Workers in many industries will eventually encounter appliances they must remove and discard properly. Most refrigeration and cooling units, such as freezers and air conditioners, contain certain substances that must be handled carefully. The cooling and insulating features of such appliances contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).
If these substances are released into the atmosphere, they damage the ozone layer and are therefore considered ozone-depleting substances (ODS). In an effort to reduce mankind’s impact on global climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created several guidelines for best practices in disposing of this sort of equipment. While it may seem harmless and tempting to vent the refrigerant chemicals in these appliances, doing so is illegal and harmful to the environment.
Proper Disposal of ODS
There are two options when it comes to properly disposing of ODS from discarded HVAC appliances – destruction or reclamation. Either route requires the technician to extract any refrigerant from the appliance properly and safely. Anyone involved with ODS disposal needs to obtain EPA-approved refrigerant-recovery equipment and the proper certification. Certification requires passing an EPA-approved test, and there are two types of certifications – one for high-pressure equipment and another for low-pressure equipment.
Once the proper equipment and certifications are obtained, the coolant may be extracted from the appliance. The EPA requires you to keep records for all extractions. These safe disposal requirements need to be maintained for at least three years. After the coolant has been extracted and documented, the people responsible for the disposal can choose to have the coolant destroyed, stored for future use, or sent to a reclamation center.
In order for recovered ODS to be destroyed, it needs to be sent to a facility that uses proper ODS destruction techniques; these include:
- Liquid injection incineration
- Reactor cracking
- Radiofrequency plasma
- Fume oxidation
- Cement kiln
- Rotary kiln incineration
The destruction site must have a destruction efficiency rating of 98% per Title VI of the Clean Air Act, and a destruction and removal efficiency rating of 99.99% per Title V of the Clean Air Act. Anyone disposing of ODS in this way needs to ensure that the destruction site meets these requirements.
Storage and Reclamation
Rather than having the recovered ODS destroyed, it can be stored for future use. Doing so requires that it be stored in such a way that it cannot leak. The final alternative is to have the recovered ODS sent for reclamation. The shipment needs to be sent to an EPA-certified reclamation center. You can find a list of them here.
It is crucial that any HVAC technician responsible for ODS disposal follows the EPA guidelines. The EPA performs regular and random inspections, and violations can incur fines of up to $37,500 per day. If you have any other questions about proper HVAC coolant disposal, reach out to us for more information.