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What You Need to Know About the EPA Phasedown of HFCs

Front of the Environmental Protection Agency Building.

There has been a lot of press surrounding new EPA regulations affecting air conditioning and heat pump manufacturing and installations. Here at Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Solar, we understand how difficult it can be to parse this information and to know whether it affects you. Below, we continue our review of upcoming changes in HVAC-related regulation and what you need to know as a homeowner.

Review last monthandrsquo;s blog for information on changing efficiency requirements coming in January 2023.

The AIM Act and HFCs

In December 2020, the EPA enacted the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act. The first stage of the AIM act is the phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), industrial chemicals used as refrigerants in many HVAC systems. HFCs are comprised of hydrogen, fluorine and carbon - three extremely potent greenhouse gases that are incredibly damaging to the ozone layer.

This phasedown includes both the production, import, and consumption of HFCs. Other goals of the AIM act include the management of HFCs and any substitute chemicals and transitioning the country to newer HVAC technologies that do not require the use of HFCs or other environment-damaging chemicals.

According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the AIM Act will be beneficial for:

  • Manufacturing
  • Job creation
  • Consumers
  • The economy
  • The environment

Because the U.S. is already a leader in manufacturing HFC alternatives, the long-term adoption of these alternatives should provide the U.S. economy with a boost. And according to the EPW, by 2035, we should see $3.7 billion in savings for consumers. However, these benefits may take time to reach consumers and homeowners should expect the cost of these new systems that utilize HFC alternatives to be initially higher than previous HFC-based models.

Phasedown vs. Phaseout

Before HFCs, there were CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons). CFCs and HCFCs were even more dangerous to the environment and were phased out beginning in 1987 with the signing of the Montreal Protocol. The goal of this phaseout was the total elimination of producing and importing CFCs and HCFCs.

With HFCs, the U.S. has implemented a phasedown plan. As part of the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, countries agreed to reduce carbon emissions from the manufacture and use of HFCs down to 15% of their existing baseline. In the U.S., the phasedown schedule is projected to bring us down to 15% in 2036.

Why Does the HFC Phasedown Matter to Me?

Currently, most HVAC systems utilize R-410a, a refrigerant that is made of two different HFCs. In fact, there is a nearly 100% chance that your current air conditioner uses an HFC of some kind. So, what does this mean in context with the AIM Act? Do you have to buy a new air conditioner now?

No, you do not have to buy a new air conditioner earlier than planned.

While intact and in good repair, your air conditioner or heat pump is a closed system and using R-410a or other HFCs does not pose a hazard. However, leaks and breaks in the system can cause the HFCs to escape, which is harmful to the environment.

In addition to ensuring that your air conditioning or heat pump system is in good condition, thereby preventing refrigerant leaks, the next time you purchase an HVAC system, you will need to purchase one that complies with new HFC and energy-efficiency regulations.

You also want to work with our licensed, professional air conditioning and HVAC installation technicians to ensure that your old system doesnandrsquo;t leak refrigerant during the removal process. We can also help ensure that the old refrigerant is reclaimed and recycled appropriately.

Be wary of anyone recommending that you replace your HVAC system prematurely because of the new EPA HFC phasedown. New HFC regulations do not necessitate a premature AC or heat pump replacement. Call Valley for a reliable second opinion.

Why You Should Install a New System before Jan 1, 2023

Last month we reviewed how the new HVAC efficiency requirements issued by the DOE will increase the cost of HVAC equipment by at least 20%. Even with tax credits and rebates available, this increase is significant. With this change in mind, we are encouraging homeowners planning to replace their air conditioners and heat pumps soon to get their installations done before January 1, 2023, when these new requirements go into effect.

If you have more questions about how the EPA phasedown of HFCs and the new efficiency requirements will affect the installation of your new HVAC system, give Valley a call. We are here to help. 

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