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There is some confusion in the refrigeration industry as to what the current regulations are. This chapter will attempt to provide the background for the regulations and then specifically summarize the regulations.
The confusion arises because there are Montreal Protocol Regulations, which are not U.S. laws, but rather an agreement between nations to follow some rules. Each nation that agrees with the Montreal Protocol (signatory nations), must then pass its own laws to enforce the protocol ideals. The U.S. laws that apply to the refrigeration technicians in the United States are part of the U.S. Clean Air Act and subsequent revisions to the Clean Air Act. Then there are EPA proposed rulings, which are proposed rules by the EPA to enforce the Clean Air Act. However, the EPA first proposes these rules, and then after public comment refines these rules. Some people have incorrectly assumed that the proposed rulings were the law; they were not. Many of the proposed rules have been modified after public input, including input by equipment manufacturers and technical groups. The actual laws that must be followed concerning stratospheric ozone protection, (including venting, recovery, recycling, equipment certification, technician certification, disposal, record keeping, and enforcement), have finally been completed and are discussed in the Code of Federal Regulations Sections Title 40 Parts 82.30 to 82.42 and are commonly referred to as the Clean Air Act Section 609 Requirements for Motor Vehicle A/C (MVAC) systems and technicians. For convenience the key requirements have been summarized in the subsection on Clean Air Act Section 609 Requirements in this Section.
During the early 1970s, CFCs that were used as aerosol propellants constituted over 50% of total CFC consumption in the United States. Following concerns initially raised by the Rowland-Molina theory in 1974, the EPA and the Food and Drug Administration in 1978 banned the use of CFCs as aerosol (spray can) propellants in all but a few essential (mostly medical) applications. Two new factors brought CFCs back into public concern in 1986. One was the connection between CFCs and the theory of global warming, or greenhouse effect. The other was new scientific evidence that CFCs deplete stratospheric ozone and that a "hole" had developed in the ozone layer over Antarctica.
Recognizing the global nature of the problem, on September 16, 1987, in Montreal, Canada, 24 nations and the European Economic Community (EEC) signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Most of the major CFC and Halon producing and consuming nations signed the agreement. On August 1, 1988, the U.S. EPA enacted the provisions of this agreement into regulations for the United States.
The Clean Air Act of 1990, directs EPA to establish requirements to prevent the release of ozone-depleting substances. The Act has many sections dealing with air quality and emissions, but the sections dealing with ozone depletion are Sections 608 and 609.
Section 608 deals with the building and stationery air-conditioners and requires technicians to be certified in Type I, II and III or Universal. Over the road refrigeration units and R-22 (HCFC) air conditioning, such as that found in buses, also requires Section 608 certification.
Section 609 addresses the mobile motor vehicle air conditioning (MVAC) industry. MVAC technicians can only service motor vehicle A/C systems used to cool passenger compartments. The sale of small containers of refrigerant under 20 lb., including the one pound cans, are restricted to only people certified in Section 609. Technician certification, as established by EPA, is to teach technicians and test their ability to properly handle and recover refrigerants. Technicians will also learn about the laws enacted to protect the stratospheric ozone layer.
Technicians who repair or service HFC-134a MVACs must be trained and certified by an EPA-approved organization. If a technician is already trained and certified to handle CFC-12, he does not need to be re-certified to handle HFC-134a.
The regulations implementing Sections 609 and 608 treat MVACs and MVAC-like appliances (and persons servicing them) slightly differently. A key difference is that persons who service MVACs are subject to the Section 609 equipment and technician certification requirements only if they perform "service for consideration," while persons who service MVAC-like appliances are subject to the equipment and technician certification requirements set forth in the Section 608 and 609 regulations regardless of whether they are compensated for their work.
Another difference is that persons servicing MVAC-like appliances have the option of becoming certified as Section 608 Type II technicians instead of becoming certified as Section 609 MVAC technicians under subpart B. Persons servicing MVACs do not have this choice they must be certified as Section 609 MVAC technicians if they perform the AC service for compensation.
