Why Environmental Impact Matters to HVAC Technicians

Decades have passed since researchers announced that chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, are a significant source of harm to the globe’s lower atmosphere. When CFCs make it to the earth’s stratosphere, the sun’s ultraviolet rays break them down and release chlorine in the process. The chlorine then proceeds to damage the atmosphere over and over again until it’s broken down, which takes two years.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple to just ban CFCs from use. These chemical compounds are the most commonly used refrigerants in the world. Even though CFCs endanger people’s lives by depleting the atmosphere’s ozone layer, they’re still used in many residential and commercial HVAC systems.

The Clean Air Act

Even though CFCs are still used in today’s HVAC systems, the Clean Air Act no longer allows refrigerants to be released into the atmosphere when HVAC equipment is being installed, serviced, or removed from service. Instead, the law requires CFCs to be one of the following:

  • Recovered and recycled for use within the existing system
  • Reclaimed for reprocessing to a certain level of purity
  • Destroyed in a responsible manner

Implications for Consumers and HVAC Technicians

The regulation of CFCs has affected consumers and HVAC technicians alike. For consumers, the regulation of CFCs has generally meant higher maintenance, repair, and installation costs as the production of CFCs continues to drop. For technicians, the increased regulation of CFCs has often meant acquiring a new skill set and licensure by the Environmental Protection Agency.

With a growing number of consumers becoming increasingly concerned about the environment and their impact on it, HVAC companies have an opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competitors by offering “green” or “greener” heating and cooling options to homeowners, property managers, and business owners. One option HVAC technicians can offer their clients is the use of HFC-based refrigerants. While it’s a stretch to call HFCs environmentally friendly, they do less harm to the atmosphere, and they are less expensive than CFC-based refrigerants.

Communication Is Key

HVAC technicians are in an ideal position to discuss various things with their clients face-to-face. While technicians can become well-versed in the benefits of using HFC-based refrigerants instead of CFCs, they can also be taught to discuss some measures consumers can take on their own to reduce the release of harmful chemicals into the atmosphere and reduce their overall energy expenses.

HVAC technicians should explain that one of the most effective things people can do to prevent CFCs or HFCs from being released is to maintain their HVAC systems. If an HVAC system doesn’t have to be repaired or replaced prematurely, for instance, there is less risk of harmful chemical compounds being released and damaging the earth’s protective ozone layer.

More specifically, technicians should advise their clients to:

  • Schedule an annual HVAC inspection and “tune-up.”
  • Hire an HVAC company that’s licensed in accordance with the EPA’s mandates to perform necessary maintenance and seasonal checkups.
  • Replace their HVAC system’s air filters often.
  • Keep the evaporator and condenser coils on their HVAC system clean.
  • Check ducts and pipes for leaks and compromised insulation and fix any problems that exist.
  • Fix or replace damaged, old, or inefficient valves and steam traps.

To help keep their clients’ energy costs low, HVAC technicians can inform their clients about some of the money-saving HVAC systems on the market, such as ENERGY STAR® systems, demand-controlled alternatives, and energy recovery systems. They can also help their clients pick a system that’s the right size for their home or business location. Installing and running oversized HVAC equipment drives up energy expenses unnecessarily for homeowners and business owners alike.

HVAC technicians aren’t just in a position to help their clients save money. They also fill a critical role in helping to protect the environment from damaging chemical compounds. And they can do both of these things successfully simply by communicating with and educating their clients.