ACHRNews – Low Recovery Rates Threaten Future Refrigerant Supplies

Woodcliff Lake, NJ – December 20, 2022 – Refrigerant reclaimers have always played a pivotal role in the HVACR industry, ensuring that recovered refrigerant is certified to meet the AHRI 700 purity standard, so that it can be used again in existing (and new) equipment. Their role is gaining even more prominence as the EPA, under the AIM Act, is in the process of phasing down the production of HFCs. As supplies of virgin refrigerant dwindle, EPA is counting on the availability of reclaimed refrigerant to service existing equipment in future years.

However, the big problem is that the quantity of refrigerants being recovered is not sufficient to meet demand. In fact, since 2017, the overall reclamation rate of HFCs has increased only 6% and just 1.6% of the HFCs that were sold in 2020 were placed back on the market through reclamation.

Reclaimers and much of the rest of the HVACR industry are also hoping to see an increase in the amount of HFCs being recovered and reclaimed. And soon. It is encouraging to see regulators recognize the role reclaimed refrigerants can play both in the aftermarket as well the initial install phase with OEM equipment, said Kate Houghton, vice president of sales and marketing at Hudson Technologies. However, EPA’s annual report that summarizes refrigerant reclamation trends continues to reflect a relatively low number of pounds of recovered HFCs when compared to the total number of virgin pounds sold annually, she said.

“If you isolate R-410A and compare it to the peak R-22 annual reclaim, we are only seeing roughly a quarter of the R-410A being reclaimed annually compared to that of R-22,” said Houghton. “Annual reclaim volumes for R-22 are starting to decline as well. Without growth in reclaim, however, both virgin and reclaimed refrigerants will be in short supply.”

Houghton believes the EPA could do more to support the reclamation industry and to stimulate the increase in reclaimed refrigerants, especially since it was given the mandate to do so under the AIM Act. But to date, the EPA has not done so.

“We would like economic incentives for contractors and reclaimers who promote recovery and legal reuse and disincentives for those who do not follow the laws around the handling of refrigerants,” she said.

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