Propane OK in some uses, techs must treat HFCs the same as ozone-depleting refrigerants.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized two rules designed to reduce the projected growth and emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). In the first rule, under Section 612 of the Clean Air Act, EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program is:
- Adding to the list of “climate-friendly” chemicals for use in the refrigeration and air conditioning and fire suppression sectors. (Propane has been added as acceptable in certain new equipment, subject to use conditions.)
- Listing several new substitutes as unacceptable in specific end-uses in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector.
- Changing the status of a number of substitutes that were previously listed as acceptable in the refrigeration and air conditioning and foam blowing sectors.
EPA said that in each instance where it is listing a substitute as unacceptable or changing the status of a substitute from acceptable to unacceptable, EPA has determined that there are other alternatives that pose lower risk overall to human health, the environment, or both. This rule, according to EPA, will result in environmental benefits from avoided HFC emissions of up to 7 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent (MMTCO2eq ) in 2025, equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from 1.5 million cars in one year.
In the second rule, EPA is strengthening the refrigerant management program under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act and extending the regulations to non-ozone depleting substitutes such as HFCs and other substitutes. This action is designed to reduce emissions by lowering the leak rate at which large air conditioning and refrigeration appliances must be repaired, and incorporating industry best practices such as verifying repairs and conducting regular leak inspections on leaking appliances. In addition to the benefits for the ozone layer, EPA estimates the refrigerant emissions avoided from this rule will be more than 7 MMTCO2eq annually.
The new leak-rate thresholds that trigger the duty to repair refrigeration and air conditioning equipment containing 50 or more pounds of refrigerant are:
- Reduced from 35 percent to 30 percent for industrial process refrigeration.
- Reduced from 35 percent to 20 percent for commercial refrigeration equipment.
- Reduced from 15 percent to 10 percent for comfort cooling equipment.
The rule changes also require owners/operators to submit reports to EPA if systems containing 50 or more pounds of refrigerant leak 125 percent or more of their full charge in one calendar year.
In addition, substitute refrigerants — even those that are non-ozone depleting — are to be treated the same as ozone-depleting refrigerants. Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, only certified technicians will be able to purchase substitute refrigerants. The rule change, however, does not require re–certification of technicians who are already 608-certified.