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Environmental Code of Practice for the Elimination of Fluorocarbon Emissions from Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Systems

4.0 Servicing

4.1 System Start-up

Before starting the system, the technician should be familiar with applicable regulations, this code of practice and the manufacturer's installation, operating and maintenance manuals. The objective of the start-up is to verify that all components and controls are in working order through functional performance testing. The following are good practices:

  • Ensure that the system meets all specification requirements.
  • Verify the installation of all components of the system, including piping, piping connections, anchors, hangers, vibration insulators and insulation.
  • Ensure proper labeling of the system and its components.
  • Confirm that electrical systems are properly wired. If operating on three-phase electrical power, confirm that the system shuts down if any one of the phases is opened.
  • Ensure that mechanical room safety features and ventilation are adequate.
  • Check and test all the system controls, detectors and actuators.
  • Compile test results and prepare a start-up report.
  • Create the service log for this system.

Refer to Section 4.9 – Charging and to the manufacturer's charging recommendations to complete the start-up. If the system is pre-filled, follow the manufacturer's recommendations for start-up.

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4.2 Preventive Maintenance Plan

Developing a preventive maintenance plan for all air conditioning and refrigeration systems will prolong their life and benefit the environment. The plan should consider the regulatory requirements of the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, and those found in provincial and territorial regulations with regards to:

  • environmental awareness certification,
  • installation, servicing and charging,
  • leak testing,
  • service log,
  • record keeping,
  • reporting.

To enrich the preventive maintenance plan, manufacturers’ recommendations should also be considered. The plan could contain the following:

  • Procedure to ensure that immediate steps are taken to stop refrigerant release.
  • Inventory of cooling systems other than small ones.
  • Frequency of inspections and test equipment calibration.
  • Procedure for tracking systems’ repairs and complaints to identify trends and to take appropriate action.
  • Resource allocations to carry out the planned preventive maintenance plan.
  • Procedure for implementation of inspections’ recommendations.

Ensure that the preventive maintenance plan is shared with employees and contractors.

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4.3 Inspection

A frequent walk-around is a simple, cost-effective manner of minimizing cooling system failures and refrigerant releases. In addition to the recommended manufacturers’ specifications, the following should be verified during an inspection:

  • Air flow around the system is unimpeded.
  • Area signs and system guards are in place and in working order.
  • Noise and vibration.
  • Air quality monitor in the mechanical room is functioning.
  • Refrigerant storage area.
  • Signs that zones in the occupied areas of buildings are being over or under cooled (for example, louvres sealed shut or improvised deflectors).
  • Signs of oil leakage, damage and corrosion.
  • Level on gauges and settings on sensors and controls.
  • Level and flow of fluid in sight glasses. Bubbles in the refrigerant can be an indication of low refrigerant levels.
  • Filter-dryer cores and/or desiccant.
  • Belts on belt-driven compressors are not worn or damaged. Ensure belts are aligned and tension is appropriate.
  • Ice build-up.
  • Condensate pan drain.
  • Schrader valves are capped to prevent dirt from entering. Metal caps with rubber inserts are preferred since they provide a good seal.
  • Refrigerator and freezer doors are properly sealed.

To complete the inspection, it is recommended to prepare a list of items verified and the recommended actions.

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4.4 Leak Testing

Under the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, a leak test must be performed before charging a cooling system. A leak test can also be done at any time to determine if a cooling system is losing refrigerant.

Provinces and territories may also have requirements regarding leak testing.


The Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, requires that a leak test be performed at least once every 12 months. Leak testing frequency could be increased for systems that operate under harsh conditions. Under these regulations, small air conditioning or refrigeration systems do not need an annual leak test (for example, sealed packaged units like window air conditioners, water coolers, vending machines and domestic refrigerators). Air conditioning systems that are designed for occupants in motor vehicles are also exempt from the 12-month provision.

Leak Testing Procedure

Under the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, CFCs are not to be used for the purpose of leak testing. Furthermore, it is a best practice not to use any halocarbon for leak testing purposes. Some cooling system components are more prone to leaks and should be given particular attention; for example, piping and device connections (valves, sight glass, gauges, etc.), gaskets, and seals.

