A refrigerant recovery machine, known also as a vapor recovery machine, is a device used to safely remove refrigerant from an air conditioning system in an eco-friendly manner. The best refrigerant recovery machine will reduce work time and requires little supervision.
Cooling systems work by compressing a refrigerant, and then sending it through a condenser. It then flows through an expansion valve, which drops its pressure. The refrigerant draws heat from the evaporator which draws heat from the region that is to be cooled. It is then sent back to the compressor to start the cycle over (Source).
If released into the atmosphere, refrigerants can be dangerous. They are toxic to humans, will pollute the environment, and can even deplete the earth’s ozone layer. Refrigerant recovery machines work by drawing in and condensing the refrigerant for safe storage in a cylinder (Source).
These machines are essential tools for working on air conditioning units and several other appliances that require some type of refrigerant. Before you buy a refrigerant recovery machine, consider the price, size, recovery speed, and how many refrigerants the unit can handle. You should also consider its reliability and ease of operation.
In this review, we will examine the top rated refrigerant recovery machines. All of the machines in this review will help you recover refr, whether you’re a homeowner who is gearing up for a DIY air conditioning replacement or you’re a professional HVAC technician adding to a growing list of tools.
What Is a Refrigerant In an HVAC System?
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is a Refrigerant In an HVAC System?
- 2 How Much Does It Cost To Recover And Replace Refrigerant?
- 3 Comparing The Best Refrigerant Recovery Machines
- 4 1. Robinair RG3 – Best Industrial Refrigerant Recovery Machine
- 5 2. Appion G5 Twin-Cylinder Refrigerant Recovery Unit – Best Quick-Recovering Machine
- 6 3. Inficon G1 Dual Refrigerant Recovery Unit – Best Heavy-duty Refrigerant Recovery Machine
- 7 4. Yellow Jacket XLT – Quietest Portable Refrigerant Recovery Machine
- 8 5. Robinair Premium 34988 – Best Lightweight Heavy-duty Refrigerant Recovery Machine
- 9 How Does A Refrigerant Recovery Machine Work?
- 10 What You Should Know Before Buying a Refrigerant Recovery Machine
- 11 FAQs About Refrigerant Recovery Machines
- 11.0.1 Q: What Is a Refrigerant Recovery Machine?
- 11.0.2 Q: Do I need a refrigerant recovery machine?
- 11.0.3 Q: Why is it important to recover refrigerant?
- 11.0.4 Q: Why is it dangerous for refrigerant to escape into the atmosphere?
- 11.0.5 Q: Can You Use Recovered Refrigerant?
- 11.0.6 Q: What Does Refrigerant Reclamation Mean?
- 11.0.7 Q: What Is Recycled Refrigerant?
- 11.0.8 Q: How Does One Facilitate Safety During Refrigerant Recovery?
- 12 Ready To Buy The Best Refrigerant Recovery Machine?
Refrigerants are responsible for conditioning the air in HVAC systems. This substance is usually a mixture in the form of a fluid, which you can find it in refrigeration cycles, heat pumps, etc.
The refrigeration cycles cause a refrigerant to continuously transform from a liquid to gas state and vice versa. Several types of refrigerants, which have a reliable transition property, are used for such operations.
This fluid is present inside the coils of the air conditioner. They dehumidify and cool the air present inside. One of the most commonly used refrigerants is R-22. You can find it in air conditioners.
However, R-22 is not such an environment-friendly alternative nowadays. Therefore, several better refrigerants have replaced it. The new refrigerants are also chlorine-free, which makes them better choices to avoid damaging the ozone layer.
A good-quality refrigerant can help in improving the performance of heat pumps, HVAC systems, etc. It can even help enhance the dehumidification process and help the appliance work quietly and reliably.
How Much Does It Cost To Recover And Replace Refrigerant?
The cost of recovering refrigerants for your air conditioning units can vary based on several factors. The area that you are residing in can have a higher price than some other location.
The costs incurred are mostly labor costs for the refrigerant recovery process in your area. On average, the labor charges for recovering refrigerants will cost you from $35 to $50.
Furthermore, the technicians involved in this work need to have a license to practice this recovery process. Even the refrigerant recovery unit that they use should be verified correctly in the proposed standards.
Occasionally, the refrigerant requires replacement to ensure the safe and environment-free functioning of the AC unit. For that, refrigerant replacement costs can be incurred.
The average charges for this operation are between $190 and $260. The costs vary based on the type of refrigerant that needs to be replaced. Certain refrigerants are cheaper than others, and vice versa.
