R22 Refrigerant gas phase out: Is your organization ready for enhance tracking and exploding costs?

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Courtesy of Courtesy of Verisae

Several years ago, the United States and other countries passed federal laws that mandate commercial facilities to phase out usage of R22 refrigerant and convert to a more environmentally friendly alternative (i.e. SNAP refrigerant alternatives).

Many organizations are working on conversion efforts for the 2015 phase out deadline. Other organizations are putting into practice various measures to comply with tracking and reporting regulations for existing refrigeration systems.

Used extensively throughout the world, R22 refrigerant is vital to the operation of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC-R) systems installed in the majority of commercial and business facilities. It can also be found in process chiller and industrial refrigerant plants. The widespread use of the chemical is a paramount concern because when a leak occurs hydrochlorofluorocarbons are released. They are deemed harmful because they damage the ozone layer and contribute to global warming.

It is a monumental task for facilities to replace R22 refrigerant. For many, it means changing existing heating and cooling systems (HVAC-R) or installing new equipment, all with minimal interruption to business. During this process, special care needs to be given to the chemical’s safe removal and proper discarding to comply with federal regulations.

Under proposed amendments to California AB 32 in 2009, reporting requirements became much stiffer. Companies using systems containing 50 pounds of R22 refrigerant must submit annual reports of its usage, service and leaks, while facilities with larger systems have a more frequent reporting schedule and may require automatic lead detection equipment. The exact wording of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) early actions is still pending but one thing is sure; tracking of refrigerant gases or Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) will become more granular.

Federal law currently bans R22 refrigerant in various areas of production, in household equipment, and in certain kinds of vehicles not to mention commercial or industrial HVAC-R systems. New refrigeration and air conditioning equipment being manufactured can no longer contain the chemical. Furthermore, banning of new R22 refrigerant in the maintenance and servicing of existing refrigeration and air conditioning systems takes place in 2010, while the use of recycled R22 refrigerant for the same purposes will be prohibited by 2015.

The U.S. Clean Air Act outlines specific containment and management practices that businesses and municipalities must follow to recover and recycle R22 refrigerant during installation, service, or retirement of a system. Because of the complex requirements of these procedures, many organizations use software programs and tracking applications to automatically handle the protocols, rather than handle the paperwork manually.

As R22 refrigerant is phased out under federal regulations established by the United States and other countries worldwide, alternative substances have been identified. These alternatives are friendlier to the environment and more energy efficient. Among the commercial use refrigerants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency are ammonia, R404A and R407c.

Because it contains hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), R22 refrigerant has shown to cause significant damage to the ozone layer. As such, companies have begun efforts to comply with the new regulations aimed at reducing the use of refrigerant use. Among the requirements of the law are monitoring equipment using R22 refrigerant, tracking its usage and reporting any leaks. Compliance has become even more important than before following new laws passed in 2009. These regulations allow government regulators to conduct unannounced spot checks to ensure proper tracking of R22. Particular oversight is given in the event of a leak to ensure documentation adequately shows how the gases were recovered.

R22 refrigerant is just one of many substances that have been identified by the United States and other countries as causing long-term harm to the ozone layer. More recently, these substances have shown to have high global warming potential (GWP) which in turn also makes these emissions fall into the mandates specified in the Kyoto Protocol and the soon to be released EPA carbon emissions reporting requirements.

The effort to phase out dangerous substances will help the world reach its unified goal of recovering the damage done to the ozone layer to date and improve the overall health of the environment for years to come as we all work to reverse our collective effects on the climate.

Customer comments

  1. By Adrian Doran on

    Is it Legal to re-change R22 in Israel has we are going there with a vessal and most off the AC is R22