Buyer's Guide & Information

Best Refrigerant Recovery Machines Reviewed

Remove refrigerants from your vehicle’s cooling equipment with these highly-rated products.

Removing refrigerants from cooling equipment within your vehicle according to EPA standards is no easy task, which is why you must equip yourself with the right refrigerant recovery machine for your specific needs is vital. With so many options on the market, it can feel like a minefield. Let us help you navigate your way to the right decision.

We’ve shortlisted three fantastic models that can be used for the refrigerant recovery aspects of the air con repair across various vehicles types, as well as with home HVAC units. Make the right selection with our support, and it will serve you well for many years to come. Here are the top 3 refrigerant recovery machines:


What Is a Refrigerant Recovery Machine?

A refrigerant recovery machine is a piece of equipment that assists people in recovering refrigerants out of their own appliances at home through the use of valves, gauges, and a spare tank. Especially concerning the need for air conditioning refrigerant recovery within the home, these devices are extremely helpful for maintaining your own electronics in a fast, efficient, environmentally-friendly way.


Types of Refrigerant Recovery Machines

Refrigerant recovery machines fall into three categories. You have to determine which of these suits your needs the best.

  • Small
    When working on an automobile, it usually makes sense to use a small recovery machine. These also work well with window AC units and other small HVAC systems.
  • Residential
    If you plan to work on a central AC unit inside the home, you will want the residential-style equipment. You can also use it on your automobile, but you can get away with a smaller unit if that’s all you plan to do.
  • Commercial
    Most people don't require a commercial refrigerant recovery system. These are designed for large HVAC systems, such as those found in high-rise buildings, shopping malls, and restaurants.

Choosing the Best Quality Machine 

As you search for the best refrigerant recovery machine, these are some factors you must consider.

Refrigerant Type & Method of Recovery/Recovery Speed

Some refrigerant recovery machines work with liquid, while others handle vapor. The higher-end models can do both. You must first check to see what type of refrigerant you plan to work with. You will find liquid recovery, vapor recovery, or push-and-pull recovery. While the first two are similar in nature, the push-and-pull is best for recovering more than ten pounds at a time. The liquid is recovered first, and then the hoses are changed to pull out the vapor as well.

Cylinder Type/Capacity

You have two main options when looking at recovery systems. There are twin or single-cylinder models. The single-cylinder recovery machine gives you a lower capacity. While these cost less, they also have slower recovery rates. For maximum efficiency, you will want to invest in a twin-cylinder system instead.

Compressor

The older recovery machines feature hermetic compressors. Modern models have oil-less compressors, which are a much better option. Not only won’t you need to maintain the oil level, but liquid recovery is much faster. In addition, these machines allow you to recover different types of refrigerants with ease. In the end, you receive a better recovery rate and less maintenance.

Size & Weight

Most recovery machines weigh 20 to 40 pounds. If you choose a lightweight machine, you have more portability. This allows you to carry the machine to jobs anywhere. Of course, there is more capacity with larger machines. If you need a portable system with maximum efficiency, you could invest in one with wheels.

Ease of Use

If you are a professional mechanic, you know that time is money. You don’t want to fiddle with hard to use controls when you could be making money. Many innovative recovery machines come with simple controls that are straightforward so you can keep moving. If you aren’t a mechanic, but simply plan to work on your own vehicle, an easy to use system is even more vital.

Efficiency

How long do you want to wait for the recovery machine to complete its job? Sure, you will pay more for higher productivity, but factor in what you could have done with that time wasted. Review the recovery speeds to determine what you are and aren’t willing to pay for.

Safety Features & Compliance

The EPA has strict guidelines as to what is and isn’t acceptable. You must choose a recovery machine that falls in line with these guidelines for maximum safety. There are also other features worth investigating, such as the automatic shutoff or safety pressure switch. Again, you pay more for the additional features, but it’s the best way to remain safe.

Extra Features

You can choose a basic refrigerant recovery system or opt to invest in something with more versatility. You want to evaluate all of your options based on the pump, input and output valves, hoses, and cooling fan. If you aren't using the machine often, some of these might not matter to you. However, as a professional, you need a durable and functional recovery machine to keep pumping out the jobs.

