Proper Refrigerant Recovery
Refrigerant recovery is outlined in the US Environment Protection Agency due to the extremely hazardous nature of the refrigerants and coolants. Each step and procedure should pass standards and safety benchmarks in accordance with proper disposal, reclamation, and retrieval.
Section 608 of the Clean Air Act lists the requirements for the safe disposal of these toxic chemicals with the purpose of cutting down the emissions to the air. Recovery can be done on-site or off-site at a facility duly certified by the state. If the dismantling is done right on location, the service provider is required to follow the procedure set by the EPA. Basically, we have three types of recovery methods when it comes to coolants and refrigerants.
Liquid Recovery Method
Just like its name suggests, the refrigerant is transferred to a receptacle while it’s still in liquid form. Typically, this type of recovery is preferred if we are recovering large volumes of chemicals. The process is almost like vapor recovery—which will be discussed next—except the recovery is a little bit on the high side.
Vapor Recovery Method
We transfer the refrigerant or coolant when it’s in liquid form. In this method, we move the chemical while it’s in a vapor state. The refrigerant recovery equipment will then transform it into liquid form before it can be transported by the cylinder.
This specialized method won’t address every recovery requirement. Among its limitations, for instance, is that we can’t utilize this for any refrigerant with less than a 10-pound volume. It’s also not used in a heat pump or if the appliance features a reversing valve.
Basically, what we do is pull the vapor from the recovery equipment, which then triggers a high-pressure gas to push the liquid out of your AC and into the receptacle.
R-22 (HCFC-22) and R-410A Disposal
R-22 is better known as hydrochlorofluorocarbon or HCFC. The USA and other first world countries already banned its use because of the risk it poses to the ozone layer and its contributory effects to global warming. However, despite the environmental agencies advocating for a total ban, this is still in high demand from poorer countries.
In place of R-22 is the R410A, which is basically a blend between pentafluoroethane (R-125) and difluoromethane (R-32). It was pushed as an alternative because it doesn’t contain chlorine or bromine, which is deemed damaging to the ozone. Nevertheless, it’s nearly 2,000 times more damaging compared to carbon dioxide when we talk about global warming potential. The US, Japan, and Europe are using R401A in cooling systems. The EPA has put together a list of frequently asked questions that talks more on this topic.
Recycling at Cost
Industry data reveal a major deficiency in terms of proper recovery, reclamation, and recycling of R-22 refrigerant. Unfortunately, there are some gaps in the implementation of the laws as set by the EPA for refrigerant recovery. As a result, too many of these chemicals end up on the ground or in the air during the disposal process.
The laws prohibit further use of R-22 by 2020. That means recycling and reclaiming are still allowed between 2015 and 2019. We’ve already talked about refrigerant recovery, but why opt for recycling?
Essentially, is it’s cheaper to filter and separate the oil from the contaminants following the refrigerant recovery process than to replace them with new ones (apart from avoiding getting fined to more than $30,000 per day). Actually, the process is much more complicated as it involves filtering, drying and distilling the coolant to lessen the impurities to the standards set by the EPA. The only stipulation is that you use the recycled compound on the same equipment and unit. Also, recycling will prevent new virgin R-22 or R401A from being produced. However, according to EPA estimates, only about 5% is being recovered and recycled, which is far below the ideal 20%. If you have questions about this or any other HVAC questions, please contact The Severn Group today.