Refrigeration Monitoring

Understanding the EPA's Refrigerant Phaseout Schedule for 2024

As the EPA phases out certain refrigerants, understand the schedule, the implications for your business, and how to stay compliant.

The phaseout of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act continues to reshape the HVAC and refrigeration industry.

For those maintaining or working with HFC-based equipment, this phaseout can feel like navigating uncharted waters.

While HFCs have been reliable refrigerants, they contribute to climate change. The AIM Act addresses this challenge by aiming to reduce HFC use.

However, significant global changes naturally raise questions about cost and benefits.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates positive net benefits of $16.4 billion annually by the final stage of the EPA refrigerant phaseout schedule. While initial apprehension is understandable, this article will help you navigate the impact of the EPA's regulations and how they aim to increase energy efficiency, reduce leakage rates, and optimize costs.

EPA Refrigeration Regulations and Tech Solutions for Retail
The EPA is tightening regulations in a bid to reduce the use of HFCs that are harmful to the environment. Smart tech that provides real-time leak alerts will help you stay compliant with regulations in retail refrigeration

What is the EPA refrigerant phaseout?

The EPA's HFC refrigerant phaseout tackles a critical environmental issue: the damaging impact of HFCs on the climate.

HFCs, common refrigerants in HVAC and refrigeration systems, were hailed as a safer alternative to ozone-depleting CFCs. However, HFCs are potent greenhouse gases, trapping more heat than CO2 in the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.

To address this growing concern, the EPA, empowered by the 2020 AIM Act, launched a comprehensive HFC phaseout program for U.S. production and consumption. This multi-layered plan reduces  HFC allowances and substantially cuts  HFC use over the next decade.

Table summarizing the aims of the AIM Act to reduce HFC
AIM Act Targets for HFC Reduction

The EPA's ambitious goal is to achieve an 85% reduction in HFC consumption by 2036, paving the way for a smooth transition to more environmentally friendly alternatives. This initiative aims to encourage the development, adoption, and widespread use of refrigerants with a significantly lower global warming potential.

Table depicting the sum of climate benefits across all HFCs reduced for the rule for 2022 to 2050.
Climate Benefits for the Final Rule for 2022-2050

Key refrigerants affected

The EPA’s HFC phaseout program impacts several refrigerants, including:

  • R-404A: Commonly used in commercial refrigeration for low-temperature applications
  • R-134a: Used primarily on commercial chillers and older vehicle ACs
  • R-410A: Used widely in commercial and residential ACs and chillers
  • R-407C: Employed as a replacement for R-22 in existing ACs and refrigeration systems
  • R-123 and R-22: These HCFC refrigerants are used in commercial cooling applications like HVAC and refrigerators
Webinar on AIM Act
Watch Webinar on Preparing for Part III of the AIM Act

Detailed timeline of the EPA refrigerant phaseout schedule

Graph depicting the timeline of the EPA refrigerant phaseout
EPA refrigerant phaseout schedule

The EPA’s HFC phaseout program is already underway and establishes production and consumption baselines following the formulas outlined in the AIM Act. These baselines serve as a reference point for allowable production and consumption levels, which will gradually decrease each year according to a predefined schedule within the AIM Act.

A table summarizing the consumption and production limits for the HFC phaseout is provided below. Additionally, the EPA issues allowances for HFC production and import on an annual basis, typically by October 1 of the preceding year.

