Technicians and Contractors: Frequent Questions
The following information will help technicians and contractors that install, service, and repair equipment that contains hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) or other refrigerants better understand their responsibilities under the regulations.
Q. Can existing equipment containing HCFC-22 still be serviced?
A. Yes, HCFC-22 (also called R-22) can be used to service existing equipment. Servicing includes replacing failed components.
Q. When will HCFC-22 (or blends that contain HCFC-22 and/or HCFC-142b) no longer be available for purchase?
A. The production and import of HCFC-22 has been restricted since 2010, and will cease in 2020. EPA expects that reclaimed and previously-produced HCFC-22 will be available well after 2020 to service and maintain equipment, but the price and availability may change. EPA anticipates that supplies should allow for a smooth transition to alternative refrigerants.
Technicians should properly recover and reclaim HCFC-22 from existing refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment to help ensure the availability of supplies. Keep in mind that recovered refrigerant cannot be sold to a new owner for use as a refrigerant unless it has been reclaimed by an EPA-certified reclaimer EPA certified refrigerant reclaimer prior to sale.
Q. What alternatives to HCFC-22 are acceptable and available?
A. EPA maintains a list of acceptable substitutes for use 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 alternativerefrigerants. If substitutes are used in retrofitted equipment, technicians should be trained on proper retrofit installation and servicing techniques. Note that some alternatives are not allowed in retrofits.
Q. Should I discuss the HCFC phaseout with my customers?
A. Yes, technicians are an important source of information for consumers. Explain to your customers that HCFCs are being phased out of production worldwide and that the future availability of HCFC-22 will be restricted to servicing existing equipment. You can help consumers understand that the continued use of existing appliances containing HCFC-22 is not banned and that there is no EPA mandate for converting existing HCFC-22 equipment. You can also send customers to EPA's phaseout Web page for homeowners and consumers for more information.
Q. Are there any restrictions on the purchase of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants?
A. Beginning January 1, 2018 EPA technician certification (EPA Section 608 certification) is required to purchase HFCs for use in stationary refrigeration and air-conditioning systems. While HFCs are not ozone-depleting substances, they are potent greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
Q. Are there any limitations on the use of HFC refrigerants?
A. Yes, only specific HFC refrigerants are acceptable substitutes for different end uses. EPA’s SNAP program maintains a list of acceptable refrigerant substitutes. It is also illegal to knowingly vent or release these refrigerants— just as it is for ozone-depleting refrigerants like HCFC-22.
Q. Is EPA technician certification required to service systems that use HFCs?
A. Yes, beginning January 1, 2018, EPA technician certification is required in order to service stationary refrigeration and air-conditioning systems containing HFCs.
Q. May I use recovered HCFC refrigerants?
A. Yes, technicians have a few options when using recovered refrigerants:
- A technician may recover refrigerant 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 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.
- 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.
Q. How should HCFC refrigerants be disposed of?
A. 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 by facilities that accept these substances.
Q. How should equipment containing HCFC refrigerants be disposed of?
A. EPA’s Safe Disposal Requirements must be followed when disposing of equipment containing HCFC refrigerants. For equipment that is typically disassembled on-site before disposal (such as retail food refrigeration, central air conditioners, and chillers), the refrigerant must be recovered in accordance with EPA's requirements for servicing. For equipment that typically enters the waste stream with the charge intact (such as household refrigerators and freezers and room air conditioners), the final person in the disposal chain (such as a scrap metal recycler or landfill owner) must ensure that the refrigerant is recovered from the equipment before its disposal. Persons that handle the equipment earlier in the chain can also remove the refrigerant, but they must provide documentation of its removal to the final person in the chain. EPA has a voluntary partnership program, Responsible Appliance Disposal, where partners use best practices to properly recover refrigerants and other substances.