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What is Refrigerant Recovery?

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  • Written By: Britt Archer
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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A variety of cooling agents, or refrigerants, are used in the average household. FreonĀ® in air conditioning units, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigerators, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in aerosolized products are just a few common examples of refrigerants encountered on a daily basis. While these chemicals have their uses, it has also been proven that they can harm the environment and deplete the earth's ozone layer when left unchecked or disposed of improperly. Refrigerant recovery is a sector of the environmental industry that works to collect and re-purpose these and other such chemicals, or to properly dispose of the chemicals in a manner that does not harm the environment.

Refrigerant recovery works on the same principles as many other environmental recovery concepts. The first part of the process is to reduce the use or need for the products. The second part is refrigerant reclamation, the process of harvesting these chemicals from outdated or discarded products to purify them for use in refrigerant recycling, or the reuse of the chemicals. When they can no longer be reused, refrigerant recovery specialists properly combust or dispose of the chemicals safely.

Saving the environment is just one benefit to refrigerant recovery. This method of recycling can also reduce costs by increasing the lifespan of items that use refrigerant, reducing the need for new refrigerant and reducing environmental compliance costs that businesses and homeowners may face. Entrepreneurs may find that there is an expanded market for recycled and reclaimed refrigerants.

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Many HVAC technicians are trained to handle the process of refrigerant recovery. The exact method and process of recovery is based upon the type of refrigerant and the size of the equipment that the refrigerant is being extracted from. A small window air conditioner compressor, for example, can be emptied and re-purposed on-site by a knowledgeable technician. While some refrigerants can be recovered on-site, others must be extracted and sent to a reclamation facility by technicians with more advanced training and equipment.

The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy governs the processes, training procedures and policies surrounding refrigerant recovery worldwide. To find a licensed technician or training programs to become a technician, a consultation with the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy is recommended. Local governments also may have specific requirements. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) also has a hand in creating policies and training technicians to carefully and safely execute the processes involved in recovery.

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