A leak testing procedure typically includes the following steps:

  1. Look for signs of staining or oil deposits.
  2. Ensure that the mechanical room is not contaminated with refrigerant before leak testing.
  3. Shield the area when leak testing in windy conditions (for example, using a tarp).
  4. Leak test the components of the cooling system that come in contact with a halocarbon, using one or a combination of the following methods:
    • electronic leak detector with a suitable minimum detection level,
    • ultraviolet fluorescent dye leak detector,
    • bubble test (soap and water solution),
    • water immersion test for parts that have been removed.
  5. Notify the owner if a leak is detected.
  6. Affix a leak test notice as prescribed in the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, or the applicable regulations.
  7. Update the service log as prescribed in the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, or the applicable regulations.
  8. Repair the leak if one was detected.

Note that for some systems, the high and low sides equalize on shutdown. The static pressure normally is enough to locate leaks.

On hot-gas type systems, the low-pressure side could be pressurized before leak testing the evaporator, heat exchanger, thermostatic expansion valve or solenoid valve by short-circuiting hot gas to the low-pressure side. The pressure cannot exceed the pressure of the relief devices.

On sub-atmospheric systems, the evaporator water temperature can be raised a few degrees to facilitate leak testing.

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4.5 System Leak Repair

Before initiating a repair, it is recommended to consult the system's record which could indicate that additional measures have to be considered.

It is recommended to proceed with the repair if it can be done immediately, for example, if the leak is simply due to a loose mechanical connection which requires tightening.

Otherwise, the procedure typically includes the following steps:

  1. Isolate the leaking portion of the system and recover the halocarbon from that portion, or recover the halocarbon from the whole system.
    • The refrigerant is recovered into a container designed and manufactured to be refilled and to contain that specific type of halocarbon as prescribed in the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003.
  2. Repair the leak. For example, repair Schrader valves using tools that allow replacement of the valve core while the system is under pressure if the valve is leaking.
    • Brazing or welding is usually preferred for leak repair of piping.
    • Replace components that have rusted or leaking casings.
  3. Conduct the standard test:
    • standing vacuum test to 75 μm Hg (3 in Hg) for 15 minutes, or
    • standing pressure test at 1034 kPag (150 psig) of dry nitrogen for 24 hours.
  4. Leak test the system.
  5. Affix a leak test notice as prescribed in the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, or the applicable regulations.
  6. Charge the system.
  7. Update the service log as prescribed in the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, or the applicable regulations.
  8. Run the system in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations (4 to 48 hours) and confirm the system is not leaking.

Note that if the leak cannot be repaired, the refrigerant has to be recovered and the system disposed of in accordance with applicable regulations.

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4.6 Sealants

When a sealant is added in a system, it will seep out of any small holes or cracks and will solidify and seal the hole on contact with air. Because a sealant will continue to work on subsequent small holes and cracks, it may conceal the deterioration of a component of a system and lead to a larger leak in the future. Sealants with an ultraviolet dye can reveal locations where leaks were sealed.

Sealants should only be considered for use in remote locations and in emergency situations on mobile systems as well as for systems such as vending machines, ice cream display cases and water coolers. Affix a label to the system when a sealant is added.

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4.7 Recovery, Reuse, Recycling and Reclaiming of Refrigerants

In accordance with applicable regulations, refrigerant recovered from a cooling system may be:

  • reused,
  • recycled,
  • reclaimed, or
  • disposed of.

It is prohibited to vent a halocarbon in Canada. The recovery equipment is expected to be in good working order before use. The extraction efficiency has to meet the standards set for the jurisdiction in which the work is performed.

If not contaminated, the recovered refrigerant can be reused in the same system.

