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Complying With The Section 608 Refrigerant Recycling Rule

Technician Certification
Steps For Replacing a Lost Card (Section 608)
Where to Return Used Refrigerant
Find refrigerant drop-off locations

This page provides an overview of the refrigerant recycling requirements of Section 608 of the Clean Air Act of 1990, as amended (CAA), including final regulations published on May 14, 1993 (58 FR 28660), August 19, 1994 (59 FR 42950), November 9, 1994 (59 FR 55912), and July 24, 2003 (68 FR 43786). The fact sheet also describes the prohibition on intentional refrigerant venting that became effective on July 1, 1992.

Overview

Under Section 608 of the CAA, EPA has established regulations (40 CFR Part 82, Subpart F) that:

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The Prohibition on Venting

Effective July 1, 1992, Section 608 of the Act prohibits individuals from intentionally venting ozone-depleting substances used as refrigerants (generally CFCs and HCFCs) into the atmosphere while maintaining, servicing, repairing, or disposing of air-conditioning or refrigeration equipment (appliances). Only four types of releases are permitted under the prohibition:

  1. "De minimis" quantities of refrigerant released in the course of making good faith attempts to recapture and recycle or safely dispose of refrigerant.
  2. Refrigerants emitted in the course of normal operation of air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment (as opposed to during the maintenance, servicing, repair, or disposal of this equipment) such as from mechanical purging and leaks. However, EPA requires the repair of leaks above a certain size in large equipment (see Refrigerant Leaks).
  3. Releases of CFCs or HCFCs that are not used as refrigerants. For instance, mixtures of nitrogen and R-22 that are used as holding charges or as leak test gases may be released.
  4. Small releases of refrigerant that result from purging hoses or from connecting or disconnecting hoses to charge or service appliances will not be considered violations of the prohibition on venting. However, recovery and recycling equipment manufactured after November 15, 1993, must be equipped with low-loss fittings.

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Regulatory Requirements

Service Practice Requirements

1. Evacuation Requirements

Technicians are required to evacuate air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment to established vacuum levels when opening the equipment for maintenance, service, repair, or disposal. If the technician's recovery and/or recycling equipment was manufactured any time before November 15, 1993, the air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment must be evacuated to the levels described in the first column of Table 1. If the technician's recovery or recycling equipment was manufactured on or after November 15, 1993, the air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment must be evacuated to the levels described in Table 2, and the recovery or recycling equipment must have been certified by an EPA-approved equipment testing organization.

Technicians repairing small appliances, such as household refrigerators, window air conditioners, and water coolers, must recover:

80 percent of the refrigerant when

OR

90 percent of the refrigerant when

In order to ensure that they are recovering the correct percentage of refrigerant, technicians must use the recovery equipment according to the directions of its manufacturer. Technicians may also satisfy recovery requirements by evacuating the small appliance to four inches of mercury vacuum.

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2. Exceptions to Evacuation Requirements

EPA has established limited exceptions to its evacuation requirements for 1) repairs to refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment and 2) repairs that are not major and that are not followed by an evacuation of the equipment to the environment.

If, due to leaks, evacuation to the levels in Table 1 or Table 2 is not attainable, or would substantially contaminate the refrigerant being recovered, persons opening the appliance must:

If evacuation of the equipment to the environment is not to be performed when repairs are complete, and if the repair is not major, then the appliance must:

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3. Reclamation Requirement

EPA has also established that refrigerant recovered and/or recycled can be returned to the same system or other systems owned by the same person without restriction. If refrigerant changes ownership, it must be reclaimed (i.e., cleaned to the ARI 700-1993 Standard of purity) by an EPA certified refrigerant reclaimer.

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Refrigerant Recovery and Recycling Equipment Certification

The Agency has established a certification program for refrigerant recovery and recycling equipment. EPA requires that manufacturers or importers of refrigerant recovery and recycling equipment manufactured on or after November 15, 1993, have their equipment tested by an EPA-approved testing organization to ensure that it meets EPA requirements. Equipment intended for use with air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment must be tested under EPA requirements based upon the ARI 740 test protocol (i.e., EPA Appendices B and B1 to 40 CFR 82 subpart F). Recycling and recovery equipment intended for use with small appliances must be tested under EPA Appendix C or alternatively under requirements based upon the ARI 740 test protocol (i.e., Appendices B and B1 to 40 CFR 82 subpart F).

The Agency requires recovery efficiency standards that vary depending on the size and type of air-conditioning or refrigeration equipment being serviced. For recovery and recycling equipment intended for use with air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment besides small appliances, these standards are the same as those in the second column of Table 1. Recovery equipment intended for use with small appliances must be able to recover 90 percent of the refrigerant in the small appliance when the small appliance compressor is operating and 80 percent of the refrigerant in the small appliance when the compressor is not operating.

