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EPA Issues Final Rulemaking on Climate-Friendly Fridges

Rulemaking incorporates revised standard allowing a U.S. transition to energy efficient low-GWP hydrocarbon refrigerants.

WASHINGTON DC – Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rulemaking that will allow the US market to transition away from hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent super greenhouse gases, in new household refrigerators and freezers.

“Almost all of the refrigerators in America today use a refrigerant that is about 400 times worse for the climate than hydrocarbons, which have been widely used in fridges around the world for decades,” said Avipsa Mahapatra, EIA Climate Campaign Lead. “This rulemaking would further help manufacturers to change that, thereby giving us an opportunity to avoid the same amount of emissions as from taking 800,000 passenger vehicles off the road for an entire year. In a world struggling to limit warming to under 2 degrees Celsius, it would be shame if the US industry continues to lag behind the rest of the world.”

The rulemaking, issued under the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program incorporates a revised safety standard published last year by Underwriters Laboratory (UL), UL 60335-2-24, that increases the allowed amount of hydrocarbon refrigerant from 57 grams to 150 grams, which is in line with the requirements that have enabled these products to proliferate safely around the world.

“At long last American consumers will have easy access to purchase climate friendly household fridges without HFCs, but today’s rulemaking has broader significance,” said Christina Starr, EIA’s Climate Policy Analyst. “It demonstrates that we can eliminate remaining market barriers still posed by outdated safety standards to low-GWP refrigerants in many types of cooling equipment. This standard change and its subsequent incorporation by EPA can and should be replicated in other sectors that are vital to mitigating HFC emissions, including commercial refrigeration and room air conditioning where efforts are still underway.”

As an involved stakeholder and member of several UL standards technical panels, EIA will continue to support this process and call for timely and transparent action to prioritize standards updates that facilitate safe widespread uptake of low-GWP refrigerants.

Editors Notes:

  1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is an independent non-profit environmental campaigning organization based in Washington, DC.

  2. Each year consumers purchase about 12 million new household refrigerators and freezers in the United States. These appliances use a refrigerant called HFC-134a, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes more than a thousand times per molecule to global warming compared to carbon dioxide. Replacing HFC-134a in new purchases with a climate friendly refrigerant can avoid emissions of up to 3.7 million metric tons of direct CO2 equivalent.

  3. EIA called attention to this issue in a briefing in 2016, Bringing the U.S. Fridge Market into the 21st Century and an update in 2017.

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