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EPA 608 Type 1 Chapter 11 (Take full course for free)

In this module, we will take a look at safety equipment and practices that will help us avoid injury or harm. We will also discuss why we should never expose refrigerants to high temperatures. Skip to quiz!

1. Overview

As technicians, it is important to handle refrigerants carefully because they can be flammable, toxic, or both. Refrigerants are also stored in pressurized cylinders, so there is a risk of explosion.

Remember that the number one cause of death in the HVAC industry is oxygen deprivation. We can prevent this by following safety protocol in the case of refrigerant leaks.

2. Safety Equipment

Working with refrigerants requires that we use:

  • Safety eyewear, and

  • Butyl lined gloves

We need to make sure we are wearing both of these when connecting or disconnecting hoses, because that’s when we will come into contact with refrigerant.

Safety eyewear protects our eyes from potentially toxic chemicals and butyl-lined gloves prevents refrigerant burns or frostbite. Note that regular cloth gloves are not enough protection against refrigerant burns and frostbite! So make sure that your gloves are lined with butyl.

A self-contained breathing apparatus (or SCBA) is used to provide air that is safe to breathe in spaces where the atmosphere is immediately dangerous to life or health. If you know that refrigerant has leaked, you need to locate a SCBA and put it on.

If no SCBA can be located, you need to leave the space and ventilate it. SCBAs are needed when there is a leak but not needed for regular servicing.

When using nitrogen in our repairs, we want to make sure that the nitrogen tank has a regulator or relief valve. This is to guard against a sudden pressure build up that can cause explosions.

And lastly, we need to go over the use of safety markings with hydrocarbon refrigerants. Recall that hydrocarbons (HCs) are highly flammable refrigerants. Safety markings help to manage the risk of possibly igniting highly flammable HC refrigerants.

SNAP regulations require markings on equipment that contain hydrocarbon refrigerants. These markings are part of the use conditions for hydrocarbons in household refrigerators under SNAP. Appliance manufacturers are responsible for putting the safety markings in place to help technicians identify the risk.

When hydrocarbons are used in appliances, these areas need to be permanently marked:

  • On or near any evaporators

  • Near any exposed refrigerant tubing.

  • Near the machine compartment, and

  • On the exterior of the refrigerator.

3. Safety Procedure

A very large leak can cause suffocation because refrigerants are heavier than air and displace oxygen. This cuts off oxygen supply at ground level and causes suffocation.

The size of the space that the equipment is in affects the concentration of refrigerant in the air. For example, if the space is small, the amount of refrigerant fills up the room faster and reaches a higher concentration of refrigerant in the air if leaked.

If refrigerants are released, do not try to stop the leak! The most important thing is preserving your own life. You must first find and put on a SCBA. If no SCBA is available, then you must naturally ventilate the area to prevent an explosion. This includes opening any windows or doors to decrease the concentration of refrigerant in the air.

4. Handling CFCs and HCFCs

Recall that refrigerants are stored in pressurized cylinders. If subjected to high temperatures, refrigerant cylinders can explode and the refrigerant inside can decompose to toxic substances.

This is why we should never let refrigerants come into contact with

  • Open flames, or

  • Hot metal surfaces

At high temperatures, CFC and HCFC refrigerants decompose to hydrochloric acids and hydrofluoric acids. These acids can cause severe burns and can be fatal within hours. This is why we need to take care not to expose CFC and HCFC refrigerants to high temperatures, so they do not form these acids.

If a refrigerant contains chlorine, it will decompose to

  • Hydrochloric acids.

If a refrigerant contains fluorine, it will decompose to

  • Hydrofluoric acids.

CFCs and HCFCs are not flammable but they can be forced to burn in the presence of a flame. When we use welding torches to cut refrigerant piping, what is happening is we’re actually burning the piping at the cut.

There can be residual refrigerant in the piping that will burn along with the piping. This residual refrigerant will be forced to burn and if it is CFC or HCFC refrigerant, the refrigerants will burn to produce phosgene gas.

