Manufacturers of chillers used for comfort cooling in buildings replaced or converted 2,585 units that use chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants during 2003, leaving an estimated 36,200 chillers still using them. CFCs were banned from production in the United States at the end of 1995 due to concerns about erosion of the Earth's protective ozone layer.

The annual survey of chiller manufacturers by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) showed that building owners in the United States, as of Jan. 1, had replaced or converted 43,774 units or 55% of the original 80,000 CFC chillers.

ARI said that during 2003 there were 187 conversions and 2,398 chillers replaced with non-CFC equipment utilizing alternative refrigerants accepted for use by the EPA.

Four U.S. House members led by Congressman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), an active member of the Congressional Manufacturing Caucus, have introduced H.R. 3953, the “Cool and Efficient Buildings Act,” to set the depreciation period at 15 years for “any property which is part of a heating, ventilation, air conditioning, or refrigeration system and which is installed on or in a building which is non-residential real property.”

“The current 39-year depreciation period on HVACR systems is not reflective of their average life span, and it is not cost effective,” Hoekstra said in a statement. “The Cool and Efficient Buildings Act will provide an incentive for businesses to invest in new equipment, which will save businesses money in the long run and provide another stimulus to the U.S. economy.”

The legislation notes that the tax code change would decrease the nation's energy consumption by taking advantage “of the remarkable increase in energy efficiency due to technological advances” achieved by the air conditioning industry.

A wide range of non-residential buildings would qualify for the new depreciation rate including offices, malls, airports and factories, where HVACR equipment plays a key role in increased productivity and makes possible use of heat-sensitive computers and telecommunications gear.

Members of the House joining Hoekstra as initial sponsors of the bill are: U.S. Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.); Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio); and Donald A. Manzullo (R-Ill.). The legislation has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.