An estimated 33,300 chillers were still using chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants in 2004, after almost 3,000 were converted or replaced, according to a survey by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI). The use of CFCs was banned under the Montreal Protocol in 1995 due to concerns about CFCs eroding the Earth's ozone layer. Since then, 58% of the 80,000 CFC chillers in use at the end of 1995 have been replaced.

New non-CFC chillers reduce maintenance costs, use less electricity and are at least 40% more efficient than the CFC chillers installed 20 years ago, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). At the current pace, it will take more than 10 years to replace all the CFC chillers in operation today. The pace of the phase-out has been slower than expected, due in part to federal tax laws, which require depreciation of the chillers over 39 years, said ARI in a statement.

Congressman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) has introduced legislation, H.R. 1241, the “Cool and Efficient Buildings Act,” which will set the depreciation period from 39 years to 20 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.”

According to Hoekstra, “The current 39-year depreciation period on HVACR systems is not reflective of their average life span, and it is not cost effective. 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 that use HVACR equipment, ranging from large tonnage liquid chillers to unitary air conditioners and heat pumps.