Firstly, you are right to consider your current Halon situation. The current status of Halon in the US is as follows: Existing systems are legal. The recharge of existing systems is legal, although somewhat troublesome due to the fact that most system manufacturers (Kidde, Ansul, Fenwal, and so on) have discontinued the support of these systems. As such finding spare parts to properly maintain the system is becoming more and more difficult. Also, the Halon agent itself, while still available, is a highly dynamic market, and it is very difficult to predict what a recharge cost might be at any given time horizon.
Note that the Montreal Protocol only dealt with the manufacture of Halon (and other chemicals). Existing systems and stock piles of Halon were grandfathered as part of this international treaty. As such, there is still quite a bit of it around, mostly used and inventoried by the US military.
Also, other countries have taken the lead on removal of existing halon systems. Both Australia and the majority of EU countries have already mandated the removal of all existing Halon systems. While this is not the case in the US, most authorities in the fire protection industry feel it will likely come to that at some point in time.
My advice would be to start considering Halon alternative migration strategies now. The impending difficulty in maintaining your current Halon system means you need to plan ahead, and budget for replacement of this system. Also, by planning now, you are able to transition to a new system on your terms and time tables. Imagine the risk, chaos and stretched resources/budgets if you had a discharge of the existing Halon system, and scrambled to replace it with FM-200. Additionally, by planning now, you will avoid any sort of deadlines or difficulties associated with a potential mandatory removal.
Finally, seek expertise to help. There are a lot of options and decisions, both on agents and systems to use in replacing your existing Halon. Feel free to contact me directly for more advice on who to talk to in your area.
This was first published in July 2005