What Does the EPA’s R22 Phase Out Mean to You?

R22 refrigerant container used to recharge HVAC systems

What Is The R22 Phase Out?

The EPA discovered that the use of Freon, also known as R22, has had a negative impact on the ozone layer. This was scientifically proven in the 1970s, yet, for the last 40 years, R22 was the go-to refrigerant for heating and cooling. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a stand and began the next steps in the R22 phase out. As a part of the phase-out of ozone-depleting substances (ODS), which began on January 1, 2020, R22 is no longer allowed to be produced or imported into the United States.

The R22 phase out has been in progress for a substantial amount of time. This hazardous substance was first addressed in January of 2010 when equipment using R22 stopped being manufacturing. This means that if your system was installed before January 1, 2010, there’s a good chance that it uses R22 refrigerant. You can often times tell for sure by inspecting the name plate on your equipment. If all else fails reach out to your service provider for more info.

As a result of this shift in 2010, manufacturers of AC and heat pump equipment redesigned their systems to accommodate R410A, a chlorine-free refrigerant.

Technician servicing a leaking refrigerant line on an HVAC SystemWhat If My System Uses R22?

The expected lifespan of most commercial heating and cooling systems is 15-20 years. This means even brand-new units running on R22 from 2009, will be nearing their mid-life in 2020. Now that the time has come for R22 production to halt, your facility will need to decide how to adjust. Here are three options:

1. Keep your current system.

With proper preventative maintenance, your facility may continue to operate using equipment fueled by R22. However, when a breakdown does occur, any available R22 will be significantly more expensive. This will put you in a tough spot of deciding what makes the most financial sense. You will either need to pay a premium for the R-22 or go with on of the options below. If your unit is nearing the end of its life, this may not be a great option for your facility.

2. Update your system.

New HVAC System Being Installed At A School

Retrofitting the system to use new efficient and compliant refrigerants may be an option for some units. If your unit is in the 10-12 years-old range, this may make financial sense over the units remaining life. . This is especially true if you’ve kept up with routine preventative maintenance. Not all systems can transition, and warranties may be lost.

3. Replace your system. 

If your current unit is 18+ years old, replacing your system with an efficient, up-to-code unit, is your best option. As you evaluate your budget, this may be a wise use of available money.

Servicing Your Equipment

Hopefully, if you are working with a reliable contractor you shouldn’t have to worry about slip ups. However, here are a few things the EPA recommends you keep in mind when your equipment with R22 is being serviced:

  • Technicians must have EPA Section 608 certification to service equipment containing R22.
  • It is illegal to intentionally release any refrigerant when making repairs. Technicians must use refrigerant recovery equipment during service.
  • Technicians should find and repair any leaks instead of topping off the system.

As the R22 phase out continues, non-ozone-depleting alternatives will become the new go-to refrigerant. Some facilities may choose to shift from refrigerant based systems to evaporative cooling systems. These systems use the evaporation of water to cool facilities but also require a milder climate.

The servicing of systems with R-22 will continue to rely on recycled and stock pile quantities. The EPA continues to review alternatives and compiles those acceptable for household and commercial use.

Have Questions About What The R22 Phase Out Means For You?

Unsure of what this means for your units? Give the experts are Rasmussen Mechanical Services a call at 1-800-237-3141. Our certified technicians will give you an honest answer to what will be best for your facility. Schedule an appointment with us today.