Industry pulls together to kick the CFC habit

ARI launches Technology Institute. AHAM’s CFC Consortium is moving on two fronts.

If the amount of energy spent is any measure of success, then the appliance industry should have the CFC issue beat in no time. That may be somewhat simplistic. But, the fact is, the industry gets kudos for tackling the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) crisis head-on.

Two industry groups, the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) and Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), are rallying their members in an effort that perhaps hasn’t been duplicated since the energy crisis.

Through a task force, each group is pursuing CFC solutions.

In mid-November, ARI launched the not-for-profit Air-Conditioning Technology Institute (ACTI) “to manage and conduct scientific research in the public interest.” The quotes are those of Arnold Braswell, president, ARI.

In September, AHAM organized the Appliance Industry-Government CFC Replacement Consortium, Inc., as a wholly owned subsidiary.

“Through this united research effort, our industry will be able to accelerate the pace and maximize the efficiency of its search for workable CFC alternatives,” explains Tom Young, Consortium vice president for administration.

Here is an update on the CFC-replacement action by ARI and AHAM.

ARI seeks funds

ARI brought members up-to-date at its 37th annual meeting in mid-November in Boca Raton, Fla.

To manage a program of materials compatibility and lubricant research (MCLR) for alternative refrigerants, ARI is seeking funding by the Department of Energy. The program’s objective is to assist industry in phasing out controlled CFC refrigerants.

MCLR activities call for property and compatibility measurements for CFC substitutes. Refrigerant-lubricant mixture properties and their effect on materials and performance will be addressed.

MCLR also covers methods development to predict or accelerate measurement of key properties and compatibility concerns.

Existing and future MCLR data from industry and public-sector tests are being compiled in a refrigerant database. Progress in ARI’s MCLR efforts will be summarized at the July 1990 ASHRAE/Purdue CFC Conference.

Legislative review ARI updated members on legislation.

Congress has considered proposals to accelerate the CFC phaseout beyond the Montreal Protocol and to severely limit the future growth of HCFC-22 and other substitute refrigerants.

Meanwhile, a provision containing extensive CFC regulations and controlling the future growth of R-22 and other HCFCs was removed from the Senate Budget Reconciliation Bill. However, other attempts by Congress to control CFCs and HCFCs are likely.

ARI’s Arnold Braswell contends that legislation is not necessary and “the EPA agrees. With modifications to the Montreal Protocol, there is no need for domestic legislation.”

Although the regulatory provisions were removed from the Budget Reconciliation Bill, the bill contains an excise tax on CFCs covered by the Montreal Protocol. The tax will begin at $1.10 per lb. in 1990 and escalate to $3.10 per lb. in 1993.

State legislatures, too, are involved in CFC regulations and are expected to gear up their activity during 1990 sessions.

To avoid duplicate and different CFC recovery and recycling regulations in the 50 states, the Alliance for Responsible CFC Policy petitioned the EPA in September, requesting promulgation of regulations pertaining to the use, discharge and recycling of fully halogenated CFCs in air conditioners, refrigerators, freezers and other similar cooling devices.

The petition calls for preemption of state and local requirements. EPA indicated it would issue proposed regulations for review and comment by the end of 1989 or early this year.

AHAM Consortium in full throttle

AHAM’s CFC Consortium is pulling member companies together and pursuing its goals at a reasonably good pace, according to Tom Young, the vice president for administration.

The consortium’s major goal is to identify safe, reliable and energy-efficient replacement candidates in two years to three years, so that refrigerator manufacturers can stop using CFCs in production as soon as possible.

The research partnership, as the consortium is called, comprises seven companies: Admiral Appliance Co., Amana Refrigeration, Inc., GE Appliances, Sub-Zero Freezer Co., W.C. Wood Co., Ltd., Whirlpool Corp., and White Consolidated Industries. Other participants include DOE, EPA, as well as compresser, insulation and refrigerant suppliers.

Young describes the consortium’s program as “a highly disciplined and coordinated one designed to create as fast as possible a database adequate for each manufacturer to determine the best CFC substitutes for its products.”

Pinpointing alternatives

Through two technical committees–one for CFC 11 (insulation) and the other for CFC 12 (refrigerant)–work is progressing to narrow down alternatives. These will be evaluated in detail.

For CFC 11, the committee is developing the research protocol for:

  • Water mixtures with two isocyanates–MDI and TDI.
  • Optimization of water blends.
  • HCFC 123.
  • HCFC 123/14lb.
  • Flammability of HCFC 141lb.

Criteria to evaluate CFC 11 replacements include heat-transfer characteristics, density, demoulding time, dimensional stability regarding packing and bowing, flammability, toxicity, reliability and longevity.

For CFC 12, companies are conducting round-robin compressor calorimeter tests to establish a baseline.

In addition, companies are screening potential candidates in CFC 12 compressors and comparing results with the baseline. Each company is assigned a candidate to screen.

All of these calorimeter tests are conducted simultaneously by companies, and the results will be shared.

Criteria to evaluate CFC 12 replacements include thermodynamic and physical properties, material compatibility, oil solubility, flammability, toxicity, impact on energy efficiency, and reliability.

For the work of both technical committees, energy is the real hang-up. “As energy-efficiency requirements become increasingly stringent, our situation becomes more murky,” says Tom Young.

CFC Recovery Process

Whirlpool Corp., Benton Harbor, Mich., has developed a process to recover CFCs during refrigerator and freezer repair.

The process uses a specially designed seven-layer plastic bag that catches and holds refrigerants released during servicing. The old refrigerant is then taken to a recovery center, where it is transferred from the plastic bag to a pressurized tank and held for recycling.

Walter J. Coleman, vice president for consumer services, said the company believes it is the first major U.S. appliance maker to successfully develop a relatively simple process to capture used refrigerant at the time of refrigerator or freezer repair in the home.

“We see this process as a small but important step toward eventual elimination of all CFC use in appliance manufacture.” 1. Used CFC-12 refrigerant removed from a Whirlpool refrigerator or freezer during in-home sealed system repair is captured in a specially designed recovery bag. This bag is made of a multi-layer, puncture-resistant material that prevents the escape of CFCs. 2. The bag containing the used CFCs is taken to a CFC Recovery Center. 3. At the CFC Recovery Center, the used refrigerant is transferred to a storage container, where it is held for recycling.

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