automatic, but instead of powering a truck, it spreads to the entire fuel air mixture and the whole thing goes critical with in seconds.

            Here is an article about a natural gas explosion, not under pressure and natural gas doesn’t have as much kick as propane. http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/19/us/indiana-explosion-probe/index.html

            Now here’s a propane explosion that was confined by concrete instead of wood frame. http://www.indystar.com/article/99999999/NEWS06/80817011/RetroIndy-1963-Coliseum-explosion http://www2.indystar.com/library/factfiles/accidents/history/coliseum_explosion/coliseum.html

            I hope this gets every ones attention, I’m not against putting propane in an a/c, I’m against being sloppy and criminally negligent in regards to what affects more than the person responsible. RESPONSIBILITY, There’s something I have too. Experience and training got me this far, and kept this stuff from happening to me.

          • aztraph says:

            Depends on how it’s contained, I have a post that’s awaiting moderation and has some links on it involving the 1963 Indianapolis stadium explosion and a house that was blown up in Indy that took out several houses, but that was with natural gas, not propane. still compelling post though. I was articulate!

        • mark says:

          the only thing you go to jail for is releasing the refrigerant into the atmosphere. Work on your own junk, just don’t pollute the air I have to breath while doing it. A more likely scenario is you will end up in the hospital because of your ignorance.

        • DainBramage1991 says:

          Actually, the fines and jail time are for environmental violations. CFCs and HCFCs are VERY damaging to the ozone layer, and their release can have a worldwide impact.
          I agree with the large fines, it keeps the professionals professional, and is a deterrent to untrained people who want to mess with stuff they have no business messing with.

          If you think this is limited to HVAC, see what happens when you call the EPA after “accidentally” spilling 1000 gallons of diesel onto the ground. It’s a fact of life these days that there are laws in place to protect the environment.

          As for the HVAC industry being “closed”, that’s just nonsense. The training is available to everyone who takes the time, effort, and minimal expense needed to acquire it.

  19. stormdog says:

    I like it. Hope he posts the results of his further tests.

    • mark says:

      on the propane explosions, 1 pound of propane in gas form is about 8.45 cu ft. you do the math. the mixture with air is less than 10% to be explosive. Would you want to be next door when it went off?

      • stormdog says:

        Well, I still don’t know what that means. Again, intuitively, 8.45 ft3 of propane seems like it would be more of a big flash. Would I even notice it next door? Wouldn’t it make a huge difference on where it was contained? How does the explosive force of propane compare to that of other refrigerants?

        • aztraph says:

          Well again, propane has more kick than natural gas, and natural gas was responsible for leveling 3 homes and damaging several others in that link I posted above, and that was vapor only, I know it’s not exactly what you’re asking for, but when you consider the volume of natural gas in a house and condensed it to a liquid, the amount you have would be far less than the 8.45 cf being discussed and look at what it did. containing it in metal and giving it enough oxygen to start combustion doesn’t seem like much, but if it breaches containment, you have a shock wave of expanding liquid flashing to a vapor, oxidizing and adding to the shock wave along with the shrapnel from the condensing unit.

          from wiki: The energy density of propane is 46.44 megajoules per kilogram[12] (91,690 BTU per US gallon, 2220 kJ/mol, 50.35 kJ/g).

          I looked up tnt as well and per kilogram propane looks to have more output of than tnt(4.184×106 J/kg), but I could be misreading this, would appreciate conformation from another source if anyone else knows, I don’t have the specifics and don’t fully understand joules.

  20. erik.the.awful says:

    Being a long time EPA certified HVAC/R technician and tinkerer most of the comments posted here thus far amount to one of the biggest pile of stoopid I have had the displeasure of reading. To those who don’t know about a subject: “It is better to be thought of as a fool than to open ones mouth and remove any doubt”. A Wikipedia article doesn’t make anyone an expert in anything, even though it may qualify one for the US congress.

  21. WarrenW says:

    Did this guy even think to pull the system down to the EPA mandated 500 microns vacuum? Air is non-condensible and greatly hinders heat transmission in the condensing unit. What will certainly happen in the summertime when the load is high is that the head pressure on the high pressure side of the system will be too high (if it’s charged correctly) since air mixed in the propane will cause it to condense at a much higher temperature. As it should be known, pressure = temperature and the compressor will fail from thermal overload trashing the whole system. Also, a filter dryer will need multiple passes to effectively remove the water from the system. In the presence of heat and a hydrocarbon, the water will become highly acidic and break down the varnish on the coil windings in the compressor. Mineral oil should be compatible with propane though as a lubricant.

