5 Reasons My Air Conditioner Needs Locking Safety Caps

Air Conditioning Safety Tips for the Sacramento Region

Today I’m going to give you the top 5 reasons your air conditioner should have locking safety caps on the access ports.  Welcome to Fox Family Heating Air and Solar!

Starting Out

When I started my career in HVAC in 2010, locking safety caps were already required by the International Mechanical Code. The International Mechanical Code is something all 50 states have adopted as their rule for the installation of air conditioning systems.  However, HVAC companies were slow to adopt this rule, most likely because it was just another expense to complete their services for you the homeowner.  So today, I wanted to give you 5 reasons you need locking safety caps on your air conditioner.

In 2009, the International Mechanical Code adopted the code 1011.10 which says “…refrigerant circuit access ports (which carries the refrigerant to and from your outdoor AC, and indoor cold coil) shall be fitted with locking type tamper-resistant caps or shall be otherwise secured to prevent unauthorized access.”

Later in the chapter it says in 1012.3 those same, “…refrigerant circuit access ports shall be protected in accordance with 1011.10 whenever refrigerant is added to or removed from an air conditioning system.”

Taking Care of Those You Love

Here are 5 more reasons why we as homeowners should follow this rule.  No single reason given here is more important than the other, so pay close attention to all of them.  They could affect someone you love.

1.  Prevent someone from deliberately inhaling the refrigerant to get high

It’s called huffing, and it seems to be some sort of game or addiction to obtain a certain feeling in the user’s body and mind.  Pay close attention here.  Did you know the refrigerant in your simple air conditioning system outside your house actually displaces oxygen?  It will literally take your breath away.  According to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) and the Alliance for Consumer Education’s (ACE) Inhalant Abuse Prevention, “huffing can cause someone to suffer cardiac arrest and die whenever they 1. inhale, the 1st or the 100th time.”  There are several videos online about this and it’s been happening for a while.

2.  Prevent drug users from stealing your refrigerant

With the cost of R-22 skyrocketing over the last few years because of supply and demand, the second reason we should be putting these locking caps on your air conditioners is to prevent drug users from stealing your refrigerant. Drug users can make a quick buck by stealing it and selling it to someone locally.  This enables them to continue their habits on your dime because now you’re going to have to pay top dollar to have the AC recharged.  At the current price of $100-$200 dollars a pound, that could get expensive real quick!

3. Refrigerant is Poisonous

Number three is simple. AC refrigerant is poisonous, and poison must be kept away from children.  Nobody thinks something bad can happen until it does.  Just doing your part to protect the lives of children can do a world of good.   These locking caps are tamper-resistant, so instead of being able to unscrew the normal caps off the access ports, these locking caps will just keep spinning and spinning until they lose interest in whatever they were trying to do.

4. Protecting the Environment

R-22 is an ozone-depleting substance which the EPA has deemed a controlled substance. The chlorine in R-22 that gets into the air is burning a hole right through the ozone layer.  We should all be trying to do our part in preventing anyone other than a licensed HVAC technician access to your refrigerant.  HVAC techs must add and recover refrigerant in a manner that minimizes refrigerant loss to the atmosphere.  The EPA even requires we carry a card proving we’re allowed to this.  Next time your “HVAC technician” or handyman comes to service your AC, perhaps you’ll want to ask to see their EPA 608 card.

5. Protecting You

The fifth reason to have these locking caps on your AC is to protect you! Protecting yourself from liability in this day and age is crucial.  Everyday business owners, HVAC company owners, and yes even regular homeowners could face negligence charges by not protecting society from the dangers of air conditioning refrigerant.

Okay, Let’s Do It!

I think this is one of those topics we should be proactive about.  As a homeowner, don’t wait until something happens on your property before you agree, “OK, let’s put those locking caps on the AC.”

HVAC company owners, you should know every time your technicians add or remove refrigerant, it’s your responsibility to replace those old twist-off caps with locking caps.  This doesn’t have to be another great selling opportunity.  They’re just locking caps.  Yes, they cost about $350 dollars for a pack of 50 of these caps, but this is just another opportunity for us to protect ourselves from liability.  Charging a reasonable price to cover your costs is really all we as HVAC owners should be doing here.

Doing Due Diligence

At Fox Family, we use NoVent locking caps.  They’re color-coded green for R-22 and red for R-410 refrigerant.  Each color has its own specific key, so I always carry the red and green keys with me in my tool bag.  There are also silver locking caps that are universal.  Either way, a special key is required to place them on, or remove them from the access ports on an air conditioner.

We usually buy these NoVent locking caps and keys at the HVAC supply stores around town.  And these stores try their best to restrict purchases of HVAC tools like these to not just anyone, but, in a pinch, I’ve found the caps are pretty easy for anyone to buy online.  So, even if someone was to be successful getting past your locking caps on your AC, you’ve done your due diligence by adhering to the International Mechanical Code.  In my judgment, you’d be protected because you were trying to do your part to protect others from gaining access to your AC’s refrigerant.

Cover All the Bases

You might say, “well my AC is a package unit up on the roof.”  These units are still required to have locking caps on them unless you have some sort of locked area enclosing the system to prevent anyone from tampering with the equipment.  People can still get on your roof and steal your AC unit if they really want to.

View my video on this very thing: https://youtu.be/9iqJ3QRHEYM.  Just a few months after we installed a brand-new system on a rooftop in Sacramento, the copper coils were stolen right out of the system.  Reports from neighbors said they saw a guy messing with something up there, and all the sudden they saw something white spraying from the unit.  That’s was the copper refrigerant lines that he simply cut and removed from the system.

If someone really wants your system, they can take it, but adding locking safety caps to your AC system WILL help to prevent access to the system.  And that’s really all you can do.

Summary

I hope this has helped explain what locking safety caps are and why you need them on your system.  Once again, let’s be proactive about this and not reactive.  Protect your friends and family and get these locking caps on your system as soon as possible.

Thanks so much for watching and we’ll see you on the next blog!

Don’t miss my video and related videos on this topic:

Courtesy KJRH-TV, Tulsa, Channel 2

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