Refrigerant Recovery Methods

There are two acceptable methods of recovering refrigerants from cooling systems: active recovery and adsorption recovery. There are two types of active recovery: in type 1, the active recovery equipment simply recovers the refrigerant. The refrigerant is returned to the same system or a similar system in the organization. In type 2, the active recovery and recycle equipment recovers refrigerants and improves their quality by removing particulate matter, moisture, acid and oil. The refrigerant is of superior quality to that removed by type 1. This method usually will not remove ultraviolet dyes and sealants. The adsorption recovery method transfers the refrigerant to a container with resin, which is then sent to the supplier to reclaim the refrigerant.

Recovery Equipment

Select the appropriate recovery equipment for the planned work and consider the following best practices:

  • The equipment has been serviced by:
    • emptying oil containers,
    • changing compressor oil,
    • replacing dryers,
    • replacing filters before each service job, and
    • checking equipment including hoses for leaks.
  • The equipment meets recovery standards for extraction efficiency.
  • The equipment is not cross-contaminated with other refrigerants.
  • The equipment is intended for the type of refrigerant being processed and will clean the refrigerant to meet the required specifications.

Refrigerant Recovery Containers

Recovery containers are grey and yellow, and when they are used to recover a refrigerant, they are labeled to identify the refrigerant they contain. Generally, they are not identifiable by the designated American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) refrigerant colour. There are several types of containers:

  • Recovery drums are grey with a yellow cover and are used for liquid refrigerants.
  • Recovery cylinders are grey with a broad yellow band on the top and have a two-way liquid/vapour valve.
  • Ton tanks are grey with a broad yellow band around the end and are used to recover larger quantities of refrigerant from cooling systems to facilitate the reuse of a refrigerant following servicing.
  • Molecular sieve or resin adsorption containers are not pressure cylinders and are approved for refrigerant recovery by Transport Canada. Recovery containers may be exposed to contaminants that could compromise their integrity.

The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act has specifications for refrigerant recovery containers. Refer to Section 4.10 – Handling and Storage of Refrigerants for more information on refrigerant containers.

Recovery Procedure

A recovery procedure typically includes the following steps:

  1. Ensure that the recovery containers used are appropriate and are in good condition. Pressure vessels are the preferred type of recovery container for all types of refrigerants, including liquid.
  2. Fill the recovery container with only one type of refrigerant (do not mix refrigerants).
  3. Place the recovery container on a portable weigh scale to avoid overfilling.
  4. Allow a vapour space of at least 10% of the drum height when filling a drum with a low-pressure refrigerant if using a recovery drum for a liquid refrigerant.
  5. Ensure that the designed maximum working pressure that is stamped on the cylinder or ton tank is never exceeded during recovery, even temporarily.
  6. Consider that the weight-carrying capacity of a recovery container may be influenced by certain factors. Refrigerant/oil mixtures have a lower density than refrigerant alone, and therefore the weight-carrying capacity of a recovery container will be reduced. Usually a good practice is:
    • not to exceed 80% of the maximum net weight capacity, stamped on the upper portion of a recovery cylinder, for ambient temperatures of around 21°C (70°F); or
    • not to exceed 60% of the maximum net weight capacity if the ambient temperatures could reach 49°C (120°F).
  7. Supervise the whole recovery operation; do not leave equipment unattended.
  8. Open valves slowly on the recovery cylinder or ton tank.
  9. Label the recovery container to indicate the type of refrigerant, including any information about additives that may be contained in the recovered refrigerant (for example, ultraviolet dye or sealant).
  10. Track the weight of the recovered refrigerant.

According to the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, before dismantling, decommissioning or destroying a system, a label indicating that the refrigerant has been removed must be affixed. Some provincial and territorial regulations may have a similar requirement. If the recovered refrigerant is contaminated, it should be sent to be reclaimed or disposed of in accordance with the applicable regulations.

It is best practice to warm the system using the oil sump heater or with indirect heat to recover refrigerant from oil before it is removed. Open flame cannot be used. Oil in the crankcase can also be heated to vaporize residual refrigerant. For low-pressure systems, the evaporator temperature can be raised using hot water.

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4.8 Cleaning

Repairing a system after it has been contaminated by a compressor failure or conversion of systems from HCFC/mineral oil to HFC/polyolester oil typically includes a thorough cleaning by flushing. Older servicing equipment may not be compatible with new refrigerants, and therefore new hoses, seals and O-rings may be necessary.

