Skip To Content

What You Need to Know About CARB Refrigeration Regulations

Modified on

December 19, 2022

Commercial refrigeration regulations were introduced to California to help reduce the impact of refrigerant leaks on the environment. In recent years, several states have followed suit recently including Colorado and New York resulting in companies having to adapt quickly to a new way of refrigeration. This new wave of environmental protections stems from the damage to the ozone layer and pollution of the air attributed to the refrigerant in commercial refrigeration units. 

Refrigerants like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCS) can absorb infrared radiation and trap it in the atmosphere. A build-up of too much carbon dioxide and other toxins can increase the earth’s temperature, an effect called global warming. In addition, refrigerants erode the ozone layer that protects the planet from the sun’s more harmful ultraviolet light.

To better understand what different states are doing to regulate HFCS use and production, check out this interactive map.

What is CARB?

California established CARB back in the 1960s to address issues with air pollution in the state. The CARB program is currently an established department within the California Environmental Protection Agency.

The overall purpose of CARB is to:

  • Establish and maintain a healthy air quality throughout the state of California
  • Keep the public protected from any exposure to air contaminants
  • Come up with innovative ways to help residents and businesses comply with established air pollution regulations

What are CARB Refrigeration Regulations?

California created the Refrigerant Management Program (RMP) to cut back on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions tied to refrigerant leaks. It outlines how facilities can control refrigerant leaks through better detection and monitoring. Facilities are categorized based on the total refrigerant charge, or amount of gas used within the facility’s largest system.

  • Small — Over 50 to under 200 pounds of refrigerant
  • Medium — Over 200 and under 2,000 pounds of refrigerant
  • Large — Over 2,000 pounds of refrigerant

Refrigerant systems fall under a similar weight classification. Any systems that contain 50 pounds or less of high-GWP refrigerant fall under different regulations.

In addition, these facilities must take steps to address issues around refrigerants by:

Following proper detection and monitoring procedures

All RMP-regulated systems must undergo a regular leak inspection. However, the frequency of the inspections varies for different refrigerant systems depending on their category.

  • Large facilities — Non-enclosed systems or seasonal facilities must undergo an inspection every 90 days. Enclosed systems must use automatic leak detection that falls under RMP specifications. Any large systems operating after January 2012 should have an automatic leak detection system installed if the equipment is housed in a fully enclosed structure.
  • Medium facilities — Systems with automatic leak detection do not require periodic inspections. Those that do not must have one every 90 days or less.
  • Small facilities — Must have system inspections at least once every 365 days. There are none required for systems that have automatic leak detection that meets RMP specifications.

Repairing any detected leaks

CARB provides detailed guidelines on how to repair a refrigerant leak once one is detected. That includes:

  • Fixing all leaks within 14 days of detection
  • Referring to the special repair provisions if leaks cannot be fixed within 14 days.
  • Checking the system for leaks after repair.
  • Using only U.S. EPA-certified technicians.

If repairing the leak fails, then the facility is responsible for creating a retrofit and retirement plan. 

Retiring and retrofitting refrigeration assets as needed

In the event of a failed repair after following the guidelines outlined above, a plan to retrofit or retire a leaking system must be established and completed within 6 months of the initial leak being detected. Documentation regarding this action plan must be kept on at the facility with the refrigeration system that is being repaired or retrofitted. 

Keeping detailed reports and records around refrigerant tracking

Facilities must keep all service records for each refrigeration unit on-site for a minimum of 5 years, including those tied to:

  • Leak inspections
  • Installing, calibrating, and auditing leak detection systems
  • Shipping refrigerants to another location for reclamation or destruction
  • Calculating refrigerant capacity along with any other data or assumptions
  • Any retrofitting or plans to retire equipment

How Can You Ensure CARB Compliance?

Ensuring CARB compliance is a top priority of California facilities managers to avoid penalties, improve facility sustainability, and protect the environment. There are specific requirements that facilities must follow to ensure compliance with RMP regulations. The primary goals of the RMP is to help any companies that use industrial process refrigeration to:

1. Cut back on emissions of any refrigerants with heightened global warming potential (high-GWP).

2. Lower emissions.

3. Verify that there has been a notable reduction in GHG emissions. 

To meet these goals, facilities must have detailed and meticulous recordkeeping. As a result, many companies rely on facility management software to help them with this aspect of asset management.
Our ServiceChannel platform can support companies looking to ensure that refrigeration and air conditioning assets in their facility comply with CARB regulations. Learn more about how our software can assist facility managers in this effort by scheduling a demo of ServiceChannel.

Next, discover how to effectively manage and track compliance across your facilities.

More Refrigerant Regulation Resources

  • What Facility Managers Should Know About EPA Refrigerant Regulations
  • contact an expert

    Let’s talk

    Tell us about your challenges and we’ll help you craft the right solution so you can you hit your goals.