The most common type of refrigerant used in air conditioning and refrigeration equipment is HCFC-22 (or R-22). If your air conditioner or heat pump was manufactured before 2010, it most likely uses R-22 refrigerant. (You can find out what type of refrigerant your air conditioner or heat pump uses by checking out the nameplate on your outdoor condenser unit.)
Due to their ozone depletion effects, however, fluorocarbons, and especially hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), are being phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Production of HCFC-22 (R-22) will stop completely by 2020. While you will still be able to find some R-22 refrigerant after 2020, it will be more expensive and you will need to rely on reclaimed and previously-produced quantities.
Ozone-depleting substances (ODS) are regulated as a class I or class II controlled substance in the U.S. To protect the ozone layer (part of the U.S. commitment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer), new production and imports of most HCFCs will be completely phased out by 2020.
On January 1, 2015, there was a ban on production, import, and use of all HCFCs, except for continuing servicing needs of refrigeration equipment. By 2030, no production or import of any HCFCs will be allowed.
Common refrigerant blends that contain HCFC-22 include R-401A, R-402A, R-408A, R-409A, R-414B, and R-502A (EPA).
If you use equipment that uses R-22 refrigerant or the other 34 HCFCs that are being phased out, we highly recommend replacing your HVAC equipment with a more ozone-friendly refrigerant sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more expensive your refrigerant services will be.
There is no requirement to have refrigeration equipment converted (“retrofit”) or replaced for non-ozone-depleting substitutes, but it could still be in your best interest.
Today’s air conditioners not only use ozone-friendly refrigerant, they are also much more energy efficient. This will reduce your carbon footprint and save you money on energy bills every year.
The lengthy HFCF phaseout allows consumers to replace air conditioning equipment when you normally should replace your air conditioner. However, since the supplies of R-22 will become more limited, costs to R-22 equipment will increase, which may be a factor in when you decide to replace your HVAC equipment.
Refrigerant substitutes are regularly reviewed by the EPA according to environmental and health risks, including ozone depletion potential, global warning potential, flammability, toxicity, and exposure potential. The most common alternative refrigerant to R-22 is R-410A, which is sold under various names, such as GENTRON AZ-20®, SUVA® 410A, and PURON®.
Click here for a list of acceptable substitutes to replace banned HCFCs.
You can no longer find a new air conditioner or heat pump that uses R-22. New, energy-efficient equipment is available.
You should seriously consider replacing your air conditioner or heat pump if it is over 10 years old.
Air conditioning efficiency is measure by its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SER). The higher the SEER number, the more energy efficient it is. Keep in mind that in order to achieve the manufacturer’s SEER rating, it must be properly installed by a certified HVAC contractor.
Replacing your old AC or heat pump unit can save you a lot of money and energy in the long run. Learn what you need to know before replacing your air conditioner or heat pump.
While you can continue to have your R-22 equipment serviced, prices may rise. The most important thing you can do is to have your equipment maintained properly, which means annual professional AC tune-ups every year (preferably in early spring).
Make sure you choose a reliable HVAC contractor who is EPA-certified to service R-22 equipment. If you need to have your refill or “recharge” your refrigerant, make sure your contractor finds and fixes the leak before “topping it off.” HVAC technicians must be very careful not to release any refrigerant during service.
You can learn more about the Phaseout of Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) on the Environmental Protection Agency website.
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