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It has been suggested by at least one moderator on this site that EPA Section 608, which restricts who can purchase and handle refrigerant, including who can connect a set of manifold gauges to a unit, applies only to CFC and HCFC refrigerants (class I and II refrigerants).

Can someone please clarify if it is legal or illegal for a homeowner without an EPA license to attach his own manifold gauges to his own equipment if it is charged with an HFC such as 410a?

From reading sections of the statute (not just the EPA summary) it is my understanding that effective November 15, 1995, Section 608 applies not only to CFC and HCFC refrigerants, but also their "substitutes." [The EPA has separately stated the term "substitutes" is not meant to restrict the sale of refrigerants that do not contain Ozone Depleting Compounds, such as 410a. Federal Register/ Vol. 70, No. 70 / Wednesday, April 13, 2005 / Rules and Regulations / ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY /40 CFR Part 82 [FRL–7899–3]. ]

Best answer from the EPA website: http://www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/phaseout/technicians_contractors_faq.html

Is EPA technician certification required to service R-410A systems?

No, at this time EPA technician certification (i.e., EPA Section 608 certification) is not required in order to service R-410A systems or other stationary refrigeration and air conditioning systems containing HFCs.

It appears this activity is legal, provided the 410a is not intentionally released into the atmosphere. +100 to Tyler for being first and closest to this answer.

  • This seems more like a legal advice question – DarthCaniac Sep 1 '15 at 14:16
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    If it is illegal, it's not well enforced since R-140a is readily available online as are the gauge sets. – Johnny Sep 1 '15 at 14:59
  • @chris Also note that we are elected as moderators to the site based on our good looks, not on our knowledge of all aspects of the building trade. We're here to learn too, we just also have the responsibility of tidying up the site. – Tester101 Sep 1 '15 at 17:20
  • @Tester101- did you leave out "not" in your last comment regarding moderators? Just askin' – ojait Sep 1 '15 at 19:04
  • @ojait Are you saying we're not good looking? – Tester101 Sep 1 '15 at 20:41
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+100

The law against "unlicensed" refrigerant handlers (whatever that means) does not specify any penalties, it just says it is "prohibited", so from a legal standpoint it is an unenforceable law. In order for a law to be prosecuted it must have a penalty specified, otherwise it is moot in court. For this reason, noone has ever been indicted for violating this so-called "prohibition".

In general, only companies are sued by the EPA for refrigerant issues, not individuals, with the exception of refrigerant "smugglers" who are indicted on trade laws, not Clean Air Act violations. In the last 10 years only one (individual not company) person has ever been domestically convicted of a Freon-related violation. That was a guy who was brazenly selling Freon on Craigslist. Even in this case, he was convicted of filing false documents with the Feds, not of actually selling the Freon.

No individual householder has ever been criminally charged for maintaining, charging or otherwise working with refrigerants, illegal or otherwise, in their own home or business.

  • I believe there are fines associated with breaking the law, but I'm not a lawyer so I could be wrong. – Tester101 Sep 1 '15 at 17:36
  • @Tester101 If so, I could find neither a statement of those fines in US law, nor could I find any criminal case where an individual person was convicted and fined. – Tyler Durden Sep 1 '15 at 18:11
  • I agree that it's not likely that an individual would be prosecuted, but that's not what this question is asking. The OP is asking if there are laws against this activity, not whether or not they are enforced. – Tester101 Sep 1 '15 at 18:18
  • It would be hard to bring charges against an individual for not following refrigerant/ recharge protocol. Much easier on a business I would think. since the procedure is occurring frequently and more prone to mistakes. If you are doing this infrequently the pressing issue is are you taking steps to prevent health problems. – ojait Sep 1 '15 at 18:59
  • I am not enough of a legal expert to know if the EPA is bluffing regarding penalties, but I choose to believe the EPA when their own summary of the Section 608 law titled "Enforcement" says "EPA is performing random inspections, responding to tips, and pursuing potential cases against violators. Under the Act, EPA is authorized to assess fines of up to $37,500 per day for any violation of these regulations" – user39367 Sep 2 '15 at 2:40
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One main reason homeowners should not adjust the levels (charge or recover) is safety. You can mess with R410a or R134a however, it is strongly recommended not to. Refrigerants are commonly used at high pressures. Let's take the average residential AC for an example. The "low side" runs around 130 PSI and the high side can run in excess of 450 PSI. The pressure alone should be an indicator not to mess with but if you unintentionally release some refrigerant from the high side you are releasing liquid refrigerant, R410a at atmospheric pressure is -60°F. At that temperature you will give yourself serious burns. So word of advise from a pro, DON'T TOUCH IT. Vehicle systems are a different animal you can easily ruin the AC but it operates at pressures a lot lower than your house AC. It is also illegal and very much enforceable to release any refrigerant with chlorine or that has a GWP, such as everything except CO2 the finest are extreme, I think they can be in excess of $100,000

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For what its worth; I've seen all of the tools necessary to evacuate, collect, store and than recharge residential and automotive refrigerant systems sold on the open consumer market. Northern tools, Harbor freight... What I haven't noticed is the actual refrigerant; the old stuff the EPA banned (r-12?) nor the newer stuff (r-410?).

