AIM Act – Awareness

The focus this month is a brief look at the American Innovation and Manufacturing act or AIM act for short. This policy seeks to dramatically reduce the usage of HFC refrigerants with the target of a 85 percent reduction by 2036. The goal of the policy is to reduce the amount of refrigerant with high global warming potential (GWP) leaked into the atmosphere by requiring people to adopt more environmentally friendly options. The policy will also require more stringent tracking of refrigerant usage by customers and service contractors to help reduce the amount of refrigerant being released into the atmosphere by leak prone refrigeration systems. What may be surprising to some readers is that the AIM act was actually enacted three years ago. The exact changes that the AIM act will bring are still being discussed but it is getting notoriety now because of the changes that are set to take place in 2025. Additionally, a proposed ruling that is likely to pass states starting January 1st, 2025 the US will forbid the manufacturing of products using phased out refrigerants. Who is impacted by the proposed portion of the AIM act? In short, most everyone with a refrigeration system using manmade refrigerant. The proposed GWP limit of refrigerants can actually vary based on what process the refrigerant is being used in, but typically falls between 150 or 300 depending on the application. For example, industrial systems, supermarkets, and cold storage systems with 200 pounds or more are all subject to a 150 GWP limit. Similar systems with less than 200lbs can utilize refrigerants with up to 300 GWP. Evaporators with remote condensing units, which are very popular, will be able to use the more lenient 300 GWP if they are under 200 lbs. What manmade refrigerants are above the 150 or even the more lenient 300 GWP limits you may ask? Well… almost all of them. R-22, R-404, R-449, R-448, R-507 and their drop-in replacements (such as MO99) are all over the 300 GWP limit. What does that mean for me? On a broad scale we can hope the AIM act will enact positive environmental change by reducing the quantity of harmful refrigerants that are released into the atmosphere. It is likely we will always need refrigeration and refrigeration systems, and unfortunately that means leaks. But, by limiting the GWP of available refrigerants the AIM act will reduce the refrigeration industries impact on global warming. However, on an individual scale the AIM act may cause some operational and financial difficulties. Beyond the use of natural refrigerants such as CO2 or NH3 which have a global warming potential of 1 and 0 respectively, there aren’t very many widely adopted options in the US for refrigerants that can satisfy the AIM act requirements. For operators who have been around long enough to be sick and tired of hopping to a new manmade refrigerant every few years, it seems like moving to a natural refrigerant is more appealing than ever. Similarly, anyone installing a new refrigeration system would be strongly advised to consider natural refrigerants or they may be in for costly upgrades down the road. Customers who are operating existing systems using restricted refrigerants can continue to do so but should be aware that the availability of refrigerant, new equipment, and parts may start to dwindle in the coming years and may become unavailable all together. Most people in the industry are familiar with the dramatic cost increase associated with R-22 and other previously delisted refrigerants once they were no longer imported or manufactured and we may see a similar outcome here. Those who are looking for a manmade refrigerant solution may have to contend with a new problem arising due to the flammability of the low GWP solutions that have made it to market so far. We won’t discuss manmade refrigerant solutions here because a widely adopted solution hasn’t really emerged yet. When it comes to manmade refrigerants, we are unfortunately stuck waiting to see where the industry and regulations go, a holding pattern many veterans of the industry are used to. CSR will continue to keep an eye on the changing landscape of HFC refrigerants, the AIM act, the proposed ruling, and how it all ties together and will affect the refrigeration industry moving into the future. At this time nobody can say with any certainty what the future will bring but at bare minimum it does seem like trending to lower GWP refrigerants will continue. As 2023 moves forward we should see substantially more information and legislation emerge and hopefully remove some of the fog that surrounds what is currently a blurry forecast. If you are looking for some additional information the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration has some great resources and even a webinar on their website. Carlson & Stewart Refrigeration has been in business since 1935 designing, installing, and servicing natural and manmade refrigerant systems. We have continued to serve the industry through several environmental policy changes over that time and will continue to do so throughout these new changes. If you are looking to discuss your options for a new project or your existing refrigeration equipment Carlson & Stewart engineers and technicians would be happy to help.

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