 Table summarizing the consumption and production limits for the HFC phaseout
HFC phaseout schedule and consumption and production allowance caps

Key regulations that you should be aware of

  • In new chiller production, HFC refrigerants like R-404A and R-410A are prohibited from 1st January 2024.
  • The production of new equipment using R-22 ceased entirely in 2022, and the HCFC phaseout will be completed in 2030.
Image depicting the schedule for phasing out HFC R-22 and R142b, which started on 1st January 2010 and will end on 1st January 2030
Phaseout schedule of R-22 and R142b

Future deadlines to keep an eye on

Here are some future deadlines to watch out for in the HFC phaseout programs, especially for allowance reduction:

  • 2024-2028: A significant allowance reduction of 60% from the baseline. Expect tighter restrictions on HFC availability and inflated prices.
  • From 2029 onwards, the allowance reduction will reach 85% by 2034-35 and 90% by 2036. This will necessitate a substantial change in the business approach and the refrigerant used.
  • Mandatory automatic leak detection systems (ALDS) for new and existing systems with a full charge of 1500+ lbs. of an HFC refrigerant or a substitute with a GWP > 53
  • Starting 1st January 2028, mandatory use of reclaimed refrigerant for servicing HFC systems
  • Starting 1st January 2025, disposable cylinders must be sent to the reclaimer to remove the refrigerant heel.

Impact of the EPA refrigerant phaseout schedule on different industries

The EPA’s HFC phaseout program is being carried out in three ways:

  1. Phasing down production and consumption
  2. Maximizing reclamation and minimizing releases from equipment
  3. Sector-based restrictions to facilitate the transition to next-generation technologies

The HFC phaseout presents a major challenge: identifying suitable alternatives that match the performance and compatibility of existing systems. Additionally, the cost of new refrigerants and system upgrades, and training  technicians to handle low-global warming potential (GWP) systems pose hurdles to a smooth phaseout of HFCs.

Industries most impacted most by the phaseout include:

  • Refrigeration and air conditioning (HVAC/R): This industry will experience a full-blown shift. Manufacturers must  develop and procure equipment compatible with low GWPl alternatives, while service technicians will require training to safely handle new refrigerants.
  • Retailers: Supermarkets and retail stores must maintain proper temperature in freezers and display cases. They will now have to find cost-effective and energy-efficient replacements for their existing HFC refrigerators.
  • Cold storage warehouses: Cold storages require consistent cooling for perishable goods. Finding large-scale, low-GWP refrigeration systems will be a top priority for these facilities.
  • Industrial process facilities: Food processing, pharmaceuticals, and chemical manufacturing rely heavily on HFC-based refrigeration for temperature control. They will now have to find efficient replacements to ensure smooth operation.      

Opportunities for innovation and efficiency presented by HFC phaseout

The HFC phaseout acts as a catalyst for innovation in the HVAC/R industry by incentivizing the development and adoption of new low-GWP refrigerants. This shift also opens doors for the creation of new training programs and educational initiatives to equip technicians with the necessary skills to handle these alternatives.

While upfront costs associated with the transition may be a concern, the long-term benefits are significant. These include improved energy efficiency, reduced energy consumption leading to cost savings, and of course, a positive impact on the environment.

How businesses can prepare for the transition with Facilio

The EPA’s  refrigerant phaseout schedule might seem daunting, but it represents a prime opportunity for multi-site retail stores and other operators to modernize their refrigeration management. Learn more on Achieving Superior Refrigeration Control and Lower Energy Costs

Facilio's Next-Gen Refrigerant Tracking & Leak Detection Software Solution!

Apart from transitioning away from high-GWP refrigerants, the new regulations also require robust refrigerant oversight, including quarterly manual inspections or continuous monitoring via automated leak detection systems. While this mandates added diligence, it also incentivizes maximizing operational efficiency.

Here’s how you can get ahead of the regulations and smoothen your transition:

1.Upgrade equipment:

  • Prioritize energy efficiency when upgrading equipment. This will help offset the initial cost and  lead to long-term operational savings.
  • Develop a strategic plan to replace your outdated HFC-based systems. Consider factors like equipment age, efficiency ratings, and service needs to prioritize replacements. Additionally, factor in the new regulations regarding refrigerant charge limits and leak detection requirements.
  • Reiterating some highlights from the new regulations:
    a. Appliances with over 15+ lbs. of a HFC refrigerant or a substitute with a GWP > 53 for large commercial settings

    b. Mandatory automatic leak detection systems (ALDS) for new and existing large commercial systems with over 1500+ lbs. of a HFC refrigerant or a substitute with a GWP > 53
  • Consider retrofitting existing equipment with conversion kits that use low-GWP alternatives.