A prudent option is to save all these costs by getting yourself a licensed refrigerant recovery machine. Most people do that as it is a one-time investment for the recovery unit.
However, they will need to purchase more refrigerant when they need to replace it in their HVAC systems and similar units.
Comparing The Best Refrigerant Recovery Machines
|Robinair RG3 Refrigerant Recovery Machine|
|Appion G5 Twin Cylinder Refrigerant Recovery Machine|
|Inficon G1 Dual|
|Yellow Jacket XLT Refrigerant Recovery Machine|
|Robinair Premium Refrigerant Recovery Machine|
1. Robinair RG3 – Best Industrial Refrigerant Recovery MachineThe Robinair RG3 unit is compact, lightweight, and easy to carry around. Measuring 14.8 x 11.4 x 8.5 inches and weighing 18 pounds, this product can handle some industrial tasks that most recovery units in its range cannot.
Its outer casing is grey and made of heavy-duty material to ensure durability while also featuring an ergonomic cross-flow design. This design helps optimize the internal performance of the ac recovery unit.
Additionally, it promotes harmony between the condenser and the fan. This reduces the refrigerant cycle time of the unit.
Moreover, all the necessary controls of this machine are conveniently located at the top. The user panel is color-coded to help distinguish all controls from one another. In this regard, the in-flow valve switch is blue while the out-flow switch is red.
Furthermore, it is fitted with an internal kill-switch to prevent pressure from rising within the cylinder chambers, with a maximum pressure limit of 550 PSI.
Lastly, this refrigerant recovery machine is compatible with all liquid and gaseous refrigerants. It can handle refrigerants like Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), and Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC).
2. Appion G5 Twin-Cylinder Refrigerant Recovery Unit – Best Quick-Recovering MachineAppion’s G5 refrigerant recovery unit has similar features with Robinair’s RG3. However, a notable disparity is the twin cylinders incorporated in the Appion.
This makes this product twice more efficient when in operation. Additionally, it has twin condensers that reduce work-time by half.
Moreover, it weighs 26 pounds, measures 13.75 x 9.4 x 10.3 inches, and has a multi-colored outer casing that is strong enough to house and protect the twin cylinders inside.
The product’s user panel is located at the top of the unit for easy access. The inflow and outflow valve switches are color coded red and blue for easy identification.
Meanwhile, pressure gauges for getting quick readings of pressure levels are placed above the two switches. This monitors how much pressure is in the unit at any given time and also prevents leakage of refrigerants.
3. Inficon G1 Dual Refrigerant Recovery Unit – Best Heavy-duty Refrigerant Recovery MachineInficon G1 is a sleek grey and black refrigerant recovery unit that is heavier than the Robinair RG3 and Appion G5. It weighs 30 pounds and measures 16.7 by 9.2 by 14.2 inches. This heaviness comes into play with how its internal components are laid out.
This product features an ergonomic and break-resistant grip on top and a solid outer construction to protect against damage of internal components. It also has a custom shoulder strap.
Moreover, it boasts a blow-molded casing, which allows the unit to muffle internal noise and perform tasks quietly. Thus, this is the best refrigerant reclaim machine to have when working in environments that require less noise.
Furthermore, all its vital controls are located on the top alongside pressure gauges and inflow-outflow valve controls. Likewise, its valve control buttons color coded for easy identification and reinforced with a molded casing that makes them scratch resistant.
More on the Inficon G1
This recovery unit has oversized fans that blow large amounts of cool air into the components inside, which prevents internal components from overheating even while running the machine for hours.
Additionally, it has a self-purge function. When activated, the unit drains all residual fluids from the internal compartments. This makes maintenance of the unit a breeze as less cleaning or components replacement is needed.
It also boasts of an oil-free compressor with a high-pressure safety switch, which ensures that pressure levels are maintained below 550 PSI at all times. Should internal pressure exceed the limit, the safety switch automatically shuts down the unit.
Lastly, this refrigerant recovery machine is designed to work with both gaseous and liquid refrigerants. Hence, it is perfect to use with AC units that run on CFC, HFC, or HCFC refrigerants.
4. Yellow Jacket XLT – Quietest Portable Refrigerant Recovery MachineYellow Jacket XLT refrigerant recovery machine has the best aesthetic appeal compared to all five units reviewed here. It has a compact design but is surprisingly heavier compared to the Inficon G1. However, despite its weight, it is quite portable and also the quietest on the list.
Moreover, it has a multi-colored glazed outer casing. Meanwhile, the molded case is blue in color and is designed to fit seamlessly into the front grey casing. On the other hand, there are yellow highlights around the pressure valves and on the sides.
