Commercial HVAC News Roundup – May 2020
Thanks for joining our commercial HVAC news roundup for May 2020.
A lot has happened in this month, including a new court development on EPA’s requirements for HFC refrigerants; COVID-19 building readiness/reopening guidance from ASHRAE; and a new incentive program for supermarkets and food retailers in California.
Let’s get started. #HVACNewsRoundup
NRDC Sues EPA Over HFC Refrigerant Leak Repair Rollback
The NRDC has sued the EPA over its April 2020 rollback of the HFC refrigerant leak repair requirements a part of the Section 608 Update.
Here’s the full background on the lead up to this unfolding event:
EPA Rescinds HFC Leak Repair Requirements
On March 11, 2020, the EPA published a new final rule in the Federal Register, 85 FR 14150, which revised the appliance maintenance and leak repair provisions of Section 608.
In essence, the new rule, which took effect last month, on April 10, 2020, revises the EPA 608 Update by rescinding the extension of the leak repair requirements to non-exempt substitute refrigerants, such as HFCs and HFOs.
This development came after almost three years of standstill, as the EPA had released a letter on August 10, 2017, indicating plans to revisit the Section 608 Update.
NRDC Responds by Challenging the Rollback in Court
If you think this new final rule offers some sense of finality, you could very well be mistaken. In fact, there’s two new court developments—one on the horizon and another already decided upon—that make one wonder just how final this new final rule really is.
First, consider the fact that, on the same day this final rule was published, the NRDC filed a suit against the EPA, petitioning to review the final rule and thereby challenging the rollback.
If that’s not enough to make you wonder just how final this final rule is, you may want to also know that, just three days prior to this new rule taking effect on Section 608, a new HFC court decision was decided upon on April 7, 2020, which actually ruled against the EPA in relation to the HFC bans in SNAP Rule 20. We blogged about this last week here.
We will continue to monitor this development in future editions of our #HVACNewsRoundup.
ASHRAE Provides COVID-19 Building Re-Opening Recommendations
For buildings that have been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, ASHRAE has released new guidance for reopening them safely, which you can find here. (See the “How to Return the HVAC System to Normal Operation FAQ” section.)
General recommendations include creating a strategic plan; following all requirements on use, occupancy and separation until they are relaxed or lifted; reviewing HVAC programming; and adhering to proper cleaning procedures on high-touch areas of HVAC and other building systems.
The HVAC recommendations include following ASHRAE Standard 180-2018; performing proper maintenance, like filter changes; and running HVAC equipment prior to preoccupancy. Specific procedures depend upon the HVAC system type, and it’s best to review them all here.
(If you would like to know more about the role of HVAC in mitigation efforts, we recently wrote more extensively about it here: HVAC systems and COVID-19)
NASRC Unleashes Natural Refrigerants Incentive Program Pilot for Supermarkets and Food Retailers in California
Also in May, the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC) unleashed its Aggregated Incentives Program (AIP) Pilot, a new natural refrigerant incentive program for supermarkets and food retailers in California that must comply with the state’s new HFC emission reduction measures.
To be eligible for the AIP Pilot, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- New construction that incorporates natural refrigerants (CO2, Propane, Ammonia)
- Existing store equipment replacement or system remodel that incorporates natural refrigerants
- Supermarket/food retail applications in California
If your project(s) meets the above requirements, you can submit a preliminary application here.
Climate and Refrigerant Management News Across the Globe
As you can see, a lot has happened this month when you consider all the stories above. Here’s a few other things that caught our eye:
Trakref Celebrates Building Safety Month
It’s important to note that May is the International Code Council’s Building Safety Month, an international campaign to raise awareness about building safety. #BuildingSafety365
Building safety is a very important matter to us here at Trakref.
In the past month alone, we have seen numerous stories on the new adoption of flammable refrigerants in certain equipment types. For example, see the Cooling Post’s stories on Carrier adopting R-32 for scroll chillers and expanding its R-1234ze chiller range.
Undoubtedly, new flammable refrigerant alternatives are on the rise, and buildings must ensure that these refrigerants are tracked properly for safety and compliance.
CFC Replacement Refrigerant Compounds Found in Arctic
CBC Radio’s award-winning weekly science program, Quirks & Quarks, reported, “A new Canadian study found traces of perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (scPFCAs) in ice cores drilled in the Arctic. These chemicals are produced when some CFC replacements oxidize in the atmosphere.”
This new study highlights the important of tracking substitute refrigerants, even as mixed signals have been sent by the U.S. EPA.
The Climate Registry Launches New “Coffee with Climate Leaders WFH” Series
The Climate Registry has launched a new “Coffee with Climate Leaders WFH” video series, which showcases the important climate work that some of North America’s most influential climate leaders have been doing while at home.
Be sure to check out the episodes on YouTube:
Pandemic Recovery Presents Opportunity to Do the Right Thing for Our Future
There’s been much discussion about how carbon dioxide emissions have significantly dropped in the near-term during the pandemic.
However, Yale Climate Connections recent “No silver lining” article explains, “It may surprise some to learn that this pandemic won’t decrease the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and it won’t lower global temperatures.”
It goes on to debate the possible long-lasting changes that quarantine life could have upon society and even mentions how on Earth Day, Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, “called on nations to combat job losses and failing businesses with green investments that favor climate-friendly industries over the fossil-fuel-intensive status quo.”
Implementing long-lasting changes is the only way the climate curve will truly be flattened.
That’s one of the reasons why Trakref’s “out-of-the-box” solution tracks hundreds of millions of pounds of refrigerant gas. Because properly managing direct and indirect emissions from HVAC/R is an important step in creating long-lasting change that positively impacts the environment (not to mention, your wallet).
China Has First Successful Court Case for Illegal CFC Use
On May 22, 2020, the Cooling Post reported that the head of a company in China had been jailed for illegal R-11 use, making the case the “first successful court case involving the illegal use of ozone-depleting substances.”
In the same report, it talked about how China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment reportedly conducted “special ODS enforcement actions” nationwide between June and August of last year.
Article 5 countries have not been allowed to produce CFCs since 2010.
Well, that concludes the commercial HVAC News Roundup for May 2020. As always, thanks for joining us, and be sure to tune in next month for the latest commercial HVAC News Roundup.
p.s., Did you enjoy this post? Let us know your thoughts. Leave a comment below, or join the conversation on social by using the hashtag #HVACNewsRoundup.
Ted is the President & CEO of Trakref, a cloud-based HVAC/R and refrigerant management software company that provides unprecedented solutions for commercial properties. He has spent more than 20 years in the HVAC/R industry, even owning and operating one of the nation’s largest refrigerant reclaim and recycling companies.