This is an important and confusing question to answer. Especially if you need to buy some R410A refrigerant. If you get the wrong answer you could be breaking the law. I’ve been in this refrigerant licensing game from the beginning. If you think it’s confusing now, you should have been around in 1990 when they enacted Section 608 of the Clean Air Act.
Individuals without an EPA Certificate cannot legally buy R410A according to the EPA. I explain further down in this article how you can get your own certificate.
Having an EPA Card to buy Freon means you’re a certified technician and know how to properly handle refrigerants. On the other hand, not having an EPA certification doesn’t mean you don’t know how handle refrigerants, it just means you could be breaking the law if you buy more than the legal amount.
Yes you can buy refrigerant in small amounts of 2 lbs. or less without an EPA Certification. But these are automotive refrigerants available in auto parts stores and will not work in home or commercial air conditioners. In 1990 we used ozone depleting refrigerants in our homes and most small commercial buildings. They claim that R410A is not an ozone depleting refrigerant.
So naturally you would think you should be able to go right on down to your local HVAC supply house and buy some R410A, right? Not so. Let’s say you find some R410A at a garage sale or on the black market. I’m just assuming there is a black market for refrigerants. You think you’re home free already to go home and charge your own AC unit.
Did you know it’s also against the law to hook up refrigeration gauges to your own AC unit. True fact! The following quote is directly from the EPA’s website. It’s talking about mini splits but the same thing applies to whole house air conditioning systems.
You know one of the things that I first realized clear back in 1990, when all these regulations came into being, the EPA’s inability to regulate and enforce these laws. The way we were told it would all come down is that one company would spy on another or some neighbor (who understood the law) looking over a fence would turn in an unsuspecting service tech that was venting refrigerant into the atmosphere.
One of the other ways that the EPA would know if you follow the law was that if a technician owned a recovery machine and had tanks to recover refrigerant then everything is legit. So that means the EPA cops would have to sort of look into a technicians truck and determine if he’s legal by the presents of the proper equipment that it takes to handle refrigerant.
The one strong point of enforcement the EPA has is refrigerant sales restrictions. That link explains that you have to provide an EPA Certification to any supplier that sells refrigerant. Whenever I went to a new supply house to order materials and before I could open a new account, the first thing they ask for is my EPA Certification card.
Can I Buy R410A Refrigerant Online?
The following quote is from an online supplier named DHGate. If you enter dhgate.com and search for R410A and then go to the bottom of the page under “attentions” you can prove for yourself that the EPA is serious about the fact that only those who have gone to the effort to get an EPA Certification are going to legally buy R410A.
Here’s an interesting fact. When training first began for me anyway, way back when, they told us that R410A operated at such high pressures, compared to it’s predecessor R22, that a small (very small) leak could, if conditions were right, cut off a finger or penetrate the skin.
It’s true that R410A operates at a much higher pressure and has basically required a much better service hose connector, but the cutting of a finger thing has been pretty much disproven by years of that never happening. Or at least if it has, you have my phone number and you can correct me.
The point is though, R410A can be very dangerous if not handled correctly. Without the proper training it can cause great harm to ones self. We use to call refrigerants “freaky frost”. Without getting into the science of it all, refrigerants are very cold in liquid form, but you can seriously burn yourself if improperly used.
Can I Install An R410A Mini Split?
This goes back to that first quote in this article. Attaching and detaching service gauges to an appliance is prohibited by the EPA by anyone that is not certified by the EPA and carries a legitimate EPA Certification card.
I don’t know how all us old technicians lived so long without the help of the EPA. When I’m overwhelmed by regulation and rules seem to hit me from every angle, I’m reminded of a great book. Written in 1850 by a Frenchman by the name of Frédéric Bastiat called The Law.
Bastiat basically says that the day will come that one day you won’t be able to walk out your door without breaking a law. Everyone should read this. It’s a small book available on Amazon. You can check it out by going here.
How To Get A License To Buy Refrigerant
There are three ways to get your EPA Certificate. The first two cost some money, but the third choice if free.
- Go to osha.com and take the Certified Environmental Specialist Training. The test can cost as much as $300 but for those with more money than time it’s a good option.
- Go to Amazon.com and get the 2023-2024 EPA 608 Study Guide. It’s prep for the exam with practice questions and expert answer analysis. The book is about $25 and the exam may cost some more depending on where you take the test. You will have to find out who is offering the exam in your local area. Probably an HVAC supply house.
- Download an app on your phone called SkillCat and setup an account. When you’re all set up, choose a category. Obviously you will choose HVAC and choose 608. From there follow the directions.
There are four different types of certificates:
- Class 1 allows to work with small appliances. But not being able to dispose of them.
- Class 2 is for high pressure appliances and disposal. Your residential and light commercial systems.
- Class 3 is servicing and disposal of low pressure appliances.
- Universal Class covers all three.
This article is mainly looking at the class 2 or universal certificates. With either of those you can now go somewhere like Ability Refrigerants and purchase some R410A and safely (hopefully) attach gauges to your air conditioner and recover or add some gas. You can also buy a new mini split and hook up the refrigeration lines. Or you’ll have one of those licenses to help you start a new business.