EPA Regulations Govern Use, Disposal of Refrigerants
What You Can’t See CAN Harm You!
Refrigerant gases used in HVAC systems have long been linked to environmental risks and depletion of the ozone layer. For nearly 20 years, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has pushed for legislation regarding the proper use, repair and disposal of refrigerant systems in order to minimize the harmful effects on the environment.
There are several different classes of refrigerant gases, each with specific uses in both commercial and residential situations. Generally speaking, refrigerants are used in temperature control systems in homes and businesses. The most common types of gases used in these HVAC systems are hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Each of these gases has elements that can cause harm to the ozone layer and can have other adverse effects on the environment. This is why the EPA strictly measures, monitors and regulates their use.
HCFCs, PFCs and CFCs are classified as ozone depleting substances and have a very high potential for contributing to global warming. Also known as destructive greenhouse gases, these chemicals are a factor in the destruction of the upper ozone layer and release pollutants into the atmosphere. In the United States, The Clean Air Act defines the EPA’s role in preserving our air quality and limiting further damage to the ozone. There are similar laws in several other countries throughout the world.
The main job of the Clean Air Act is to set forth proper procedures for dealing with refrigerant gases. This involves intense, detailed materials management and tracking. EPA officials, federal regulators and local agents are all partners in monitoring and inspecting commercial and residential heating and air conditioning systems. They may perform random spot checks of locations, audit service records and purchase orders, or periodically review transport logs of gas delivery and removal. This is meant to ensure that harmful greenhouse gases are used and disposed of in accordance with federal regulations in order to minimize environmental impact. The current law also mandates that technicians be EPA certified before performing any maintenance work on an HVAC system containing refrigerant gases.
In 2009, the Clean Air Act was amended to include specific regulations that will allow HVAC system owners and service professionals to monitor leaks more accurately and make sure that refrigerants are recycled, recovered and documented properly. Anyone who is in contact with systems that have 50 pounds or more of refrigerant gas—either through ownership or service profession—will now be required to keep thorough service records, regularly monitor systems for leaks, log all refrigerant purchases, and present yearly reports of use and disposal of gases. These more detailed reports will make it easier for the EPA to gauge the effects these gases have on the environment and their impact on global climate change.
While the Clean Air Act has long been a means of protecting the environment by limiting the release of harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, these amended regulations will go one step further by empowering consumers and service professionals to take a more active role in environmental protection.