Price & Warranty

Your refrigerant recovery unit might come with a one-year warranty, but some of the higher-end models provide protection for three to five years. The most important part is that you purchase a machine from a reputable brand. Even if you need a cheap refrigerant recovery machine, you can count on one from the top brands.


7 Best Refrigerant Recovery Machines Reviewed

As you attempt to figure out what is the best refrigerant recovery machine, you want to evaluate these six options. Our refrigerant recovery machine reviews break down the prices, features, and specifications of each model.

1. Robinair 34288

Our Top Pick!

Weight

225 lbs

Dimensions

54 x 36 x 28 inches

Recovery Unit

Single

Voltage

110V AC

Key Feature

5" x 9" Color, Graphical Display

Warranty

Yes – 1 year

When it comes to a simple operation, there aren’t many options as superior as the Robinair CoolTech R-134A. Not only does it provide exceptional accuracy, but it also recovers and recycles as well as evacuates and recharges R-134a. It holds to the SAE J-2788 requirements for 95% refrigerant recovery, accuracy plus charging to ½-ounce.

You don’t have to wonder what’s happening with our top pick machine. It comes with a simple display that reminds you when the container needs to be emptied. It even shows the amount of oil that needs to be replaced. With this system, you eliminate air without opening valves or monitoring gauges. This machine holds the user-selected amount in its internal vessel. Then, it signals the user when it is time to change the supply tank. You don’t need to monitor the system at all.

This system is massive, so it is best for the professional mechanic who plans to use it in one location. To move it around the shop, there are wheels attached that provide a controlled rolling motion. Also, this recovery machine does come with a one-year warranty, which is the least we would expect for this higher price. If you need a refrigerant recovery system that you can depend on professionally, you won’t find any better than this.

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Superior speeds
  • Simple display
  • Accurate
  • Low maintenance

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

2. Robinair RG3

Best Cheap Refrigerant Recovery Machine

Weight

18 lbs

Dimensions

14.8 x 11.4 x 8.5 inches

Recovery Unit

Twin

Voltage

110V AC

Key Feature

High-pressure safety shut-off switch

Warranty

Yes – 1 year

The Robinair RG3 refrigerant recovery machine is a 115V, 60Hz portable machine that weighs just 18lbs. It is an ideal solution that can be used with the HVAC systems within many different vehicles types. It works with common CFC, HFC, and HCFC refrigerants.

It is a device that is capable of recovering both liquid and vapor while it has an oil-less compressor and creates a 40% smaller footprint. The compact design of 14” by 11” by 8.5” additionally lends itself to a less ghastly appearance than many of the alternatives out there. Without being the priority, it is a factor that’s worth noting.

Safety is always a crucial feature and the fact that the high-pressure safety shut-off switch automatically shuts off the machine if pressure rises above 550 PSI is of enormous significance. Furthermore, Robinair is a name that’s recognized across the globe as a leader in the field, which gives you even greater confidence in the device.

The single stage unit utilizes a standard hose fit while the two dials are easy to use for the extraction processes. Likewise, the two clear gauges make it easy to track the ‘in’ and ‘out’ levels throughout the process. Staying on top of the job at hand is easy.

Moreover, the high-efficiency cross flow design uses a fan and condenser layout that is optimized for shorter cycle times. In fact, it can extract around 2 pounds in half an hour. This can speed up the refrigerant recovery, allowing you to move onto the other steps of maintenance or recovery with confidence. Putting the coolant back into the system from the recovery tank is a very simple task too, making this vac unit a great all-rounder.

Pros

  • Low cost
  • Easy to use
  • Compact
  • Portable

Cons

  • Not a reclaim unit

The Robinair device is marketed as a versatile unit that is suited to a host of jobs. However, the automotive tasks are where it performs at its best. As a vehicle owner, this is a good thing. The small but powerful refrigerant recovery machine will remove vapor and liquid with great results.

