Air conditioning and refrigeration technicians play an important role in the phaseout of hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants.
A worthy goal for contractors is to apply new guidelines to all installations, service, and repair of equipment that may contain HCFC refrigerants.
Following are key items related to proper recovery and disposal of reclaimed refrigerants, as provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Servicing Air Conditioning Systems
Technicians must possess EPA Section 608 certification in order to service refrigeration and air conditioning equipment containing HCFCs. According to Sec. 608, technicians must pass a test demonstrating proper handling of ozone depleting refrigerants and knowledge of EPA refrigerant regulations.
Visit www.epa.gov/Ozone/title6/608/technicians/608certs for a list of EPA-approved technician certification programs.
As a best practice, locate and repair leaks instead of topping off leaking systems.
It’s illegal to intentionally release any refrigerant when servicing, repairing, or maintaining equipment. In most cases, you must use refrigeratnt recovery equipment during service, maintenance, or repair.
You must certify in writing to your EPA regional office that you have and will properly use EPA-certified refrigerant recovery and recyling equipment.
In some cases, you may recharge equipment with recovered HCFC refrigerants. If the refrigerant is being charged back into the same appliance, or to another appliance owned by the same person, the used refrigerant doesn’t need to be recycled or reclaimed.
A recovered refrigerant is one that was removed from refrigeration or air conditioning equipment and stored in an external container without necessarily being tested or processed in any way.
A recycled refrigerant is one that has been extracted and cleaned for reuse, without meeting stringent requirements for reclamation.
A reclaimed refrigerant has been reprocessed using specialized machinery, and tested to meet industry purity standards.
Recovered refrigerant can’t be sold to a new owner. It must be sent to an EPA-certified reclaimer prior to sale.
Disposing of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Equipment
Prior to equipment disposal, you must properly recover HCFCs from existing refrigeration and air conditioning equipment to help ensure the availability of future supplies, protect the ozone layer, and comply with the law.
You may send recovered HCFC refrigerants to be reclaimed or destroyed.
The EPA maintains a list of acceptable and unacceptable substitutes for specific refrigeration and air conditioning end uses.
Alternative refrigerants generally can’t be used as a “drop-in” replacement in an existing system without modifying the system components.
If substitutes are used in retrofitted equipment that was originally manufactured for use with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), all servicing and installation personnel should be trained on proper retrofit installation and servicing techniques.
When purchasing alternative refrigerants, consider the cost, availability, and required equipment. Also, check to be sure that the refrigerant is acceptable for your expected use, and is consistent with the equipment manufacturer’s recommendations and warranties.
The EPA says it doesn’t require certification for technicians servicing appliances with non-ozone depleting refrigerants (such as R-410A). If you’re not sure if a refrigerant is non-ozone depleting, contact EPA or visit www.epa.gov/ozone for more information.
Remember that it’s illegal to intentionally release any refrigerants — including the alternatives such as HFCs (R-410A). There are several acceptable alternatives to R-22 that don’t deplete the ozone layer. These include R-134A, R-404A, R-407C, and R-410A.
R-410A can be used in new — not retrofitted — residential air conditioners. For more information on appropriate substitutes, visit www.epa.gov/ozone/snap/refrigerants.
Customer Communication Counts
The production and import (not use) of HCFC refrigerants is being phased out in the U.S. and globally. The phaseout will repair the ozone layer and reduce incidences of skin cancer and cataracts.
Customers aren’t required to stop using HCFC refrigerants, or to replace existing equipment. However, the available supply of R-22 and R-142b will decrease in the future.
The EPA hasn’t banned the sale or use of refrigerant and air conditioning equipment containing R-22. The phaseout period provides time to switch to ozone-friendly refrigerants when they normally would replace their refrigerant and air conditioning equipment.
Visit www.epa.gov/ozone for additional information.
| PHASEOUT DEADLINE |
HCFC-22 — also known as R-22 — is often used in air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. HCFC-142b is also used as a refrigerant, often as a component of a blend. It’s sometimes used for foam blowing or as a propellant in aerosol cans.
These two HCFCs are being phased out according to the following schedule:
January 1, 2010:
January 1, 2015:
January 1, 2020:
After 2020, the servicing of systems that use R-22 or R-142 b will rely on recovered or stockpiled quantities. It’s difficult to predict when these supplies will be depleted. Supplies may be available until almost all equipment containing R-22 or R-142b is retired. However, in the future, supplies will be more limited and costs of HCFCs will likely rise. — EPA