Good servicing practices: Phasing out HCFCs in the refrigeration and air-conditioning servicing sector

In recent years, ozone depletion efforts have primarily focused on the obligatory phasing out of ozone depleting substances (ODS). However, in 2013, Decision XIX/6 at the 19th Meeting of the Parties highlighted the importance of climate and energy-efficiency as related to HCFC phaseout. In order to achieve reduction of both ODS and GHG emissions, attention must be paid to activities at a microlevel. This includes reducing leakage rates, adopting good service practices, improving energy-efficiency and preventing adverse environmental impacts during equipment servicing and maintenance.

With the aim of contributing to efforts to reach these goals, this guide offers trainers up-to-date information on new technologies and refrigerants, as well as other issues related to their use and application. The guide was written for trainers and others who already have a relatively comprehensive level of knowledge and understanding of RAC systems and associated technology, and can be used for both developing training programmes as well as general guidance and information.

A wide range of RAC system topics are covered below, from ozone science, to good service practices, to air-conditioner installation. There is also a section on contaminated refrigerants, which may be useful for those who encounter counterfeit refrigerants.

This guide for trainers is designed for organisations and institutes that conduct training workshops for servicing technicians involved in the maintenance of refrigeration and air-conditioning (RAC) equipment. Its target audience

  • Trainers of HCFC-22 phase-out projects in Article 5 countries
  • Trainers at vocational training institutes
  • Educational establishments and RAC course developers
  • Service and maintenance technicians
  • Technician trainers at private companies
  • Service and maintenance managers at private companies
  • Managers who develop service and maintenance policies in private companies
  • National Ozone Units (NOUs) responsible for developing policies for servicing and maintenance programmes related to the Montreal Protocol.

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are widely used in the refrigeration and air-conditioning servicing sector. While they do less damage to the ozone layer than CFCs, HCFCs are in the process of being phased out under the Montreal Protocol due to their potential ozone depleting properties. In Article 5 countries, refrigeration and air-conditioning systems account for some seventy-five percent of HCFC consumption. Consequently, focusing HCFC phase-out efforts on the servicing sector will contribute significantly to ozone layer protection.

Promoting good practices in the refrigeration servicing sector has proved to be a successful tool for phasing-out HCFCs, and is one of the most important components of HCFC Phase-out Management Plans (HPMPs). The purpose of this guide is to help NOUs in Article 5 countries in their efforts to train refrigeration servicing technicians in good practices so they can contribute to HCFC phase-out. Not only does this training help HCFC control and phase-out, but it also contributes to climate change mitigation efforts. These guidelines focus on six areas that are key to reducing HCFCs consumption in the servicing sector and achieving phase-out. Each chapter either details necessary skills and procedures, or provides background information so that technicians can better understand good practices and incorporate them into their daily work. These guidelines can be used for both train-the-trainer workshops and technician training workshops, depending on local conditions.

The six key focus areas are:

  1. Reducing the amount of HCFCs used in the servicing sector by improving good servicing practices (GSPs)
    In the servicing sector, HCFCs are mostly used recharge leaky systems. Air-conditioning systems are designed to operate adequately with a fixed charge of refrigerant. Refrigerant leaks may be caused by many factors, including vibration, frictional wear, incorrect material selection, poor quality control, or poor connections, such as brazed joints, flare connections, or faulty valve caps. This guide will explain how to reduce system leakage by using tools and equipment properly and improving brazing skills.
  2. Refrigerant management: reducing emissions during refrigerant charge and transfer
    Many technicians purge HCFCs when transferring refrigerant from one cylinder to another or from cylinder to air-conditioner, and in the process, some of the refrigerant is released into the air. This guide offers technicians with indepth information on using the right tools and equipment for properly charging and transferring refrigerants, which will ultimately reduce emissions.
  3. Using alternative refrigerants and technologies that do not require Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS).
    The ultimate goal in the servicing sector is to move towards using alternatives to ODSs. Currently available alternative technologies use zero-ODP, low-GWP refrigerants such as hydrocarbon, ammonia, carbon dioxide and HFCs. Technicians must learn how to use these alternate technologies correctly, as most pose safety and health problems if they are not handled properly.
  4. Promoting recovery, recycling and reclamation to save the ozone layer
    Recovery, recycling and reclamation of refrigerants are essential good practices and should be adopted by service technicians for environmental as well as economic reasons. Various types of recovery and recycling machines are currently available for different needs. It is also possible to make a simple recovery machine with used components in the service shop. Provided the components are in good condition, this can be an attractive and convenient option. Technicians can also purify contaminated refrigerants at reclamation centers, which have been established through various projects in several countries. Reclamation centers cannot, however, separate mixed refrigerants.
  5. Maximising climate benefits through the servicing sector
    Good practices can not only reduce the demand for HCFCs, but also reduce GHG emissions and benefit climate change mitigation efforts. As HCFCs have a high GWP, reducing demand can also directly reduce equivalent CO2 emissions at a national level. Good practices also encourage energy efficiency in refrigeration and air-conditioning (RAC) equipment, thereby reducing energy consumption and electricity costs, and indirectly benefiting the climate. These guidelines explore the link between good practices and climate change mitigation.
  6. Maintenance of refrigeration and air-conditioning servicing equipment
    In order to maintain good practices in the refrigeration and air-conditioning service sector, it is essential to have good tools and equipment, such as vacuum pumps, recovery machines and double-stage nitrogen and oxygen regulators. It is equally important that technicians always keep these tools and equipment in good condition. These guidelines provide detailed information on how to conduct regular maintenance. Keeping equipment breakdowns to a minimum will lead to higher profits, quality workmanship and environmental protection.

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