In turn, this can make maintenance of the car’s A/C units a simple task. The fact that the unit is particularly easy to use is merely a bonus. From beginner to pro, this is an option that’s always worth consideration.

Summary


3. Fieldpiece MR45

Best Rated Model

Weight

22 lbs

Dimensions

9.8 x 13.5 x 14.8 inches

Recovery Unit

Twin

Voltage

110V AC

Key Feature

Water-resistant

Warranty

Yes – 1 year

The MR45 is the perfect machine to recover refrigerants from any HVAC system. It comes complete with a 1HP motor to compress refrigerant at 3300 RPM, which is nearly double other machines. Even if you have trouble with the voltage at your location, this machine offers full power to the motor to help you complete the job. You can run it at power down to 95V AC.

At just 22 pounds, this is another fabulous option if portability is vital to your job. You can carry it with you to any location without straining yourself. In addition, this system comes with a single dial and an easy-to-read display. With the straight ports, hose connections are user-friendly as well. You can use this machine in any condition, even if you are working in the rain. The ceramic cylinder increases the durability and helps to minimize friction. Use it to recover vapor or liquid refrigerants, making it a great value.

This portable refrigerant recovery machine has been the best rated model for consumers but is slightly more expensive than others you might see. The unique design makes it well worth the investment. It also comes with a one year warranty, which provides some additional peace of mind.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Operates with low power
  • Strong motor
  • Recovers multiple refrigerants

Cons

  • Display scratches easily

4. INFICON 714-202-G1

Best Portable Refrigerant Recovery Machine

Weight

29.7 lbs

Dimensions

16.7 x 9.2 x 14.2 inches

Recovery Unit

Twin

Voltage

120V

Key Feature

Oversized fan, detachable power cord

Warranty

Yes – 1 year

The Inficon Vortex dual refrigerant recovery machine is another fantastic vac that can extract vapor and liquid from the car’s A/C units as part of the ongoing maintenance. Whether being used in one vehicle or to complete this job on a regular basis in a commercial setting, the 1HP 120V machine is up to the task. Indeed, the recovery rates make it an industry leader.

Practicality of use is at the heart of the Inficon design. Everything from detachable power cord to the item weight of just 29.8lbs is ideal for portability. In fact, the unit measures just 14.2” by 16.7” by 9.2”, which further underlines those aspects.

One of the reasons for choosing a refrigerant recovery machine is to help the environment and the ozone layer. This unit is one that, despite its power, runs very efficiently, Moreover, the dual piston compressor for the fastest recovery speeds available under real service conditions while the micro-channel condenser encourages steady speeds even under the most testing conditions.

Once the vac has gathered the coolant, it is cleaned and can be reused. As with any machine of this type, times and rates can be influenced a little by the temperature. Still setting up and running the machine is a very simple task. A simple turn of the two dials gives you complete control throughout every step of the process while the gauges offer easy monitoring.

The filter/dryer inclusion is another hot selling point for this unit. The self-purge feature without needing to change hoses makes life a lot easier for all users too. This makes the likelihood of costly errors far smaller while automatic safety features further aid the cause.

Users can improve things further through the addition of various accessories and add-ons, but the truth of the matter is that the basic setup is perfect for most issues relating to cars and other vehicles. For personal and commercial endeavors alike, the Inficon dual refrigerant recovery machine is a winner.

Pros

  • Powerful
  • Lightweight
  • Great value
  • Purge features
  • Oversized fan

Cons

  • Recovers liquid and vapor separately

The Inficon unit isn’t built solely with vehicles in mind, but it certainly handles those car-related refrigerant recovery tasks. The unit’s portability, reliability, and attractive appearance all lend themselves to a positive user experience.

Ultimately, though, success is defined by the ability to vac moisture and reuse the coolant. At this price band, you won’t find a better option for your refrigerant recovery machine for those requirements.

Summary


5. Appion G5TWIN

Best Commercial Refrigerant Recovery Machine

Weight

24 lbs

Dimensions

13.75 x 10.3 x 9.4 inches

Recovery Unit

Twin

Voltage

115V

Key Feature

High-speed turbine fan

Warranty

Yes – 1 year

If you want to collect both residential and commercial refrigerant, you can’t go wrong with the Appion twin refrigerant recovery machine. It doubles as a vacuum pump during emergencies. The isolated crankcase prevents contamination, while the rugged construction helps the machine last as long as possible.