Generally, the procedure is as follows:

  1. Recover refrigerant and oil.
  2. Flush system.
    • Use procedures recommended by the manufacturer.
    • Use a non-ozone-depleting flushing agent approved for the refrigerant and oil being cleaned.
    • Use a liquid flushing agent from a pressurized container, since flushing agents in open containers can be contaminated with the moisture in the air. Biodegradable flushing agents with boiling points in the order of 85 to 90°C (185 to 195°F) work efficiently and thoroughly.
    • Flush system until the flushing agent is contaminant free. Note that flushing will remove both the refrigerant and oil.
  3. Remove flushing agent.
    • Draw a vacuum to 500 μm Hg (20 in Hg) to ensure that the entire flushing agent has been removed.
  4. Change components.
    • Disassemble the system one section at a time and change components as necessary. Consider replacing the filter-dryer. It is best practice to replace any removed gaskets with new ones.
  5. Reassemble system.
  6. Conduct the standard test:
    • standing vacuum test to 75 μm Hg (3 in Hg) for 15 minutes, or
    • standing pressure test at 1034 kPag (150 psig) of dry nitrogen for 24 hours.
  7. Leak test the system.
  8. Affix a leak test notice as prescribed in the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, or the applicable regulations.
  9. Charge the system.
  10. Update the service log as prescribed in the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, or the applicable regulations.
  11. Run the system in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations (4 to 48 hours) and confirm the system is not leaking.

Other Systems

Auxiliary receivers or specially approved ton tanks may be used to recover refrigerant from cooling systems to facilitate the reuse of the refrigerant after servicing. It is best to clean each section of a system separately. Consider taking the component to be cleaned off-site.

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4.9 Charging

Generally, the procedure is as follows:

  1. Ensure that the system is clean and free of moisture. If necessary, flush the system.
  2. Ensure that charging equipment materials are compatible with the refrigerant.
  3. Install either self-reseating or isolation valves at 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12") from the end of the charging lines.
  4. Use quick disconnect fittings with one-way valves.
  5. Install a new filter-dryer in the system.
  6. Ensure that refrigerant containers are not connected to a system at a higher pressure.
  7. Conduct the standard test:
    • standing vacuum test to 75 μm Hg (3 in Hg) for 15 minutes, or
    • standing pressure test at 1034 kPag (150 psig) of dry nitrogen for 24 hours.
  8. Leak test the system.
  9. Affix a leak test notice as prescribed in the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, or the applicable regulations.
  10. Weigh refrigerant container to determine the quantity of refrigerant in the container.
  11. Charge the system. Add refrigerant slowly to pressurize the system one component at a time.
    • Adjust the refrigerant charge to the correct pressure settings as indicated by the system manufacturer. Note that the charge of refrigerant in systems assembled with pre-charged components may need to be adjusted.
  12. Measure the refrigerant charged using a scale or a volumetric charging device.
  13. Run the system in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations (4 to 48 hours) and confirm the system is not leaking.
  14. Update the service log as prescribed in the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, or the applicable regulations. Note the quantity charged into the system and type of refrigerant. Also consider noting the quantity and type of oil and additive added to the system (if applicable).
  15. Label the system with weatherproof, permanent labels indicating the date, refrigerant type and charge, and oil type and quantity. If an ultraviolet dye has been added to the charge, include this information on the label as well.

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4.10 Handling and Storage of Refrigerants

Various types of containers are used to store virgin or recovered refrigerants in the liquid or gas state. They vary in size, shape and pressure rating. Refrigerant containers can be colour-coded to identify which refrigerant or blend they contain. All refrigerant containers should meet the Canadian Transport Commission specifications under the federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.

Refillable refrigerant cylinders need to be visually inspected and re-qualified as stated in the applicable jurisdiction. Many of the refillable refrigerant cylinders sold in Canada are white with a label that is colour-coded and/or that indicates which refrigerant the cylinder contains.

