Phase-Out of R-22 Refrigerant - How Will It Impact Older Units?

Two men repairing outdoor AC unit

Phase-Out of R-22

Approximately 25 years ago, the phase-out of R-22 was mandated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) due to growing environmental concerns and in accordance with the Clean Air Act. The phase-out was enacted to protect the Earth's ozone layer from the chlorine found in R-22, an ODC (ozone-depleting compound).

The ban on the import and production of R-22 was initiated in 2010 and is expected to be completely prohibited in a few short months – Jan 1, 2020. In response, manufacturers of heat pumps and air conditioning units designed their new systems to work with the chlorine-free refrigerant R410A.

What does it mean for people with R-22-type Units?

What does this mean for those in the St. Lucie, Indian River, and Martin County, Florida area who rely on R-22 for our heating or cooling system? It means that your next service may come with sticker shock. Since import and production will become illegal soon, there will be few options.

Anyone that has a heat pump or air conditioning unit that uses R-22 refrigerant will be allowed to keep them. However, should your system fail and need repair that involves this refrigerant, you'll have the choice of paying a hefty refrigerant bill or replacing your system.

What is refrigerant?

The fluid that flows in the coils of your heat pump or air conditioner is the refrigerant. The condenser, compressor, and evaporator work together to transform this fluid between gas and liquid states, heating or cooling the fluid. When there's a change in pressure, it either absorbs from or pushes heat to the air passing over the coils, causing the air temperature change and sending that air into your home.

Is there a replacement for R-22?

R-407c is the best replacement for R-22 and costs less than any of other R-22 replacement refrigerants.

WARNING: If a system already has R-22 in it, you cannot use any type of replacement refrigerant by simply adding to the R-22. For more information, discuss this with one of our AC Technicians .

The reason for this warning is that replacement refrigerants are designed to emulate operating pressures/temperatures of R-22. Also, depending on the type of oil used in your unit, replacement R-22 refrigerants may not be compatible.

Costly repairs

As the supply dwindles, the cost of repairs requiring R-22 refrigerant may outweigh the investment in a new unit. Refrigerant is not a consumable product – it is designed to flow through the coils continuously. If your system develops a leak, ask your AC repair technician to find and repair the leak and not just "top it off".

If you are willing to spend the money necessary to retrofit your unit with new compressors, valves, and plumbing, your technician may be able to do a "drop-in" replacement – this retrofitting would come at a very high cost.

Can old R-22 be reused?

It's your refrigerant. You can ask your technician to reuse it. There is a stringent process for recovering, recycling and reclaiming the refrigerant into clean, empty tanks.

The Recycling of recovered refrigerants is done by filtering the refrigerant. This removes impurities, such as moisture, air, and oil. Once purified, it can be reused in a repaired unit. As long as you own the unit that the refrigerant will go back into, it is perfectly legal to reuse it. Here again, this may be a costly process as it requires strict adherence to certain protocols.

Sometimes the path of least resistance is the best one

The truth is that by the time your unit is retrofitted to work with another refrigerant type, you would be better served to buy a new unit that is designed for these newer environmentally friendlier refrigerants.

If you live in the St. Lucie, Indian River, or the Martin County, Florida area and are in need of AC servicing, repair, or replacement, contact American Air Cares today to talk to one of our professionals about your options. We will come out and provide you with a free quote to repair or replace your unit. Call us today!