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Stationary Refrigeration Service Practice Requirements

EPA regulations (40 CFR Part 82, Subpart F) under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act require technicians who service stationary refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment to follow specific practices. These practices are meant to maximize recovery and recycling of refrigerants, which can be ozone-depleting substances (ODSHelpODSA compound that contributes to stratospheric ozone depletion. ODS include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), halons, methyl bromide, carbon tetrachloride, hydrobromofluorocarbons, chlorobromomethane, and methyl chloroform. ODS are generally very stable in the troposphere and only degrade under intense ultraviolet light in the stratosphere. When they break down, they release chlorine or bromine atoms, which then deplete ozone. A detailed list (http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/ods/index.html) of class I and class II substances with their ODPs, GWPs, and CAS numbers are available.) or potent greenhouse gases. Different practices apply to different equipment, depending on their size and manufacture.

Evacuation Requirements

Appliances with More than Five Pounds of Refrigerant

Technicians must evacuate air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment to established vacuum levels when opening the equipment for maintenance, service, repair, or disposal. The required level of evacuation can be found in the following table.

Except for equipment manufactured before November 15, 1993, the recovery or recycling equipment must have been certified by an EPA-approved equipment testing organization. To ensure that they are recovering the correct level of refrigerant, technicians must use the recovery equipment according to the directions of its manufacturer.

Appliances with Five or Fewer Pounds of Refrigerant (Small Appliances)

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

  • 80 percent of the refrigerant when
    • The technician uses recovery or recycling equipment manufactured before November 15, 1993, or
    • The compressor in the appliance is not functional.
  • 90 percent of the refrigerant when
    • The technician uses recovery or recycling equipment manufactured after November 15, 1993, and
    • The compressor in the appliance is functional.

To ensure that they are recovering the correct level 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.

Exceptions to the Evacuation Requirements

EPA allows limited exceptions to the evacuation requirements for 1) repairs to leaking 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.

Repairs to Leaking Equipment

If technicians cannot evacuate to the specified levels because of refrigerant leaks, or because it would substantially contaminate the refrigerant being recovered, they must:

  • Isolate leaking components from non-leaking components wherever possible;
  • Evacuate non-leaking components to the specified levels; and
  • Evacuate leaking components to the lowest level that can be attained without substantially contaminating the refrigerant. This level cannot exceed 0 pounds per square inch (psig).

Repairs that are Not Major and Are Not Followed by Evacuation

If a technician is not evacuating the equipment to the environment after a repair is completed, and if the repair is not major, then the following requirements must be met:

  • For high- or very high-pressure appliances, the equipment must be evacuated to 0 psig before it is opened.
  • For low-pressure appliances, the equipment must be pressurized to 0 psig before it is opened. Methods that require subsequent purging (e.g., nitrogen) cannot be used except with appliances containing R-113.

Reclamation Requirement

Recovered refrigerant can be returned to the same system or other systems owned by the same person without restriction. However, if recovered refrigerant changes ownership, it must be reclaimedHelpreclaimedFor purposes of defining a material as a solid waste under RCRA Subtitle C, a material is reclaimed if it is processed to recover a usable product or regenerated by processing it in a way that restores it to usable condition. by an EPA-certified refrigerant reclaimer.

Changing Refrigerant Oil

The requirements described above cover refrigerant contained in oil. The oil in a refrigeration appliance can contain large amounts of dissolved refrigerant. EPA requires a reduction in the pressure prior to an oil change to ensure that the bulk of the refrigerant contained in the oil is recovered. It is a violation to change oil at higher than 5 psig.

There are two acceptable procedures for recovering refrigerant contained in oil:

  • Evacuate (or pressurize) the refrigeration appliance, or isolated portion, to a pressure no greater than 5 psig and then remove the oil; or
  • Drain the oil into a system receiver to be evacuated (or pressurized) to a pressure no greater than 5 psig.

Information concerning the proper disposal of oil can be found on the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act website.