Recycled R-12 (CFC-12) that has been directly removed from, and intended to be returned to, a mobile air-conditioning system can not exceed the level of contaminants as specified by the Society of Automotive Engineers' (SAE) J1991 standard:
Purity specification of new, recycled or reclaimed R–12 refrigerant supplied in containers from other recycle sources, for service of mobile air-conditioning systems, must meet ARI Standard 700–2006 (Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute):
Recycled R-134a (HFC-134a) that has been directly removed from, and intended to be returned to, a mobile air-conditioning system can not exceed the level of contaminants as specified by the Society of Automotive Engineers' (SAE) J2099 standard:
Purity specification of new, recycled or reclaimed R–134a refrigerant supplied in containers from other recycle sources, for service of mobile air-conditioning systems, must meet ARI Standard 700–2006 (Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute):
In 2006 both the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the American Refrigeration Institute (ARI) have approved more stringent refrigerant purity standards which limit the level of unsaturated impurities in the refrigerant HFC-134a and are reflected in the new ARI-700 purity standard for new and reclaimed refrigerants. The ARI standard now contains the new specification to limit unsaturated impurities in HFC-134a to a maximum level of 40 ppm. SAE standard J2776 also contains this provision. The term "unsaturated" refers to the types of bonds within some molecules contained in the refrigerant. Molecules that contain double bonds are called unsaturated. Double bonds in unsaturated molecules are more chemically reactive than single bonds and therefore increase the chance of chemical instability and the likelihood that the refrigerant will contain contaminants that often contribute to the formation of sludge or tar.
NOTE: Section 608 HVAC/R Technicians can not buy refrigerant in quantities less than 20 lbs.
The Clean Air Act establishes the following rules for record keeping:
This applies to all Class I and Class II refrigerants and their substitutes which are used in MVAC systems.
The refrigerant must be recovered until the system pressure drops to a vacuum of 4" of mercury (102 mm of mercury). The service technician must assure that the vacuum level holds (for at least 5 minutes the first time you check it and at least 2 minutes for any rechecks). That is the MVAC technician must verify that there is no remaining refrigerant being vaporized off to raise the pressure above ambient pressure.
Prior to the EPA's January 29, 1998 Final Rule the EPA regulations had not addressed how refrigerant recovered from a motor vehicle located at a salvage yard, scrap recycling facility, landfill or other motor vehicle disposal facility could be reused after it was recovered. Many service technicians and motor vehicle disposal facility operators have believed, incorrectly, that the EPA required that a refrigerant removed from a motor vehicle bound for disposal must be sent to a reclaimer rather than recycled prior to reuse.
The Final Rule contains provisions designed to clarify that motor vehicle disposal facility operators and certified automotive service technicians can recycle and resell refrigerants recovered from motor vehicles destined for disposal. Specifically, the rule explicitly allows Section 609 certified technicians who recover refrigerant (whether CFC-12 or a substitute) from motor vehicles located at disposal facilities to take the refrigerant off-site and recycle that refrigerant at their service facilities for reuse in other motor vehicles. In addition, owners or operators of motor vehicle disposal facilities are permitted to sell refrigerant recovered from such vehicles to Section 609 certified technicians for re-use in MVACs. By promoting markets for used refrigerant recovered from these vehicles, the Agency hopes to provide incentives for the recovery and reuse of refrigerants. Note that these changes do not affect refrigerant recovered from home appliances, such as refrigerators, that are destined for disposal; refrigerant from these sources must still be sent to a reclaimer before it can be sold (or transferred in any way to another owner).
Under EPA's rule, equipment that typically enters the waste stream with the charge intact, (such as motor vehicle air conditioners), are subject to special safe-disposal requirements. Under these safe disposal requirements, the final person in the disposal chain, (e.g., a scrap metal recycler), is responsible for ensuring that the refrigerant is recovered from the equipment before the final disposal of the equipment. However, persons "upstream" could remove the refrigerant and provide documentation of its removal to the final person.
Prior to scrapping MVAC equipment the refrigerant must be recovered to a minimum vacuum of 4 inches of mercury, (102 mm of mercury). The service technician must assure that the vacuum level holds at 4 inches of mercury. That is the MVAC technician must verify that there is no remaining refrigerant being vaporized off to raise the pressure above 4 inches of mercury.
If the recovered refrigerant is to be sent to an MVAC service facility for charging, or recharging into an MVAC or MVAC-like appliance without prior reclamation then the refrigerant must be recovered using approved refrigerant recycling equipment dedicated for use with MVAC and MVAC-like appliances. This recovery must be performed by either a 609 certified technician or an employee, owner, or operator of the disposal facility.
An EPA fact sheet entitled "Recovering Refrigerant at Motor Vehicle Disposal Facilities," (available through the EPA Hot Line 800-296-1996 or the EPA Internet Site www.epa.gov) provides more details about this portion of the rule.