  • R410 canisters appear to be available on amazon in (at least) 2 and 25 pound sizes. – Dan Neely Sep 1 '15 at 18:01
  • That's right. Now that I think of it I tried purchasing a recharge kit for my truck , but they cancelled it when they saw I lived in California. Thank-you , Jerry Brown! – ojait Sep 1 '15 at 18:50
  • R134a for automotive use has a special exception. For example, it is permitted to sell small quantities of 134a to the unlicensed general public. – user39367 Sep 2 '15 at 2:37
  • It might be legal to sell any HFC refrigerants to the unlicensed public. The second paragraph "Refrigerant Sales Restrictions" in the Section 608 summary states: "The restriction [on sales] excludes refrigerant contained in refrigerators or air conditioners with fully assembled refrigerant circuits (such as household refrigerators, window air conditioners, and packaged air conditioners), and HFC refrigerants (such as R-134a and R-410A)." This is confusing paired with the statute language I mention in my question. No supply house I have used sells a 30lb bottle of HFC to someone unlicensed. – user39367 Sep 2 '15 at 2:51
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This is the important part below, IMO: (AFAIK, other then to work on commercial equipment, the certification allows you to buy refrigerant from compliant sellers requiring you to produce ID)

EPA has also established that refrigerant recovered and/or recycled can be returned to the same system or other systems owned by the same person without restriction. If refrigerant changes ownership, it must be reclaimed (i.e., cleaned to the ARI 700-1993 Standard of purity) by an EPA certified refrigerant reclaimer. –www.epa.gov 608fact.html

As long as your equipment is certified and up to date, you can put your refrigerant into any of your equipment (without having to send it off to be recovered).


Require persons servicing or disposing of air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment to certify to EPA that they have acquired refrigerant recovery and/or recycling equipment and are complying with the requirements of the rule.

Notice the wording here, "certify to" as opposed to "certified by" (what are you supposed to do, send them a letter?*) Also notice such wording as, "good faith attempt".

*Apparently, yes:

EPA requires that persons servicing, disposing, or recycling air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment certify to the appropriate EPA Regional Office that they have acquired (built, bought, or leased) refrigerant recovery or recycling equipment and that they are complying with the applicable requirements of this rule. This certification must be signed by the owner of the equipment or another responsible officer and sent to the appropriate EPA Regional Office.

Again, I'm a little fuzzy on this wording: "complying with the applicable requirements of this rule". Does that mean good faith attempt, or has at the very least a Type I certification...


Let's reword a little: Are you going to get into trouble for adjusting the refrigerant levels on your own equipment? I highly doubt it (frostbite, notwithstanding).

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    My question does not pertain to enforcement. Unless your neighbor is a spy for EPA, it is not likely anyone will report an unlicensed homeowner for servicing his own system. My question simply is: "Is this activity legal." – user39367 Sep 2 '15 at 2:56
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It seems that "epatest.com," a website by "Mainstream Engineering Corporation" unaffiliated with the EPA, believes purchasing 410a without a license is legal, but handling it without a license is illegal. From the website's FAQs on getting certified to handle 410a:

Are you required to have a license or to be certified to handle and purchase R-410A?

You are required to have an EPA Section 608 Type II or Universal certification license to handle R-410A but no license is legally necessary for purchase. A refrigeration supply house may have its own rules regarding who they are willing to sell R-410A to (they will typically require Section 608 Type II even though the EPA doesn’t require it for safety and liability reasons). "

The above information can be found at the following URL:

http://www.epatest.com/faq/R410A/#G1

Beats me how the EPA could possibly enforce this.

If you want to pass their certification test, "illegal" is the answer, but since they do not provide the reference to the actual EPA on this issue I am not going to count this as the correct answer to my question (hat tip to Tester101 for pointing this out).

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    epatest.com is not an official Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) site, it's owned by a company called Mainstream Engineering Corporation. There's even a disclaimer on the home page "This site is maintained by Mainstream Engineering Corporation and is not associated with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)." – Tester101 Sep 2 '15 at 8:36
  • Thanks for that. I suppose I cannot count this as the correct answer then. I imagine you can understand my confusion on this issue, however. – user39367 Sep 2 '15 at 14:49

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