Refrigerant – Everything You Need To Know About Topping It Up

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When your fridge stops cooling, sometimes that is a sign of leaking refrigerant. Ok great, so you call a refrigeration tech and he does a whole bunch of things before topping up the refrigerant. Make sure you understand why refrigeration technicians do what they do when topping up refrigerant and why it is important from a legal, health and environmental perspective.

When we talk about refrigeration equipment this encompasses all equipment that cools or freezes such as:

  • Ice machines
  • Refrigerators
  • Coolrooms
  • Freezer Rooms
  • Freezers
  • Refrigerated display cases

What is the impact of leaking refrigerant?

1. Increased Running Costs

Leaking equipment runs less efficiently and this causes greater electricity usage. Especially older equipment that may not be as energy efficient in the first place. The Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) is the industry body for the refrigeration and air conditioning industry in Australia, the last 10-15 years has seen rapid improvements to technology which improves operating efficiency saving you money in terms of running costs, saving you money over time and after the initial outlay of equipment purchase.

2. Increased Repair Costs

In most cases the cost to repair leaks exceed the cost to conduct planned maintenance services on a regular basis. In one case shared on ARC website, a South Australian Establishment had ongoing leaking of a major piece of refrigeration equipment which resulted in the facility having to close its doors while the system was replaced. This led to the loss of business and income for several months. This cost the owner far more than if they had appropriately maintained the equipment from day one.

3. Emission of Harmful Refrigerant – Your Health

Without knowing exactly what type of refrigerant your piece of equipment has, we can only comment generally on the effects to your health. Firstly, the impact on your health may be mild to severe depending on how much refrigerant you are exposed to. Generally, a small leak in your fridge will emit small amounts of gasses and only have a limited supply. Therefore, severe risks are present, but typically uncommon. Refrigerant is also heavier than air meaning that it will hang around the floor, so just be wary of pets or children who are more vulnerable. For signs and symptoms of refrigerant poisoning, have a look at this information on healthline, and for more information on refrigerant have a look at this information from Environment, Health and Safety Online.

4. Emission of Harmful Refrigerant – The Environment

When the refrigerant leaks out from your refrigerator, harmful gasses are emitted directly into the environment. Some types of refrigerant damage the ozone layer whilst others are potent greenhouse gasses. Read more about the impact of refrigerant on the environment from the Australian Government here.

Legislation helping to prevent harmful effects of refrigerant

There are certain laws that refrigeration technicians need to abide by. It also makes good sense to ensure that your refrigeration units are serviced regularly.

It is illegal to top up refrigerant without first checking for and repairing any leaks.

Arctick – The Australian Refrigeration Council specify:

“Not repairing a leaking system and topping it up with refrigerant is discharging a scheduled substance which is an offence under section 45B of the Ozone Act. It can result in a civil penalty of $63,000 for an individual and $315,000 for a business and, in some circumstances, can result in a criminal conviction. It’s also possible that an equipment owner, knowingly emitting refrigerant by failing to repair the system, could be found to be committing an offence under section 45B.”

Read more at the Arctick website here.

For this reason, refrigeration technicians are obligated and bound by the laws to ensure that they do their due diligence and check your equipment. It is always important to ensure that your refrigeration technician is RAC licensed with Arctick to ensure that they do the right thing by you and the legislation.

At mendr we check and hold a copy of all technician licenses to ensure that there is 100% compliance. Helping you to stay safe health wise and be compliant with all the legislation.

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