New State Rule for Servicing Large Refrigeration Systems

December 20th, 2011 → 10:24 pm @ // No Comments

Los Angeles County air conditioning companies incluiding all other counties,

Effective January 1, 2011

Thermal Air Conditioning Inc., and all other refrigeration service providers should be aware of a new state regulation that applies to facilities using large refrigeration systems such as supermarkets, cold storage warehouses, food processing plants and industrial cooling operations.

The new rule is enviromentally more stringent than the long-established federal requirements for refrigeration systems. It targets not only refrigerants known to deplete the Earth’s protective ozone shield but also those that have “high global warming potential (high GWP)” – most commonly CFCS (chlorofluorocarbons, HCFCs (hydroclorofluorocarbons) and HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons).

The California regulation aims to minimize leakage of these enviromentally harmful compounds. Starting Jan. 1, 2011, the regulation requires facilities that use more than 50 pounds of refrigerant per unit to conduct regular leak inspections or, for the larger systems, install automatic leak detection sysytems. They must fix all leaks within 14 days of detection- no matter the rate of leakage. No refrigerant may be added to sysytems with known leaks.

Sysytems charged with ammonia or carbon dioxide are not affected by this regulation nor are air conditioners used exclusively for comfort.

Facility Requirements

Starting in 2012, facilities with the largest refrigeration systems (2,000 or more pounds refrigerant capacity) must register with the Air Resources Board and report their refrigerant usage and repairs in the previous calendar year (2011). Facilities with smaller systems must register and report in later years (2014 and 2016).

Service Providers

As with the federal rule, the California regulation requires installers and servicers of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment using any amount of high-GWP refrigerants to follow U.S. EPA’ s service practices, such as the no-venting requirement. The state rule, however, is stricter on some practices. For example, it requires proper evacuation of refrigerant cylinders before disposal and prohibits adding refrigerant to a leaky system.

Questions? Thermal Air Conditioning Inc. has the answers.

What is the Refrigerant Management program?

This new state program requires specific best management practices to reduce emissions of refrigerant from non-residential refrigeration systems. It was  adopted by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) in 2009 and took effect on January 1, 2011. The regulation includes provisions similar to current federal and local regulations for ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and extends requirements to ODS refrigerant substitutes incluiding high-global warming potential (high-GWP) refrigerants.

 What is an affected facility required to do?

  • Keep records onsite of inspections, repairs, and high-GWP refrigerants purchased and shipped. (Starting January 1, 2011)
  • Repair leaks within 14 days of detection (Starting January 1, 2011)
  • Register and report to ARB (By March 1,2012, for Large facilitites; 2014 for Medium facilities, and 2016 for small facilities)

Additional requirements may apply. Please visit ARB’S website for more details.

What equipment or appliances are subject to the rule?

It depends on if you  are a facility owner or a service contractor/technician. Required service practices (Section 95390) of the rule apply to any person performing any installation, maintenance, service, repair, or disposal of a stationary appliance. “Appliance”, as defined in the rule, means any device which contains and uses a high-GWP refrigerant, incluiding any air cinditioner, refrigerator, chiller, freezer, or refrigeration system.

Facility owners or operators are subject to the rule if all of the following apply:

  • it is a non-residential facility,
  • if the single largest refrigeration system in the facility has a refrigerant charge of >50 pounds,
  • if the system uses a high-GWP refrigerant.

Facilities that commonly use applicable refrigeration systems include but are not limited to supermarkets, cold storage warehouses, food processing plants, and industries with process cooling operations. Facilities that have only air conditioning sysytems that are used exclusively for comfort cooling are not subject to the regulation.

What refrigerants are subject to the rule?

High-GWP refrigerants include all commonly used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFSCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) with a global warming potential greater thann 150. All ozone-depleting refrigerants regulated under Federal Rule 608 are also subject to the rule, Refrigernats that are not covered under the new California rule include ammonia, carbon dioxide and HFC-152a, which has a GWP less than 150 and is also non-ozone-depleting.

If a facility uses a chiller with more than 50 pounds of high-GWP refrigerant  for both air conditioning and processs cooling, is it subject to the rule?

Yes. This facility will fall into the category of “Other refrigeration” and will be subject to the rule. “Other refrigeration” means any stationary, non-residential appliance that is used for an application other than industrial process refrigeration, commercial refrigeration, or air conditioning, or is used for two or more applications incluiding industrial process refrigeration, commercial refrigeration, or air conditioning.

How do I determine the size category of a facility’s system?

Facilities with applicable refrigeration systems are categorized as:

  • Small: refrigeration systems using more than 50 pounds, but less than 200 pounds, of a high GWP refrigerant.
  • Medium: refrigeration systems using 200 pounds or more, but less than 2,000 pounds, of a high-GWP refrigerant.
  • Large: refrigeration systems using 2,000 pounds or more of a high-GWP refrigerant.

Facilities with multiple refrigeration systems at the same site are categorized only by the single, largest system on site.

When are leak inspections required?

Facility owner or operators are required to conduct periodic leak inspections depending on the size of the refrigeration systems. Beginning in 2011, monthly inspectionos for Large systems (continuous monitoring is required beginning 2012), quarterly inspections for Medium systems, and annual inspections for Small systems are required. Adding refrigerant to a system, other than for seasonal adjustments and/or detection of visible oil residue, would also require a leak inspection be conducted. Large systems that do not operate year round or have major components outside the building are only subject to quarterly inspections.

Is there a specific method or leak detection required by the new rule?

For Large systems intended to operate year round, automatic leak detectors must be installed by January 1. 2012, and annually calibrated. Portable leak detectors, bubble tests or other approved methods can be used for Medium and small systems. Portable devices s hould be calibrated to ensure proper function and sensitivity for leak detection.

When should a leak be paired?

The new statewide rule is more stringent than the Federal rule (section 608) and requires any amount of refrigerant leak from an affected refrigeration system to be repaired within 14 days of detection. Additional time may be allowed in certain conditions. Service technicians and contractors should not add refrigerant to any appliance with a known leak (regardless of size and incluiding air conditioning systems).

Who can repair leaks?

Repairs can only be made by U.S. EPA certified technicians who hold, or are employed by a contractor who holds, an active California contractors license in the C38 (Refrigeration) or C20 (HVAC) classifications.

What should technicians do with empty refrigerant cylinders?

Non-refillable cylinders must be evacuated to a vacuum of 15 inches of mercury (relative to standard atmospheric pressure of 29.9 inches of mercury) before recycling or disposal.

For More Information

Please visit the ARB website at, email or call (916) 324-2517. You can also sign up for the listserve for news and updates at

To obtain this document in an alternative format or language please contact the ARB’s Helpline at (800) 242-4450 or at TTY/TDD/Speech to Speech  users may dial 711 for the California Relay Service.

Leave a Reply