Remember a long time ago when you were first told that the familiar refrigerants that we’d been using for years, were harmful to the environmental and needed to be recovered — not vented? Back in the day, we couldn’t imagine that the systems we worked on and the materials we used could cause harm. Many technicians couldn’t imagine their role in saving the planet and didn’t understand the impact they had.

Still, some technicians choose not to recover or reclaim these materials.

Now imagine the consequences of hundreds of thousands of technicians taking the easy way out and not properly recovering. Imagine that, in under 15 months, R-22 will be less available. Imagine how high its price could go.

On the flip side, imagine the overall positive impact if recovery became more routine, and system owners became conscious of how much money it cost them to re-charge leaky systems, or how much higher their electric bills were because of older, less efficient systems.

Imagine the impact on the environment. Imagine the increased number of service calls. Imagine the increased profits.

I am an environmentalist. I am also a capitalist. And, while being environmentally responsible is something that I, along with my company, am totally committed to. It has nothing to do with putting bread on my family’s table. That takes money.

I also realize that R-22 will become increasingly hard to come by. One way we can negate the impact of mandated decreased production, is through responsible recovery and recycling.

There’s a new trend in town: it’s to become what is known as a carbonsync company – meaning that your company has a negative carbon footprint. And this means that by the way carbon-sync companies conduct business and run operations, they actually remove more carbon from the environment than they create. Here’s the key: they accomplish this without sacrificing profits.

Here are some basic best practices principles that everyone in this business can embrace as well as teach to their customers. These include:

Prevent/Repair Leakage — Inspect for leaks if the system is:
• greater than 7 pounds – every 12 months
• greater than 100 pounds – every 6 months
• greater than 900 pounds – every 3 months.

Repair leaks (if there are any):
• within 1 month of the repair
• and, install leak detection systems if 1,000 pounds or more of refrigerant. Check leak detection system every 12 months.

Maintain records (offer your customer help in maintaining a solid compliance record):
• record the amount of refrigerant added, recovered, & destroyed
• record inspector’s name & date of inspection.

Recover, Reclaim and Destruct —EPA requires that all disposable virgin cylinders must be recovered to a 20-in. vacuum before discarding:
• reclaim cylinders should go through a vacuum before used • make sure to vacuum your recovery machine between uses when dealing with different gasses
• keep a different recovery cylinder for each type of gas you are recovering
• with each new account, take inventory and verify the installed refrigerants
• if unsure of the gases in the recovered cylinder, take it back to your authorized distributor in exchange for a fresh tank
• all equipment must be recovered
• recovery/reclamation should be done before final disposal • obtain proper training/certification.

Share environmental impact with the system owner. Examples:
• if you save the refrigerant from a 5-ton system it’s the same as saving 297 trees
• LEED® certification can provide points and savings with mortgage companies
• check savings on electric bills do a before & after comparison
• check local utility for specific incentives
• Energy Star ratings can save money on monthly electric bills and tax rebates.

Now imagine that, if we all play our respective parts, we’ll all be able to breathe a little easier as we make our way to the bank.

Ted Atwood is president and owner of Polar Technology, a Nashville, TN-based refrigerant recovery/recycling company that buys and sells new and recovered refrigerant. He can be reached at tatwood@refrigerantauthority.com.