According to Section 608 of the Clean Air Act, emissions from the synthetic chemicals used as coolants –chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) – contribute to ozone layer depletion. In addition, many of these chemicals and their substitutes, also known as ozone-depleting substances (ODS), are greenhouse gases, which are culprits of climate change.
To combat the dangers of these types of chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has placed stringent compliance requirements on businesses that use refrigerant-containing assets, such as grocery stores, specialty food retailers, restaurants and convenience stores; they are required to follow strict procedures and processes around the use, management and disposal of refrigerant compounds. This creates unique challenges for the facilities managers of these types of businesses.
First and foremost, FMs in charge of refrigerated assets must have a thorough understanding of the regulations they need to follow to remain EPA compliant:
Key EPA Refrigerant Compliance Regulations
As the EPA performs random inspections, responds to tips and pursues potential cases against violators of Section 608 of the Clean Air Act, FMs need to keep the following regulations in mind to avoid fines:
- Technician Certification: Contractors servicing refrigerated assets must have the proper certification, meaning they have passed an EPA-approved examination.
- Recovery & Recycling: Assets must be certified by an approved testing organization stating that they meet requirements for recovery efficiency.
- Leaks: Assets with 50 pounds or more of ODS must meet requirements for leak repairs, such as attention within 30 days.
- Sales Restrictions: Refrigerants may only be sold to certified technicians.
- Record keeping: Dates, charge amounts, servicing and disposal information, and other related information must be documented properly.
- Disposal: Refrigerants must be removed prior to asset disposal.
- Reclamation: Recovered refrigerant must be reclaimed to regulated purity levels and approved by a certified reclaimer.
- Service: Contractors must evacuate assets to established vacuum levels during service and disposal.
Violation of EPA refrigerant regulations can result in extremely harsh punishments, such as fines of up to $37,500 per day. These types of punishments can negatively impact business success, so it’s crucial that FMs address EPA refrigerant compliance regulations strategically. One way is by employing refrigerant tracking software.
Compliance Capabilities of Refrigerant Tracking Software
Refrigerant tracking software is an automated platform that supports management of refrigerated assets, including tracking levels, alerting of leaks and producing EPA-required records. This type of technology is especially critical if FMs have numerous refrigerated assets and/or are managing multiple locations, as it organizes compliance-related data across all assets and facilities on a single platform.
A comprehensive refrigerant tracking software platform allows FMs to:
- Manage Refrigerated Assets: Track connected assets, like refrigerated cases connected to rack systems that share the same refrigerant, and critical refrigerant data, such as type of refrigerant contained in the asset, total system capacity and last refrigerant use date.
- Calculate Leak Rate Thresholds: Use refrigerant use data to calculate the rate of refrigerant leakage and compare the result to the EPA thresholds.
- Perform Analysis Against EPA Regulations: Analyze current state of refrigerated assets in relation to EPA protocols and alert to steps required to achieve compliance if necessary.
- Generate Records: If leak thresholds are met or met or exceeded, create required leak records and store for easy future access. Additionally, support voluntary annual reporting for EPA’s GreenChill Store Certification Program partnership.
These core capabilities of refrigerant tracking software simplify and streamline FM compliance processes, helping improve visibility and avoid costly non-compliance mistakes.
Use Case: HVAC Refrigerant Leak
When using refrigerant tracking software, the process of returning to EPA compliance status when a leak occurs in an HVAC unit looks like this:
1 - Alert of Non-Compliance
Asset monitoring technology alerts FMs to the HVAC system not operating at optimal efficiency.
2 - Work Order Created
A work order is automatically created and sent to a certified service provider within an established network. The contractor is able to accept the order and view details about the reported issue.
3 - Repair & Maintenance
The contractor dispatches and arrives at the facility. After identifying the source of the alarm, repairing the leak and charging the system with refrigerant, the contractor makes any necessary notes – such as amount of refrigerant added, date of service, method and location – and closes the work order within the software platform.
4 - Records Generated
The software automatically performs an EPA leak rate calculation using stored asset and technician-provided data. The platform then stores and organizes records for easy access and proof of HVAC unit compliance.
Throughout these steps, refrigerant tracking software automatically completes compliance tasks so that FMs can focus time and energy elsewhere.
Not only does compliance with EPA refrigerant regulations help FMs avoid fines, improve their locations’ sustainability and save energy costs by ensure optimal performance of their assets, but it also contributes to maintaining a positive brand image. Consistent EPA compliance supports excellent business reputations by demonstrating a sense of moral responsibility to the environment, as well as providing a healthy and clean environment for customers and employees.
Thus, restaurants, convenience stores, supermarkets and other businesses that utilize refrigerated assets should place a high priority on EPA compliance, including investing in tool and technologies that will help achieve it.
Learn more about achieving and maintaining EPA compliance with refrigerant tracking software.