Buying the Best Refrigerant Recovery Machine [2021 Edition]
Whether you’re an HVACR technician working for a large company, or a one-man operation, the refrigerant recovery machine is your most important piece of equipment.
Purchasing the best model for your needs is vital. However, with so many choices on the market, it can be difficult to narrow down which HVAC recovery machine to buy.
To help you there, we have researched and reviewed 5 of the best recovery machines currently available. We’ve covered various price points and levels of portability in our selection.
For our findings at a glance, check out the table below. For in-depth analysis of each machine, plus a dedicated buyer’s guide, keep on reading.
Best HVAC Recovery Machine – Top 5
Best Recovery Machine Reviews
There is a wide range of recovery machines available today. However, each can be rated based on its build quality, cost/performance ratio, features, and functionality as well warranty and after-sales support offered by the manufacturer.
Based on these rating criteria and more we have selected 5 of the best refrigerant recovery machines on the market in 2021.
1. BEST PORTABLE MACHINE: Robinair RG3 Portable Refrigerant Recovery Machine
The RG3 is an easy-to-use portable refrigerant recovery machine designed and manufactured by Robinair.
This lightweight machine features a compact design that allows one to easily carry it around.
It weighs about 18 pounds, and measures 14.8 inches in length, 11.4 inches in width, and 8.5 inches tall. Its compact design also gives it a small footprint.
It has a compact shiny casing that features a hard-to-break handle that is conveniently located on its top part. This gray outer case is not only tough to break, but it is also durable and at most times, outlives the machine itself.
One critical aspect of its solid construction is its high-efficiency cross-flow design which ensures that the layout of the condenser and fan is properly optimized to provide the shortest cycle times possible.
It is easy to operate this machine as the pressure gauges are conveniently placed on the user panel for easy reading of pressures.
Also in the user panel are the on-and-off switch and color-coded easy-to-use valve controls that regulate the inflow and outflow of substances into the machine.
The inflow valve control and its corresponding pressure gauge are colored blue, while those for the outflow are colored red.
This machine uses an oil-less compressor that features a high-pressure safety switch. This switch automatically shuts down the entire unit if the pressure inside the machine rises above 550psi (approximately 6.9 kilopascals).
RG3 can handle almost all common refrigerants including chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC), and hydro-chloroflurocarbon (HCFC)-based refrigerants such as R-410A, R-12, R-22, R-500, and R-134a.
It works well with both liquid and gaseous refrigerants, but the recovery rate for gaseous refrigerants is slower than that of liquid refrigerants.
Even so, the unit rarely develops leaks and one can use it to recover gaseous refrigerants for a considerable period of time.
In fact, this is what makes it suitable for refrigerant recovery from any HVAC system from rooftop-installed to marine HVAC systems. Still, this machine is purposely designed for residential recovery.
RG3 is a single-cylinder recovery machine, but its performance is quite superb, and it can recover about 3-tonnes of R-22 refrigerant from a residential unit within 30 minutes.
This performance is comparable to some twin-cylinder recovery machines, but such machines cost much more than the RG3.
Therefore, the cost-to-performance ratio of the RG3 recovery machine is superb for its price range and operational capabilities.
It is powered by 110 volts AC power, and an IEC coupler is integrated into its design, and a power cable that can fit into this coupler is also provided. Its operating frequency is 60Hz.
Anyone who acquires the RG3 from an authorized trader also benefits from a one-year warranty from Robinair.
The RG3 is a compactly-designed, electrically-powered, and easy-to-use portable refrigerant recovery machine that is purposely built for both HVAC and residential recovery.
The unique features, superb cost-to-performance ratio, and unrivaled benefits offered by this portable
RG3 machine makes it the best refrigerant recovery machine among the 5 recovery machines reviewed in our top 5.
2. Appion G5 TWIN Twin-Cylinder Recovery Unit
The G5Twin twin-cylinder model is a compactly-designed, lightweight and ultra-fast refrigerant recovery machine designed and manufactured by Appion.
It weighs about 26 pounds, and measures 13.75 inches in length, 9.4 inches in width, and 10.3 inches tall. Its size compares well with that of the Robinair RG3 recovery machine, but it weighs more than RG3.
