The R-22 Refrigerant Phaseout Is Underway – What It Means for Your A/C SystemPublished on: August 5, 2013
Have you been keeping tabs on the latest news about the R-22 refrigerant phaseout? If your air conditioner was purchased or installed before 2010, you should be paying close attention. In order to get you up to speed, here’s a quick guide to why this once-popular cooling agent is being phased out, what the future of air conditioning looks like, and how you can prepare yourself for the change.
R-22 Refrigerant Creates Problems for the Environment
For almost four decades, R-22 refrigerant was utilized to provide cooling power to air conditioners, heat pumps and refrigeration units. Unfortunately, the cooling agent, which is mainly known by the brand name “Freon,” is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), which means that it contains chlorine. Because chlorine contributes to depletion of the earth’s ozone layer, many nations, including the U.S. and Canada, agreed on an R-22 refrigerant phaseout plan, known as the Montreal Protocol. Under the supervision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Association (EPA), this phaseout is already well underway here in the United States. The initial step of the phaseout took place in 2010, which marked the first year in which the manufacture of R-22-reliant cooling systems was no longer permitted. Homeowners with air conditioners and heat pumps older than three years, therefore, may be impacted by the plan.
R-22 Refrigerant Creates Problems for Homeowners
Since 2010, the R-22 refrigerant phaseout has continued steadily. With each passing year, the amount of new R-22 that is allowed to be produced for the purposes of air conditioner maintenance and repairs has been reduced. Although an incredible 100 million pounds of the refrigerant was developed in 2011, that number was cut nearly in half by 2012, with just 55 million pounds having been produced. The allowance for 2013 has been cut even further, with only 39 million pounds permitted. These numbers will continue to dwindle until 2020, when the manufacture of the cooling agent will be completely prohibited. With R-22 supplies shrinking fast, the cost to purchase it is rising. Ultimately, this means that homeowners may notice a dramatic spike in the costs for air conditioning services that require R-22 refrigerant. Even a seemingly routine tuneup could become expensive, if the air conditioner’s refrigerant is found to be undercharged.
R-410A Refrigerant is the Solution
In response to the R-22 refrigerant phaseout, most of today’s air conditioning systems are designed to run on R-410A refrigerant. Due to the fact that R-410A does not contain chlorine, it’s considered “ozone friendly” and has been approved for use by the EPA. As such, the refrigerant has replaced R-22 as the preferred cooling agent throughout Japan, Europe and most of North America. In the future, unfortunately, further changes might occur, since even R-410A is considered a major contributor to CO2 in the atmosphere, which is thought to hasten the “greenhouse effect” and climate change.
Tips for Preparing for the Future
In order to avoid the problems and expenses associated with the R-22 refrigerant phaseout, a growing number of homeowners are making the decision to upgrade their air conditioning systems sooner than they might have otherwise. By making the switch to a cooling unit that utilizes R-410A, you can do your part to help the environment, relax with the peace of mind that rising R-22 costs will not impact you, and enjoy all the perks of new cooling systems, such as high efficiency, better humidity control, quieter operation and federal tax credits. Here are a few suggestions for staying ahead of the curve, and getting the most benefit from your air conditioner upgrade:
- Work with R-410A certified professionals – R-410A operates at higher pressures than its predecessor, which means that new air conditioners require HVAC professionals to follow different safety standards and techniques than before. Be sure to verify that your contractor is R-410A certified before A/C or heat pump installations or repairs on systems sold after 2010.
- Insist on a proper match – For homeowners with a split air conditioning system, it’s imperative that both sides of your system, the outside condensing unit and inside evaporator/air handler, are a good match. This means that you cannot simply install an outdoor condensing unit that utilizes R-410A and expect it to be compatible with an indoor evaporator that relies on R-22 refrigerant. Unless both sides of the system utilize the same refrigerant, your air conditioner will fail to run efficiently, and the excess strain on your system could lead to serious problems. For best results, be sure that your system is performance matched and certified by your contractor.
To learn more about the R-22 refrigerant phaseout, or for a quote on upgrading your air conditioner, find your local contractor at AC Southeast®. We are proud to offer quality contractors throughout Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Alabama.