They say that time is money, and the right recovery machine can help you gain more of both! Recovering refrigerant is a fundamental step of many HVAC repairs. A technician’s recovery machine is the key factor in how quickly and effectively this step can be accomplished. Below we will discuss what recovery machines are and look at which one might be right for you.
Quick Comparison Chart of the Best Refrigerant Recovery Machines
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Keep reading the article for a more in depth look at these scopes as well as our review on them.
What Do Refrigerant Recovery Machines Do?
Recovery machines are used to remove refrigerant from HVAC systems prior to maintenance or repair. They work by using an electric pump to create a vacuum. The removed refrigerant is usually pulled through a filtration system on its way out of the system. It then passes into an approved storage tank.
Recovery machines became a necessary tool of the HVAC technician after the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty signed by almost every country in the world, was enforced by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This protocol’s goal is to eliminate the use of ozone-depleting substances worldwide.
Previous methods of venting refrigerants into the air were banned. These bans carry with them the threat of massive fines. Depending on the nature of the repair, the refrigerant may be reused, but “may only be returned to the equipment from which it was removed or used in another device owned by the same person,” according to EPA regulations.
What to Look for When Buying a Recovery Machine
Here are some of the most important factors to look for in a refrigerant recovery machine.
If you do HVAC work for a living you know the importance of taking everything you need to the job. There is nothing worse than getting in an attic or under a house and realizing you need a tool out of the truck. At the same time, experienced HVAC technicians will often take only exactly what they need into hard to reach places. Lugging around a bunch of unnecessary equipment is just no fun!
While you likely won’t be taking recovery machines in the attic or under the house, you may find yourself carrying them up ladders to get on the roof. Or maybe you’ll be climbing over fencing, bushes, and other interesting obstacles homeowners use to hide their air conditioning units. Every technician should consider their typical work environment and factor that into their recovery machine selection. It’s worth thinking about before you’re on your way down an extension ladder with one of these things!
Twin Cylinder vs. Single Cylinder
As you might have gathered from the title, twin cylinders are more powerful than single cylinders and will ultimately save you time. The real question at hand is your budget, as twin cylinder recovery machines are typically more expensive. Whether you decide to go with the faster, but more expensive, twin cylinder or the more economical single cylinder, make sure you compare the recovery times of the models in your price range.
Take All Factors Into Consideration
Price is usually a big factor in determining the options you’ll be choosing from. At that point you may have to make decisions to give up portability for speed in your price range, or vice versa. If you do find a couple of perfect combinations in terms of price, speed and portability, but can’t decide between the two, don’t forget to compare warranties and check customer reviews online for reliability and ease of use. If you go the used route, make sure you do your research, as older machines may not be oil-less and do not perform as well as modern recovery machines.
Reviews of the Best Refrigerant Recovery Machines
The recovery machines reviewed will be listed from top to bottom based on estimated price and then a short summary of each model will be given based on manufacturer specifications and unique features.
1. Robinair RG3
The Robinair RG3 is a portable refrigerant recovery machine that weighs only 18 lbs. It is an ideal solution for various HVAC solutions and can work for common HFC, HCFC, and CFC refrigerants. Featuring an oil-less compressor which has a 40% smaller footprint, this machine can recover both vapor and liquid. Along with its compact size, another plus point of this unit is its less ghastly appearance.
Another great feature which makes this unit the best is the high-pressure safety shut-off switch. When the pressure rises to more than 550 PSI, the machine switches off automatically. This is a single stage unit which makes use of a standard hose file. Meanwhile, the two easy-to-use dials make the extraction process much easier. Similarly, the two clear gauges also make it easy to track the two in and out levels throughout the process.
Another reason for this unit becoming one of the best is its high-efficiency cross flow design, which uses a condenser layout and fan. The whole setup optimizes shorter cycle times such that the unit can extract approximately 2 pounds just within half an hour. Not only does this speed up the refrigerant recovery, but it also allows you to move on to other steps with ease.
Lastly, putting back the coolant from the recovery tank to the system is quite simple as well, which makes this unit an all-rounder.
While the RG3 is marketed as a highly versatile unit suitable for various jobs, it is the best suited for automotive tasks. Regardless, it is a small yet powerful recovery machine that efficiently removes both liquid and vapor. Plus, the fact that it is very easy to use is a big bonus, making it suitable for beginners as well as professionals.
The Appion G5 twin recovery machine is quite similar to the Robinair RG3. The only difference between the two machines is that the Appion unit comes with twin cylinders incorporated in it, which makes the product twice more efficient. Moreover, it comes with twin condensers that cut down the work-time by half the amount.
Weighing 26 pounds, this machine is not too heavy. It comes with a strong, multi-colored outer casing which protects the cylinders within. There’s a user panel present at the top of the unit which allows for ease of access. Meanwhile, the color-coded blue and red outflow and inflow valve switches ensure facilitate easy identification.
Above the two switches, there are pressure gauges that allow quick readings of the pressure levels. Not only does this monitor the amount of pressure in the unit at a given time, but it also helps to prevent the refrigerants from leaking.