Even so, its heavier weight is due to its solid construction which incorporates a twin-cylinder as opposed to a single-cylinder of RG3, as well as unique components such as twin condensers.
The compact multi-colored shiny casing of G5TWIN gives it a good aesthetic appeal, and like the Robinair RG3 recovery machine, it also features a hard-to-break handle that is conveniently located on its top part.
Likewise, it is easy to operate this machine as the pressure gauges are conveniently placed on the front-located user panel for easy reading of pressures; and just like the Robinair RG3, the inflow valve control and its corresponding pressure gauge are colored blue, while those for the outflow are colored red.
The layout of the components inside G5TWIN ensures that there is an operational synergy between the operations of its twin-cylinder and the twin condensers, and this allows the machine to achieve ultra-fast recovery rates. This also makes it a high-volume refrigerant recovery device.
Another unique feature of the G5TWIN is its 7-inch 10-blade turbine fan which can reach speeds of 3000 rpm (revolutions per minute).
At this speed, the fan can blast large volumes of fast-moving cooling air over the condensers and twin-cylinder heads.
This ensures that the machine operates at a cool temperature of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit regardless of the surrounding ambient temperature.
One major difference between the G5TWIN machine and the Robinair RG3 is with regard to the range of refrigerants that each can work with.
Just like RG3, G5TWIN also works well with both liquid and gaseous refrigerants, but the gas recovery rate of G5TWIN is much higher than that of RG3.
This model features a refrigerant-isolated crankcase, which ensures that the refrigerant fluids do not come in contact with the moving parts inside the crankcase.
This prevents bearing contamination and ensures that the machine continues to operate quietly for a long period of time.
Bearing contamination not only causes the machine to be noisy during operation, but it also increases the rate of wear and tear of the moving components hence ultimately reducing the lifespan of the device.
The G5TWIN is powered by 115 volts AC power, and it draws 10 Amps of electricity. Its operating frequency is 60Hz.
It has an IEC coupler that is integrated into its design, and a power cable that can fit into this coupler is provided upon purchase of the machine. The purchaser also benefits from a one-year warranty from Appion.
The Appion G5TWIN is a compactly-designed, electrically-powered, easy-to-use, and portable twin-cylinder refrigerant recovery machine that is purposely built to recover R-410A and R-22 refrigerants.
However, when you factor in that the RG3 from Robinair is compatible with a far wider range of refrigerants, this does bring the overall value for money down on this Appion offering.
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3. Inficon 714-202-G1 Vortex Dual Recovery Machine
The Vortex Dual is a compactly-designed, easy-to-use, and portable high-volume refrigerant recovery machine designed and manufactured by Inficon.
It weighs about 30 pounds, and measures 16.7 inches in length, 9.2 inches in width, and 14.2 inches tall.
It is evidently larger than both Robinair RG3 and Appion G5TWIN.
Likewise, it is heavier than both, and this is due to its incorporation of unique components such as a dual-piston compressor, micro-channel condenser, and an oversized fan inside its solid construction.
The Vortex Dual also comes with its won custom-made shoulder strap which makes it easy for one to carry it around.
The compact multi-colored glazed casing of the Vortex Dual recovery machine gives it a good aesthetic appeal; and like both the Robinair RG3 and G5TWIN recovery machine, it also features a hard-to-break handle that is conveniently located on its top part.
However, unlike their molded casings, the blow-molded casing of the Vortex Dual has noise-absorbing properties that ensure that the machine is ultra-quiet during operation.
This machine is shipped alongside its instruction manual, which describes in simple language how one needs to operate the machine.
To make it more user-friendly, it is designed to be easy-to-use with the pressure gauges conveniently placed on the user panel for easy reading of pressures.
Also, just as in Robinair RG3 and Appion G5TWIN recovery machines, the inflow valve control and its corresponding pressure gauge are colored blue, while those for the outflow are colored red.
However, in Vortex Dual, the pressure gauges are fully protected by being covered by the molded case and a tough scratch-resistant transparent material.
This machine uses a dual-piston compressor that is capable of generating one horsepower (HP) during each cycle, and this allows it to achieve extremely high recovery rates.
The Vortex Dual also has a microchannel condenser that works to provide excellent heat exchange that allows the refrigerant recovery machine to maintain exceptionally high recovery rates during the entire process of each recovery cycle.
