Refrigerant Identifiers

Refrigerants should never be intentionally mixed. The most common cross-contamination is the two most common refrigerants; R12 and R134a (azeotrope). The older R12 refrigerant that contains chlorine. Chlorine was found to cause damage to the earth's ozone layer and has been replaced with the newer and environmentally safer R134a.

R12 vs R134a refrigerant containers.

These two should not be mixed in a system, because they are two different compounds with different temperature to pressure characteristics. Though the low temperature to pressure characteristics of azeotrope may be close to R134a, the high temperature, high-pressure characteristics vary considerably. The result of this blend is high system and head pressures. High head pressure causes the compressor and other system components to fail prematurely.

Refrigerant Identifier

Use a refrigerant identifier or refrigerant gas analyzer when a refrigerant mixture is suspected. These devices typically detect R12, R134a, R22, air, and hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbon gases like butane and isobutane often set an audible alarm because they can be explosive and hazardous to the technician or occupants of the vehicle. It displays the amount of each refrigerant as a percentage of the total blend. It also displays the amount of air in the system.

Refrigerant service and recycling machine.

The average shop recycling machine is incapable of separating R12 and R134a. There are special procedures and equipment used for handling and separating this mixture of refrigerants.