The technical name is 40 CFR 82.154(m). It is the moniker of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) regulation requiring technicians to “observe practices that minimize the release of refrigerant and to be certified as knowledgeable of these requirements…”

The regulation reads in part, “no person may sell or distribute, or offer for sale or distribution, any class I or class II substance for use as a refrigerant to any person unless the refrigerant is contained in an appliance, and after Jan. 9, 1995, the refrigerant is contained in an appliance with a fully assembled refrigerant circuit.”

Hamilton Home Products objected to the original Oct. 28, 1994 regulation during a 60-day judicial review period. The company stated that the quick disconnect assembly used in the company’s products “enables homeowners to have the installation completed with no refrigerant loss.” Hamilton also stated that consumers who buy split systems themselves, rather than through a contractor, realize significant savings even if the homeowner hires a contractor to assemble the refrigerant circuit.


As a result of Hamilton’s objections, the EPA issued a three-month administrative stay of 82.154(m), “including all applicable compliance dates, as this provision applies to refrigerant contained in appliances without fully assembled refrigerant circuits.”

The bottom line is that the EPA said that it is legal to sell pre-packaged split systems to homeowners until the agency takes final action on the stay. The stay expired on April 27, 1995, and no final action has been taken.

When I questioned Julius Banks of the EPA Global Programs Division about whether the stay had been extended or if the EPA acted on changes to 82-154(m), he said, “It appears that the partial stay on the sales restriction for split systems will remain in effect. There is a chance that EPA will once again pursue the restriction during 2003.”

I asked Banks what it would take to “revisit” this issue. He replied, “It is my hope that we can revisit this issue in the near future, but a multitude of projects and lack of personnel resources makes it impossible for me to give an estimated date for what will likely be a proposed rule.”

The EPA received over 60 comments on the stay, involving who should sell and install split systems. Banks did add that “while the sale is still legal, the restriction on who can install them still remains.”


My decision to explore this issue was prompted by an advertisement in my community newspaper. A local HVACR dealer/distributor was advertising a “Grand Opening Sale” featuring scratched and dented furnaces and condensing units.

I was under the impression that a distributor could not sell to unlicensed or uncertified purchasers. I was wrong. I thank Lynn Briggs and Cliff McCourt of the Michigan Chapter of the Air Conditioner Contractors of America (MIACCA) for pointing that out. However, Briggs and McCourt did not agree with the EPA regulation and feel, as I do, that this regulation should be revisited.

I did visit the dealer and the young lady who assisted me had all of the right answers — including who should install the equipment (a certified technician), the licensing required, and who should make the inspection. She also said that her company would quote a price on the installation of a new system, but only after a salesperson visited the home and provided a written estimate. I believe that a homeowner would have walked away with a good impression of our trade.

But that doesn’t address the real issue. Should pre-packaged split systems be sold to unlicensed consumers? I certainly don’t object to free enterprise, but how many of these consumers will try to install the systems themselves and forego any required licenses and inspections? Are we putting a “loaded gun” in the hands of homeowners?

I think the answer to the last question is “Yes.”

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 07/01/2002