This was the recent slogan of a telecom companies ad that touted their phone coverage. That question could be asked of today’s EPA.
Starting in 2024, three HFC refrigerants will be deemed unacceptable in new liquid chillers under the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program. This despite the objection of AHRI, The National Resources Defense Council, Johnson Controls and other industry organizations including mechanical contractors. What’s the issue?
The EPA ruling will phase out the use of R-134A, R-410A and R-407C in new liquid chillers as of January 1, 2024. The industry wanted the proposed date to be one year later. What’s the big deal, you ask? According to Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of AHRI, “Making compliance a year sooner has a negligible benefit for the environment, but it does create an economic burden for the industry that provides comfort cooling and heating, commercial refrigeration technologies, and hot water for every American.”
Why is that? According to Francis Dietz, VP public affairs AHRI, “The ruling gives manufacturers one less year to do the research, development, demonstration, testing and evaluation of new equipment along with the retooling of assembly lines to manufacture the new product. The research that is about to begin will provide the information that code developers need to decide what changes they need to make to safety standards and building codes. Only then could these refrigerants be used, which further compresses the equipment development process. Besides that, many if not all of the replacement refrigerants are currently classified as mildly flammable or flammable. Thus, they cannot be used in the vast majority of applications in the US because of building code restrictions.”
Brian Smith, director of global marketing for Johnson Controls added another key point. “The greatest impact chillers have on global warming potential (GWP) is their efficiency, not the GWP value of the refrigerant. Ninety-five percent or more of the emissions associated with chillers are the result of the energy produced to operate the chillers,” Smith said. “As a result, efforts to regulate the use of a refrigerant without considering a chillers energy efficiency misses the mark.”
What is EPA’s response to all this? Basically, they said they had reviewed refrigeration substitutes, current knowledge about the substitutes and held multiple meetings before mandating the January 1, 2024 date. Notice, that did not say they had considered the impact on both the industry and consumers in making this ruling. Hopefully the next administration will have an EPA that is more willing to work with the industry on these kinds of initiatives than the current one. Toward that end, the upcoming election could be a very positive one for the industry.
For more information on the subject, read the article “HVAC Industry Disappointed in US EPA Chiller HPC Phaseout Plan” by Ron Rajecki in the November 7 ACHR news.
Article courtesy of ACHR News