Hydrofluorocarbon transition

We 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 January 1, 2020. We announced another rulemaking in August 2021.

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, the governor signed the Hydrofluorocarbons – Emissions Reduction, Chapter 70A.60 RCW, which expands on the 2019 HFC restrictions. The new law directs Ecology to:

  • Set a maximum global warming potential (GWP) threshold for hydrofluorocarbons used in ice rinks.
  • Establish a refrigerant management program to address refrigerant emissions from large air conditioning and refrigeration equipment.
  • Recommend to the Legislature by December 1, 2021, how to manage end-of-life and disposal of refrigerants.

The new law allows Ecology to:

  • Set a maximum global warming potential (GWP) threshold for hydrofluorocarbons used in:
    • New stationary air conditioning equipment.
    • New stationary refrigeration equipment.

Starting July 25, 2021, the new law bans the sale and purchase of certain HFC refrigerants with high global warming potential as well as non-essential consumer products (like air horns and noisemakers) which contain high global warming potential refrigerants.

The new law also:

  • Requires the Washington Department of Enterprise Services (DES) to establish 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 reports

Reporting hydrofluorocarbons under the 2019 HFC law

All manufacturers must notify us about the status of each product class using restricted HFCs. Most HFCs used in regulated equipment categories are restricted.

Next deadline

Status updates are due within 120 days of a product restriction date. For example, if a product were restricted on January 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 under the 2019 HFC law

By December 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:

  • January 1, 2020 — propellants, rigid polyurethane, spray insulating foam, and new supermarket refrigeration systems
  • January 1, 2021 — new refrigerated food processing and dispensing equipment, XPS foam products (polystyrene extruded boardstock and billet), and compact residential refrigerators
  • January 1, 2022 — new residential refrigerators, and new and existing vending machine
  • January 1, 2023 — new uses in cold-storage warehouses and built-in residential refrigerators
  • January 1, 2024 — new uses in centrifugal and positive displacement industrial chillers

Refer to the full list of prohibited substitutes (WAC 173-443-040).

Frequently asked questions about compliance

We answer common questions about which businesses are affected by the 2019 law and what they need to do to comply. The answers apply to the current rule.  Current rulemaking may change the answers.