22 production being banned

In just a few short months, the chemical commonly called R22 will be completely banned in the United States, both by import and by manufacturing. Here’s what you need to know about the history of R22, the reasons it is been banned and some replacement options for it in the industry.

What is R22?

Most people don’t think about the word, hydrochlorofluorocarbon, but they certainly know some or hear in the news about the depletion of ozone layer at a more rapid pace than ever. But if you own an air conditioner you should become familiar with the history of this chemical, why it is now banned and what are the common alternatives for it. It is commonly referred to as T22. R22 is the chemical that keeps the air coming out of your air conditioner cool, which is what made R22 so insidious throughout the world for many years. It is been an incredibly important chemical. It was believed this chemical was safe because it is not flammable and it is odorless. If you have a residential air conditioner that’s over ten years old, most likely it uses R22. When DuPont manufactured it is, it was called Freon.

But in the 1970s, scientists and experts did testing that proved R22 is highly damaging to the ozone layer. Refrigerants like R22 are responsible for ozone layer depletion because they absorb infrared radiation and hold it in the atmosphere. This is known as the greenhouse effect. R22 is considered to be even more potent to the ozone later than carbon dioxide, though it depletes the ozone layer at a slower rate than carbon dioxide.

How R22 Affects the Ozone Layer

It is important to understand what the ozone layer is and how we can protect it with alternatives to R22 that do not cause ozone depletion. Scientists have known and have well-documented reports on how the ozone layer depletes during seasons, natural disasters and from natural cycles, but beginning in the 1970s scientists began to note that the ozone layer was not recovering like it would in a natural process.

In the 1970s, further concerns about the effects of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) on the stratospheric ozone layer got several countries, including the United States, activated to ban the use of chlorofluorocarbons. The EPA says that global production of CFCs and other ODS continued to grow rapidly as new uses were found for these chemicals in refrigeration, fire suppression, foam insulation, and other applications.

Phasing of R22

Beginning back in 1987, the Montreal Protocol began as a project to eventually get rid of all chemicals that delete the ozone layer. First, the Montreal Protocol put strict limits on Freon. Scientists discovered that this chemical was incredibly damaging to the environment and needed to be phased out of use completely. But it would take time for this to happen. The Environmental Protection Agency’s website lists reasons for the necessary phase out and eventual ban of R22. They say, “The stratospheric ozone layer shields the Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. Emissions of certain synthetic chemicals—including CFCs, halons, and HCFCs—destroy the ozone layer, and have created an “ozone hole” over the South Pole.”

Then in 2010, The Environmental Protection Agency began the process of phasing out R22 altogether. First it limited manufacturers to how much of R22 they were allowed to produce. This phase of the ban successfully removed 75% of R22 production. For a period of five years, reclamation, recycling and reuse were the only ways R22 was still in use. But R22 was not allowed to be used in any models of air conditioners. Then in 2015, the EPA put the next phase if the ban into effect, limiting 95% of all R22 usage. My 2029, this chemical will be completely banned and no longer used by any markets as a cooling agent in refrigeration. So that begs the question, what are the healthy alternatives to R22 refrigerant for manufacturers and repair companies?

Retrofitting R22

Most technicians and experts agree that if you have an old air conditioning system then the best way to retrofit it is to use R407-C. But this cannot be done without a trained expert who can retrofit R22 systems up to industry and environmental standards and laws. There are several things you have to keep in mind about using replacement refrigerants. If a system already has R22 you cannot simply add a replacement to the existing refrigerant. For one, R22 is its own type of chemical and the replacements are a compound of various parts designed to mimic operating pressures and temperatures of R22. Technicians will warn about PEO oil, so consumers need to absolutely have a trained and certified technician retrofit their R22 system. If the system is still under warranty, the manufacturers will most certainly not honor the warranty if you use an R22 replacement refrigerant. This is because their systems have probably not undergone testing with different replacement refrigerants. Also, you should not, nor be advised to use replacement refrigerant in a system that already has traces of R22 in it.

On January 1, 2020 R22 will be 100% banned. After that date, it can be no longer imported or manufactured in the United States. After this point it will become much more difficult and expensive to get or use R22. With the ban on R22, it is very important for contractors and consumers to be aware of cost of replacement refrigerants and also the availability of a replacement. In most cases, it is best to simply replace the system altogether. It will probably prove to be also the most cost effective, as consumers will not need to hire a technician every time the replacement refrigerant runs out. Make sure that the alternative you are considering is compatible with application you are looking for. But most importantly, the refrigerant replacement must not be ozone depleting. The EPA provides clear guidelines to make sure consumers and servicemen and women are in compliance with the laws surround refrigerants.

It is incredibly important that technicians and servicemen be in compliance with new laws surrounding ozone depletion and replacing R22 safely and effectively. Your best bet is to contact a specialist who is both trained in quality replacement and is current on the laws surround R22.

All in all, the ban on R22 is a very good thing for our environment. The EPA says that when the ban is in full effect, the ozone layer should correct itself to a healthy level by the year 2060. By then, there will also certainly be more advanced technology and options for keeping us cool and comfortable while also keeping the Earth cool under a healthy ozone layer.