How will the r22 refrigerant phase out impact you?

In 1987 the United States signed the Montreal Protocol, promising to reduce the amount of hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) used in order to help protect the environment. Limits on the amount of HCFCs used were later modified, calling for a complete ban on their use by the year 2020.

HCFCs have been shown to deplete the ozone layer and one of the primary uses of HCFCs is in residential air conditioning units, but studies have concluded the Freon that was used for over 40 years, r22 also worked as a greenhouse gas when released into the atmosphere. While the Environmental Protection Agency has issued strict regulations regarding the reclamation of r22 when servicing air conditioners, the Montreal Protocol has gone the added step of banning its use altogether after 2020.

At the start of 2010, use of HCFCs in the United States was mandated to be 75 percent lower than a baseline amount established by the EPA. It is being replaced by r410a refrigerant in all residential air conditioning units and by 2020 will be completely phased out. Although it will still be available for another eight years, its cost will be significantly higher due to a lack of supply.

In 2010 the production or importation of r22 was limited for use in existing air conditioners but was banned for use in new equipment. Also in 2010, manufacturers of air conditioning units and heat pumps, abiding by the law, stopped making systems that use r22 refrigerant. The new r410a refrigerant operates at a higher pressure and the older equipment will not support its use.

The use of r410a in residential air conditioners was approved by the EPA after studies determined it did not affect the ozone layer. Regulations preventing it from being vented into the atmosphere remain in place as it has been proven to contribute to greenhouse gas.

Concerned homeowners do not have to immediately replace their air conditioning units since r22 will still be available for repairs and recharging for another eight years, but with its cost rapidly escalating, currently priced 3 times more than last year, replacement may be a less expensive alternative. The age of the air conditioner and the age of the refrigerant should be considered when service is required. The cost of r22 refrigerant has tripled over the past year, affecting the cost of recharging and repairing systems.

Additionally there will be no new r22 available as companies are not producing it anymore and service companies are relying on the refrigerant that has been reclaimed and recycled to service existing units. One replacement refrigerant, R-407C can be used as a replacement for r22, but the EPA has not approved it for use in the United States.

When homeowners consider servicing their existing air conditioning units, depending on its age and the type of Freon it requires, it may be less expensive to replace it with a new, more energy efficient unit. The cost of replacing any lost r22 may make the cost of repair higher than a new unit.

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4 comments

tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

Wow.. I didn't realize this was occurring. I am glad that companies are protecting the environment, but this could be tricky for those of us who depend on air condititioning. I hope you will keep us updated on this situation!


tsmog profile image

tsmog 4 years ago from Escondido, CA

Isn't that amazing how the cost to service vs. cost to replace works out. I'm all for the environment, so don't get me wrong. The same happen with R12 - automotive use. Phase(d) out created a boom for a bit to retrofit for the approved R-134A.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina

This article explained why the cost of replacing r22 has tripled in a year. Now I see it's related to a planned phase out.

My question is, if the new r410 can't be vented into the environment be vented into the atmosphere because it increases greenhouse gases, where does the r410 get vented to?

Thanks for sharing this important informantion.

Voted up, useful and interesting. It should be a must read for anyone who relies on air conditioning to cool their homes during sweltering summer temperatures.


BizVT34 profile image

BizVT34 4 years ago from USA

Happyboomernurse all a/c refrigerant products are required to be reclaimed by law. There is an argument that reducing r-22 emissions is good but also keep in mind that the other substitute refrigerants might not be as efficient and you could possibly consume more energy to keep your home/office cool.

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