Refrigerant Gases (R-22 HCFCs): Understanding the laws regulating them

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Courtesy of Verisae

The US Clean Air Act is a congressional law that explains the EPA's task in protecting air quality and the ozone layer. This Act is maintained by the House of Representatives. Major amendments were passed in 1990 and several other changes were made after that with still more pending related to mandatory reporting of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

Refrigerant gases are those used in climate control in commercial and business facilities such as warehouses, stores and office buildings. The refrigerants used in commercial heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) or regular air conditioning (AC) units include Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC), chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and perfluorocarbon (PFC).

HCFCs are used instead of CFCs which are known to destroy the ozone layer of the upper atmosphere. Because HCFCs contain hydrogen they are less stable in the atmosphere, however they still contain chlorine cause ozone depletion. These refrigerant gases are not only considered Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) but many of them also have very high Global Warming Potential ratios which results in their detailed tracking, monitoring, and reporting related to their Global Warming effects.

While perfluorocarbons do not contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer, scientists worry that PFCs can contribute to global warming since they have a very high global warming potential (GWP). GWP is a ratio developed to determine which chemical substances and refrigerant gases released into the atmosphere create more warming. The most common greenhouse gas (GHG) talked about the most often is carbon dioxide (CO2) or just carbon for short.

CFCs have been used since the early 1930s and were found to deplete ozone in the 1970s. A chemical reaction caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation breaks off the chlorine atom in CFCs. This chlorine atom binds with oxygen already in the atmosphere. A second reaction splits the chlorine and oxygen and this is what causes the depletion of ozone.

Refrigerant gas tracking and refrigerant management is necessary to assure that no ozone depleting or greenhouse gases escape into the atmosphere and contribute to destructive climate change. EPA Inspectors, governmental regulators, as well as many state officials are responsible for monitoring commercial AC and HVAC systems. They can do spot checks of the refrigerant service records, purchase orders, transit logs of gas transport for destruction, as well as many other pieces of data related to refrigerant gas management. Existing and new legislation to be passed require companies to keep accurate records that can be produced on demand by regulators to assure that AC and HVAC systems are not leaking and that all refrigerant gases are recovered correctly. Due to the connection between refrigerant gases and their effect on climate change, many legislative bodies including various US states and the EPA have stepped up and increased the detailed refrigerant reporting requirements.

EPA Section 608 has certification requirements that technicians must posses before working on ODP containing HVAC or AC systems. Distributors can only sell ozone-depleting refrigerants to Section 608 certified technicians. These refrigerant containers must be 20 pounds or more.

The EPA has four certification classes. Type 1 is for small appliances. Type 2 is for high and very high pressure. Type 3 is a low pressure certification. Type 4 is a universal certification. Any technician with a particular certification type can only fix or recover equipment that is specified for the certification type. Potential California legislation due to become law in 2009 would require that all owners or operators of systems containing 50 pounds of ozone and non-ozone depleting refrigerant gases or more to monitor for leaks, maintain detailed service records, track all purchases of refrigerant, and submit annual reports of refrigerant usage and destruction annually.

In all situations across not only service technicians, those who sell refrigerant gas, and those who own or operate AC or HVAC systems, the need for detailed, up-to-date refrigerant data, across an entire organization has never been more important.

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