AIM Act Provisions Regarding Refrigerants

Dec 5, 2023

Those who have been in the HVAC industry for decades know that one thing is for certain…change is going to come, always. 2024 is nearly here, and that means certain aspects of the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act) are going into effect January 1st. This will affect our industry directly, so here’s what’s about to happen.  

A quick background: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is administering part of the AIM Act that reduces the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 85% by the year 2036. As part of these fresh regulations, new commercial and residential HVAC systems will transition to a newer, more environmentally friendly refrigerant compound in the coming years. Starting January 1, 2024 the industry will see a 40% reduction in HFC production. We’ve been through this before, and not so long ago…starting in 2010.

Let’s look back into refrigerant’s history for clarification… 

Example of a VRF system

A History of the HCFC and HFC in HVAC

For the general public, basic HVAC knowledge is likely focused on the term ‘Freon’. Rightfully so, as Freon was the standard refrigerant in air conditioners for decades, and the term stuck to the point that every refrigerant is known as freon to the average consumer, in their car or home, just like everyone calls a facial tissue a ‘Kleenex’. The truth is, Freon is just one type of product known as a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) compound, identified by industry experts simply as R-22. The phasing out of R-22 began in 2010 and the EPA officially banned its production and import in 2020.

As R-22/Freon was phased out, newly produced HVAC systems began using Puron, known as R-410A, which is an HFC. R-410A has been used since 1996 and is what is found in most of today’s modern HVAC systems 

With the AIM Act of 2020, new commercial and residential HVAC systems are reducing HFC’s further still, as Puron Advance, known as R-454B, is phased in. R-454B is an HFC and a hydro-fluoro olefin (HFO) blend that provides 78% lower climate-changing potential than R-410A, as well as superior cooling capacity and efficiency.

Preparing for the Future

Whenever regulations change, or a new refrigerant compound enters the market, people naturally have questions. Let’s address some of the most frequently asked questions about the forthcoming changes here. 

Does the ban on R-22 refrigerant mean I have to replace all my equipment? 

A: No, if your R-22 system is functioning properly, there’s no need for concern. However, since there is no NEW R-22 being produced and it’s not allowed to be imported, R-22 is only available through existing stockpiles and reclamation, which means its limited supplies are expensive and inventory will eventually be exhausted. In essence, you’re on borrowed time. Plus, since R-22 runs in older systems, there’s likely efficiencies to be had that could save money in the long run by doing an upgrade now. Something to consider. 

Does the phase-down in production and use of R-410A mean I need to replace all my equipment soon?  

A: No. R-410A refrigerant production is merely being phased down at this point and is slated to decrease by 85% by 2036…still a dozen years away. And, at this point, there’s nothing official saying it won’t be produced, just that production will be reduced. Short term, current R-410A systems will be fine, as it is still being produced and is readily available. In a dozen years, It’s possible that R-410A will eventually see similar supply/demand issues like R-22 is experiencing today. 

Can current HVAC systems be retrofitted for R-454B refrigerant use?  

A: Sadly, no. R-454B requires systems designed specifically for it alone, due to different loading rates and pressure regulations. R-454B is also a two-component gas, (HFC & HFO) and that requires specific sensors to detect leaks that HVAC systems designed for R-410A don’t have. It’s best to start with a clean design slate to ensure maximum system reliability and longevity.   

Change is a constant in the HVAC industry. But it’s these constant changes that arise from innovation, technological advances, and yes, regulations, that motivates and drives us into the future, where we are environmentally conscious, safe, and as cost and energy efficient as we can possibly be. By keeping up with the latest advancements, FourSeasons offers our clients the most efficient installations and state of the art systems available that add reliability and long-term value.  

Have specific questions about refrigerants and new requirements on the horizon for the HVAC industry? Let us know, we’re happy to help.

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