Myths and Realities of New EPA Refrigeration Rules

New rules released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this past July prohibit the use of certain substances as refrigerants because of their high global warning potential or GWP. However, as with many such announcements, there are lots of rumors or downright myths about what’s going on. In this case, it may be due because of apparent confusion about which refrigerants will be banned and how it affects existing equipment as well as for new equipment as well.

According to Scott Mitchell, J.D., P.E., senior engineer at the Technology Test Centers of Southern California Edison (SCE) there are some things you should know.

The new EPA rules did not come out of the blue. Under Section 612 of the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program has examined and evaluated a number of commercial refrigerants over the past 20 years. Of those that were examined, the EPA compiled a list of the refrigerants that have the least impact on the ozone layer, are less toxic, less flammable and offer the most in terms of health, safety and local air quality.

New, more environmentally friendly refrigerants include R-448A, R-449A, R-450, propane and isobutane belong to a family of refrigerants called hydrocarbons (HCs), which are naturally occurring substances that have been used as refrigerants in Europe for years. The U.S. has now said that these are acceptable for use in both commercial and residential refrigeration, however, they are subject to refrigeration charge limits.

While commercial operations may think that the new guidelines that they have to change out all of their equipment right away, the truth is that the EPA will phase out certain types of refrigerants over a period spanning the next four years. Currently, the ruling will focus on four types of equipment. These include large-scale supermarket systems, remote condensing units, self-contained refrigeration equipment such as freezers and coolers or refrigerated display cases and vending machines.

The best way to address the new guidelines is to talk to your refrigeration suppliers and service companies to see what is available and how to best fall into the current guidelines as outlined by the EPA.


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