    I have been known to use some strange refrigerants on industrial systems but it takes a lot of homework to do it correctly, and no matter what refrigerant is used, the fundamentals of refrigeration must be observed in order to get an efficient and long running system. There is value in using a trained technician – though I admit the residential companies are typically vultures.

    I hope the best for this hack, but this guy should have tried it on something cheaper first, this could end up being expensive…

  22. Ole says:

    Sorry, every refrigerator sold here in Europe uses Propane/Butane refrigerant. I presume it’s safe in a closed system. All the A/C guys here know better? I’ve seen a lot cooling systems using flammable coolant.

  23. kevin mcguigan says:

    As a current and 25 year “veteran” of the refrigeration and a/c industry I must say that posting this as a hack was the appropriate terminology because anyone who “:retrofits” an existing system designed to work with the existing refrigerant is a HACK and should not be doing things that he has no business doing. I have seen some things done in this industry and all done with good intentions yet when it does not work the technician called upon to troubleshoot and repair said machine is the enemy when he tells the customer that was has been done does not and will not work properly. I do not care what anyone says. Do not change things from what they were designed to do to. There is no reason to have this done just because you can.

    • aztraph says:

      Let me now play devils advocate on this one, but please understand I’m with you on this; Hacking is more than just changing things, it’s the attempt to understand things too. Granted that refrigeration is far more complex than your noob hacker can understand, but there is training for that. I’m not giving them a pass for what this guy built, I’m doing so because he didn’t go far enough with his information and study. it’s like me trying to code because at one time I was familiar with trs-80 basic. if I want to program an arduino, I have a hell of a lot of catch up to do.

      The difference is the upshot of not having enough information, If he’s not careful or does something we know by route, he could hurt himself.

      I personally appreciate people like this because without hacking, there wouldn’t be as much innovation.

      • dan says:

        >Granted that refrigeration is far more complex than your noob hacker can understand
        I have to disagree with you on this.
        refrigeration is fundamentally easy to understand. I’d say many orders of magnitude more easy than writing custom firmware for micro-controllers, which many noob hackers do!

        However, that is not to say that it should be open season for anyone to have a go themselves.

        I live in the UK, here, you’re allowed to perform limited amount of electrical work inside your own house, but some areas, (kitchen/bathroom) you’re not allowed to do anything without certification. (or you must have your work certified by a qualified electrician). why? because it’s a dangerous thing to be messing with, if you do something weird, fine you understand it, but what about when you sell your house, or when you’re older or too busy to do a repair, then the next guy to come along has to deal with non standard, (possibly substandard) wiring.

        In the UK you’re not allowed to do anything to do with gas, why? because it’s dangerous.
        that includes not even being allowed to set a flue in a wall waiting for a qualified person to come fit the actual boiler.
        Before these sorts of regulations were in place many people wound up dying of carbon monoxide poisoning in their sleep due to improperly fitted flues, (because just how hard can it be to fit a pipe), or gas leaks, because just how hard can it be to fit a pipe…

        It’s not that the tasks, or theory involved in Electrical wiring, Gas fitting or HVAC are so complicated that only the certified can understand. it’s that the potential for danger when making just a tiny mistake is so great. (and it may not be you that is the victim!) -that is why the law errs on the side of caution and forbids hacks and hobby-handymen from doing this.

        • aztraph says:

          But like in gas fitting and electrical wiring, there are pitfalls that if you DON’T know to ask if something could or SHOULD be done. for instance oil compatibility is a big issue, If you take the r-12 out of a fridge and put in a drop in replacement, you better make sure it’s compatible with the oil in the system, if not, some unwanted chemical reactions could take place, nothing life threatening hopefully, but if someone is sloppy enough to not check for compatibility with oil reaction, then they probably aren’t competent enough to make on the system that they CHANGED the refrigerant in the first place or what they put in for that matter.

          Again, these are not life threatening situations, and unlikely to become such, I will only say this once, I DON’T CARE. negligence is still negligence and when you start changing things around NEGLIGENTLY, bad things WILL happen.

    • fonz says:

      Many many thing wrong with how it was done but, if you look it up r290 is suggested as a compatible alternative to r22, pressures slightly lower and effeciency slighty higher

      So a system designed for r22 will work with r290, but unless you need r22 and cannot get it I don’t see the point in changing

  24. Masta Squidge says:

    “I bypassed the freeze switch and used a water and antifreeze (windshield washer fluid)”

    Water and antifreeze is… antifreeze. Windshield washer fluid is water and methanol with some blue dye.

    Some shadier companies will use just water and dye for a “summer blend”, or heavily reduced methanol content.

    I know this because I used to make the stuff and deliver it (as well as plenty of every kind of antifreeze) to customers at my previous job.

    Just really had to point that out.

  25. Kris says:

    Hindenburg that wernt dangerous either

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