Waiting for Final Ruling

October 12, 2009
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It has been nine months since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed rules affecting sales, distribution, and servicing of HVACR equipment as well as how much new HCFC-22 could be produced. Many in the industry have been waiting for those proposed rules to become final, just to make sure what they believe will happen actually will happen.

Well, they apparently will have to wait a bit more.

Despite earlier projections that final rules could come during the summer, the latest best guess is this month at the earliest. Also, there has been no indication that the delay in the final rulings will delay implementation come Jan. 1, 2010.

The proposed rulings were first published in the Federal Register on Dec. 23, 2008. That was followed by a Jan. 7 public hearing in which a number of industry associations voiced concern primarily over wording regarding equipment. That then resulted in the EPA publishing a Fact Sheet on Jan. 14 that seemed to alleviate most of the concerns expressed at the hearing. The public comment period for the equipment proposed rules went until Feb. 6 and the comment period regarding HCFC allocations went until March 9.

Then all went quiet aside from periodic predictions of when the proposed rules could become final. The October possibility surfaced briefly during a Webinar event hosted in early September by DuPont to highlight allocation and regulatory issues.

Several days before the deadline of this article, The NEWS did contact EPA officials for a statement on a possible date for a final ruling, but had not received a response by the deadline. Meanwhile, over the past month, The NEWS has been contacting industry consultants and manufacturers, and as of Sept. 21, nothing had surfaced that would indicate that the final rules will deviate all that much from the proposed rulings, nor from the Fact Sheet.

EQUIPMENT

It was the proposed ruling on equipment - officially titled “Ban on the Sale or Distribution of Pre-Charged Appliances” - that stirred up most of the concern at the Jan. 7 hearing. That was eased with the Jan. 14 Fact Sheet, which included these highlights:

Sale and distribution would be allowed for self-contained, factory charged appliances such as pre-charged window units, packaged terminal air conditioners (PATCs), and some commercial refrigeration units, if manufactured before Jan. 1, 2010.

Sale and distribution would also be allowed for pre-charged appliance components that are manufactured before Jan. 1 and used for the purpose of servicing existing (pre-2010) appliances. This means, according to the EPA, that components such as condensing units, line sets, and expansion valves that are charged with refrigerant and completely manufactured before Jan. 1, but not yet installed in an appliance, could be sold and distributed for this purpose.

Generally, sale and distribution would not be allowed for pre-charged appliances and pre-charged components charged with R-22, -142b, or a blend containing either and manufactured on or after Jan. 1.

Split systems and other field-installed air conditioning or refrigeration appliances could not be initially field-charged with virgin R-22, -142b or a blend containing either. Servicing of existing (pre-2010) appliances containing R-22 or R-142b would be allowed.

A pre-charged component manufactured before Jan. 1 could be used to service an existing appliance. The EPA gave an example: “The regulatory text for the proposed pre-charged appliances rule lists condensing units as a type of component. Thus the proposed rules would not prohibit the sale or installation of stockpiled pre-charged condensing units that were manufactured before Jan. 1, and used to replace a condensing unit in an existing residential split system.”

Components manufactured on or after Jan. 1, 2010, for the servicing of existing appliances could be sold and installed as long as they do not contain a charge of virgin R-22 or a blend with R-22 or –142b.

In a presentation made in mid-September at the Food Marketing Institute Energy and Technical Services Conference, Ted Gartland of Verisae summarized the proposed ruling by saying that as of Jan. 1, 2010, “Virgin HCFCs will no longer be allowed to be charged or imported in new equipment or in pre-charged parts” although “there may be loopholes for reclaimed refrigerant.”

R-22 ALLOCATIONS

The DuPont Webinar noted that the EPA’s proposed refrigerant allocation rule titled “Adjustments to the Allowance System for Controlling HCFC Production, Import, and Export” would allow production of 110 million pounds of R-22 in 2010 - versus an expected demand of 137 millions pounds for the refrigerant. It is a gap that will have to be made up by recycling and reclaiming R-22; and by retrofitting HFC refrigerants into systems originally designed for R-22.

“R-22 users need a plan to respond to decreased availability now. HFC refrigerants are the cost-effective option for replacing R-22,” said DuPont in a statement.

Meanwhile, Gartland told the FMI audience to be aware of global warming issues associated with HFCs. “Use the lowest GWP refrigerant with the best energy attributes. Use less of it through lower charge technology and lower leak rates. Make sure technicians can fix it when it breaks.”

Publication date: 10/12/2009

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