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The American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act was passed by Congress and signed into law in December 2020. The main goal of the AIM Act is to phasedown the usage of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in various industries to combat the environmental impacts of HFCs and pave the way for new innovations. Since there is so much discussed in this new law, we have compiled a brief AIM act summary to give you a better understanding of why the AIM Act was created, what is included in the AIM Act, and how these new regulations affect the fire suppression industry.

What is the AIM Act?

The EPA AIM act was created to establish a plan for reducing hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants and transition to new technologies that do not use HFCs.

According to the EPA, “the AIM Act directs the EPA to address HFCs by providing new authorities in three main areas: to phasedown the manufacturing and consumption of listed HFCs, manage these HFCs and their substitutes, and facilitate the transition to next-generation technologies.”

What are Hydrofluorocarbons Used In?

As listed on the EPA’s website, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are greenhouse gases (GHGs) that are used by many industries in the following applications:

  • Refrigeration
  • Air-conditioning (AC)
  • Building insulation
  • Fire extinguishing systems (FM-200™ is considered an HFC)
  • Foam blowing agents
  • Aerosol propellants

How Does HFC Contribute to Global Warming?

HFCs are potent greenhouse gases which that can be hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2). According to Science Britannica, the average 100-year global warming potential (GWP) of HFCs was estimated to be 3,770 times that of CO2 - which is the standard reference chemical for GWP calculations. However, warming potential does vary greatly for the individual HFCs. You can learn more about hydrofluorocarbons and their effects on the environment here.

Benefits of the AIM Act

Although a phasedown might sound intimidating, there are many benefits associated with the AIM Act’s HFC regulation besides reducing their contribution to global warming. We’ve listed just a few below.

AIM Act Timeline

The AIM Act’s goal is to phasedown 85% of annual HFC production and consumption by 2036. The AIM act HFC phasedown will officially begin in January 2022 - here is a breakdown of what the AIM Act HFC phasedown timeline looks like:

  • January 2022: 10% phasedown
  • January 2024: 40% phasedown
  • January 2029: 70% phasedown
  • January 2034: 80% phasedown
  • January 2036: 85% final phasedown

The EPA is scheduled to send allowances for HFC usage starting October 1, 2021. These allowances will differ depending on the company’s past consumption and production of HFCs. In addition, there are a few exceptions to this rule. These exceptions include mission-critical military applications and onboard aerospace fire suppression applications which are both allotted specific allowances within the broader phasedown structure until 2027.

How Does the AIM Act Affect Fire Suppression?

The AIM Act lists specific HFCs that are commonly used in fire suppression which means the fire suppression industry will need to make some adjustments and new technologies to accommodate these regulations.

Here is a specific list of HFCs used in fire suppression systems:

  • HFC-227ea
  • HFC-125
  • HFC-236fa
  • HFC-23

All of these HFCs are part of the AIM Act’s phasedown process. FM-200™ is a popular HFC-227ea fire suppression agent that is affected by phasedown. While it does fall under the AIM, it does not mean that is not readily available. Over the next 14 years, it will be a part of the phasedown, similar to Halon, and as it is depleted, alternatives will be and are currently available.

Although there are already some viable replacements for HFCs. For example, the 3M™ Novec™ 1230 Fire Protection Fluid has a much smaller GWP impact compared to HFCs and CO2 sets the standard of 0 for the GWP calculations. Both can be effective alternatives that are currently used throughout the fire suppression industry. 

If you are interested in an in-depth overview of the AIM Act and its HFC phasedown program, visit the EPA website. As a leader in the fire suppression industry, Firetrace is excited to see where the AIM Act takes us all. Whether you have questions about the AIM act or any/all things fire suppression, you can trust our experts.

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