It only weighs 24 pounds and comes with a handle for simple portability. Recovery rates are speedy, thanks to the twin cylinders and twin condensers. You can quickly recover liquids or vapors with ease. The ten-blade turbine fan also enables the machine to blast cool air. You won’t want to use this for any type of solvent recovery. This leads to deterioration of the parts and leaves metal flakes behind. You also need to be careful with the plastic valves that could quickly melt if not taken care of.

While this machine does come with a one-year warranty, there are a couple of small things that some users don't enjoy. One is the shorter power cord. If you plan to work in an area without a power outlet nearby, you will need an extension cord. In addition, it seems that this model might be a little louder than most. Overall, you won’t find the accuracy and speed that comes with this machine at such a low price. Use it to recover most common refrigerants with ease.

Pros

  • Superior accuracy
  • Works with most refrigerants
  • Great value
  • Isolated crankcase
  • 10-blade turbine fan

Cons

  • Short power cord
  • Noisy

6. Appion G1SINGLE

Best Lightweight Model

Weight

22 lbs

Dimensions

10.3 x 11.38 x 9.4 inches

Recovery Unit

Single

Voltage

115V

Key Feature

High-speed turbine fan

Warranty

Yes – 1 year

The single recover refrigerant recovery machine by Appion is a lightweight no thrills option that pumps both liquid and vapor in an efficient fashion. It weighs 24lbs and is 13.75” by 10.3” by 9.4” and carries a power of a 115V (60Hz), making it capable of handling heavy loads thanks to the twin cylinders and twin condensers.

A portable and compact design does lose some of the estehtic beauty, but using the machine is still a particularly easy task. Located on the back, the two ‘in’ and ‘out’ dials are turned to the right setting while the gauges show pressure. The machine does most of the hard work for you.

The cooling agents of liquid and vapor can be extracted, cleaned, and reused. This saves you time and money in the long run, making it a great investment. As with the other options on our shortlist, it also reduces the carbon footprint.

Appion’s refrigerant recovery machine is blessed with a number of automatic safety features while the product is additionally built with longevity in mind. Whether used frequently or infrequently, the smart device will save thousands of pounds of refrigerant material.

It is designed for use with all common refrigerants, which is another reason why its ideal for commercial use due to the fact it can handle a range of tasks. The ability to pump liquid and vapor without throttling is something that makes this a very popular machine indeed.

The short cord is a minor issue, but this isn’t a deal breaker by any means. All in all, it is a machine that performs as it should in a variety of situations. From newbies to experienced users, it’s hard to ask for anything more.

Pros

  • Trusted brand
  • No throttling or purge cycle required
  • Permanently lubricated crankcase
  • Affordable
  • Ideal for big or small projects

Cons

  • Unappealing design
  • Noisy

Despite being a unit that isn’t specifically designed with vehicle A/C units in mind, the capabilities of the Appion refrigerant recovery machine should not be underestimated, especially with regards to the fact it can handle the industrial challenges. It’s portable, powerful, and does the job it is set out to do in a diligent fashion. It’s still not the fastest pump on the market, but you are unlikely to have any major problems with the speed.The fact that you will be able to gain usage out of it in other situations is a noteworthy bonus.

Summary


7. MASTERCOOL 62010 Tank

Refrigerant Recovery Tank

Weight

18.85 lbs

Dimensions

18.4 x 12.5 x 10.6 inches

Recovery Unit

N/A

Voltage

N/A

Key Feature

Y valve for liquid and vapor

Warranty

Yes – 1 year

If you don’t already have one, you will undoubtedly need a tank to store the refrigerant in. Here is one we highly recommend.

