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Why Refrigerant Leak Repair Still Matters

Jennifer_Butsch Jennifer Butsch | Regulatory Affairs Manager

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Proactive refrigerant management isn’t just good for the environment. It is also sound business practice. I was recently interviewed by ACHR’s The News magazine on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) partial rollback of Section 608 provisions for appliance leak repair and maintenance. You can read the full article here  and more on our perspective below.

Why Refrigerant Leak Repair Still Matters

In February, the EPA eliminated leak repair and maintenance requirements on appliances containing 50 or more pounds of substitute refrigerants, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). As a result, equipment owners are no longer required to:

  • Repair appliances that leak above a certain level
  • Conduct verification tests on repairs
  • Periodically inspect for leaks
  • Report chronically leaking appliances to the EPA
  • Retrofit or retire appliances that are not repaired
  • Maintain related records

But just because these leak repair provisions are no longer required doesn’t mean food retailers should ignore these best practices. There is a price to pay for refrigerant leakage that extends far beyond environmental damage. Detecting, repairing and even proactively reducing refrigerant leaks will help operators avoid a variety of associated costs.

The high cost of refrigerant leaks

The rollback of legal penalties for refrigerant leaks does not change the math on the operational costs. An average food retail store leaks an estimated 25 percent of its refrigerant supply each year, which can quickly add up to thousands of dollars in lost refrigerant. In addition, retailers must consider the maintenance and equipment costs. Persistently low levels of refrigerant can cause:

  • Excess compressor wear and tear
  • Reduced compressor and system capacities
  • Premature system failures
  • Double-digit efficiency losses

Left unchecked, even minor leaks can eventually lead to equipment failure. When this occurs, emergency repair costs are often only the tip of the iceberg. Operators may also be looking at revenue loss from food waste, business disruptions and reputational damage.

Proactive refrigeration management

So what can operators do to prevent leaks, even in the absence of federal requirements?

In the near term, they can — and should — implement rigorous leak detection and repair programs. Refrigerant leaks can occur anywhere in a system. Thus, an effective refrigerant leak detection program will combine monitoring, detection and notification.

Multiple technologies are available to support these efforts, including active and passive devices for monitoring and detection. Internet of things (IoT) capabilities allow for remote monitoring, enabling operators to focus on more pressing tasks. And with the integration of data analytics platforms, operators can uncover trends, identify persistent problem areas, and make informed choices about equipment upgrades and replacement options.

Over the longer term, operators can adopt refrigeration architectures that reduce the potential for refrigerant leakage in the first place. Legacy, centralized direct-expansion rack systems are high leak-rate offenders. That shouldn’t be a surprise; with thousands of feet of pipe, hundreds of joints and large refrigerant charges, there are many opportunities for leaks to occur.

In contrast, distributed micro-booster, indoor distributed and outdoor condensing unit (OCU) architectures experience lower leak rates by design. As an added benefit, they offer more options for lower-GWP alternative refrigerant use. This is a crucial advantage for operators who want to position their business for future regulations.

Sustainable best practices

The EPA’s Section 608 leak repair provisions were good for the environment. They are also part of a larger body of best practices for optimizing HVACR equipment. As states take the lead in adopting standards for leak detection and control, operators may find the rollback of these regulations to be short-lived.

Emerson is proud to take a lead in developing sustainable and cost-effective refrigeration systems and supporting technologies. Operators and original equipment manufacturers count on us to deliver strategies and solutions that anticipate emerging trends and regulations. From pioneering refrigeration architectures to refrigerant leak detection tools, we are committed to providing operators with the capabilities to meet their sustainability and operational goals today and into the future.

 

 

 

Refrigerant Regulations Update and Industry Trends

Jennifer_Butsch Jennifer Butsch | Regulatory Affairs Manager

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

In the United States, the regulations governing the use of refrigerants in commercial refrigeration and AC applications remain in a state of flux. Our next E360 Webinar will take place on Tuesday, March 31 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT and provide an update on the latest regulatory developments at the state and federal levels.

Refrigerant Regulations Update and Industry TrendsThe unpredictable nature of environmental regulations in the U.S. continues to be a source of great uncertainty in today’s commercial refrigeration and AC industries. While many countries around the world are following international guidelines set forth by the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and the Paris Agreement, the U.S. has rolled back its former federal refrigerant regulations and has yet to participate in these multi-national climate measures.

However, at the state level domestically, things are evolving quickly. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is moving forward with its stated 2030 deadline of reducing hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions by 40 percent from the state’s 2013 baseline levels. While CARB is currently drafting specific proposals on how to achieve this goal, it’s clear that supermarkets and cold storage operators will soon need to accelerate their transition to new refrigerant alternatives that offer much lower global warming potential (GWP).

California is forging a path to long-term environmental sustainability that many other states are following. Currently, 25 states and provinces have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance — which represents 55 percent of the national population — and committed their leadership on climate change initiatives, including the reduction of HFCs. But with 25 governing bodies working toward similar goals, we’re already seeing the possibility of divergent regulatory approaches that would make it increasingly difficult for our industry to manage.

Meanwhile, both the House of Representatives and the Senate have introduced new bills that would give the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate HFCs. With this dynamic mix of activities and new developments happening almost every week, it’s becoming more important than ever to stay informed. Our next E360 Webinar is dedicated to making sense of this turbulent regulatory climate and will provide you with guidance on how to prepare for the future.

This timely and informative E360 Webinar will take place on Tuesday, March 31 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT. It will be hosted by Emerson’s leading experts on refrigerant regulations: Rajan Rajendran, vice president, systems innovation center and sustainability; and Jennifer Butsch, manager, regulatory affairs. Attendees will learn:

  • How CARB is building upon its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) ruling foundation with newly proposed HFC refrigerant phase-down efforts
  • How some U.S. Climate Alliance states are adopting the EPA’s SNAP Rules 20 and 21 on their own individual timelines
  • Status of the standards governing charge limits and safe use of A2L and A3 refrigerants, including the potential impacts on building codes
  • Availability of new low-GWP refrigerants
  • Update on the new federal HFC regulations introduced by the Senate and the House
  • New and emerging industry trends to watch closely

Register now for this informative and free webinar.

 

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