R-22: The Most Common Refirgerant is Being Phased Out!
What is happening? Big changes are being implemented for the
refrigerants in heating and cooling equipment.
Beginning January 1, 2010, all of the world’s manufacturers
of cooling and heating systems will be using 100% of the refrigerant called R-410A
to replace the refrigerant commonly used up to this point called R-22. Manufacturers
are able to sell any equipment they have created before January 2010 with R-22 until
their inventories are depleted. After that, all equipment installed will have to
use R-410A refrigerant. This change will have an economic impact in the form of
increased costs for consumers.
Why? A treaty, The Montreal Protocol of 1987, set in motion changes that should end ozone depletion.
A change was set in motion in 1987 when the “Montreal Protocol
of 1987” was established. Known formally as the Montreal Protocol on Substances
That Deplete the Ozone Layer, it is an international treaty designed to protect
the ozone layer by phasing out the production of a number of substances believed
to be responsible for ozone depletion. The treaty was opened for signature on September
16, 1987, and has undergone seven revisions. It is believed that if the international
agreement is adhered to, the ozone layer is expected to recover by 2050. It has
been signed by 196 states/countries worldwide.
The Facts verses Myths
- The refrigerant R-22 has been put in air conditioners and heat pump systems since
1960. It is being phased out because of the “Montreal Protocol 1987”. According
to the US Environmental Protection Agency, R-22 is a greenhouse gas, the manufacturer
of which, results in a by-product that contributes significantly to global warming.
- The production of R-22 refrigerant is expected to be phased out of production by
2020. This year alone, production of this refrigerant is expected to be reduced
by 47% and by 85% by 2015.
- The new refrigerant, R-410A, is designed and constructed to be used for R-410A systems
and R-22 systems cannot be retrofitted to operate with R-410A.
- R-410A is a blend of two gases that operates at significantly higher pressures.
- R-410A requires special cylinders, gauges and recovery equipment.
- R-410A leaks generally result in the loss of one of the blended gases and not the
other. This means if there is a leak in a system, the remaining gas that turns to
liquid, will have to be removed and destroyed. It will then have to be replaced
with fresh R-410A. This is different than what happened with R-22 – if gas was lost
then adding a “charge and topping it off” was a common practice.
What does this mean for repairs? Well, it depends on whether
the equipment to be repaired uses R-22 or R-410A.
- If service or repair of an R-22 system requires the addition of R-22, as long as
it is available, these repairs will be able to be made. Due to the decrease in supply
of R-22 over the next 10 years, this will result in a cost increase. This increased
cost will necessarily have to be passed along to the consumer.
- As of January 2012 the cost of R-22 refrigerant has dramatically increased up to
3 times the former cost for a tank. Unfortunately this means increased costs to
consumers who need R-22 added to their system.
- If R-410A equipment develops a leak requiring repair, this will result in the need
to completely remove any remaining refrigerant, have it destroyed and put all new
refrigerant into the system. This is because when this blended gas leaks… there
is a portion that is gaseous and another portion that is liquid. When there is a
leak it causes the refrigerant to separate and the gas portion to leak out leaving
the liquid portion. This means that the integrity of the refrigerant has been destroyed
and must be replaced.
What does this mean for installation of new equipment?
There are options!
- INSTALL A DRY R-22 CONDENSING UNIT: Manufacturers of HVAC equipment found a loophole
in the law that benefits many consumers with R-22 split systems. Even though they
can’t make these units with R-22 refrigerant in them when purchase, manufacturers
are selling what are called “dry” units or nitrogen filled units. These units can
be installed and have the R-22 refrigerant added by the installing contractor. The
advantage is that you do not have to pay the additional expenses of changing out
a coil or air handler if you were to convert to 410A equipment.
- CONVERT TO 410A EQUIPMENT: You could replace the outdoor condensing unit as well
as the indoor coil or air handler with equipment designed to operate with R-410A
equipment. Typically, this would mean that you would have to change the indoor air
handler coil at the same time as you change to a 410A system. The “coils” on the
older R-22 systems are not manufactured to handle the new 410A refrigerant. In some
instances, if the indoor coil is only a couple of years old on an R- 22 system,
it may not be necessary to change the coil or air handler. If this were the case
this could be a significant savings. The advantage of conversion to a 410A system
is that it is cheaper to add 410A refrigerant than R-22 refrigerant. The reason:
it is anticipated that R-22 will be available for many years to come; however, the
cost is expected to continue to increase.
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS – GOOD NEWS:
Read More About the Montreal Protocol on Wikipedia!
- LINESETS: We can reuse the lineset of an R-22 unit if it is in good condition by
flushing it out with a special cleaner and assuming there are not any oil traps
within it. A myth out there is that we have to change the lineset. If you have to
replace the lineset, this can add anywhere from $477 to $890 to the cost.
- AIR HANDLERS: If your air-handler fails on an R-22 system, the good news is that
newer air handlers and their coils are designed to operate with either R-22 or R-410A