Test your techs on these common venting myths
Myth 1. Residential homeowners must repair leaks. "You'd be surprised how many homeowners are told by technicians they'll be fined if they don't repair a leak," says Banks. Owners and operators of appliances (including homeowners) must repair leaks only if the charge is 50 pounds or greater of a CFC or HCFC refrigerant and the appliance is leaking at a rate greater than 15% annually.
Myth 2. It is OK to vent R-134a. "Completely false," according to Banks. He admits there is a "disconnect" because, while the Clean Air Act, Section 608, clearly states that venting of R-134a has been illegal since 1995, the EPA has not established regulations for how R-134a should be recovered or reclaimed. "We're working on it," says Banks.
Myth 3. EPA keeps records of refrigerant consumption for each company. "We don't require nor do we have the staff to keep track of how much refrigerant each company uses," says Banks.
Myth 4. EPA does not enforce regulations. There are offices enforcing EPA regulations all across the country. Besides the Criminal Investigation Division and the Office of Enforcement and Compliance in Washington, D.C., the EPA also has regional offices comprising 4-8 states across the country and field offices in the states where there are no regional offices. Contact the Ozone Hotline at 800-296-1996 if you suspect a regulation violation. Check webpage www.epa.gov/ozone/enforce.html for more information.
Myth 5. The reward for informing EPA about someone breaking a regulation is $10,000. "I hear this almost every week," says Banks. "We have in the past offered rewards for tips that lead to enforcement action, depending on the enforcement officer and budget status, but $10K is the maximum reward, and it's rarely that much."
Myth 6. Purging of refrigerants is not allowed. Banks clarifies that there is a venting prohibition, but purging doesn't fall under the prohibition. There are four instances called minimus releases in which EPA allows releases of refrigerant during the service of appliances. Check www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/608. html for more information.
Myth 7. Refrigerant must always be reclaimed. Refrigerant need not be reclaimed (taken to a third-party laboratory to be cleaned and returned to the ARI 700 specifications) if the owner is planning to reuse the refrigerant in the owner's own equipment without selling it to someone else. (Refrigerant must be reclaimed if the refrigerant is intended for use in someone else's equipment or if the original owner does plan to sell it.)
Myth 8. Use of HCFCs will be banned by the end of this decade. The phase-out of HCFCs will be a 30-year process. The last year that HCFCs may be used or manufactured in the United States, or imported from other countries, is 2030. Use of existing R-22 refrigerant, including refrigerant that has been recovered and recycled, will be allowed beyond 2020 to service existing systems, but chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce R-22 to service existing air conditioners and heat pumps.