According to the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, a refrigerant must be recovered into a container designed and manufactured to be refilled and to contain that specific type of halocarbon.

Refer to Section 4.7 – Recovery, Reuse, Recycling and Reclaiming of Refrigerants for information on refrigerant recovery containers.

Storage of Refrigerants and their Containers

Best practices for refrigerant containers usually include:

  • protection from rusting,
  • leak-free,
  • storing upright and securely with all valves and bungs closed, and
  • storing away from any source of heat or where temperatures could exceed 51°C (125°F).

It is recommended that storage, handling and servicing areas be:

  • smoke-free,
  • fenced, labeled and protected from vandalism and weather,
  • well-ventilated, cool and dry, away from risk of fire, sources of direct heat and direct sunlight, and
  • monitored when large quantities of refrigerant containers are stored.

In addition to general handling and storage practices, fire protection requirements for refrigerants that are flammable should be met, including the following:

  • Cylinders should be stored at least 3 m (10 ft) from other buildings and be electrically grounded, and the grounding should be checked periodically for corrosion.
  • All electrical equipment should be appropriately rated.
  • The area should be labeled appropriately.

Handling and Transfer of Refrigerants

The following are best practices for handling and transfer of refrigerants:

  • Handle refrigerant containers carefully, avoiding dragging, dropping and denting, and secure containers in place. When not in use, close container valves and screw on the valve outlet cover nut or cap.
  • Use a pump and weigh scale when transferring refrigerant in order to prevent releases and to prevent overfilling the container. A pressure differential can be established between the containers using a pump or by heating the discharge container under controlled conditions. The discharge container can be indirectly heated by warm water or forced warm air to a maximum of 49°C (120°F). Do not use direct heating, with the exception of plug-in charging cylinders (dial-a-charge). Avoid mixing refrigerants in one container. Ensure the container is colour-coded and labeled accordingly.
  • Handling procedures for refrigerants that are flammable are similar to those for other flammable substances:
    • Ensure that handling is conducted in a well-ventilated area.
    • Ensure that no ignition sources are within 3 metres.
    • Ground and bond all components, including charging rigs and cylinders.
    • Wear required personal protective equipment such as gloves, glasses and non-static clothing.

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4.11 Release Reports

The Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, and most Canadian jurisdictions have halocarbon release reporting requirements for cooling systems. Some require that releases over a certain quantity, usually 10 kg, be reported to the authorities. Cooling system owners should be familiar with the halocarbon release reporting requirements in their applicable jurisdictions.

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4.12 Record Keeping

According to the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, cooling system owners have to maintain a service log to record the installation, servicing, leak testing, charging or any other work done on the cooling system that could result in the release of a halocarbon. Records may also be kept on refrigerant storing containers. The service log has to be updated each time the system is leak tested and serviced. Templates are available upon request to Ideally, an up-to-date service log would be kept close to the system. A copy can be attached to service contracts for background information on the history of servicing and preventive maintenance. Consult the provincial or territorial regulations for other potential record keeping requirements.

Consumption Reports

Some jurisdictions require annual reports of refrigerant consumption.

Record Retention

The Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, and some jurisdictions require cooling system owners to keep at the system site, for a specified period of time, all service logs, notices, records and reports.

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4.13 Conversion of a System to an Alternative Refrigerant (Retrofit)

One of the best ways to reduce the environmental impact of ozone-depleting substance releases is to convert the cooling system to a system that uses a refrigerant with a significantly lower ozone-depleting potential.

Owners of multiple cooling systems should consider developing a long-term strategic plan for their upgrade.

When deciding whether or not it is beneficial to retrofit a cooling system, ensure that a person knowledgeable in the cooling industry participates in the decision-making process. Owners can consider taking the following steps:

  • Consult the system manufacturer to assess the feasibility of a retrofit.
  • Confirm that the cooling need is the same; if not, recalculate it.
  • Assess the condition of the existing system.
  • Perform a life-cycle cost analysis to determine if replacing the existing system with a more efficient one could result in a reduced cost over the life of the system.
  • Consider the energy efficiency of the options being considered.
  • Consider that HCFC (including R-22) and blends containing HCFCs will only be allowed to be imported until 2020.