Pros

  • 30lb tank
  • Reusable
  • Compatible with all refrigerants
  • Affordable
  • Fully tested

Cons

  • Can allow moisture into the system

Understanding Refrigerants

Refrigerants are a common feature among household appliances, whether you know it or not. They comprise a variety of substances that help operate your equipment by refrigerating electrical equipment that needs cooling. Due to the make-up of these substances, the Environmental Protection Agency has regulated the use of certain refrigerants in order to protect the well-being and safety of the environment and humans alike.

As accorded by the EPA, an imperative step in HVAC—or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning—repair is the use of a refrigerant recovery machine. These machines can be used on air conditioners, freezers, or refrigerators. A technician will “recover” the substance into a tank during maintenance or repairs so that it can later be recycled or reused.

It is not only HVAC repair technicians who can use refrigerant recovery machines. Recovering refrigerants is becoming increasingly prevalent among homeowners with various cooling devices in the home. But before doing so, it is helpful to know the essential steps for using a refrigerant recovery machine. In this article, we will go over what these machines are, how to use them, and which features to look for when selecting the best one for your needs.

CFCs – Chlorofluorocarbons

These refrigerants contain carbon, fluorine, and chlorine. They are used commercially and in everyday settings. Common refrigerants in this category include R11, R12, and R115. At first, they were believed to be non-flammable, non-toxic, plus non-reactive, but later studies proved they were dangerous. Not only are they unfriendly to the environment, but they also destroy the ozone.

HCFCs – Hydrochlorofluorocarbons

These became a substitute for banned CFCs. They contain carbon, fluorine, chlorine, and hydrogen. While they still affect the ozone, it is at a lower rate. These are also known as greenhouse gases and are found in R22, R123, R401A, R409A, R416A, and several others. They are cheap and non-toxic but continue to hurt the environment.

HFCs – Hydrofluorocarbons

These don’t contain any chlorine, so they don’t hurt the environment as the other refrigerants do. They still have an impact on global warming but are the best of the three categories discussed thus far. Because of the environmental suitability, many manufacturers use these instead. Common refrigerants in this category include R23, R134A, R404A, R507, and others. 

Natural Refrigerants

The best refrigerants for the environment are natural. They don't come from a design made by humans and don't contain ingredients that harm the ozone, environment, or nature. They also tend to be inexpensive when compared to the other options. These include air, CO2, H2O, HC, and ammonia. While they can't be used in every situation, they are valuable additions to reducing global warming.


Common Recovery Methods Explained

  • Vapor Recovery
    With vapor recovery, the refrigerant is removed from the system while it is in its vapor state. Then, the vapor becomes condensed into a liquid by the unit and gets transferred into a recovery cylinder.
  • Push-Pull Recovery 
    The push-pull method helps when transferring more substantial volumes of liquid refrigerant. The recovery machine pulls vapor and produces high-pressure discharge gas that effectively pushes the liquid out of the system and back to a recovery cylinder. It isn't wise to use this method when there are less than ten pounds of refrigerant in the system.
  • Liquid Recovery
    With this method, the refrigerant is transferred during its liquid state. This is best for recovering more copious amounts of refrigerant. It's performed the same way as the vapor method, but you connect to the high side of the system instead.

How to Setup and Use Refrigerant Recovery Machine

Before anything, make sure you know what kind of refrigerant you will be recovering. It is also vital to make the recovery and general process as clean as you can so as not to hinder the lifetime of your refrigerants.

As far as actually recovering the refrigerant, a couple different methods can be used. A common method is recovering the refrigerant in vapor form, while another (and less time-consuming) process is recovering the refrigerant in liquid form via the push and pull method. Be sure to do the needed research on the best options for your appliance.

Once you have determined the method you need, follow these steps to use the machine:

  • Turn off your gauges.
  • Put your red hose on the high side, blue on the low, and yellow on the suction line.
  • Attach one of the hoses from the recovery machine to the correlating tank and be aware of the amount of refrigerant you are extracting (weight-wise). Be mindful that legally you should not fill more than 80% of your recovery tank.
  • Unscrew the valves from the appliance to the refrigerant recovery machine (not including the valve connecting the recovery machine and the tank). Loosen the valve connected to the tank momentarily to let some of the air escape, then tighten it again.
  • Turn on the recovery machine until it reaches 0 psi on the low side, at which time you should stop immediately.
  • After that, the machine should turn off by itself.