This applies to all Class I and Class II refrigerants and their substitutes which are contained in disposable tanks, (of less than 20 pound original capacity), by MVAC service technicians.
We recommend, (however it is not required by the EPA of Section 609 technicians), that the cylinder valve then be opened to allow air to enter, and the cylinder should be rendered useless, (with the valve still open), by breaking off the valve or puncturing the container. This will avoid misuse of the container by untrained individuals. Used cylinders can be recycled with other scrap metal. They can never be reused for any purpose.
Never leave used cylinders with residual refrigerant outdoors where the cylinder can rust. The internal pressure of a cylinder with one ounce of liquid refrigerant is exactly the same as a full cylinder. An abandoned cylinder will eventually deteriorate and potentially explode if the cylinder wall weakens.
This applies to all refillable external recovery tanks for use by MVAC technicians which are being switched from one refrigerant to another, or are being brought into service and may be contaminated with air or other non-condensable gasses.
The empty refillable tank must be evacuated to a minimum vacuum of 27 inches of mercury, (686 mm of mercury), before being filled with refrigerant. (A vacuum pump not a recovery device is typically used.) The service technician must assure that the vacuum level holds at 27 inches of mercury. That is the MVAC technician must verify that there is no moisture being vaporized off to raise the pressure above 27 inches of mercury.
Recovery Equipment Requirements for R-12 are described completely in SAE Standard J1990, "Extraction and Recycle Equipment for Mobile Automotive Air-Conditioning Systems." Recovery Equipment Requirements for R-134a are described completely in SAE Standard J2810, "HFC-134a (R-134a) Refrigerant Recovery Equipment for Mobile Automotive Air-Conditioning Systems.". Recovery/Recycling/Recharging Equipment Requirements for R-134a are described completely in SAE Standard J2788, " HFC-134a (R-134a) Recovery/Recycling Equipment and Recovery/Recycling/Recharging for Mobile Air-Conditioning Systems." Details of these requirements are discussed in greater detail in section 4 of this manual.
Right now, there is no restriction on the sale of HFC-134a, so anyone may purchase it. However, the EPA is planning to issue a proposed rule under section 608 of the Clean Air Act that will include a proposal to restrict the sale of HFC-134a so that only technicians certified under sections 608 and 609 may purchase it. After the proposed rule is published, the EPA will review comments from the public on the proposal and will then publish a final rule.
The Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc., has developed standards that apply to the recovery and recycling of motor vehicle refrigerant as well as service guidelines for MVAC technicians.
SAE J051: Automotive Air Conditioning Hose
SAE J639: Safety and Containment of Refrigerant for Mechanical Vapor Compression Systems used for Mobile Air-Conditioning Systems
SAE J1627: Performance Criteria for Electronic Refrigerant Leak Detectors
SAE J1629 Cautionary Statements for Handling HFC-134a During Mobile Air Conditioning Service
SAE J1657: Selection Criteria for Retrofit Refrigerants to Replace R-12 in Mobile Air Conditioning Systems
SAE J1660: Fittings and Labels for Retrofit of R-12 Mobil Air- Conditioning Systems to R-134a
SAE J1661: Procedures for Retrofitting R-12 Mobil Air-Conditioning Systems to HFC-134a
SAE J1662 Compatibility of Retrofit Refrigerants with Air Conditioning System Materials
SAE J1732: HFC-134a Extraction Equipment for Mobile Automotive Air-Conditioning Systems
SAE J2810: HFC-134a (R-134a) Refrigerant Recovery Equipment for Mobile Automotive Air-Conditioning Systems.
SAE J1771: Criteria for Refrigerant Identification Equipment for use with Mobile Air-Conditioning Systems
SAE J1989: Recommended Service Procedure for the Containment of R-12.
SAE J1990: Extraction and Recycle Equipment for Mobile Automotive Air-Conditioning Systems.
