SEATTLE - When the HVACR industry's refrigerant-handling practices became regulated more than a decade ago, it meant certification requirements and a labyrinth of laws involving refrigerants, venting, storage, and handling. Such complex rules and regulations beget confusion, which in turn begets rumors.
Over the years, the Environmental Protection Agency (the agency most involved with all of the above) has begun a program to dispel rumors and answer specific questions through its website (www.epa.gov/ozone) and by appearances of officials at industry functions.
One of the most recent was by Julius Banks, National Recycling and Emissions Reduction manager, before an audience of supermarket engineers and equipment suppliers at the Food Marketing Institute Energy and Technical Services Conference.
"I've come to talk about things I'm hearing about regularly from technicians and others in the field. I want to tone down some of the rumors," he said.
Among his comments: In general, venting regulations relate to ozone-depleting refrigerants such as CFCs and HCFCs. But he noted that the new wave of refrigerants (such as HFCs) are not ozone depleting. Banks said efforts are underway to extend venting rules that apply to CFCs and HCFCs to include HFCs. It hasn't happened yet, he said. The issue of leak rates boils down to how you determine leak rates. Banks said the government has its own formula it could impose, but for now it wants to work with the industry to come up with ways to measure leak rates. Banks said the EPA is not interested in how or even if leaks are fixed. It is interested in system leaks dropping below 35 percent. Somewhat related to the leak rate issue is how a full charge is determined. Banks said various methods are now used, such as manufacturers' recommendations and engineering calculations. Banks said it behooves the industry to have some documentation of "full charge," not just saying it cannot be determined. "You have to know full charge. If not, you are not in compliance." In direct response to a current popular rumor, Banks said, "The EPA is not targeting the supermarket industry" for any enforcement compliance issues. He speculated that this rumor started because of a situation involving the EPA and some large bakeries unrelated to the smaller bakeries in supermarkets.
He said it is possible that an issue in one store could cause the EPA to extend an investigation to other stores in a chain.
"If the EPA is at your store," Banks said, "it is because someone inside your company has called the EPA. Or, maybe it is a contractor you fired."
Publication date: 12/29/2003