Responsible Refrigerant Management in the Age of Uncertainty

No doubt if you are reading this, it is because you have been shocked by the recent spike in R-22 refrigerant prices due to the recent allocation squeeze by the EPA and DOE. See my last blog article for the abridged history on how we got to doubling R-22 prices. Many are now speculating on where the price of R-22 will go. Some think it will come back down somewhat when the EPA reconvenes on this allocation reduction again after a 90 day statutory waiting period. Others believe that the price will stabilize at the current new levels. Michael Mulligan of USA Refrigerants lends this perspective:
“For all intents and purposes, pricing should essentially remain at current levels until the EPA makes it final ruling. The earliest date that the EPA will rule is May 2012. If the EPA ultimately rules that 45% of the baseline is the magic number for 2012 and that’s it, prices may increase further. There are no indicators in writing or circulating that the EPA will allow for further production of R-22 beyond the 45% baseline already approved.”

Whatever happens, it is ultimately clear that HVAC contractors must implement strict refrigerant management programs to reduce the overall costs of refrigerant for themselves and their customers. Such a program should include refrigerant recovery standards to insure the collection of separate uncontaminated bulk storage cylinders for R-22, R410A and other refrigerants with proper identification. Cylinder storage and evacuation will be critical in order for contractors to get the best prices for recycled refrigerant with the best purity. Contractors should not mix refrigerants and should use dedicated, tagged recovery cylinders and hoses by refrigerant type. In that way, they are assured of getting the best prices for recovered refrigerant. Refrigerant buy back programs offered by refrigerant distributors and recyclers offer the best opportunity to decrease the overall costs of bulk refrigerant purchases.  For more information on how to implement such a program, see USA Refrigerants FAQ sheet , Dupont Refrigerants Web Site or the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.  For specific details on the EPA HCFC Phaseout Program, visit the EPA Regulatory Program site.

In response to our request for a consumer information tool to help explain the recent escalation of R-22 refrigerant, ACCA President Paul Stalknecht acted quickly.   “I want to thank you for that great suggestion you had about sending ACCA members information they could provide their customers to explain the recent spike in R-22 pricing.   As soon as I got back to the office, I had staff working on such a document.  We sent out the below notice to the membership and got more hits on the link than anything we have ever done.” To help inform customers and handle objections, ACCA members can get their copy of the consumer information leaflet on the R-22 price spike.

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