EPA has approved both the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) Exit disclaimer and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Exit disclaimer to certify recycling and recovery equipment. Certified equipment can be identified by a label reading: "This equipment has been certified by ARI/UL to meet EPA's minimum requirements for recycling and/ or recovery equipment intended for use with [appropriate category of appliance--e.g., small appliances, HCFC appliances containing less than 200 pounds of refrigerant, all high-pressure appliances, etc.]." Lists of certified equipment may be obtained by contacting ARI at 703-524-8800 and UL at 877-854-3577.

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Refrigerant Leaks

Owners or operators of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment with refrigerant charges greater than 50 pounds are required to repair leaks within 30 days when those leaks result in the loss of more than a certain percentage of the equipment's refrigerant charge over a year. For the commercial (e.g. grocery stores and warehouses) and industrial process refrigeration sectors, leaks must be repaired within 30 days when the equipment leaks at a rate that would release 35 percent or more of the charge over a year. For all other sectors, including comfort cooling (such as building chillers), leaks must be repaired when the appliance leaks at a rate that would release 15 percent or more of the charge over a year.

The trigger for repair requirements is the current leak rate projected over a consecutive 12-month period rather than the total quantity of refrigerant lost. For instance, owners or operators of a commercial refrigeration system containing 100 pounds of charge must repair leaks if they find that the system has lost 10 pounds of charge over the past month; although 10 pounds represents only 10 percent of the system charge in this case, a leak rate of 10 pounds per month would result in the release of over 100 percent of the charge over the year. To track leak rates, owners or operators of air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment with more than 50 pounds of charge must keep records of the quantity of refrigerant added to their equipment during servicing and maintenance procedures.

Owners or operators are required to repair leaks within 30 days of discovery. This requirement is waived if, within 30 days of discovery, owners develop a one-year retrofit or retirement plan for the leaking equipment. Owners of industrial process refrigeration equipment may qualify for additional time under certain circumstances. For example, if an industrial process shutdown is required to repair a leak, owners have 120 days to repair the leak. Owners of industrial process refrigeration equipment should reference the Compliance Assistance Guidance Document for Industrial Process Refrigeration Leak Repair for additional information concerning time extensions and pertinent recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

The leak repair regulations do not apply to refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment with refrigerant charge sizes less than 50 pounds (such as residential split air-conditioning systems). However, smaller equipment is not exempt from the refrigerant venting prohibition. EPA regulations prohibit the intentional release of all refrigerants during the maintenance, service, repair, or disposal of air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment.

A detailed fact sheet about Industrial Process Refrigeration leak repair is also available.

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Technician Certification

EPA has established a technician certification program for persons ("technicians") who perform maintenance, service, repair, or disposal that could be reasonably expected to release refrigerants into the atmosphere. The definition of "technician" specifically includes and excludes certain activities as follows:

Included:

In addition, apprentices are exempt from certification requirements provided the apprentice is closely and continually supervised by a certified technician.

The Agency has developed four types of certification:

  1. For servicing small appliances (Type I).
  2. For servicing or disposing of high- or very high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and MVACs (Type II).
  3. For servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances (Type III).
  4. For servicing all types of equipment (Universal).

Technicians are required to pass an EPA-approved test given by an EPA-approved certifying organization to become certified under the mandatory program. Section 608 Technician Certification credentials do not expire.

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Refrigerant Sales Restrictions

The sale of ozone-depleting refrigerant (such as R-11, R-12, and R-22) in any size container has been restricted to technicians certified either under the program described in Technician Certification above or under EPA's motor vehicle air conditioning regulations. The sales restriction covers ozone-depleting refrigerant contained in bulk containers, such as cans, cylinders, or drums.

The restriction excludes refrigerant contained in refrigerators or air conditioners with fully assembled refrigerant circuits (such as household refrigerators, window air conditioners, and packaged air conditioners), and HFC refrigerants (such as R-134a and R-410A).

Under Section 609 of the Clean Air Act, sales of CFC-12 in containers smaller than 20 pounds are restricted solely to technicians certified under EPA's motor vehicle air-conditioning regulations (i.e., Section 609 certified technicians). Technicians certified under EPA's stationary refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment (i.e., Section 608 certified technicians) may buy containers of CFC-12 larger than 20 pounds.

Section 609 technicians are only allowed to purchase refrigerants that are suitable for use in motor vehicle air-conditioners. Effective September 22, 2003, EPA has restricted the sale of ozone-depleting refrigerants, approved for use in stationary refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, to Section 608 certified technicians. Therefore, the sale of ozone-depleting refrigerants (such as HCFC-22) that are approved for use in stationary equipment but not for use in motor vehicle air-conditioners is restricted to Section 608 certified technicians.

More detailed information is available in an EPA fact sheet titled "The Refrigerant Sales Restriction."