To ensure that the machine operates without overheating, the oversized fans blast fast-moving air across the components so as to cool them down.
Another unique feature of the Vortex Dual is its ability to conduct a self-purge operation which not only empties the machine, but it also saves the user from changing hoses. This machine is also shipped alongside its filter and dryer.
The Vortex Dual uses an oil-less compressor that features a high-pressure safety switch that automatically shuts down the entire unit if the pressure inside the machine rises above 550psi.
It can also handle almost all common gaseous and liquid refrigerants including chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC), and hydro-chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-based refrigerants such as R-404, R-410A, R-12, R-22, R-407, and R-134a.
This machine is powered by 115 volts AC power, and it draws 10 amps of electricity, and its IEC coupler is integrated into the construction. Its operating frequency is 60Hz. It also comes with a 1.8 meters long detachable power cord.
Anyone who purchases the Vortex Dual 714-202-G1 refrigerant recovery machine from Inficon-authorized trader benefits from a three-year over-the-counter warranty.
The 714-202-G1 Vortex Dual is a compactly-designed, electrically-powered, and easy-to-use high-volume refrigerant recovery machine featuring a 1-HP dual-piston compressor that allows it to achieve remarkable recovery rates.
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4. Yellow Jacket 95762 Recover-XLT Recovery Machine
The Yellow Jacket Recover-XLT is a compactly-designed, easy-to-use, and portable high-volume refrigerant recovery machine designed and manufactured by Yellow Jacket.
It weighs about 34 pounds, and measures 21 inches in length, 13 inches in width, and 15 inches tall.
These dimensions make it larger and heavier than the Vortex Dual, Robinair RG3, and Appion G5TWIN. This can be explained in part by the incorporation of unique components such as the Ritchie Recover XLT kit and a powerful sensor.
This model has a compact multi-colored glazed casing. Of all the five recovery machines reviewed, this Yellow Jacket model has the best aesthetic appeal.
The blue-colored molded side casing fits well into a gray front casing.
Furthermore, like the Vortex Dual, the molded casing of this model has noise-absorbing properties which ensure that the machine is ultra-quiet during operation.
Also, the components inside the machine are nested inside a noise-absorbing and vibration-absorbing framework. Apart from that, this model also features a hard-to-break handle that is conveniently located on its top part.
To make it more user-friendly, it is designed to be easy-to-use with the pressure gauges conveniently placed on the front-side user panel.
Also, just as in other recovery machines reviewed, its inflow valve control and the corresponding pressure gauge are colored blue, while those for the outflow are colored red.
Also, as in the Vortex Dual, its pressure gauges are fully protected by being covered by the molded case and a tough scratch-resistant transparent material.
This machine uses an oil-less compressor. Its condenser provides excellent heat exchange that allows the refrigerant recovery machine to maintain exceptionally high recovery rates.
Also, to avoid overheating, powerful fans blast fast-moving air across the components and cools them down. It can also conduct a self-purge operation. Its filter and dryer are provided among the accessories shipped alongside the machine.
This Yellow Jacket model is designed to provide fully automatic operation, and this is the reason it incorporates a sensor that not only detects non-optimized operations or operational glitches but also alerts the user about them.
It also incorporates a CPR (Constant Pressure Regulator) valve which serves to regulate refrigerant pressure inside the compressor.
The compressor can produce up to 0.5 HP, and this allows it to achieve a compression pressure of about 500psi.
However, to prevent pressure build-up, the model is equipped with a high-pressure safety switch that automatically shuts down the entire unit if the pressure inside the machine rises above 517psi.
This model can handle almost all common gaseous and liquid refrigerants including chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC), and hydro-chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-based refrigerants such as R-500, R-404, R-410A, R-12, R-22, R-407, R-502, and R-134a.
This machine is powered by 110 volts AC power, and it draws 10 Amps of electricity. Its IEC coupler is integrated into its solid construction. Its operating frequency is 60Hz. It also comes with a 1.8 meters long detachable power cord.
Anyone who purchases the Yellow Jacket 95762 Recover-XLT Recovery Machine (model number GID-484206) from authorized trader benefits from a three-year warranty guaranteed by Yellow Jacket.
The Yellow Jacket 95762 Recover-XLT is a compactly-designed, electrically-powered, and easy-to-use high-volume refrigerant recovery machine built to achieve exceptionally high recovery rates.
