Since the implementation of the Clean Air Act of 1991, the HVAC market has been under significant Federal regulation governing the handling of all refrigerants due to their contribution to ozone depletion and global warming. Despite the ban on CFC production on December 31, 1995, there remain tens of thousands of CFC based chillers operating throughout the United States.
Some industry studies report that close to 70% of the chillers that used CFCs in the early 1990's remain dependent on CFC refrigerants. With supplies of "Virgin" CFCs being depleted and CFC chillers requiring R-11 and R-12 to remain in service, demand has increased for used CFCs that are recovered from chillers taken out of service and reclaimed to ARI Standard 700 specifications for reuse.
Developing a Refrigerant Management Plan -
Building owners and companies that have CFC chillers with several years left in their life-cycle are encouraged to develop a proactive refrigerant management plan that for the current and future use of refrigerants. While a well-maintained chiller often has a lifecycle of 25 years or more, it is not always an economical decision to take the chiller out of service because of the increase in price of refrigerant. There are alternatives. Refrigerant management is one of them and can keep the cost of refrigerant at a manageable level.
Your refrigerant management plan should consist of the following as a minimum:
What is your annual refrigerant usage per chiller? What is the expected remaining life of the chiller? Is the chiller well maintained? How often are oil samples and refrigerant samples tested? How much refrigerant do you have in stock? Do you have any recovered refrigerant that could be reclaimed back to original specifications to be used at a later date? Do you know where to purchase refrigerant in the event of loss of charge?
One of the ideas behind developing a refrigerant management plan is to ensure a stable supply of refrigerants at a manageable cost.