Freon R22 Refrigerant Ban and Phaseout

As a homeowner, you may not think much about what’s inside your HVAC unit. You flip the switch from cool to heat and go on about your daily life. It’s only when a problem occurs that you even hear about the refrigerant in your system.


You may know it as Freon. It’s actually called R22, and it’s a bad gas that’s being phased out. Here’s what you need to know about R22 and its phaseout.


What is R22?

Due to the low boiling point of Freon (-40.8°C or -41.4 F) it is ideal for domestic and industrial or business coolant applications. If you pull out a bag of frozen vegetables from a grocery store freezer, you’re seeing Freon at work.


Car air conditioners run on a variation of R22, but it does the same job. However, the most common use of R22 is in both business and residential air conditioning units.


What Makes R22 a Problem?

R22 is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon or a greenhouse gas. As it evaporates, it gets into the upper atmosphere where it breaks down the ozone, converting it to carbon dioxide (CO2), which is itself a well-known greenhouse gas.


Carbon dioxide in the air traps thermal energy and heats up the atmosphere, the fundamental mechanism behind global warming. Everything becomes warmer than it would have been if nature had taken its normal course.


Carbon dioxide turns ordinary rain into carbonic acid, which burns the leaves of plants. Farms and forests suffer alike. Carbon dioxide is deadly to humans when there’s enough of it. It makes asthma and respiratory problems just as deadly.


When Did The Phaseout Begin?

Refrigerant has been used since the Industrial Revolution began. In 2010, though, the government became aware of the disastrous effects of R22. Freon was banned in all new air conditioners in 2010. It set a date of January 1st, 2020 for the total elimination of R22.


What Does This Mean For Older Air Conditioners?

Older air conditioners can still be serviced, provided they don’t need a refrigerant recharge. Some HVAC repair companies might have a stock of R22 left over from the phaseout, but as the supply is depleted, the refrigerant will become more and more expensive to recharge.


You should also be on the lookout for HVAC repair professionals who might charge an outrageous R22 Freon price or try to hold out as long as they can until you pay the higher prices. This means you’ll be out of air conditioning or heat for a time until you pony up. You should weigh the illegality of this against the fact that it might be more cost-effective to just replace the whole unit.


What Is Taking R22’s Place?

For air conditioners, the clear choice is R410A. It’s a non-ozone depleting gas that’s more efficient, will require less power to use, which will save you money on the power bill.


Considerations Of R410A

The Environmental Protection Agency has published guidelines for the use of alternative refrigerants. While these are more pertinent to HVAC professionals, homeowners should still know the facts.


1. Drop-In

Some HVAC companies and homeowners alike make the mistake of thinking that the old refrigerant can be removed from the system and the new refrigerant dropped in. It doesn’t work like that. Modifications to the system have to be made before the new refrigerant can work properly.


2. Training

The EPA has stated that personnel making a change in an old air conditioning system from the old refrigerant to the new must be properly trained in the installation, maintenance, and operation of the system.


3. System Compatibility

When you think about switching refrigerants in an old system, the EPA asks that you know whether the refrigerant is compatible with your existing HVAC system. Find out if it’s compatible via the manufacturer’s instructions and the specifications in the warranty.


4. Non-Ozone Depleting

One of the most important considerations of replacing the refrigerant is to make very sure it’s a non-ozone depleting gas. You can check this on the EPA website. An HVAC professional isn’t necessarily required to have certification for this, although he must have certification for working with CFC and HCFC gases.


5. Release

HVAC professionals are trained in the proper destruction of R22 refrigerants. They know it’s illegal to release it as well as alternate refrigerants into the atmosphere, where it can do untold damage. You need to know this, too.


6. Sold

Professionals also know it’s illegal to sell R22 to another user.


The Future Of Alternative Refrigerants

Hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs)  are gases that don’t deplete the ozone. The HCFCs presently in use, like R22, are being phased out and replaced with HFCs. However, world-wide global warming conferences are agreeing to phase out HFCs as well.


As new non-ozone depleting products are introduced to the market, what we’re using now will be phased out. For example, R407 has a lower global warming potential than R410A at 1710 against 2088. R407 can be used in older systems just as well as R410A.


As HVAC SEO professionals, we talk to a lot of contractors. They tell us that new and better refrigerants will have to be tested for toxicity over a 3 to 5 year period. Ten years of designing equipment and development will follow before new refrigerants can be used. So say about the year 2030 for seeing any new refrigerants introduced to the market.


Another word you should know and keep current with is SNAP or the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy list. The EPA continuously updates this list as new alternative refrigerants are formulated and introduced.


Additionally, the Department of Energy is working on new standards for air conditioners that will be completed in approximately six years. The HFC phaseout isn’t far off but will be replaced by better refrigerants. Think new HVAC units that are more energy-efficient and use less power to run, even better than the energy-efficient units available to us now.


Final Thoughts

R22 is a refrigerant that cools warm air passing across it as the A/C unit blows cool air back into the house. R22 is responsible for punching holes in the ozone, which uncomfortably warms the air. Global warming is so important that R22 is being phased out in favor of non-ozone depleting refrigerants. These have benefits for all mankind such as their health and financial welfare.