Highly recommended if you are in the market for a quality recovery machine.
5. BEST INDUSTRIAL MACHINE: Robinair-34988 Premium Recovery-Recycling-Recharging Machine
The Robinair-34988 Premium is a fully automatic refrigerant recovery and recycling machine that is capable of recharging itself.
This easy-to-use wheeled refrigerant recovery-recycling-recharging machine is designed and manufactured by Robinair.
It is designed for industrial, commercial use and has the durability and recovery speed to match.
Unlike the other recovery machines reviewed above, this model has four wheels (two small front wheels and two large back wheels) which allow the user to move it around.
It weighs about 7.3 pounds, and measures 35.7 inches in length, 24 inches in width, and 55.3 inches tall. It also has a compact hard-to-break shiny casing.
Also, just like Robinair RG3, the construction of Robinair-34988 features a high-efficiency cross-flow design which ensures that the layout of the condenser and fan is properly optimized to provide the shortest cycle times possible.
This machine allows the user to perform a vacuum leak test. Its operations are highly accurate, and it can easily recover recycles as well as recharge itself by allowing more inflow of the refrigerant without much manual input.
This machine also allows the user to inject dyes, thus allowing for the injection of ultraviolet dyes that enables the user to assess the progress and integrity of the recovery process.
It also features an automatic refrigerant fill that has a user-selectable mode which allows the user to select the amount of refrigerant that goes into its internal vessel.
It also supports automatic air-purge which eliminates damaging air before they reach either the gauges or valves.
Its refrigerant management system allows for the display of refrigerant use thus allowing the user to easily monitor the operations of this machine. Its notification feature informs the user when an operation has been completed.
This model uses an oil-based (hermetic) compressor, and this necessitates regular oil draining and refilling.
Even so, this process has been simplified in this model through the A/C system flush which can flush all oil, and any other liquid, from the machine.
Oil level is monitored using the A/C charge system which indicates the oil level inside the machine.
This is an easy to operate the machine, and its pressure gauges are conveniently placed on the user panel for easy reading of pressures.
It also features a high-pressure safety switch that automatically shuts down the entire unit if the pressure inside the machine rises above the acceptable limit.
RG3 can handle almost all common refrigerants including chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC) and hydro-chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-based refrigerants such as R-410A, R-12, R-22, R-500, and R-134a. It works well with both liquid and gaseous refrigerants.
Robinair offers a 1-year warranty for this model.
The Robinair-34988 Premium is a compactly-designed, wheeled, and easy-to-use refrigerant recovery machine that is capable of reclaiming refrigerants.
If you need a recovery machine for a commercial purposes, this is the unit to buy.
Recovery Machine Buyer’s Guide
HVAC recovery is a important job. An announcement by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) phasedown of R-22, has made clear that the process is growing even more valuable.
It is an important market, which means for practitioners using the right equipment should be priority number one.
What to consider when buying a refrigerant recovery machine
If you’re currently looking to buy a new HVAC refrigerant recovery machine, here are a few things you should consider first.
Buying to meet your needs
The wide range of machines available is designed to suit different demands. Put simply, a large workshop with a whole team of employees will require more robust commercial grade recovery machines than a technician working alone.
The former needs a fast recovery time that commercial equipment can provide. The workshop setting also means heavier equipment can be used.
The one-man band is more likely to opt for a less expensive, portable HVAC recovery machine.
Weight & Portability
On the subject of portability, weight is obviously a big factor here. If you will moving from job to job, climbing onto roofs and reaching hard to get places; you will want as light a unit as possible.
Advancements in technology have seen the best recovery machines get smaller and smaller, (specific models designed for portability are very much the norm now)
When buying a machine, consider just how much portability you require, along with issues such as recovery time and cost.
For instance, the lightest units may well not compete with heavier machines designed with fast recovery times as a priority. Those few extra pounds of weight will not seem so bad if your time on the rooftop is cut in half.
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We have touched on the recovery speed above. It is certainly an important consideration, especially for a large business where time is money.
The fastest refrigerant recovery machines are twin cylinder units. If speed specs are a high priority, this is what you should look for.
Be prepared to pay more, however.