2. Stay updated about new developments in HVAC/R technology, especially for low-GWP refrigerant equipment. Attend equipment trade shows to learn the latest solutions around HFC

3. Leverage IoT-based connected refrigeration CMMS software like Facilio

The AIM Act goes beyond simply preventing the use of environmentally damaging gases. It also takes a proactive approach by regulating leak detection and ensuring strict compliance.

What does this mean? A hefty penalty as large as $57,617 per system violation per day, besides heavy paperwork and higher scrutiny.

To manage refrigeration compliance, a CMMS platform like Facilio offers potent solutions to navigate the HFC phaseout.

Image shows how refrigerant compliance tracking will look like when using the Facilio tool
Refrigerant Compliance Tracking with Facilio

Facilio offers an innovative, enterprise-grade refrigeration management solution that streamlines compliance and optimizes performance. This unified platform simplifies compliance, detection, and leak management. Here's what Facilio provides:

  • Proactive compliance management and monitoring, ready to handle leak events, repairs, installations, retrofitting, and more
  • Automated leak detection across different contractors and locations
  • Easy audits with standardized refrigerant tracking
  • Remote hardware monitoring
  • Real-time analysis and alerts for quick identification and fixing of potential leaks
  • Advanced cloud tools to monitor your refrigeration units and predict slow leaks without sensors
  • Smart analytics to eliminate false or unnecessary alerts
  • Integration with industry standards like CARB, GreenChill, and ESG
  • Low to no code platform for process automation

As the EPA's HFC phaseout regulations loom, modern software-led refrigerant tracking systems like Facilio’s connected refrigeration CMMS become critical to comply, grow, and stay competitive.

Adopting new leak detection strategies now presents an opportunity for grocery and cold storage operators to reduce risks, improve profitability, minimize environmental impact, and demonstrate stewardship today, instead of scrambling to meet new federal and state compliance requirements.

Book a demo with Facilio to see how you can future-proof your refrigeration systems and navigate the HFC phaseout successfully.

FAQ

1. How can retail store managers handle the increased operational complexity of the EPA refrigerant phaseout across multiple sites?

By developing a detailed roadmap that specifies timelines, tasks, and responsibilities for all their sites using a centralized management software like Facilio. Also, include a training plan for maintenance staff and technicians and consider partnering with HVAC experts who can provide guidance on smooth transition and best practices.

2. What are the key challenges for retail store managers in ensuring compliance with the EPA's phaseout schedule in large or multi-site locations?

Coordinating the phaseout and ensuring compliance across multiple locations with different operational needs are some of the key challenges for retail store managers. Also, having different refrigeration systems is a complication that requires meticulous monitoring, clear communication, and consistent procedures.

3. How can retail managers effectively coordinate refrigerant phaseout procedures across multiple locations without disrupting daily operations?

By implementing changes in phases and scheduling changes during non-peak hours, retail managers can reduce disruptions in daily operations. Clear communication with staff and site managers and creating contingency plans is also important to streamline the phaseout process without disruption.

4. What are the potential cost implications of the EPA refrigerant phaseout for retail store managers overseeing large or multiple sites?

Investing in new equipment and refrigerants and training the staff for multi-site refrigeration optimization are potential initial costs that retail store managers need to manage. An initial maintenance cost due to new systems may also generate additional spending. However, the phaseout is aimed at generating savings in the long run and reducing energy consumption.

5. What strategies can retail store managers implement to manage refrigerant supplies and equipment upgrades efficiently across diverse store locations?

A centralized inventory system for managing refrigerant supplies and equipment should be one of the top priorities for store managers. This will help manage bulk purchases and reduce costs. The centralized system will also help with regular refrigeration monitoring and equipment condition. For example, Facilio offers remote hardware monitoring and leak detection across locations which will reduce a lot of manual workload.

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