by Daniel Estevao on October 7, 2016
The refrigerant in your air conditioning or heat pump system is responsible for absorbing and releasing heat to and from your indoor and outdoor units. The type of refrigerant you use depends on how your HVAC system was installed. Most air conditioning and heat pump systems use R-22 refrigerant (known by the brand name Freon®).
But that’s about to change. Many countries, including the United State, are phasing it out due to its ozone depletion potential (ODP) and global warming potential (GWP).
What is the R-22 Refrigerant Phaseout?
Beginning in 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started a complete phaseout of all consumption and production of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) under the Clean Air Act. Since R-22 refrigerant (chlorodifluoromethane) is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon, this ruling will affect all equipment that uses this type of refrigerant. If your AC or heat pump was manufactured prior to 2010, you are most likely using R-22 refrigerant.
HCFC-22 (R-22) production and consumption will decrease until it reaches zero in 2020. Starting January 1, 2020, no new production or import of HCFC-22 will be allowed.
This final rule affects residential and commercial air conditioning, heat pump, and refrigeration equipment that uses HCFC-22 or R-22 refrigerant (also known as Freon®).
What Does the R-22 Phaseout Mean for Homeowners?
If you are a homeowner that uses HCFC-22 (R-22) refrigerant, you will need to think about your choices when it comes to servicing, repairing, or replacing your AC or heat pump equipment.
- If you have an air conditioner or heat pump that was manufactured before 2010, you are most likely using HCFC-22 (R-22) refrigerant. Check your unit’s nameplate on the outdoor condenser or your owner’s manual to find out what refrigerant your air conditioner/heat pump runs on.
- HCFC-22 is currently a banned import and manufacturers may no longer produce it. As a result, R-22 (Freon®) is getting more expensive and more difficult to acquire.
- Existing stocks of HCFC-22 may be used to service existing AC, heat pump, and refrigeration equipment until 2020.
- After 2020, “only recycled, reclaimed, or previously produced HCFC-22 can be used to service existing equipment” (EPA).
- Homeowners are under no obligation to replace their existing equipment or convert R-22 units with non-ozone-depleting alternatives.
- If you choose to retrofit your existing equipment, keep in mind that changes to the unit’s components will be required since alternative refrigerants aren’t easily replaceable. Most experts will recommend that you purchase a new energy-efficient unit instead.
- R-410A refrigerant (known by the brand name Puron®) is the most common non-ozone-depleting alternative for use in residential air conditioning equipment.
- Only hire trained and certified HVAC technicians to handle refrigerants.
- Bi-annual maintenance of your heating and air conditioning equipment results in increased energy efficiency and reduced maintenance and repair costs. Routine maintenance reduces your impact on the environment.