Probably one of the best pieces of advice I can give anyone in the ammonia refrigeration business is to join the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR). In just a few weeks, IIAR will celebrate its 30th anniversary. So, I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about this fine organization.

A controversial National Electric Code (NEC) proposal was the motivating force behind the formation of IIAR. The NEC wanted all electrical components in ammonia refrigeration systems to be Class I, Group D, Division II. They also wanted the components declared hazardous. These proposals did not sit well with many of us in the ammonia refrigeration industry. As a result, about 20 engineers, contractors and manufacturers who had a vested interest in the industry assembled in a smoke-filled room at a Philadelphia hotel. As a result of those meetings, we developed a strategy to convince the NEC that ammonia refrigeration systems are safe and the new rules were unnecessary.

Something else became clear. The ammonia refrigeration industry lacked a common voice, an advocate. And so, as a result of those meetings and the success in the National Electric Code arena, IIAR was born. Incorporated on June 22, 1971, IIAR has been a strong and effective voice for the industry ever since. Since the beginning, IIAR's mission has linked the safe and efficient operation of ammonia refrigeration systems with advocacy and education. Over the years, it has grown from the 20 or so charter members to about 1,400 members.

The first IIAR Ammonia Refrigeration Conference and Exhibition was held in San Antonio, Texas, in 1979, attracting about 200 people. Just a few months ago, more than five times that many individuals, about 75% of the membership, attended the 2001 Conference in Long Beach, Calif. The range of those in attendance - operators to chief executives, academics to regulators - makes the conference an ideal forum.

As IIAR has grown, so has its role:

  • Promoting education, information and standards for the safe use of ammonia as a refrigerant.

  • Providing a forum for deliberating and solving mutual concerns.

  • Conducting workshops to enhance knowledge of ammonia refrigeration systems and to ensure professional growth in the industry.

  • Monitoring state and federal regulations regarding the operation of ammonia refrigeration systems.

  • Counseling regulatory agencies and advocating reasonable, effective codes, standards and ratings pertaining to ammonia refrigeration.

  • Promoting ammonia as the safest, most cost-effective and efficient industrial refrigerant on the market.
IIAR now has members in about 30 countries outside of North America. It is the only organization in the world that dedicates itself specifically to the use of ammonia as a refrigerant.

IIAR's growth has created a progressive organization that combines the strengths of practical knowledge with technical expertise. IIAR members are experts in their field who willingly share knowledge in many valuable and worthwhile publications. Technical papers cover a broad range of subjects while bulletins and standards focus on more specific topics. The newsletter keeps members aware of association and industry news, including legislative issues and industry trends. Process safety management and risk management program guidelines assist end users who must comply with these federal regulations. Videos and workbooks featuring Andy Ammonia are operation and safety tools. The latest in this list of publications is the Ammonia Refrigeration Piping Handbook.

IIAR has joined the world of new technology with its web site, It's a growing and valuable tool for the industry. It includes information about IIAR publications, which are available in the online store, and conference and seminar information.

IIAR also provides an important link for its members and allied industry organizations. It serves as a conduit for the exchange of information between the ammonia refrigeration industry and other segments of the refrigeration industry. The joint efforts help to disseminate useful and valuable information across industry lines.

There have been a lot of changes in refrigeration since that meeting in Philadelphia 30 years ago. But, there is still an IIAR. It's alive and well, and IIAR remains the only organization that represents every aspect of the growing, ammonia refrigeration industry. So, happy birthday IIAR. I often wonder where the industry would be today without you.