The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the phasedown schedule (above) for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which is mandated by the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act (AIM Act). There were no changes between the proposal and the final rule. The schedule still calls for a segmented reduction in HFCs produced and consumed, ending in an 85% reduction by 2036.
The finalized rule includes an allocation and trading program, which determines the amount of refrigerant that may be produced and consumed. There were no changes between the proposal and the final rule.
Who is impacted?
- Refrigerant Producers: Companies that produce, import, export, destroy, reclaim, or recycle HFCs are issued allowances by the EPA on October 1 of each year. These allowances are relative to the phasedown schedule.
- End Users: Companies that use refrigeration equipment—such as retailers, cold storage warehouses, and industrial process facilities—will feel an indirect impact because HFC refrigerant will be less common and more expensive.
We know from the recent phaseout of R-22 that this phasedown will cause refrigerant prices to rise. HFC refrigerants that are manufactured will primarily be used to service leaks in existing systems, plus HFC refrigerants are shared with other industries, such as air conditioning and foaming processing. This could impact cost and availability of refrigerants to retailers and industrial end users, meaning that budgets for repairs will need to increase.
What should retailers and other end users do?
To counteract this, Zero Zone recommends that future orders for refrigeration equipment should be switched to alternative refrigerants sooner than later, such as natural refrigerants and low-GWP HFO-based refrigerants. This will make service costs better in the long run. Plus, it will prepare end users for upcoming EPA rules that will further regulate refrigerants.
What other rules are coming?
The refrigeration industry awaits three more final EPA rules.
1) The EPA proposed a rule that will establish limits by 1/1/2025 on the global warming potential (GWP) of refrigerants. This rule must be finalized in October 2023. Below are the current GWP restrictions proposed.
These GWP limits will end the use refrigerants such as R-404A (GWP of 3943), R-407A (GWP of 1923), R-410A (GWP of 1924), R-448A (GWP of 1273), R-449A (GWP of 1282), and R-507 (GWP of 3985) in new equipment. Going forward, refrigeration equipment will need to use natural refrigerants, such as CO2 (GWP of 1), ammonia (GWP of 0), and HFO-based refrigerants with GWP less than the limits.
2) The refrigeration industry also awaits the release of EPA Rule 26, which will allow for the use of A2L refrigerants in commercial and industrial applications. “A2L” refers to an ASHRAE classification of refrigerants that are mildly flammable. Rule 26 would also increase the allowable R-290 (propane) charges for self-contained equipment.
3) The EPA will be updating Section 608 of the EPA Clean Air Act (CAA), which regulates handling, recovery, reclamation, and recycling of refrigerants. They are updating the rule for how service technicians can handle refrigerants and how refrigerant use is reported by store owners.
For more information about upcoming EPA regulations: “The National Plan for Refrigerant Regulations.”
For more information about current state regulations: “The State of Refrigerant Regulations.”
If you have questions about these regulations, please contact Zero Zone and ask to speak to our Director of Regulatory Compliance & Refrigeration Technology. If you want to learn about our offerings and plan for these regulations, contact our sales team.