If you are responsible for keeping track of refrigerant then you know full well how important it is to have a system that’s both easy to use and reliable. You will understand the need for a refrigerant usage tracking system that will support the refrigerant management strategy for your organization. However, have you ever considered other systems that are currently available or if you are new to refrigerant usage tracking – where should you start? Here we look at a number of possible systems and how they weigh up with the growing requirements for regulatory compliance.
Why Track Refrigerant Usage?
The main purpose of tracking your refrigerant usage is regulatory compliance. All refrigerant regulatory compliance requires some form of refrigerant usage tracking. For instance, the US Environmental Protection Agency Section 608 of the Clean Air Act (EPA 608) requires reporting on a variety of conditions including specific ‘Chronically leaking report’ which states that all notifications to be submitted electronically (unless there’s confidential information contained). The California Air Resources Board (CARB) Refrigerant Management Program (RMP) requires facilities with refrigeration systems containing more than 50 pounds of high GWP refrigerant to conduct and report: periodic leak inspections, promptly repair leaks and keep service records on site with an added requirement to minimize refrigerant emissions.
What Should a Tracking System Do?
You will need a system that can capture and report on a wide range of data such as what refrigerant you are using and how much, where your refrigerant is used across your site(s) and in what equipment. The system should also record when and where routine checks for refrigerant leaks took place. If a refrigerant leak was found, the system needs to record how the leak was resolved and when. Follow-up checks and actions are also required for compliance along with leak rate calculations across your organization, site or for specific pieces of equipment.
Last but not least, you never know when you’ll be asked to report on your refrigerant. That’s why your documentation and system should be able to create reports at a moment’s notice.
Refrigerant Tracking Options
A couple of sayings come to mind- ‘use the right tool for the right job’ and ‘you don’t need a sledgehammer to crack a nut’. The size and scale of your operation or organization will help you decide on what the right solution is for you.
Keep in mind how much time you have to track refrigerant and measure this against how practical the tool is for your needs along with efficiency. The options mentioned here all have their uses:
- Paper-trail Systems
- Building Management Software
- Refrigerant Usage Software
Let’s have a look at each of these in more detail.
Paper-trail systems such as on-site paper reports, log books and financial records are often dismissed although can play an important role in recording refrigerant usage tracking. On-site records are required and log books can be used effectively for recording a wealth of information.
Financial records and invoices can also be effectively used to show the cost of refrigerant and date of purchase. However, this does not necessarily allocate the refrigerant itself to the piece of equipment or site.
In practical terms, paper-trail systems are not scalable for larger organizations or enterprises and integrating with work scheduling activities can be cumbersome. However, for a single site with a small amount of equipment, paper-trail systems can be quite effective up to a certain point.
Spreadsheets are a great step-up from paper-trail systems and there are plenty of online spreadsheet solutions out there that allow multi-user access for teams.
Similarly, having the data available electronically means it’s scalable to a larger extent and can provide integration with calendars and work scheduling. However, to ensure regulatory compliance for workflows in relation to specific legislation, it’s important that the spreadsheet programmer is knowledgeable enough to ensure all the compliance steps are logged and maintained correctly.
Another consideration to make when deciding to use spreadsheets is who will be responsible for maintaining formulas and calculations when compliance regulations and reporting requirements change. In general, spreadsheets are great for small teams with a small number of sites and pieces of equipment per site but it is important to maintain your workflow to guarantee regulatory compliance.
Building Management Software
When looking for refrigerant usage tracking software for larger numbers of sites on an enterprise scale, with multiple pieces of refrigeration equipment, paper-trails and spreadsheets would be hard pushed to provide the efficiency you need.
Ideally suited for Facilities Managers to manage their building portfolios and enterprises, building management software as a whole can be extremely effective. When it comes to regulatory compliance, costs can begin to mount up if a modular approach to the software is taken by the development company. Along similar lines, development companies looking towards a full business management software suite may not be fully knowledgeable of changing regulatory compliance and may often create workflows that deviate from actual working methodologies within the refrigeration and HVAC industry.
Building management software can be a great route to take although it’s often noted that these systems are clunky to use- asking for too much data or too little data that can be effectively used for refrigerant regulatory compliance. Understandably, building management software works well at managing building controls but is generally not as effective as a purpose built refrigerant usage tracking system for compliance.
Specialized Refrigerant Usage Software
Specialized refrigerant usage software that helps you keep track of your refrigerant across your entire enterprise- including assets and sites can be seen as the holy grail for compliance. While often being fully accessible online, this solution can be ideal for remote refrigeration contractors and technicians as well as facility management teams.
Specialized refrigerant usage software can be perfectly aligned to your operational needs. The software is often developed by teams from within the refrigeration and HVAC industry, who know their regulatory compliance requirements- meaning that the system provides clear peace of mind for facility managers and refrigeration contractors alike. With “Goldilocks” data input requirement (not too much, not too little but just the right amount of data logging) to ensure regulatory compliance. This is especially useful for refrigeration contractors who require on-site data entry at a moment’s notice and not get bogged down entering irrelevant information- allowing more time fixing leaks than carrying out admin.
However, one thing to consider is cost. Similar to that of building management software, costs can be relatively high for specialized refrigerant usage software. Also take care in how costs are calculated, sometimes additional users, sites or equipment is chargeable as your organization grows. One good thing to know is that Bacharach’s Parasense Refrigerant Usage and Tracking Software is free to use and comes complete with a wealth of support information and videos to get you started in no time.
Maintain Regulatory Compliance
Before you decide which refrigerant tracking and compliance system is right for you or even before you begin to consider alternatives, definitely try out Bacharach’s free Refrigerant Usage Tracking and Compliance software. After all, the online software is available for free with full-feature capabilities and unlimited users, sites, and refrigeration assets.
Bacharach’s Parasense software is designed for facility managers and compliance officers who support multi-site organizations like supermarkets, food processing plants, cold storage warehouses, hospitals, universities, or K-12 schools. The software is also valuable for smaller organizations, as well as for mechanical and refrigeration contractors that want to offer refrigerant management as part of their service.
The software is also supported by professional services from the Parasense Information Center (PIC) team. The PIC team provides fee-based, value-added services such as data importing, pro-active data review and recommendations, periodic report preparation, and contractor coordination for timely completion of inspections, repairs, testing, and record-keeping. The combination of the software and the PIC team services provides a complete solution for enterprise-grade refrigerant tracking and compliance.
Ultimately, the decision is yours and if you can be sure that whatever system you adopt can keep you regulatory compliant while also keeping your organization growing then that can’t be a bad thing at all. ∎
Are you responsible for tracking your organization’s refrigerant usage? Let us know what systems / solutions you employ to maintain regulatory compliance in the comments below.