The Refrigerant and Ozone Wars Continue Unabated!

Follow along with me as I recount a sad tale known as "The R22 Phase Out Saga".

A few years ago, it was determined that some freons, cfcs and hcfcs, were creating, or adding to a hole in our ozone layer. I don't know about you, but I like my ozone without any holes in it!

It was decided to phase out ozone depleting freons. R22 is one of those ozone depleting freons. For about 40 years, up until now, R22 has been the most common freon used in residential and commercial air conditioners.

On Jan. 1, 2010, R22 air conditioners will no longer be manufactured or imported here in the US.

The stocks of virgin R22 (new-unused) are already dwindling, which means that servicing your R22 air conditioner will get more and more expensive, and finally your R22 air conditioner will be obsolete.

The replacement of choice are air conditioners utilizing R410A refrigerant. 410A refrigerant runs at much higher pressures than R22 does, which means that your hvac contractor needs to be highly qualified.

As 2009 ends and 2010 comes upon us, watch out for the "cheap guy", the "rule of thumb" guy, and the "point and grunt" guy. Right now, these guys are filling up warehouses with R22 air conditioners and planning to pawn them off on unsuspecting customers.

Now is the time for the change! If you are considering installation of an air conditioner, Insist on a 410A unit!

The above statements may seem a bit alarmist, and perhaps they are. Let's take a look at the actual dates of the phase-out and the history.

The main content following is paraphrased from our Environmental Protection Agency.

In 1987, The Montreal Protocol brought together 190 countries to establish a schedule for the phase-out of ozone depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons).

In 1992, an amendment to the Montreal Protocol established a schedule for the phase-out of HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons). The R22 phase out plan was born. HCFCs are less harmful to the ozone layer, but still contain ozone destroying chlorine, and contribute to global warming.

The Montreal Protocol was instituted in the US by the EPA through Title IV of the Clean Air Act.

Click here for more in-depth information about the R22 phase out and the Clean Air Act.

As earlier stated, R22 has been the refrigerant of choice for the past 4 decades. R22 is a greenhouse gas, which it's manufacturing process contributes to global warming.

Manufacturers of air conditioners and heat pumps have stepped up to the plate, and are offering equipment which utilizes environmentally friendly R410A refrigerant.

There has been some confusion about the future availability of R22 refrigerant to service existing systems.

On Jan. 1, 2010 chemical manufacturers will still be able to produce virgin R22 to service existing equipment, but not for use in new equipment. No new R22 equipment will be manufactured or imported into the US. This R22 phase out step will reduce the available supply of R22 by, at least, 46%.

R410A equipment will be the new equipment of choice. Manufacturers, distributors, and responsible HVAC companies have already been promoting 410A equipment, and explaining to their customers the R22 phase-out.

In 2015, R22 consumption will be reduced to 10% of previous consumption.

On Jan. 1, 2020, The R22 phase out mandates that R22 refrigerant will no longer be manufactured. The only stock available will be recovered and recycled product. The cost of servicing your R22 unit will likely become much more expensive.

In 2030, The R22 phase out will be complete in the United States.

Suggestions for the consumer

  • Do not top off your R22 air conditioner which leaks. Have the leak fixed, then recharge.
  • Make sure your HVAC service company properly recovers your R22 refrigerant, instead of venting it to the atmosphere.
  • Make sure your HVAC serviceman is EPA certified.
  • As your R22 air conditioner or heat pump ages, consider replacing it with a more efficient R410A unit. This will save you money on your electrical bill, but will also help our environment.

If a new air conditioner or heat pump or furnace is in your future, insist that your HVAC contractor undertake a proper Manual J calculation to properly size your new equipment.

If he doesn't have the capabilities to perform the calculations, call us!

If he tells you the calcs are not necessary, get a different contractor.

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