CARB Approves HFC Refrigerant Phase Out in New Commercial Refrigeration and Stationary A/C Equipment

BY Alex Ayers
12/11/2020 - HVAC Government Affairs

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to approve regulations on commercial refrigeration and stationary air-conditioning to phase out the use of HFC refrigerants. This regulation will now go back to CARB staff to finalize additional changes, and if necessary, come back for an additional vote but will likely be approved by the CARB executive. The regulation affects two basic groups, commercial and industrial process refrigeration with equipment using more than 50 pounds of refrigerant and residential and commercial air-conditioning excluding chillers.

Starting on January 1, 2022, commercial and industrial refrigeration will move away from current HFC refrigerants. For new facilities and fully remodeled facilities, the regulation will require the use of equipment designed to use refrigerants below 150 GWP. This will effectively require the use of non-fluorinated refrigerants including ammonia and carbon dioxide. For existing facilities, the regulation is split into two categories, retail food facilities and industrial process refrigeration or cold storage facilities. Existing retail food facilities will be required to reduce their companywide weighted average GWP to below 1,400 GWP or reduce their GHGp by 55 percent below the 2019 baseline by 2030. For industrial process refrigeration or cold storage facilities that replace their equipment, they will be required to use refrigerants below 2,200 or 1,500 GWP respectively.

For most stationary air-conditioning, except chillers, there is a new 750 GWP limit starting on January 1, 2025. Chillers were previously regulated under California’s adoption of the former EPA SNAP Rules 20 & 21 and will need to meet those requirements starting in 2024. Initially CARB wanted to regulate air-conditioning in 2023, however the California State Fire Marshal will not be able to update their fire and building code standards to allow the use of A2L refrigerants before 2024. For this reason CARB staff are submitting an amendment to the regulation to move the implementation date for residential and commercial air-conditioning to January 1, 2025, for VRF/VRV systems the implementation date will be January 1, 2026.

As part of this amendment, CARB will begin developing a new regulation in 2021 encouraging the use of reclaimed refrigerant through the soon to be developed Refrigerant Recovery, Recycle, and Reuse (R4) Program. The amendment will also require air-conditioning manufacturers to use reclaimed refrigerant for 10% of their HFC refrigerant installed prior to 2025. HARDI plans to comment on this amendment and the future R4 Program regulation.

Overall, this regulation balances the mandate put on CARB by the California legislature to reduce HFC emissions with what is possible by industry in the coming years. The current regulation does not ban the sale of any newly manufactured service gases, however CARB has announced their intent to regulate these gases in future rulemakings as the R4 Program is developed.

We will continue to update you as we receive more information. Please reach out to Alex Ayers with any questions.