Revised Refrigerant Regulations Are Here

In November 2016, EPA finalized revisions to refrigerant management requirements under 40 CFR 82 bringing an expanded scope, more stringent leak repair requirements, and further restrictions on the sale of refrigerants. Although provisions likely to have the greatest impact on retailers do not immediately go into effect, retailers should start planning now in order to comply with the new requirements.  For example, some refrigerants currently not regulated will be under the new requirements and leak repair requirements will be more stringent.  

The provisions likely to have the greatest impact on retailers, the revised leak repair requirements, go into effect on January 1, 2019. However, in January 2017 and January 2018, certified techniciansrefrigerant distributors and wholesalersreclaimers, and appliance disposal and recycling facilities will be required to comply with various new requirements.
 

Expanding Regulated Refrigerants

The most significant change to the refrigerant management requirements extends the regulations for ozone-depleting refrigerants to non-ozone-depleting substitutes through an amendment to the definition of "refrigerant."  Use of the revised definition in the refrigerant management process will be phased in over the next two years.  Starting January 1, 2017 the revised definition will be applied to requirements governing the resale of recovered refrigerants and in January 1, 2019 to leak repair requirements.

This revised definition of refrigerant, as it applies to typical retail operations, includes Class I or Class II ozone-depleting substances and substitutes, except for the following substitutes, which are specifically exempted from regulation:

  • Carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water in any application;
  • Ammonia in commercial refrigeration;
  • Propane (R-290) in retail food refrigerators and freezers (stand-alone units only); household refrigerators, freezers, and combination refrigerators and freezers; self-contained room air conditioners for residential and light commercial air-conditioning; heat pumps; and vending machines;
  • Isobutane (R-600a) in retail food refrigerators and freezers (stand-alone units only); household refrigerators, freezers, and combination refrigerators and freezers; and vending machines; and
  • R-441A in retail food refrigerators and freezers (stand-alone units only); household refrigerators, freezers, and combination refrigerators and freezers; self-contained room air conditioners for residential and light commercial air-conditioning; heat pumps; and vending machines.

(Additional exempted substances which are most likely not found in retail include nitrogen in any application and Ethane (R-170) in very low temperature refrigeration equipment.)

The extension of the refrigerant management regulations to non-exempt substitutes was primarily meant to address hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and other substitute refrigerants that are potent greenhouse gases (GHG) with global warming potentials much greater than carbon dioxide.

Leak Inspections and Repair

Beginning on January 1, 2019, new requirements for maintenance and leak repair of regulated appliances go into effect.  The new requirements apply only to appliances with a full charge of 50 pounds (lb) or more of refrigerant, which is the same as the current requirements.  However, as of January 1, 2019, the revised definition of refrigerant is in effect for leak repair requirements, meaning these requirements will also apply to appliances using non-exempt substitute refrigerants.

Leak rates.  Leak rates are expressed in terms of the percentage of the appliance's full charge that would be lost over a 12-month period if the current rate of loss were to continue over that entire period.  Leak rates must be calculated every time refrigerant is added to an appliance, and if above the following leak rate thresholds, requirements for repair, retrofit, or retirement are triggered.

Appliance Type Current Leak Rate Threshold Leak Rate Threshold Effective 1/1/2019
Commercial refrigeration 35 % 20 %
Comfort cooling 15 % 10 %
All other appliances 15 % 10 %


Leak inspections.  As of January 1, 2019,  appliances exceeding the leak rate thresholds must be inspected by a certified technician according to the following schedule:

  • Commercial appliances with a full charge of 500 lb or more: once every 3 months;
  • Commercial refrigeration appliances with a full charge of 50 lb or more, but less than 500 lb: once per calendar year; or
  • Comfort cooling appliances: once per calendar year
Such inspections will not be required for appliances that are continuously monitored by an automatic leak detection system, provided the system is audited and calibrated annually.

Chronically leaking appliances.  As of January 1, 2019, appliances that leak more than 125 percent of the full charge in a calendar year must submit a report to the EPA by March 1 of the following year.  The report must describe efforts taken to identify and repair the leak.

Retailers should take care to comply with current regulations and to prepare for the changes as there have been significant settlements against retailers for violations for these regulations.

Helpful Links:

Federal Register: Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: Update to the Refrigerant Management Requirements under the Clean Air Act

The EPA'S Updated Refrigerant Management Requirements: What Supermarkets and Property and Facility Managers Need to Know

The EPA'S Updated Refrigerant Management Requirements: What Technicians Need to Know

 

By Tim Fagan, BLR

BLR is a leading provider of compliance and training solutions in the HR-employment (DOL), compensation, safety (OSHA) and environmental (EPA) areas. To learn more, visit www.blr.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Center for Retail Compliance (CRC) or the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). This content is obtained from sources believed to be reliable but no guarantees are made by the CRC or RILA as to its accuracy, completeness, or timeliness.

Tags
  • Retail
  • Legal Affairs & Compliance

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