SAE J1991: Standard of Purity for Use in Mobile Air-Conditioning Systems
SAE J2064: R-134a Refrigerant Automotive Air Conditioning Hose
SAE J2099: Standard of Purity for Recycled HFC-134a for use in Mobile Air- Conditioning Systems
SAE J2196: Service Hose for Automotive Air-Conditioning
SAE J2197: Service Hose Fittings for Automotive Air-Conditioning
SAE J2209 CFC-12 Extraction Equipment for Mobile Automotive Air-Conditioning Systems
SAE J2788: HFC-134a (R-134a) Recovery/Recycling Equipment and Recovery/Recycling/Recharging for Mobile Air-Conditioning Systems
SAE J2211: Recommended Service Procedure for the Containment of HFC-134a
The 1990 federal budget contained provisions for federal excise taxes on new production, floor stocks, and imports of CFCs and halons. The taxes were effective January 1, 1990, and apply to CFC 12. The Energy Policy Act of 1992, section 1931 of Public Law 102-486 revised and further increased the excise tax, (in effect since January 1, 1993). The government's intent is to provide additional financial incentives to increase recycling and promote the shifting-away from these substances. This excise tax is imposed when the CFC is sold or used by the manufacturer or importer. Recycled and reclaimed refrigerants are exempt from the tax. A floor tax also applies to anyone holding 400 lb. or more of the regulated CFCs.
The tax payment must be deposited with Form 8109, Federal Tax Deposit Coupon, at an authorized depository or a Federal Reserve Bank. In addition, a return must be filed on Form 720, the Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return with the Environmental Tax Form 6627 attached. Contact the IRS for further details.
EPA responds to tips reporting venting. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is authorized to assess fines of up to $27,500 per day per violation for any violation of the act. (The fine was increased from $25,000.)
In addition, EPA may pay an award, not to exceed $10,000, to any person who furnishes information or services that lead to a criminal conviction or a judicial or administrative civil penalty assessed as a result of a violation of the act. These dollar amounts are maximum figures and are not necessarily the amount that will be assessed or paid in all cases.
For information concerning regulations related to stratospheric ozone protection, please call the EPA Stratospheric Ozone HOTLINE: 800-296-1996 (10 am-4 pm eastern).
- Capturing and ultimately eliminating the use of chlorofluorocarbons is being done in the United States to stop damage to the stratospheric ozone layer.
- Since August 13, 1992, no person repairing or servicing motor vehicles may perform any service on a motor vehicle air conditioner involving the refrigerant for such air conditioner without properly using approved recycling equipment, (equipment must meet SAE Standards), and unless such person has been properly trained and certified by an EPA-approved 609 certification program.
- Since November 15, 1992, no person may sell or distribute, or offer for sale or distribution, any Class I or Class II substance that is suitable as a refrigerant in a motor vehicle air conditioner and that is in a container which contains less than 20 pounds of refrigerant, to any person unless that person is properly trained and certified. (R-12 is a Class I Substance, R-22 is a Class II Substance.)
- Any person who owns approved refrigerant recycling equipment, certified under the Clean Air Act, must maintain records of the name and address of any facility to which refrigerant is sent.
- Any person who owns approved MVAC refrigerant recycling equipment must retain records demonstrating that all persons authorized to operate the equipment are Section 609 certified.
- Any person who sells or distributes any Class I or Class II substance, (in a container of less than 20 pounds of such refrigerant), must verify that the purchaser is properly trained and certified. The seller must retain a record of this for a period of three years.
- Public Notification is also required. Any person who conducts any retail sales of a Class I or Class II substance must prominently display a sign that reads: "It is a violation of federal law to sell containers of Class I and Class II refrigerant of less that 20 pounds of such refrigerant to anyone who is not properly trained and certified to operate approved refrigerant recovery equipment."
- State and local governments may establish laws that contain stricter regulations than the Clean Air Act/EPA regulations.
- MVAC systems must be evacuated to a vacuum before servicing.
- External Recovery Tanks must be evacuated to 27 inches of mercury before being put into service.
- MVAC systems being disposed must be evacuated to 4 inches of mercury before being scrapped.
- Disposable Refrigerant Tanks, (under 20 pounds), must be evacuated before being scrapped.
- Service technicians who violate Clean Air Act provisions can be fined, lose their certification, and face federal charges.
- An award of up to $10,000 may be paid to a person supplying information that leads to a penalty against a technician who is intentionally venting.
- Violation of the Clean Air Act, including the knowing release of refrigerant during the maintenance, service, repair, or disposal of appliances, can result in fines up to $25,000 per day per violation.
- Since January 1, 1996, it is no longer legal for CFCs to be manufactured or imported into the United States. Supplies of CFC refrigerant for equipment servicing can ONLY come from recovery, recycling, and reclamation.
- Since November 15, 1995, it is illegal to vent substitutes for CFC and HCFC refrigerants.
Section II Table of Contents Section IV