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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Kansas City, MO
    I was reading (in my HVAC/R text) that sulfur dioxide was used as a dual purpose refrigerant/lubricant in some machines in the 19th century, and was used on British warships up until the 1940's.

    I was wondering if there were any similar modern uses for sulfur dioxide? Also wondering if there are other modern refrigerants that are used as dual purpose?

  2. #2
    Well first of all ... The British have always trailed us in just about everything!!!
    So to hear they used SO2 up until 1940 is not a surprise.

    SO2 was used as a primary refrigerant in small systems in the early days of mechanical refrigeration in this country.

    For example. An apartment complex in Hollywood CA had a central compressor and they ran lines up to each room where the fridge was hooked up.

    When you had to service the fridge, a repair tech would go in, use his pair of pinch off tools and isolate the circuit. Make his repairs and solder back together the lines. Then he would use his pinch off tools to round back the copper tubing and return the device to service.

    Of course there were also home refrigerators which used SO2.

    There were stories by guys who worked the industry back then about birds dying in people's homes, plants dying when exposed to the fumes, .... if the serviceman vented the stuff outside the window, even a tree would be killed by the stuff.

    And to think of fosgene gas as being dangerous ... that's nothing compared to SO2 in any amount around anything living!!!

    From what I understand, it is still available for sale today.
    Although I have no clue what someone would use it for.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Guayaquil EC
    My father got into the refrigeration business back in 1942 when the flavors of the day were the "new" R12 Freon, sulfur dioxide and methyl chloride for most all domestic and light commercial work.

    I remember as a kid in the late fifties when he converted a 2-door reach-in from sulfur to R12 in the basement of our house. Dad told everyone to stay out of the house for a while as it would smell real bad and stuff. Well it did and I also recall we had no more bugs, bees or ants in the house for many years afterward.

    Of all the gases used in refrigeration that I've had the pleasure (?) to experience I'd have to say that the most noxious of all is NH3 (ammonia), next being SO2 and then Methyl Chloride.......the smell somehow reminds me of mimeograph machines.

    [Edited by icemeister on 07-09-2004 at 09:15 PM]

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Guayaquil EC
    As I mentioned in the previous post, I had my intro to SO2 in the late 50s and Dad just opened the doors & windows and told us to stand clear for a while. Here's a link that shows how we respond to it today:

  5. #5
    They woulda craped their panties if they woulda been on the scene the day my old neighbor, Nate Fergusen had a helper get a refrigerant bottle filled with SO2.

    The helper returned with the bottle and proceeded to lean against it with his leg as Nate was questioning him about how much SO2 the supply house had refilled it with.
    The wholesale houses in them days used to have a large cylinder on site from which they refilled your little carry around cannisters.
    They were about the size of an MC accetylene tank.

    Well ... guess what? The guy who refilled the bottled messed up BIG TIME!!!

    And just about that moment when Nate figured it out, that bottle blew him and the kid OFF the porch of that house they were at and onto the lawn.

    They were both covered in white. They were both having trouble breathing.

    Nate tore off their clothing, down to their underwear and lifted the kid into the vehicle and drove off to the nearest hospital.
    The kid also suffered from a broken leg.
    The helper was hospitalized for several .... SEVERAL MONTHS!!!

    I asked Nate if his emplyer sued the supplyhouse. He told me; "Bob, people didnt sue one another like that back then."

    Shux, HAZMAT woulda shut down half of Los Angeles today if that would have taken place in our time frame!
    Yet back then, just everyday service techs handled the stuff and they did so safely and without all that fancy gear.
    And they didnt get washed down when they returned home each night!

    What a bunch of wooses!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    We used a bottle of SO2 to kill gophers/squirels at the Little League field. WMD for sure.

  7. #7
    Originally posted by mikep
    We used a bottle of SO2 to kill gophers/squirels at the Little League field. WMD for sure.
    Hey, my brother in law has scorpions IN HIS HOUSE from time to time. He could sure use some of that SO2, ie; WMD! hehehe

    Where can I get me some?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Bennington, Vermont U.S.A.
    Scottsman or Kolddraft, can't remember which, used to use a remote blub bin thermostat to shut the machine off when the bin was full.

    We where ripping an old unit out one time and I didn't think twice about cutting the capillary line to the remote blub. Well what a surprise. I got a good wiff of so2. The old guy working with me knew what it was right away. The system was R-12 but the power element on that bin t'stat was SO2.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    I have an old 1942 refrigeration manual it is tells about carbon dioxide too.Super high head pressures.
    “Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own." Scott Adams

    "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
    Albert Einstein

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    San Jose, Ca
    When I was a kid I made money cutting apricots. they were laid out on trays approx 4X8. The trays were stacked on a cart 24 high. The whole thing was put in a smoke house. In a pit under the cart a half pound of sulfer was placed and lit. The door was closed and sealed. The next morning we would just hold our breath and open the door and remove the cart. I wonder how many fire trucks would show up if you tried that today.
    Old snipes don't die they just loose their steam

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    East Stroudsburg, PA
    Originally posted by icemeister
    As I mentioned in the previous post, I had my intro to SO2 in the late 50s and Dad just opened the doors & windows and told us to stand clear for a while. Here's a link that shows how we respond to it today:

    Those pictures indicate a typical, government funded overreaction to a spill of about a pound of a smelly gas.

    The HAZMAT suits are a nice touch, but, I'm a bit perplexed by picture #2. I fail to see WHY an engine company would connect a 5" hose to a hydrant, and pull a handline for a little stink. If it was an unknown chemical, one would not generally just go getting ready to dump water on it. That could cause "unpleasant" results.

    Sure is a LOT of apparatus for an idiot with an icepick.

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