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Environmental Code of Practice for the Elimination of Fluorocarbon Emissions from Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Systems

1.0 Introduction

Pursuant to the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, this code applies to stationary and mobile refrigeration and air conditioning systems that use halocarbons and that are owned by the Government of Canada, a board or an agency of the Government of Canada, a crown corporation or a federal work and undertaking, or located on aboriginal and federal lands. In some jurisdictions, the code of practice is incorporated into regulations, resulting in some or all of the sections of the code becoming mandatory requirements. Under the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, a person who installs, services, leak tests or charges a refrigeration system or an air conditioning system or does any other work on the system that may result in the release of a halocarbon must do so in accordance with the current code of practice.

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1.1 Refrigerants

Halocarbons are often used as refrigerants. Refrigerants are fluids that draw heat and create a cooling effect when they evaporate. They are sold as single chemical compounds and as blends, which are mixtures of two or more chemical compounds combined in a ratio to obtain a refrigerant with specific properties. Thermo-physical properties of refrigerants, such as critical temperature and pressure, normal boiling point, and viscosity, are taken into account when selecting a refrigerant in order to optimize the efficiency of the cooling system.

The Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, like most provincial and territorial regulations, specify which halocarbons are controlled. The terms and expressions found in this Code have the same meaning as those defined in the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003.

Types of Refrigerants

There are many refrigerants on the market today, and they are usually classified in the following three groups: 1) halocarbons, which include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as well as unsaturated HFCs, which are commonly known as hydrofluoro-olefin (HFO) and hydrofluoro-ether (HFE); 2) hydrocarbons, such as propane, isobutane, isopentane and propylene; and 3) inorganic compounds, which include refrigerants such as water, air, carbon dioxide and ammonia.

Cooling Methods

There are various methods of cooling. The oldest method is evaporative cooling, which is simply the evaporation of water to cool the air or material around it. Later came the absorption refrigeration method, which removes heat by evaporating a refrigerant at a low pressure, and releases heat by condensing the refrigerant at a higher pressure. These methods are still used in certain applications, but vapour-compression refrigeration is now the most commonly used method. Vapour-compression and absorption refrigeration systems work on the same principle, but the former uses a compressor to generate the pressure differential necessary to circulate the refrigerant.

The basic components of vapour-compression systems are a compressor, a condenser, an evaporator and an expansion device. Components such as piping, control valves, pressure relief devices, receivers and filter-dryers are either part of the original system design or they can be added during installation or at a later date. Vapour-compression systems are common in a wide range of cooling capacities and for all sorts of applications.

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1.2 Training

Environmental Awareness Training Programs

In Canada, a proposal to provide environmental awareness training for technicians in the refrigeration and air conditioning industry originated in the 1992 National Action Plan for Recovery, Recycling and Reclamation of CFCs. In 1998, the national action plan was updated with the National Action Plan for the Environmental Control of Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) and their Halocarbon Alternatives, which recommended updating the training program to reflect the content of the 1996 Environmental Code of Practice for Elimination of Fluorocarbon Emissions from Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Systems.

An environmental awareness training program for workers in the stationary and mobile air conditioning and refrigeration sectors is available in all provinces. The training is a requirement to be considered as a certified person under the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, and under some provincial and territorial regulations.

The environmental awareness training complements, but does not replace, trade qualifications. In Canada, the provinces and territories are responsible for establishing trade qualifications requirements. Workers need to be trade qualified and licensed as required by the jurisdiction in which they work.

The Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute (HRAI) offers environmental awareness training through its SkillTech Academy and a network of delivery partners consisting mainly of community colleges. The HRAI website has a current list of delivery partners.

The Manitoba Ozone Protection Industry Association (MOPIA) offers environmental awareness training as required under Manitoba regulations. The successful completion of this training provides the participant with the ability to purchase and handle substances regulated in Manitoba. Some Canadian jurisdictions recognize the MOPIA training.

In Quebec, Emploi-Québec and the Commission de la construction du Québec offer the environmental awareness training required under Quebec regulations. The successful completion of this course provides the participant with the ability to purchase and handle substances regulated in Quebec. Some Canadian jurisdictions also recognize the training offered in Quebec.

In some provinces and territories other organizations can offer equivalent training.

The above-mentioned courses are theoretical. They prepare participants to comply with the Federal Halocarbons Regulations, 2003 and the provincial ozone-depleting substances regulations, as technicians may have to work under the federal and one or more provincial or territorial jurisdictions. The training courses cover information on how ozone-depleting substances affect the ozone layer, and they focus on best practices related to activities that could lead to releases of halocarbons. They also include topics such as leak detection, use of appropriate containers, and refrigerant recovery, reuse, recycling and reclamation. An examination is administered at the end of the course.

Anyone associated with the design, installation, maintenance and purchasing of refrigerant and refrigeration and air conditioning systems may benefit from the environmental awareness training.

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