Hydrofluorocarbon transition

Ecology adopted a new rule in December 2020 to transition away from using potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (or HFCs) in products and equipment, starting Jan. 1, 2020.

HFCs are chemicals made up of hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon. They are commonly used in air conditioning and refrigeration, in producing insulating foams, and as propellants. These greenhouse gases are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

HFCs were designed specifically because they were thought to be less harmful to the earth's protective ozone layer. But now, HFCs are quickly building up in the atmosphere. If their use isn't stopped, HFC emissions will increase to 7–19% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In Washington, HFCs account for about 4% of overall greenhouse gas emissions.

A hydrofluorocarbon molecule

2021 HFC legislative changes

In May 2021, Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1050, which expands on the 2019 HFC restrictions. The new law directs Ecology to:

  • Set a maximum global warming potential (the impact of a greenhouse gas compared with carbon dioxide) for HFCs used in:
    • new stationary air conditioning equipment
    • new and existing stationary refrigeration equipment
    • ice rinks
  • Establish a refrigerant management program to address refrigerant emissions from large air conditioning and refrigeration equipment.
  • Recommend to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2021 how to manage end-of-life and disposal of refrigerants.

We plan to start this work in summer 2021.

The new law also:

  • Expands Washington Clean Air Act requirements for ozone-depleting substances to include HFCs.
  • Establishes a lower cost for state purchasing of recycled refrigerants.
  • Requires the State Building Code Council to develop new standards allowing substitutes with lower global warming potential than HFCs.

Legislative report

Read the January 2021 Report to the Legislature: The Hydrofluorocarbon Transition – Background and Recommendations for Incentive-Based Policies and Programs.

Reporting hydrofluorocarbons

All manufacturers must notify us about the status of each product class using restricted HFCs.

Next deadline

Status updates are due within 120 days of a product restriction date. For example, if a product were restricted on Jan. 1, then the status update for that product would be due by April 30 of that same year.

To report your status update:

  1. Fill out the notification form using Adobe Reader. (Do not use Adobe Pro.)
    • Check “update” instead of “initial notification.”
    • Check the year you are providing the update.
  2. Submit your completed notification form using our online reporting system.

Hydrofluorocarbons in commercial refrigeration manufacturing will be phased out over the next four years in Washington.

Transition timeline

By Dec. 31, 2019, all manufacturers were required to notify us about the status of each product class using restricted HFCs. 

The restrictions go into effect at different times for each product category:

  • Jan. 1, 2020 — propellants, rigid polyurethane, spray insulating foam, and new supermarket refrigeration systems
  • Jan. 1, 2021 — new refrigerated food processing and dispensing equipment, and compact residential refrigerators
  • Jan. 1, 2022 — new residential refrigerators, and new and existing vending machine
  • Jan. 1, 2023 — new uses in cold-storage warehouses and built-in residential refrigerators
  • Jan. 1, 2024 — new uses in centrifugal and positive displacement industrial chillers

* Refer to the law for the full list.

Complying with Washington's HFC law

The law focuses on reducing the use of HFCs in new equipment, so manufacturers and distributors must meet these requirements. In most cases, residents and businesses that own or use equipment containing HFCs will not need to do anything to obey the law.

Frequently asked questions

We answer common questions about which businesses are affected by the law and what they need to do to comply.