Sluggish Economy Slows CFC Chiller Phaseout

Building owners in the U.S. last year replaced or converted 2,594 comfort cooling chillers that use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), leaving in operation an estimated 38,800 of the units that still rely on CFC refrigerants. A survey of chiller manufacturers released by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), Arlington, VA showed the impact of the weak U.S. economy in 2002, as the pace slowed from earlier years. ARI said there were 379 conversions and 2,215 chillers replaced with non-CFC equipment using alternative refrigerants. There were approximately 80,000 large tonnage liquid chillers using CFCs in operation in the early 1990s when phaseout of the units began in preparation for an end to production of CFCs on December 31, 1995. Stockpiled virgin CFC refrigerants and CFCs reclaimed from chillers no longer in service are the only sources of supply of CFCs available to building owners. According to the survey, manufacturers expect in 2003 approximately 2,549 replacements and 334 chiller conversions, bringing the year-end total to 44,072. That’s 55% of the 80,000 large tonnage liquid chillers that used CFCs, usually CFC-11 or CFC-12. ARI notes that with so many CFC units still in service, the industry faces a substantial task over coming years of completing the CFC phaseout. Non-CFC chillers use alternatives accepted for use by the Environmental protection Agency (EPA). They include units with hydrochlorofluorocarbons, HCFC-123 and HCFC-22, and hydrofluorocarbons, HFC-134a, HFC-410A and HFC-407C. EPA rules require recovery of CFCs and alternative refrigerants which can then be reclaimed to meet purity limits set in ARI Standard 700. Employment declines and economic weakness in the U.S. and abroad affected new building construction and CFC chiller replacements. ARI reported that factory shipments of large tonnage liquid chillers for use in the U.S. and abroad dropped to 5,793 in 2002 from the 7,171 units shipped in 2001. The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute is the trade association representing manufacturers of more than 90 percent of North American produced central air-conditioning and commercial refrigeration equipment. For more information, visit ARI’s website at www.ari.org.

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