New rules next year on fridge handling
Ozone (O3) is a gas that is present as a layer in the stratosphere between six and 30 miles above the earth and protects the earth's inhabitants from harmful UV radiation from the sun — we know it as “The Ozone Layer”. The filtering effect of ozone up high in the atmosphere is essential for life on earth, as opposed to ozone that is found at ground-level as a pollutant derived from vehicles and other exhausts.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) and other man-made gases that have been used in early antiperspirant aerosols, fire extinguishers and refrigeration systems were shown to cause the depletion of ozone in the upper atmosphere. Thinning of the ozone layer at a rate of four per cent per decade and the formation of “holes” in the ozone layer over the Polar Regions has resulted in reduced filtration of harmful UV radiation, thereby causing greater penetration of UV radiation to the earth's surface.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) the associated increases in the sun's radiation reaching the earth's surface as a result of thinning of the ozone layer can lead to a range of negative effects including:
• More melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers,
• More eye cataracts,
• Weakened immune systems,
• Reduced plant yields,
• Damage to ocean ecosystems and reduced fishing yields,
• Adverse effects on animals and;
• Accelerated breakdown of certain materials, including plastics, in outside environments.
The Montreal Protocol 1987, and subsequent amendments to this international legislation, has been developed to address releases of ozone-depleting substances and to accelerate the phase-out of their manufacture and importation. All of these protocols and amendments have been ratified by the UK, which includes Bermuda and other overseas territories.
Many of the ozone-depleting substances have been banned from both manufacture and use by more than 190 countries who have endorsed the legislation. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC's), such as R-22 that is used in Air Conditioning systems, represents one of the last ozone-depleting substances that are still being phased out. Furthermore, many of the non-ozone-depleting alternatives to HCFC's used in Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems have a different consequence on the environment in that they can have a very high global warming potential. Refrigerants that behave strongly as greenhouse gases are being considered for further control under the Kyoto Protocol and other legislative instruments.
The Environmental Engineering section of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) within the Ministry of Health, Seniors & Environment manages the importation of certain Controlled Chemicals into Bermuda through the Clean Air Regulations 1993. The Department is also working with Bermuda College to introduce a Refrigerant Permitting System to ensure that installers and service personnel of HVAC and refrigeration systems in Bermuda are adequately trained to minimise releases to the air and to manage the waste gases appropriately.
From the March 1, 2015, all installers and service personnel of residential or commercial HVAC systems and personnel who fill gases into refrigeration, chiller or freezer units will be expected to have been assessed at Bermuda College and also permitted by the Department of Environmental Protection. Full details are available at www.dep.gov.bm and by selecting “Environmental Engineering” and “Permitted Refrigerant Handlers” or by e-mail to EnvironmentalEngineering@gov.bm.
The Department is encouraging everyone, especially:
• Facility managers,
• LEED-accredited building operators,
• Members of the Green Building Forum,
• Environmental Management System ISO14001 accredited organisations and others to ensure that only permitted refrigerant handlers are chosen for contract works from March 1, 2015.
The DEP website provides full details of this permitted refrigerant handlers process and will provide a list of the permitted refrigerant handlers from the start date in addition to a whistle-blowing form for suspected illegal activities with respect to non-permitted personnel or venting of refrigerant gases. The Department held stakeholder meetings in 2014 and is receiving good support from the HVAC industry towards the successful implementation and enforcement of this process in Bermuda.
The Department would also encourage customers not to purchase and install any new HVAC systems that operate on HCFC R-22 due to expected shortages of R-22 in the future. Maintenance of existing R-22 HVAC systems should be adequately covered by the tapered phase-out of the manufacture of R-22 coupled with the service life of those systems. DEP would also recommend that customers purchase air conditioner units with a:
• high SEER efficiency rating as the running cost of these units will quickly surpass the initial capital cost when purchasing them.
• “UL”, “CSA”, “ETL” or “CE” certification rating to show that they have been manufactured to a high and consistent standard.
This article was written by The Environmental Engineering Section of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)