In California, it’s the new law for refrigerant use

The new year brought some new legal requirements into effect in California, and we’re already getting phone calls. Simply stated, the rules for the sale of refrigerant in “small cans” have changed, and the change affects wholesalers, retailers and end-users. 

These requirements apply ONLY to containers over two ounces and less than two pounds; it does NOT have any effect on the common  refrigerant “jug” bought by most shops. The entry below is directly from the state’s Air Resources Board website, under the FAQ tab.

Regulation Concerning the Sale and Use of Small Containers of Automotive Refrigerant


Reducing Climate Change Emissions from Do-It-Yourself Automobile A/C Re-Charging

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has adopted a regulation to reduce refrigerant emissions

from the do-it-yourself servicing of motor vehicle air conditioners (MVAC) such as those in cars and pickup trucks. This regulation became law in the state of California on October 1, 2009.

What is the purpose of this regulation?

The purpose of the regulation is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). The current automotive refrigerant (R-134a) is a highly potent GHG. The global warming potential (GWP) of the refrigerant in a single 12-ounce container is equivalent to the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from a typical California automobile driven over 1,000 miles. The regulation will help prevent unnecessary releases of the refrigerant to the atmosphere and applies to automotive refrigerants with a GWP value greater than 150. It applies to containers holding more than two ounces and less than two pounds of refrigerant by weight.

Who must comply with the regulation?

This regulation will affect retailers who sell the product, and companies that package, distribute, or market the small cans of refrigerant, and the consumers who recharge MVAC systems using this product.

What does the regulation require?

The regulation has four requirements:

            • Use of a self-sealing valve on all containers,

            • Improved labeling instructions,

            • A recycling program for used containers, and

            • An education program that emphasizes best practices for vehicle recharging.

Manufacturers will submit an application to ARB to certify their small cans prior to sale in California.

Self-sealing valve and improved labeling

Manufacturers and packagers must install a self-sealing valve on all small containers subject to this regulation to prevent refrigerant from venting to the atmosphere. They must also use improved labeling on small containers, including improved instructions for use, and a statement that it is illegal to destroy or discard the container or its contents.

Recycling program

The recycling program involves consumers, retailers, and manufacturers. A $10 deposit will be required for each container of automotive refrigerant at the time of purchase. Containers are required to be returned within 90 days with a valid, retailer’s proof of purchase for refund of the deposit. Retailers will collect all used small containers from consumers and return them to the original manufacturer for recycling.

Manufacturers will then recover any refrigerant remaining in the container and recycle the steel can. Manufacturers, distributors, retailers (upon ARB request), and recyclers must report to ARB sales data, the number of returned containers, and  the amount of refrigerant recycled annually. The consumer deposit is adjustable and can be raised or lowered depending on whether the container recycling rates fails to meet or exceeds certain targets respectively.

Education Program

The education program will be administered by manufacturers and producers. It is their responsibility to develop educational brochures for distribution to consumers (through retailers) and maintain an informative website. The brochures and website must include instructions to identify and repair system leaks, best practice techniques for recharging an MVAC system, environmental hazards associated with the refrigerant, risks of overcharging or undercharging the MVAC, and a description of the recycling program.

Where can I find more information about the regulation?

The regulation and accompanying documents are available at For further information, contact Mr. Winston Potts, P.E., Research Division, ARB at or phone (916) 323-2537.

When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere. If you’re a service professional and not a MACS member yet, you should be, click here for more information. You can E-mail us at or visit
to find a Mobile Air Conditioning Society member repair shop in your area. Visit
to find out more about your car’s mobile A/C and engine cooling system.

About macsworldwide

Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Founded in 1981, MACS is the leading non-profit trade association for the mobile air conditioning, heating and engine cooling system segment of the automotive aftermarket. Since 1991, MACS has assisted more than 600,000 technicians to comply with the 1990 U.S. EPA Clean Air Act requirements for certification in refrigerant recovery and recycling to protect the environment. The Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide’s mission is clear and focused--as the recognized global authority on mobile air conditioning and heat transfer industry issues.
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6 Responses to In California, it’s the new law for refrigerant use

  1. Bob Dodson says:

    In the notification about the deposit of $10.00 it says ” To obtain a refund of your deposit, the law requires that you return the containers to O’reilly within 90 days with a valid proof of purchase.” The problem now is who is O’reilly and how is this anonymous
    person contacted and who is he?

  2. Wayne Resnick says:

    I read through the law, and that’s not what it says. Unfortunately all retailers I’ve seen seem to have signs based on this incorrect summary. The law requires retailers to refund the deposit if the can is returned within 90 days with a receipt, and gives them the option to refund it thereafter. The consumer is ultimately required to return the can with any level of refrigerant remaining, which is effectively all cans. Some retailers explicitly say “…return your empty can within 90 days” which oddly enough would make me legally bound to discharge the remaining refrigerant.

    It makes sense in all fairness for retailers to refund the deposit at any time when the can is returned. If consumers pay for the content, they should have the right to use it when they need it.

  3. Asif says:

    I bought few cans from local retailer in San Jose which does not have self sealing valve on the can. I used half the can an now would like to get my $10 deposit back. I can not remove my valve from the can as it will release CFC in atmosphere and I don’t want to return the can with the valve, it cost me $10. Who is monitoring the law and what are the penalties? looks like this retailer is selling the product not qualified to be sold in California. Is there a place where complain can be filed.

  4. Clifford Doyle says:

    Is the self sealing vave manufactured into the freon r-134 can or is this the purpose for the adaptor which has to be seperately purchased?

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