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Navigating the Future of Refrigerants – Dec. 26, 2023 Updates From the EPA

Aaron Mims
January 6, 2024

As we commence 2024, let’s stay informed about developments in refrigerants that contribute to the satisfaction of your commercial and industrial clientele. This article takes a dive into the refrigerant scene, spills the beans on recent EPA rules, and gives you a sneak peek into the refrigerants getting phased down.

Regulatory Winds of Change

On December 26, 2023, the EPA made significant strides in reshaping the refrigerant landscape by publishing an Interim final rule to update its October final rule on the use of HFCs. This move is part of the larger initiative under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020, which mandates the phasedown of HFCs due to their substantial global warming potential.

Phasedown Impact on Products and Systems

Self-contained Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, and Heat Pump Products:

Starting January 1, 2025, the manufacture, import, sale, and installation of products, including residential and light commercial air-conditioning and heat pump products, dehumidifiers, household refrigerators and freezers, retail food refrigeration units, vending machines, refrigerated transportation containers, chillers, aerosol products, and foam products using high-GWP HFCs, will be prohibited. A three-year sell-through period is granted for existing inventory.

Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, and Heat Pump Systems:

EPA’s interim final rule extends the deadline for installing new residential and light commercial A/C and heat pump systems to January 1, 2026. To qualify for the extended compliance deadline, all components of a system using higher GWP HFC must be manufactured or imported prior to January 1, 2025.

AIM Act: A Game-Changer

Enacted by Congress in 2020, the AIM Act outlines the EPA’s authority to regulate HFCs. The Act targets an 85 percent reduction of certain HFCs by 2036, emphasizing a phasedown in production, managing HFCs and their substitutes, and facilitating the transition to alternative technologies.

Impactful Restrictions

The October final rule set deadlines for the prohibition of products and systems using high-GWP HFCs, impacting various sectors, including air-conditioning, refrigeration, and foam products. Notably, starting January 1, 2025, products must transition to lower-GWP alternatives.

Responding to Industry Concerns

Acknowledging industry concerns about compliance deadlines, the EPA, in its recently published Interim final rule, extended the deadline for installing new residential and light commercial A/C and heat pump systems to January 1, 2026. This extension aims to mitigate economic harm and stranded inventory issues.

Common Types of Refrigerants

Refrigerants come in various types, each with its own set of characteristics and applications. Understanding these refrigerants is integral to making informed choices about sustainable and environmentally friendly cooling solutions.

1. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs): These were once widely used but fell out of favor due to their role in ozone depletion.

2. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs): While less harmful to the ozone layer than CFCs, HCFCs still contribute to environmental issues.

3. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs): HFCs gained popularity as alternatives to ozone-depleting substances, but their high global warming potential (GWP) has raised environmental concerns.

4. Natural Refrigerants: Ammonia, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons are gaining traction for their low environmental impact and energy efficiency.

Phasing Out High-GWP Refrigerants

As part of the EPA’s commitment to environmental sustainability, certain refrigerants are facing a phasedown under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020.

Refrigerants Phased Out Under AIM Act:

1. R-404A (GWP: 3,922): Commonly used in refrigeration, this high-GWP HFC is set to be phased down significantly.

2. R-410A (GWP: 2,088): Widely used in air conditioning, this refrigerant is under scrutiny for its environmental impact.

3. R-134a (GWP: 1,430): Common in commercial refrigeration and chillers, it’s targeted for reduction due to its GWP.

The Path Forward

While we navigate these changes, it’s crucial for everyone to join the ongoing chat. The EPA wants to hear from the public on the proposed updates, stressing the need to weigh the costs, benefits, and impacts on those who play by the rules.

In a nutshell, the refrigerant game is changing, bringing both challenges and chances. Staying in the loop and getting involved can help us shape a greener and more eco-friendly future together.

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