Another factor that impacts recovery time is the oil-less vs Hermetic Compressors debate. The fact is, in 2017 the majority of machines now opt for the oil-less build as they offer much better recovery rates and are cleaner to run.
Larger oil-less models also have the ability to handle multiple refrigerants.
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It is important to know what’s involved when it comes to servicing the recovery machine you intend to buy. If things fail, or routine maintenance is required, will you be in a position to service it yourself or locally? In some instances, your only choice could be the manufacturer.
Is there a licensed outlet nearby or will it need to be sent far afield, a situation that cost you income during the disruption?
Knowing these details in advance may alter your purchasing decision.
Environment of operation
One issue to consider if you are going to be operating your recovery machine in very hot weather is the size of the condenser. A large one will be needed in order to help keep the unit cool and to prevent it from cutting out.
Cost is clearly another issue that will affect those looking for the best refrigerant recovery machine.
Even at the lower end of the market, the prices do not come cheap. Units vary in price from $400-$8,000.
That large range is due to the demands required on a machine. As we have stated above, a busy commercial shop will need (and have the budget for) a top-level unit capable of multiple simultaneous operations as well as fast recovery times.
A small portable unit is not designed for such workload, and hence are a lot cheaper.
Balancing your needs with your budget is the key issue here.
Finally, there is the issue of warranty length. Clearly you will want as long a warranty as possible.
After-sales support is also important, especially if the unit is to be used in a busy commercial setting. Knowing that a technician will arrive to fix any problems should they occur, provides an added peace of mind.
Buying from third-party sites such as Amazon also has its benefits. Not only do online retailers often offer the lowest prices, but there is also the added protection of purchasing through a 3rd party.
Amazon is also a good place to compare prices and get the best deals.
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How to use a Refrigerant Recovery Machine
The following video is one of the best resources we have found, detailing the steps involved when using a refrigerant recovery machine:
Legal Requirements From the EPA
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has some strict guidelines on the certification of refrigerant recovery machines. Section 608 stipulates the following:
“Except for equipment manufactured before November 15, 1993, the recovery or recycling equipment must have been certified by an EPA-approved equipment testing organization. To ensure that they are recovering the correct level of refrigerant, technicians must use the recovery equipment according to the directions of its manufacturer.” – EPA
The regulations also cover the handling and reclamation of refrigerants, giving the EPA the ability to fine violators up to $37,500 per day, should they not abide by the guidelines.
The Montreal Protocol & U.S Clean Air Act
The Montreal Protocol was an international treaty that was signed by all members of the United Nations in 1987. It was created in an effort to help make developed nations reduce the manufacturer of ozone-depleting substances.
The U.S government amended The Clean Air Act in order to comply with the treaty. Within the Act, the EPA is given authority to regulate the use of refrigerants and, as mentioned above, can dish out some hefty fines for parties that do not comply
If you are working with a recovery machine, it is important that you are fully aware of the regulations. The handling and reclamation of refrigerants is a serious business with a lot of responsibility attached.
Refrigerant Recovery Machine FAQs
Here are some answers to common questions that come up when people are looking to buy a recovery machine for the first time.
What exactly is a Refrigerant Recovery Machine and what does it do?
Simply put, a refrigerator recovery machine is a device that is used to remove refrigerants from cooling equipment. The normal application is home and vehicle AC units.
These refrigerants have to be removed following pre-defined APA standards. There are machines for home use, (so refrigerants can be removed from your own home or car), as well as more advanced machines that technicians use for commercial work.
Can I use a Vacuum Pump to Recover Refrigerant?
Vacuum pumps are available to help recover refrigerant, however, to use one is not necessary. The most common way of removing refrigerant is by condensing it out via a recovery machine. Vacuum pumps are just an additional method that can be used too.
How Do I Restore Refrigerant Without a Recovery Machine?
These days it is possible to restore refrigerant using tanks and gauges so that you know how much is going back into the system. This process does not require the use of a recovery machine.
- Manual: Refrigerant Transition & Recovery Certification Program Manual for Technicians (Delmar’s Test Preparation Series); by
- Video: Introduction to the refrigerant recovery machine.
- www.ase.com: Refrigerant Recovery and Recycling Program (ASE Test details)
- www.epa.com: Refrigerant Recovery and Recycling Equipment Certification
- Podcast: HVAC Know it all