Where Do We Go From Here?
Say what you like about the phase-out of CFCs and HCFCs (chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons), but at least everyone involved in HVAC/R knew what the phase-out rules and timetables would be well in advance, and could plan accordingly; making it possible to give their customers informed advice about repairing or replacing equipment.
I’ve heard all my life that the quickest way to sabotage a business environment is to introduce uncertainty. These days when it comes to the future of refrigerants in America, it seems that uncertainty is a certainty.
Here’s a recap:
- The Kigali Amendment to phase-down (not phase-out) HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) to about 15% of the 2011-2013 baseline has been signed by 197 countries and ratified by more than 20 governments as of this writing. The US administration has indicated support for ratifying this agreement.
- The EPA has been planning on enforcing the phase-down of HFCs using a provision of the Clean Air Act called SNAP (Significant New Alternatives Policy) which identify the refrigerants to be replaced and the timetable for replacing them. Two of the SNAP rules (20 and 21) were challenged in Federal court. In August the Federal court ruled that the EPA cannot use SNAP rule 20 as the justification for eliminating HFCs from being used. The Federal court ruling has been appealed and that means the SNAP rules (set to begin in 2018) will stay in effect until a higher court rules on the appeal. Count on the SNAP rules remaining in place for a few years, at the very least.
- Honeywell and Chemours have started marketing HFOs (hydrofluoro-olefins, which have zero ozone depletion and low global warming effect) and refrigerant blends that contain HFOs. Since the Kigali Amendment is a phase-down, not elimination of HFCs, many of these blends already meet the requirements of the new rules. Most of the new refrigerant blends (Like R449A and R452A) have HFO components.
- Europe, Canada, Japan and Australia have either implemented the provisions of the Kigali Amendment, or are in the final stages of setting the legislation necessary to do so. Most of the automotive industry has already adopted or is adopting HFO refrigerants in their new cars.
- Many states and municipalities are planning on enforcing the Amendment, as well.
- The majority of refrigerant manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and trade associations have come out in support of implementing the Kigali Amendment and following the existing phase-down plans. Many of them have already begun introducing Kigali compliant products.
If you are wondering whether HFC refrigerants will be phased down, it looks like the train has already left the station. The chemical manufacturers have already done the research and introduced HFOs in the marketplace. Equipment manufacturers aren’t going to want to make two different types of equipment, one compliant with the phase-out, and one not. Distributors aren’t going to want to inventory two different lines of equipment. Trade associations have already decided that complying with the Kigali Amendment is the way to go.
Savvy contractors will realize that they can distinguish themselves in the marketplace by offering forward-looking products.