Discussing EPA Changes in 2020 and Leak Rate Thresholds


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with updating and regulating the use and servicing of refrigerants in order to provide protection for our ozone layer and the environment. When it comes to regulations such as EPA 608, businesses and HVAC/R technicians must keep in the loop in order to stay compliant. With recent changes in 2020, it is vital for you as a technician to achieve your proper EPA certification to provide service, as well as deliver updated information to best help your customers.

Mainstream Engineering Corporation and EPATest.com are here to provide complete instruction and insight when it comes to regulations such as EPA 608 and 609. We offer resources such as our free training software to help you prepare for your exam, as well as online and in-person testing to help you achieve certifications in Indoor Air Quality, R-410A, Green HVAC/R, and more.

Keep reading for a quick update to EPA 608’s 2020 regulations, and be sure to sign up with Mainstream Engineering so you can take your EPA test online!

Leak Rate Thresholds

In an effort to better improve our ozone and the environment, the EPA has lowered their threshold for acceptable leak rates, which only includes ozone-depleting elements such as CFCs and HCFCs. The EPA’s recent updates include a revision stating that non-ozone depleting substances such as HFCs and HFOs are no longer subject to leak tests, repairs, and inspections.

Any rate exceeding the numbers below require action and follow-up by both the owner and HVAC technician to ensure that proper services have succeeded in reducing leakage. Recent EPA changes include the following based on your type of system:

  • Comfort cooling systems — Down from 15% to 10%
  • Commercial refrigeration — Down from 35% to 20%
  • Industrial refrigeration — Down from 35% to 30%

As you can see, commercial refrigeration is required to adhere to the biggest leak rate reduction, nearly halving their current leak rates. As a technician tasked with maintaining and repairing these components, it’s important to keep in mind that commercial institutions also tend to have the most refrigeration systems larger than 50 pounds.

Effort Tracking to Minimize Leaks

Owners and operators are tasked with calculating the leak rate each time an ozone-depleting refrigerant is added to an appliance, unless it meets an exclusion such as a retrofit or new appliance. The EPA requires owners to self-report if they exceed the threshold limits mentioned above. You will be tasked with tracking all efforts related to the system’s leak rate, as well as the leak rate in accordance with all work done. This is important, as the EPA requires this report by March 1st of the following year.

Annual or Quarterly Follow-Up Inspections

Based on the size of their system, operators must abide by quarterly or annual inspections to verify that the proper actions have been taken and that the equipment is properly maintained in order to achieve a lower leak rate. This process should only be completed once the proper services are completed and the system shows an appropriate leak rate. If the system you are working on uses 50 to 500 pounds of refrigerant, annual inspections will be required. Once it can be verified that the system in question has stayed below the leak rate for a full calendar year, future inspections will not be required.

Other EPA 608 Regulations Still Apply!

When it comes to working with HFCs and HFOs, it’s important for HVAC/R technicians to remember that recent EPA 608 changes in 2020 do not override or rescind other regulations in accordance with non-exempt substitute refrigerants, including:

  • Proper evacuation techniques
  • Safe disposal requirements
  • Restriction of refrigerant sales and services to certified individuals
  • Current reclamation standards
  • Required equipment for recovery

Take Your EPA Test Today!

Mainstream Engineering Corporation and EPATest.com are proud to offer industry-leading resources and professional support to help HVAC technicians achieve their EPA certifications and complete work in a safe, environmentally responsible manner. Utilize our study guide to learn more about all relevant EPA 608 regulations, take the practice test, and be sure to sign up to take your exam online.

Have questions? Contact us online for complete assistance!