Phosgene gas is poisonous. In fact, phosgene gas was previously used as a chemical weapon in WWI. So we will want to avoid burning or heating up CFC and HCFC refrigerants.

5. Conclusion

In this module, we discussed the safety equipment we need to prevent refrigerant burns and in the case of refrigerant leaks. We also went over the dangerous chemicals that CFCs and HCFCs can produce if exposed to high temperatures or burned. This is why we cannot expose refrigerants to open flames or high temperatures.

Question #1: What is the number one cause of death in the HVAC industry?

  1. Heart attacks

  2. Refrigerant toxicity overload

  3. Fires

  4. Oxygen deprivation

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Oxygen deprivation

Oxygen deprivation is the number cause of death in the HVAC industry.

Question #2: Which of the following are needed to prevent refrigerant burns?

  1. Cotton gloves

  2. Butyl-lined gloves

  3. Triple layered gloves

  4. Any of the above

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Butyl-lined gloves

Only butyl-lined gloves will prevent from frostbite due to refrigerant burns.

Question #3: When do we need to use safety eyewear and butyl lined gloves?

  1. When testing the quality of refrigerant

  2. When moving refrigerant cylinders

  3. When connecting and disconnecting hoses

  4. When taring the refrigerant scale

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When connecting and disconnecting hoses

When we are connecting and disconnecting hoses, we are possibly coming into direct contact with refrigerant.

That’s why we need to be wearing safety eyewear and butyl lined gloves.

Question #4: What piece of equipment is needed on nitrogen tanks when using them to service an appliance?

  1. Refrigerant thermometer

  2. Pressure regulator

  3. Manual gauge

  4. All of these

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Pressure regulator

Pressure regulators or relief valves are necessary when using nitrogen tanks in service.

They prevent excessive pressure that can lead to explosions.

Question #5: Which of the following are areas that do not need to be marked for appliances that contain HCs?

  1. Outside the refrigerator

  2. Evaporators

  3. Exposed tubing

  4. Inside refrigerator door

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Inside refrigerator door

Permanent markings are needed in all of these areas except for inside the refrigerator door.

Remember that the purpose of these markings is to help the technician identify risk, and technicians are generally more concerned with the appliance components rather than the inside of a refrigerator.

Question #6: Safety markings used in appliances with hydrocarbon refrigerants are

  1. Applied by technicians to warn other technicians

  2. Permanently made on the equipment during manufacturing

  3. Have to be put on equipment permanently by technicians

  4. All of these

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Permanently made on the equipment during manufacturing

Permanent markings are already made on required components during their manufacturing.

Technicians just need to be aware of where they are.

Question #7: If refrigerant has been released, what is the first thing you should do?

  1. Locate an exit

  2. Locate a self-contained breathing apparatus

  3. Locate a specially contained breathing apparatus

  4. Locate the leak to stop the fill of dangerous refrigerant

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Locate a self-contained breathing apparatus

The first thing we should do if there is a leak is to locate a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).

Preserving life is our first priority.

Question #8: If we cannot find a SCBA, what should we do?

  1. Locate an exit

  2. Vacate the area

  3. Ventilate the area

  4. All of these

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All of these

If we cannot find a SCBA, we must leave the area to avoid danger and ventilate to prevent an explosion.

Question #9: At high temperatures, what do CFCs and HCFCs decompose to?

  1. Hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acids

  2. Hydrocarbon and hydrofluorocarbons

  3. Chloric and fluoric acids

  4. All of these

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Hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acids

At high temperatures, CFCs and HCFCs decompose to:

  • Hydrochloric acids and

  • Hydrofluoric acids

Question #10: Burning CFCs and HCFCs can

  1. Create toxic vapors that are harmful to inhale

  2. Will produce phosgene gas

  3. Result from cutting or welding pipes containing residual refrigerant

  4. All of these

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All of these

All of these are true.


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