Technicians and Contractors Frequently Asked Questions
With the responsibility to install, service, and repair equipment that may contain HCFCs or other refrigerants, contractors and technicians play an important role in implementing the phaseout of HCFCs. The following information will help technicians and contractors better understand their responsibilities under the regulations, adapt to changing industry practices, and provide consumers with appropriate service and information.
Can existing equipment containing R-22 still be serviced?
Yes, existing equipment may continue to be serviced. Servicing may include the replacement of failed components. Thus, pre-charged components (e.g. condensing units, line sets, and coils) produced prior to January 1, 2010, may be sold and installed to service an existing R-22 system that is in need of repair. For example, an existing R-22 split air-conditioning system (i.e., appliance), undergoing service in 2010 or later, may have individual components of the system replaced with pre-charged R-22 components that were manufactured prior to January 1, 2010.
What do I do if I am currently working on a project containing R-22 systems but I cannot install the system by January 1, 2010?
EPA understands that some contractors that manufacture vehicles, mobile homes, and buildings are under contract to install R-22 systems and construction has commenced but are unable to install (i.e. complete the manufacture of) the R-22 system by January 1, 2010. EPA is providing a limited exception to the prohibition on the manufacture of new systems. EPA is allowing appliances containing HCFC-22 to be installed for a particular project between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2011, if the components have been specified for use at that project under a building permit or a contract dated before January 1, 2010.
When will R-22 (or blends that contain R-22 and/or R-142b) no longer be available for purchase?
The purchase of R-22 has been limited to 608 certified technicians since 1994. Currently, technicians can purchase newly manufactured R-22 to service existing appliances. EPA has restricted the amount of R-22 in 2010 and will stop its production and import in 2020. EPA expects that recycled and reclaimed R-22 will remain available after 2020 to service or maintain equipment. It is difficult to predict when supplies will completely be exhausted; however, EPA anticipates that supplies should be available allowing for a smooth transition for equipment containing R-22 following normal use and equipment patterns. Technicians should properly recover and recycle R-22 from existing refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment to help ensure the availability of future supplies. Recovered refrigerant cannot be sold to a new owner for use as a refrigerant; instead, it must be sent to an EPA certified refrigerant reclaimer prior to sale.
What alternatives to R-22 are acceptable and available?
EPA has found acceptable a number of alternatives to R-22 that do not deplete the ozone layer. These include R-134a, R-404A, R-407C, and R-410A. In the United States, R-410A is the most popular choice for home air conditioners. R-410A is sold under several trade names, including GENETRON AZ-20®, SUVA 410A®, Forane® 410A, and Puron®.
EPA evaluates and regulates substitutes for ozone-depleting chemicals that are being phased out in its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program. EPA maintains a list of acceptable and unacceptable substitutes according to end use, including end uses in the refrigeration and air-conditioning sector. To help technicians decide which alternatives are most appropriate for specific uses, EPA developed a list of questions to ask before purchasing alternative refrigerants. If substitutes are used in retrofitted equipment, technicians should be trained on proper retrofit installation and servicing techniques. Note that some alternatives, including R-410A, are not allowed in retrofits.
Should I discuss the HCFC phaseout with my customers?
Yes, technicians are an important source of information for consumers. Technicians should explain to their customers that HCFCs are being phased out worldwide and that the future availability of R-22 is restricted to the servicing of existing equipment. Consumers should be aware that the continued use of existing appliances with R-22 is not banned. Nor is there an EPA mandate for the conversion of existing R-22 equipment. Technicians can also send customers to EPA's web site geared towards consumers for more information.
Are there any restrictions on the purchase of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants?
HFCs are not ozone-depleting substances, however they have high global warming potentials (GWPs). At this time the purchase of HFC refrigerants is not restricted. (For example, there is no technician certification requirement for those that purchase HFC refrigerants, such as R-410A or R-134a.)
Are there any limitations on the use of HFC refrigerants?
Yes, a specific HFC refrigerant must be found acceptable as a substitute for a specific end use by the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program. A list of acceptable refrigerant substitutes is available from the EPA web site. In addition, it is illegal to knowingly vent or release these refrigerants. The venting prohibition applies to R-134a, R-410A, and all other HFC refrigerants, just as it does for ozone-depleting refrigerants like R-22.
Is EPA technician certification required to service R-410A systems?
No, at this time EPA technician certification (i.e., EPA Section 608 certification) is not required in order to service R-410A systems or other stationary refrigeration and air conditioning systems containing HFCs.
May I use recovered HCFC refrigerants?
Yes, technicians have a few options when using recovered refrigerants. First, a technician may recover material from an owner’s equipment and recharge equipment belonging to that same owner, with the recovered material. The technician can also recycle the recovered refrigerant, which involves extracting it and cleaning it for reuse without meeting the requirements for reclamation. This recovered, recycled refrigerant may only be recharged into equipment belonging to the owner of the equipment from which the refrigerant was recovered. Lastly, the technician may send the recovered material to an EPA certified reclaimer; once the refrigerant is reclaimed, it may be sold and used for servicing any existing equipment.
How should HCFC refrigerants be disposed of?
Recovered HCFC refrigerants should be sent to an EPA-certified refrigerant reclaimer. Only EPA-certified reclaimers may reclaim and sell used refrigerants to a new owner. Technicians and contractors may also send HCFC refrigerants to be destroyed. HCFCs and other controlled substances that are destroyed must be completely destroyed at a destruction efficiency of 98% or greater, by using one of the approved destruction technologies. In the United States, incineration technologies are most commonly used for this purpose.
How should equipment containing HCFC refrigerants be disposed of?
Under the Section 608 regulations, the refrigerant contained in the equipment must be disposed of safely. EPA developed Safe Disposal Requirements that must be followed. Equipment that is typically disassembled on-site before disposal has to have the refrigerant recovered in accordance with EPA's requirements for servicing. For equipment that typically enters the waste stream with the charge intact (e.g., household refrigerators and freezers, room air conditioners), the final person in the disposal chain (e.g., a scrap metal recycler or landfill owner) must make sure that the refrigerant is recovered from the equipment before its final disposal. However, persons earlier in the chain can remove the refrigerant and provide documentation of its removal to the final person. EPA has a voluntary partnership program, Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD), where partners use best practices to recover refrigerants, foam blowing agents, plastics, glass, mercury, and PCBs properly.
Do the revised energy efficiency standards for air conditioners affect which refrigerant is used?
The U.S. Department of Energy specifies the minimum efficiency of air conditioners sold in the United States. For central air conditioners and air-to-air heat pumps, efficiency is measured by the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). In January 2006, the minimum efficiency ratio for most types of new equipment increased from 10 to 13, which means that new units must be 30 percent more efficient. Air conditioners that meet the new energy efficiency requirements have used R-22 or alternatives.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About the Phaseout of HCFC-22
- Owners of Comfort Cooling, Commercial, and Other Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Equipment
- Technicians and Contractors
- Equipment Manufacturers, Importers, and Exporters
- Chemical Manufacturers, Importers, and Exporters