If it is determined that retrofitting the existing cooling system is the best alternative, consider the following in the selection of an alternative refrigerant and oil:

  • Consulting the system manufacturer and refrigerant manufacturers.
  • Examining the ozone-depleting potential, global-warming potential and toxicity of the alternative.
  • Reviewing the effects on system efficiency.
  • Examining the compatibility with all system components.

Conversion of a system operating with CFC/HCFC refrigerant to HFC refrigerant may lead to:

  • changing seals and gaskets,
  • adjusting controls,
  • changing to synthetic lubricants.

Conversion of a system operating with HFC refrigerant to hydrocarbons (HC) refrigerant may lead to:

  • changing key components of the system,
  • upgrading the facility to meet requirements for explosion proofing.

A conversion kit may be available from the manufacturer to assist in the conversion of a system. It may even be specific to the model and application. Retrofitting a system may be an opportunity for using improved components, such as high-efficiency motors or more efficient condensers.

Retrofit steps to follow:

  1. Have a certified technician perform the retrofit. Under the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, and most provincial and territorial ozone-depleting substances regulations, the recovery of halocarbon refrigerants requires a certified technician.
  2. Ensure the system is in working order.
  3. Recover refrigerant and oil.
  4. Clean and flush the system.
  5. Perform the retrofit as instructed by the system manufacturer; replace all components that are not compatible. Conversion kits may be available, particularly for domestic systems.
  6. Leak test the system.
  7. Affix a leak test notice as prescribed in the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, or the applicable regulations.
  8. Charge the system.
  9. Update the service log as prescribed in the Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, or the applicable regulations.
  10. Run the system in accordance with the system’s recommendations 4 to 48 hours and confirm the system is not leaking.
  11. Ensure proper handling and disposal of refrigerant.
  12. Label the system to indicate the type and amount of new refrigerant.

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4.14 Shut Down

For a system, other than a small system, which will be shut down for an extended period of time, consider isolating the refrigerant in the system's receiver or recovering it to approved storage containers.

Where a system has had its refrigerant removed, and that system may be used again in the future, it can be charged with dry nitrogen or dry air to help prevent its contamination. Storing out of service cooling systems inside a heated building should be considered.

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4.15 Decommissioning

When decommissioning, putting out of service or disposing of a system, the following steps need to be considered:

  • Recovering the refrigerant and oil.
  • Storing refrigerant in approved containers.
  • Labelling the system to indicate that the refrigerant has been removed. Labels have to conform to the requirements of the applicable jurisdiction.
  • Labelling refrigerant containers.
  • Retaining proof that the refrigerant has been recovered from the cooling system.

Domestic appliances (for example, refrigerators) that contain a refrigerant should be handled with care and they may have to be brought to a pre-assigned site for the recovery of the refrigerant. In some cases, the refrigerant can be removed first, in accordance with the applicable regulations.

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4.16 Disposal of Refrigerant

When a refrigerant is contaminated and can no longer be used, return it to a refrigerant wholesaler or an approved facility to be recycled, reclaimed or destroyed; it can also be sent to a hazardous waste disposal center. The oil has to be disposed of in accordance with the applicable regulations.

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Part 2 – Mobile Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Systems (Mobile Cooling Systems)

Mobile systems include air conditioning and refrigeration systems (mobile cooling systems) in:

  • refrigerated transport trucks and transport trailers (“reefers”),
  • rail cars, intermodal containers, ships, aircraft,
  • automotive vehicles,
  • trains, buses, trucks, agricultural equipment, cranes and other.

The basic principles that apply to stationary cooling systems as described in this code of practice can also be applied to mobile cooling systems. This section covers aspects that are specific to mobile systems.

Mobile cooling systems have become more reliable and efficient in recent years; however, they are subjected to greater and more frequent vibration forces than stationary cooling systems. They operate in a more aggressive environment due to rain, dust, debris and road or marine salt. Therefore, these systems may be more prone to failure.

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