This efficient and fast machine can be used for recovering both residential and commercial refrigerant. In cases of emergency, it can also double as a vacuum pump.
This recovery machine is one of the most lightweight and compact models that can efficiently get the job done. Given its twin cylinder system, it can handle commercial refrigerant recovery quite well. Plus, at 26 lbs., it is compact and lightweight.
The Inficon G1 is a sleek, black, and grey colored refrigerant recovery machine which is heavier than the two units reviewed above. This heaviness is because of the way its internal components are laid out. Despite its weight, it comes with several features that make it one of the best.
The unit has a solid outer construction that protects the internal components from damage. Meanwhile, there’s a break-resistant and ergonomic grip on the top and a custom shoulder strap to facilitate portability. One feature that makes this unit stand out is the blow-molded casing, which enables it to muffle the internal noise and function quietly.
All the necessary controls are present on the top, along with inflow and outflow valve controls and pressure gauges. The valve control buttons are reinforced with molded casing to make them scratch-resistant and are color-coded for ease of identification. It also has oversized fans that blow cool air into the components inside, preventing the machine from overheating even when it has been running for hours.
Additional features it boasts include a self-purge function. This, when activated, drains out the residual fluids from the compartments within. Due to this feature, maintaining this machine is extremely easy. There’s also an oil-free compressor as well as a high-pressure safety switch which keeps pressure level below 550 PSI. The machine is designed to work with both liquid and gaseous refrigerants, making it perfect to use for HFC, CFC, and HCFC refrigerants.
The Inficon recovery unit was built, keeping in mind various uses apart from automotive application. Its attractive appearance, reliability, and portability all work to provide a good user experience. Ultimately, it comes down to the unit’s ability to pump out the moisture and reuse the coolant. And at this price point, you are unlikely to find a better replacement.
4. Robinair RG6
The RG6 is the successor to the Robinair RG3 unit. The primary difference between the two is that this one not only comes with faster recovery rates but also with some additional features. At approximately 28 lbs., the unit is lightweight and compact.
The RG6 runs on ¾ horsepower and can work with almost all common refrigerants. What makes this unit particularly great is the simple controls for ease of use and the portability features it comes with. For instance, the machine is encased in a rugged and sturdy case and comes with a large handle that makes it easy to carry around.
In terms of its performance, the twin cylinders promise both excellent recovery times and performance. At the same time, the condensers and oversized fan help the unit in reaching superior cooling quickly. Moreover, it comes with a self-purge mechanism; the unit shuts down when the pressure exceeds 550 psi.
The RG6 is made to have all the things that technicians want in a refrigerant recovery machine; fast recovery rates and a rugged and durable unit. Since it is made for speed, it provides the best recovery speeds in almost all conditions, including high temperatures.
How to Use a Refrigerant Recovery Machine
Using a refrigerant recovery machine involves three basic steps.
1. Understand the Process
Firstly, you must first know about the kind of refrigerant used in your unit. Secondly, you must also know if you want to put the refrigerant back in the same device. It is also better to read up about what each piece of equipment in the refrigerant recovery machine does.
2. Keep the Dirt at Bay
When using a recovering refrigerant, your recovery machine will undoubtedly be exposed to dust and dirt that has been collecting in your unit for a long time. This could also include acid contamination and small pieces of metals which could reduce the machine’s lifeline. To avoid that, use an inline filter at the inlet port.
3. Use the Right Methods
You must first recover the liquid refrigerant before recovering vapor. Make sure to use the right techniques like the push-pull method to pump the refrigerant out of your unit.
Above we mentioned that recovered refrigerant “can be returned to the same system or other systems owned by the same person without being reclaimed”, according to EPA regulation.
The recovered refrigerant cannot be sold or used for another job or unit. If the recovered refrigerant is not put back into the unit it came from or another unit owned by the same person, it must be returned “to a consolidator (such as a refrigerant manufacturer, supplier, wholesale distributor, or refrigerant recovery company) for packaging and preparation prior to reclamation, or in some cases directly to an EPA reclaimer.
Legal Requirements from the EPA
The Clean Air Act was passed by the U.S. government to comply with the Montreal Protocol. The Montreal Protocol was an international treaty that was signed by all members of the United Nations. It was put in place a plan for all developed nations to eliminate the use of ozone-depleting substances. The Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to regulate the use of refrigerants and enforce these regulations through heavy fines.
Section 608 specifically addresses refrigeration and air conditioning regulations. It states, “except for equipment manufactured before November 15, 1993, the recovery or recycling equipment must have been certified by an EPA-approved equipment testing organization.” It goes on to define specific guidelines for the recovery, handling, and reclamation of refrigerants. The EPA can fine violators of these regulations up to $37,500 per day.
If outside the US, technicians should consult local laws to find out exact requirements for the region they will be working in.
We hope you gained a better understanding of what refrigerant recovery machines are, why we use them, and what to look for when buying one. Keep in mind that many technicians keep more than one kind of recovery machine on their truck based on different situations they encounter.
This may not be possible if you are just starting out but as time goes you will find that having a variety of equipment will enhance your abilities as a technician. Life is always a little easier when you have the right tool for the job!