In the 1980s, scientists reported that the ozone layer over Antarctica was deteriorating and identified the chemical compounds chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) as the cause. This caused concern for people around. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with enforcing bans on CFCs and HCFCs. The agency created the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program to find substitutes for products that are safer for the environment and human health.[i]
What Is SNAP?
SNAP’s intent is to find chemical substitutes for CFCs, HCFCs, and other ozone-depleting substances and provide a smooth transition to safer alternatives. Since the production of CFCs was phased out in 1996, HCFCs have largely replaced CFCs in refrigerants, cleaning solvents, fire suppression systems, aerosols, and adhesives. HCFCs are less damaging to the ozone layer than CFCs and have a lower impact on global warming; however, they still problematic.
SNAP covers eight different product categories, but for those who are taking refrigeration courses, the main concern is HCFCs in refrigerants. If you are planning on working as an HVAC technician, you will need to know what SNAP is and how it will affect your job.
How Does the EPA Determine Substitutes?
The EPA evaluates each of the new substitutes submitted by manufacturers, users, and formulators. The EPA assesses the usage depending on potential environmental and human health risks, such as the effects on the atmosphere and ozone layer; concentration levels and exposure risks; toxicity, including carcinogenicity, inhalation risks, and exposure limits; flammability; and overall environmental impact.
After a series of rule-making and a public comment period, substitutes that are found acceptable without restriction receive a notice of acceptability without a public comment process.
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What Elements of SNAP Concern HVAC Technicians?
The EPA is implementing a total phaseout of the popular refrigerant HCFC-22, or R-22, by January 1, 2020. People currently taking refrigeration classes should know which refrigerants to use as substitutes. The EPA has a listing of approved substitute chemicals and alternatives that are currently available on the market, as well as tables listing them by their trade names.
Understanding the specific conditions in the use of alternative chemicals is an important safety measure, as the EPA finds some chemicals to be harmful to the environment and to people if used improperly. Improper use of chemicals is considered a violation of SNAP. Prior to graduating from refrigeration school, HVAC students should study which refrigerants are acceptable and how to properly use them.
Contribute to Change
Does contributing to a cleaner, healthier planet and population appeal to you? By becoming an HVAC technician, you can help prevent CFCs and HCFCs from reaching the ozone. You’ll also be choosing a promising career path, as the field is projected to grow at a faster than average rate through 2022. The Refrigeration School has been providing HVAC training for 50 years and is one of the largest such institutions in the country. Contact RSI today to learn more about entering the HVAC industry.