Additionally, it boasts an equally sturdy carrying handle located at the top. In the meantime, all the controls you would want on a refrigerant recovery system are conveniently located on one side while two pressure gauges sit at the top of the user panel to check PSI levels when the unit is in operation.
Lastly, this portable refrigerant recovery machine handles all types of refrigerants. It is equipped to handle refrigerants like R-500, R-502, R-407, R-404, R-410A, and R-134a.
5. Robinair Premium 34988 – Best Lightweight Heavy-duty Refrigerant Recovery MachineThis is Robinair’s flagship recovery unit designed solely for heavy-duty applications. It is fully automatic, has excellent recovery time, and even comes with a self-recharging feature. It is also large but astonishingly very lightweight, incorporating four expedient wheels at the bottom for easy mobility.
Weighing a mere 7.3 pounds, Robinair Premium 34988 recovery unit measures 35.7 x 24 x 55.3 inches. It reaches the hip level with all necessary controls placed at the top for easy access and operation. The user only needs to push a few buttons to start.
Moreover, you can get real-time results of the recovery process while the machine drains refrigerants. All it takes is injecting special ultraviolet dyes into the unit. Then, wait for the unit to print a full report of the recovery process on the spot.
An inbuilt vacuum leak test allows faster recovery and recycles processes, too. Likewise, it allows for the ability for the unit to recharge itself before getting back into action.
More on Robinair Premium
Robinair 34988’s automatic air-purge mode quickly rids the machine of unwanted air. Such air may otherwise damage internal components. Additionally, a notification alerts the user whenever a process has been completed.
Furthermore, this is the only refrigerant recovery machine that runs on an oil-based compressor. There are tiny translucent tanks on the side where the compressor oil is drained and refilled. This action happens automatically as well to prevent the need of having to switch off the unit to replace compressor oil.
Hence, this unit is recommended for heavy industrial use where a technician needs the machine to work spontaneously as they handle other processes.
How Does A Refrigerant Recovery Machine Work?
You already know that a refrigerant recovery machine can help to recover the dispersed refrigerant before it gets into the environment and damages it.
The working of a refrigerant recovery machine is quite simple. Think of it as a filtering box, whose inlet valve is connected to a discharge tube. The other end of the pipe is connected to the discharge valve of the air conditioning unit.
In between the two connections, an electronic gauge is also connected, which keeps checking on the pressure and temperature of the air conditioning system.
Another discharge tube is connected to the outlet valve of the refrigerant recovery unit. Additionally, this tube’s end is connected to a refrigerant recovery tank.
Some people also add dryers and filters between the tubes to lower the pressure on the recovery units. However, that unit is optional if your usage for the machine is not that much.
Upon opening the valves, and starting the power supply to the recovery unit, the high pressure from the air conditioner causes the refrigerant the transfer to the recovery unit through the gauge.
The process is similar to a vacuum action, as the recovery unit sucks the refrigerant out of the HVAC system and stores the liquid in the refrigerant tank.
What You Should Know Before Buying a Refrigerant Recovery Machine
Buying the best refrigerant recovery machine depends on a number of factors. This includes the weight of the recovery unit, its portability, and its inbuilt recovery speed.
You may also want to check on the cost as well as the ease of operating the unit.
Below are some things you’ll want to consider prior to buying a refrigerant recovery machine:
The lighter the refrigerant recovery unit, the easier it is to transport. A lightweight recovery unit is also easy to get to hard-to-reach areas like on ceilings and rooftops.
As technology advances, manufacturers of refrigerant recovery units are continuously finding new ways to fit all necessary features into a compact design.
How light or heavy the refrigerant recovery machine also depends on the area of application. The heavy-duty AC recovery units have more weight since they pack advanced additional features that can reduce operation time by half.
Meanwhile, lightweight recovery units have fewer features and are ideal for small-scale jobs.
How heavy a recovery machine is determines how portable it will be. Going with the lightest refrigerant recovery unit means you have to sacrifice on a few features. The best way to choose between lightweight or heavy depends on the area of application.
Consider a lightweight refrigerant retrieval machine if you need one for residential application. Such portable recovery units are also easier to carry up roofs or attics to access the AC system.
Meanwhile, the heavier recovery units, also with more features, would be ideal for industrial and commercial application. They can perform several tasks at once allowing the technician to work firster and more efficiently.
Single Cylinder vs Twin Cylinder
Refrigerant recovery machines with twin cylinders are more efficient and take less time to perform a task. However, they tend to be more expensive and heavier to carry around.
On the other hand, single cylinder recovery units are slower but more affordable. They are also lightweight and more portable.
