Carrier Corp. recently filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), formalizing a request to reclassify a residential condensing unit as a subsystem of a system to extend the manufacturing prohibition to dry R-22 condensing units. “The petition urges EPA to reconsider its current position and to issue a new rulemaking effective January 1, 2012,” said John Mandyck, Carrier vice president, sustainability & environmental strategies. “In our opinion, the rule as it currently exists is not in-line with the intent of the long-planned phase-out of R-22, nor is it in-line with the Clean Air Act’s mandate to curtail the use of ozone depleting substances.”
The effect of the Carrier action could serve to solve an industry dilemma - what to do about dry R-22 units.
In the middle of 2010, some manufacturers began producing R-22 equipment that did not contain refrigerant. These dry-shipped units exploit a loophole in the original EPA ruling of 2009 - designed to curtail use of R-22 - which stated that entire systems could not be manufactured and that any replacement components for aftermarket use could not be pre-charged with the refrigerant. As a result of allowing R-22 units back into the free market, industry sources, including a component manufacturer, equipment manufacturers, refrigerant manufacturer, and the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) have estimated the number of dry R-22 unit shipments in 2011 could represent between 10 and 20 percent of annual sales, possibly upwards of 700,000 units.
Mandyck said, “We think this is bad policy. The unintended consequence of this loophole is to encourage the sale of new R-22 condensing units, which the industry has been preparing to phaseout for more than a decade. The EPA never could have intended for all condensing unit manufacturers to re-enter the R-22 market, and we would like them to take action now to close the loophole.” Mandyck noted that Carrier was forced to restart the manufacture of R-22 condensing units after several competitors re-entered the market. “It became clear to us that the market was moving faster than the government could act, so we moved with the market to remain competitive, but if EPA banned the manufacture of dry R-22 condensing units today, we would support that move.”
Carrier believes this problem was created when EPA changed the definition of a condensing unit to a component. “In our view, a condensing unit is much more than a component. Eighty percent of the cost and technology [of a system] is really in the condensing unit,” said Mandyck.
“We took it upon ourselves to file the petition because we believe strongly in the initial intent of the Clean Air Act when it comes to the phaseout of R-22; we welcome anyone who is concerned about the issue to support us.”
Mandyck said that Carrier, other manufacturers, contractors, and distributors had all invested in new technologies and training in order to prepare for a 20-year expectation that R-22 would be phased out. Mandyck said “Non-ozone depleting condensing units are available from every manufacturer and have been sold and installed for more than a decade with an excellent performance record. This is not a situation where the industry is searching for a technology solution. The answer is there - we simply want the regulations to apply as we all thought they did.”
“Carrier filed the petition to be consistent with that belief. We also did so because of our support of ozone protection, and for energy efficiency - the replacement of a condensing unit without replacing the indoor coil was a step in the wrong direction,” said Mandyck. “Consumers won’t be getting the energy efficiency they think they are buying.”
IN EPA COURTAccording to Mandyck, Carrier met with EPA more than a month ago, at which time the agency “asked a lot of good questions.” The EPA indicated it would evaluate and respond to the petition.
Drusilla Hufford, director, Stratospheric Protection Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said, “We have met with Carrier since receiving the petition, and are evaluating additional information provided not only by Carrier, but by others in the environmental community. No final resolution date is available at this time, but EPA is carefully considering this petition.”
Mandyck encouraged contractors to understand the issue and get involved. “We have all prepared; manufacturers invested in technology, contractors invested in training, and now that is all up in the air. We are 16 months into this issue, and still don’t have anything past a preliminary guidance from DOE as to how to rate the efficiency of the dry R-22 units. How are we supposed to view the next regulatory movements from the government? This issue has created a lot of uncertainty,” said Mandyck.
In September 2010, AHRI answered a request by EPA to submit an analysis of the consequences of the action. The response letter showed that if dry R-22 units were to represent 20 percent of shipments, that nearly 10 percent of the gains from the 13 SEER rulemaking (January 2006) would be wiped out. It also showed that if the market would grow to 80 percent, nearly one-third of the efficiency gains would be negated.
When asked about coordination with the U.S. Department of Energy regarding the impact on energy efficiency that projected dry R-22 unit sales will have in the market, Hufford said, “EPA understands that to achieve the best energy efficiency, outdoor condensing units must be properly matched with the indoor coils. The HVAC industry has done a very good job of emphasizing that over the last 10 years, and EPA wants to also help ensure that this practice continues.”
The losses would be the result of mismatching of indoor/outdoor coils - the AHRI sensitivity analysis showed that an additional emission of 2.5 million metric tons of CO2 would result from the mismatching of coils at the 10 percent shipment level, and 10 million metric tons at the 80 percent level.
With the continued manufacture of R-22 units, it is thought by some that prices will increase, and availability could tighten as a result. Mandyck also said, “By proliferating R-22 use, we are pushing the problem of service availability into the future. There is a step-down schedule we are following; in 2015 we have a huge drop to 10 percent of our 1989 baseline production of HCFCs. By pumping more R-22 units into the marketplace now, we are exacerbating the problem.”
According to information provided during a recent webinar sponsored by DuPont andThe NEWS, sales of R-22 replacement refrigerants have grown at a 46 percent compound annual growth rate in North America, and this does not include R-410A.
According to Mandyck, an additional benefit of stopping production of dry R-22 units is to comply with ozone protection. “It remains a critical threat to our planet - the Arctic is in danger of record loss of ozone this year. Most common losses had been associated with the Antarctic region, but that has begun to change. We have to remain vigilant,” said Mandyck.
STATUS OF RULEIn November 2009, prior to the final EPA rule, AHRI’s Unitary Small Equipment Product Section classified all R-22 systems as discontinued as of Jan. 1, 2010 and removed these listings from the AHRI Directory as of Dec. 31, 2010. This meant that dry systems would not be certified by AHRI or listed in the AHRI Directory. Following issuance of the EPA rule, AHRI met with agency officials to encourage them to close the exception to the sale of non-charged R-22 condensing units for air conditioning applications. After the EPA made it clear that it would not do that, the Unitary Small Equipment Section in November 2010 re-visited its November 2009 decision and voted to return R-22 products to the scope of the AHRI Certification Program, thereby requiring dry R-22 models to continue to be listed in the AHRI Directory of Certified Product Performance. The R-22 models certified by AHRI and displayed in the AHRI Directory are High Sales Volume Tested Combinations (HSVTC) only with no mix match coil listings.