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Certification by Owners of Refrigerant Recovery and Recycling Equipment

EPA requires that persons servicing, disposing, or recycling air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment certify to the appropriate EPA Regional Office that they have acquired (built, bought, or leased) refrigerant recovery or recycling equipment and that they are complying with the applicable requirements of this rule. This certification must be signed by the owner of the equipment or another responsible officer and sent to the appropriate EPA Regional Office. A sample form for this certification is attached. Although owners of recycling and recovery equipment are required to list the number of trucks based at their shops, they do not need to have a piece of recycling or recovery equipment for every truck. Owners do not have to send in a new form each time they add recycling or recovery equipment to their inventory.

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Refrigerant Reclaimer Certification

Refrigerant reclaimers are companies that reprocess used refrigerant back to virgin specifications. EPA restricts the resale of used refrigerant to a new owner, unless it has been reclaimed by an EPA-certified refrigerant reclaimer. Reclaimers are required to return refrigerant to the purity level specified in ARI Standard 700 (an industry-set purity standard) and to verify this purity using the laboratory protocol set forth in the same standard. In order to be recognized by EPA, refrigerant reclaimers must certify to the Section 608 Recycling Program Manager at EPA headquarters that they are complying with these requirements and that the information given is true and correct. Certification must also include the name and address of the reclaimer and a list of equipment used to process and to analyze the refrigerant. In addition, a checklist helps prospective reclaimers provide appropriate information for EPA to review.

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Safe Disposal Requirements

Refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment that is typically dismantled on-site before disposal (e.g., retail food refrigeration, central residential air conditioning, chillers, and industrial process refrigeration) has to have the refrigerant recovered in accordance with EPA's requirements for servicing prior to their disposal. However, equipment that typically enters the waste stream with the charge intact (e.g., motor vehicle air conditioners, household refrigerators and freezers, and room air conditioners) are subject to special safe disposal requirements.

Under these requirements, the final person in the disposal chain (e.g., a scrap metal recycler or landfill owner) is responsible for ensuring that refrigerant is recovered from equipment before the final disposal of the equipment. If the final person in the disposal chain accepts appliances that no longer hold a refrigerant charge, that person is responsible for maintaining a signed statement from whom the appliance/s is being accepted. The signed statement must include the name and address of the person who recovered the refrigerant, and the date that the refrigerant was recovered, or a copy of a contract stating that the refrigerant will be removed prior to delivery. EPA does not mandate a sticker as a form of verification that the refrigerant has been removed prior to disposal of the appliance. Such stickers do not relieve the final disposer of their responsibility to recover any remaining refrigerant in the appliance, unless the sticker consists of a signed statement that includes the name and address of the person who recovered the refrigerant, and the date that the refrigerant was recovered.

Technician certification is not required for individuals removing refrigerant from small appliances, motor vehicle air conditioners, and motor vehicle-like air conditioners, when preparing them for disposal. However, the equipment used to recover refrigerant from appliances prior to their final disposal must meet the same performance standards as refrigerant recovery equipment used prior to servicing, Persons involved in the final disposal of appliances must certify to their EPA Regional Office that they have obtained and are properly using EPA certified refrigerant recovery equipment. A sample form is available here (4 pp, 141 kb).

EPA has prepared a brochure on safe disposal procedures for household appliances that use refrigerants.

EPA also facilitates the recovery of refrigerant through its Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program.

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Major Recordkeeping Requirements

Technicians
servicing appliances that contain 50 or more pounds of refrigerant must provide the owner with an invoice that indicates the amount of refrigerant added to the appliance. Technicians must also keep a copy of their proof of certification at their place of business.
Owners or Operators
of appliances that contain 50 or more pounds of refrigerant must keep servicing records documenting the date and type of service, as well as the quantity of refrigerant added.
Wholesalers
who sell CFC and HCFC refrigerants must retain invoices that indicate the name of the purchaser, the date of sale, and the quantity of refrigerant purchased.
Reclaimers
must maintain records of the names and addresses of persons sending them material for reclamation and the quantity of material sent to them for reclamation. This information must be maintained on a transactional basis. Within 30 days of the end of the calendar year, reclaimers must report to EPA the total quantity of material sent to them that year for reclamation, the mass of refrigerant reclaimed that year, and the mass of waste products generated that year.

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Enforcement

EPA is performing random inspections, responding to tips, and pursuing potential cases against violators. Under the Act, EPA is authorized to assess fines of up to $37,500 per day for any violation of these regulations. Information on selected enforcement actions is available in the enforcement section.

If you suspect or witness unlawful releases of refrigerant or other violations of the Clean Air Act regulations, you can file a report easily and anonymously by visiting EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance website.

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For Further Information

For further information concerning regulations related to stratospheric ozone protection, please call the Stratospheric Ozone Information Hotline: 1-800-296-1996. Lists of certified equipment may be obtained by contacting The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) Exit disclaimer at 703-524-8800 and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Exit disclaimer at 877-854-3577.

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