Refrigerant recovery units with faster recovery speeds are handy where time is of the essence. A refrigerant recovery machine that features twin cylinder units will recover faster compared to those with one cylinder installed.
Refrigerant recovery units with faster recovery speeds have the ability to handle more than one task.
Oil-based or Oil-less
Modern recovery units are switching from oil-based to oil-less compressors to boost efficiency. Oil-less recovery units are also cleaner to run compared to those with hermetic compressors.
The more features a refrigerant recovery machine has, the more it will cost on the market. Lightweight recovery units cost less because they contain the basics for performing non-demanding tasks.
Meanwhile, larger refrigerant recovery units are designed to handle more workload. Such machines will have plenty of inbuilt features to facilitate their efficiency.
FAQs About Refrigerant Recovery Machines
Q: What Is a Refrigerant Recovery Machine?
A refrigerant recovery machine removes the refrigerant from cooling equipment such as freezers, refrigerators, and air conditioners in accordance with EPA standards. DIY enthusiasts or technicians use the machines during the repair or maintenance of these devices.
Q: Do I need a refrigerant recovery machine?
Refrigerant recovery machines are essential because they minimize the leaking of refrigerant into the atmosphere. They recover it in a tank for reuse or recycling.
Q: Why is it important to recover refrigerant?
Refrigerant recovery lessens environmental damage and helps you be more cost-effective as well.
Q: Why is it dangerous for refrigerant to escape into the atmosphere?
Escaped refrigerant causes refrigerant poisoning. Refrigerant contains chemicals known as fluorinated hydrocarbons or Freon. Freon is an odorless and tasteless gas, which when deeply inhaled cuts off oxygen to cells and lungs.
Regularly inhaling high concentrations of Freon can cause breathing problems, organ damage, fluid build-up in the lungs or sudden death. However, limited exposure to Freon is not as dangerous. That means if refrigerant spills on your skin or you breathe near an open container, then the symptoms are only mildly harmful.
On the other hand, the rule of thumb is to avoid any exposure at all.
Q: Can You Use Recovered Refrigerant?
Yes, but under certain conditions. First, it is important to remember the law. EPA demands that contractors, technicians, or DIY enthusiasts recover all refrigerant and dispose of it properly. Proper disposal usually involves taking the refrigerant to an approved company for incineration.
It is a violation to release the refrigerant into the atmosphere, and it is also a violation to reuse recovered refrigerant in a different system/equipment. That said, the EPA still allows reuse but only under these three circumstances:
- reusing the refrigerant in the same equipment once maintenance or repair is complete
- reusing in a system owned by the same person or business and at the same address
- after taking the refrigerant to an approved reclamation company for reclamation
Q: What Does Refrigerant Reclamation Mean?
According to the EPA, it is the processing of previously used refrigerant gas in a refrigerant loop until the specifications for new refrigerant gas are met.
Reclamation is never done by an individual but rather an EPA-certified reclaimer. The reclaimer must adhere to the rules and regulations set by EPA regarding recovered refrigerant according to the Clean Air Act of 1990.
Q: What Is Recycled Refrigerant?
Refrigerant recycling is the process under which the contaminants contained in the refrigerant are reduced to facilitate reuse in the same equipment or another equipment owned by the same person.
It is different from refrigerant reclamation because the purity achieved after recycling does not meet the set EPA standards. Oil separation and filtration process is used for recycling.
The most significant benefit of recycling is cost saving. That is because R-22 supply is continuously diminishing and yet the demand remains. As a result, the price rises.
Q: How Does One Facilitate Safety During Refrigerant Recovery?
First, you need a pair of goggles and a set of gloves to prevent frostbite.
Second, you must have charging hoses complete with ball valve ends. The shorter the hoses, the better. Short hoses reduce the impact on the environment and facilitate efficiency.
Third, ensure you have a quality recovery unit or machine. It must have a CPR (Compression Protection Regulator) valve, a large condenser, and a high-pressure cutout rated for at least 510 PSI.
Ready To Buy The Best Refrigerant Recovery Machine?
The best refrigerant recovery machine should be compact for easy mobility. It should also be highly advanced to handle both light and heavy workloads. Moreover, such a machine must be able to handle more than one refrigerant whether in the liquid or gaseous state.
Our final choice in this in-depth review is the Robinair RG3 refrigerant recovery machine. It is not only lightweight but it also handles both residential and industrial AC recovery projects quite well.
However, we recommend that you consider the refrigerant recovery unit that best suits your needs for its price.
We have more reviews and recommendations for you! Start with this Frigidaire FFHB2740PS Review.