The HVACR industry, is the largest user of energy, except for transportation, per the United States Department of Energy. It employs more than one and a half million workers in the installation, service, and building maintenance fields that cannot be exported or automated.
These high paying middle class jobs have expanded exponentially as a direct result of one regulation. The EPA Section 608 Refrigerant Management Program is example of where government regulations have created:
- thousands of new American manufacturing jobs,
- a better trained workforce,
- opportunities to improve energy efficiency,
- new revenue sources for HVACR contractors.
A great deal has changed in the HVACR industry over the last few decades. However, the EPA Section 608 Refrigerant Management Program has remained the same. That is until now! As the EPA phases in the new regulations and new exam, let’s take a look at what the Section 608 Program has done for the HVACR industry.
New American Manufacturing Jobs
Recovery of refrigerants was non-existent prior to 1992, when venting refrigerant became illegal. Section 608 requires that regulated refrigerants be recovered from HVACR equipment prior to service or disposal and sets leak rate limits on operating HVACR systems.
To recover refrigerant and leak test equipment, a service technician needs a machine that recovers refrigerant, and a test instrument for detecting leaks. To ensure technicians could comply with the regulation, American companies began to manufacture recovery machines, leak detectors, various tools and accessories used in the process.
To transition from HFC’s, refrigerant manufacturers have invested in new factories that will produce hydrofluoroolefins HFO’s. Chemours and Honeywell alone, have invested over half a billion dollars in new U.S. based facilities.
To satisfy the Section 608 requirements, the HVACR industry has created thousands of new American based manufacturing jobs.
Improving the Technical Competency of the HVACR Workforce
The process of recovering refrigerant requires not only the specialized equipment, but highly skilled technicians to properly operate the equipment.
Prior to the Section 608 regulation, most people interested in being an HVACR technician learned the trade on the job, from others who themselves, learned the trade on the job. The Section 608 requirement for technicians to become certified to work with refrigerants, kick-started the need for formal, technical training.
To obtain their Section 608 EPA Certification card, a greater number of individuals attended accredited HVACR educational programs at community colleges and trade schools. Through formal education, individuals learned the physics and theories necessary for proper installation and servicing of HVACR equipment, proper refrigerant recovery techniques, and obtained their certification.
The technical competency of the HVACR workforce has improved because of the requirement for certification. This has helped HVACR business owners find better trained employees, which have fewer service call backs, making them more profitable employees to hire, and helped improve the salaries of HVACR technicians. Additionally, this education process has led to greater equipment efficiency requiring less energy to accomplish the same goals, and extend the lifecycle of modern equipment.
Improved Energy Efficiency
To satisfy the Section 608 requirements, refrigerant manufacturers developed new refrigerants that are more efficient, and HVACR manufacturers started to make new smaller and more efficient units. Because of these actions, HVACR equipment operates more efficiently, saving consumers money in the operating HVACR equipment.
New Business Opportunities
HVACR contractors that install, service and maintain HVACR equipment have not been burdened by the Section 608 regulation. Instead, it has created new business opportunities, that have led to an increase in profits.
Section 608 requires commercial and industrial users of refrigerants to have regularly scheduled leak inspections. These leak inspections are opportunities for HVACR contractor to perform service calls where they verify that the equipment is running as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Through these required leak inspections, building owners have seen significant savings on system operation, maintenance and repairs. One EPA program, GreenChill working with supermarkets nationwide has reduced the lead rate of refrigerants from these facilities by over 10 million pounds of refrigerant per year. These savings can be used to help the businesses occupying these buildings improve their bottom line or finance expansion.
The Section 608 Refrigerant Management Program has been essential to the growth of the HVACR industry. Having created thousands of new jobs, including new American manufacturing and service jobs, improved the competency of the workforce which has helped Americans reduce energy usage, this regulation has been essential to the growth of the HVACR industry and the American economy for nearly a quarter of a century.
As the final rule is now final, it will modernize the EPA regulations and exam. We encourage all stakeholders in the HVACR industry to contact; Scott Pruitt (the new EPA Administrator), Congressional leaders, Senators and State leaders, to work with the HVACR industry in continuation and expansion of this program.
This article provided by the ESCO Group. Visit them at www.escogroup.org.