Here is a video about how to set up and use a refrigerant recovery machine:


Features of a Good Refrigerant Recovery Machine

There are some major aspects of a refrigerant recovery machine to be aware of when trying to find the best one for you. Here are some to be mindful of:

  • Smaller carbon footprint than standard.
  • Easy enough to be used by those of all skill levels.
  • A compressor that can recover refrigerants in both liquid and gaseous states.
  • Capable of recovering a wide variety of refrigerants, naturally best if that included the specific refrigerant(s) you are looking to recover.
  • Efficiency in speed.
  • Included fan to increase cooling during process.
  • Automatic shut offs if the psi level broaches dangerous territory.

Essentially, it is important to know your options. Also, as the environment changes through our use of chlorofluorocarbons, halocarbon refrigerants, and more ozone depleting chemicals, it is vital to act with initiative and seek out tools that will better assist in a safer and environmentally friendly methods for the future.

Be sure to be aware of the refrigerants you seek to replace, the recovery machines that are available to you in terms of cost, skill level for use, and weight, and seek further assistance for any questions or concerns. Working with hard machinery like this that contains the potentially toxic chemicals can be dangerous, and safety is always the first priority in any project you may take on.

Refrigerant recovery machines should be handled with care and well researched prior to use. However, if you do decide to invest in one, you may very well find yourself honing a new skill as well as supporting the betterment of our environment.


Dangers of Refrigerant Leaks - Mistakes to Avoid

If you aren’t well-versed at recovering refrigerant, you want to brush up on your knowledge. Otherwise, you put yourself and others in danger of refrigerant leaks. Mild exposure to the leaked refrigerant can lead to irritation, nausea, vomiting, headaches, frostbite, and lightheadedness. Prolonged exposure leads to difficulty breathing, a decreased mental capacity, seizures, and death, in rare cases.

When you are recovering refrigerants, you want to follow some basic safety guidelines to remain protected. First of all, don’t mix recovered refrigerants. You must prevent cross-contamination at all times. Secondly, you should always wear personal protective equipment (PPE). At the bare minimum, this should include eye protection.

Finally, make sure you know how to operate the low-pressure refrigerant recovery machine you have. Read the owner's manual, watch online videos, and train yourself in the proper procedures before using it.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

Why is it important to recover refrigerants?

Refrigerants must be recovered, so they don't leak into the atmosphere. Regardless of what refrigerant you are recovering, you must do it properly, or you could violate federal Environment Protection laws. Fines and sentences differ for violating the Clean Air Act.

Can I reuse the reclaimed refrigerant?

Recycled refrigerant is only reusable in the system it came from or a system that is part of the same owner’s equipment. Reclaimed refrigerant, on the other hand, can be resold and used in different systems.

What happens when one accidentally inhales refrigerants?

Mild exposure leads to dizziness, increased heart rate, headaches, and irritation. If continued exposure occurs, it can quickly damage the organs, lead to seizures, or cause death.

How do you store refrigerants? Do refrigerant recovery machines come with a storage tank?

Refrigerants should be stored in areas where the temperatures don’t exceed 125 degrees Fahrenheit. It should also be a well-ventilated area. Some recovery machines require the use of a separate storage tank.

What might be a reason for Freon leaks?

Most Freon leaks are a result of wear and tear. Over time, gaskets and seals break down, allowing the refrigerant to escape. Leaks also occur when damage is done to the components during an accident or failure.

What is recycled refrigerant?

Recycled refrigerants have been extracted and cleaned. They can be reused, but haven’t been tested for compliance. That’s why it may only be used again in the same system or one that is owned by the same person.


Conclusion

As you search for a refrigerant recovery machine for sale, you have plenty of options to choose from. While all six of the machines we reviewed make exceptional choices, we highly recommend the Robinair (34288) CoolTech R-134A for most circumstances. It provides the versatility, power, and functionality that professionals and novices alike appreciate. 

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