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What is R-22 and How Will Recent Changes Affect Your HVAC System

If you have central heating and air, you’ve been relying on R-22 for its operation for more than four decades. Unfortunately, due to environmental concerns resulting from ozone depletion, this greenhouse gas is being phased out. Don’t be misinformed about the phase-out of R-22. Get the facts on what these changes mean for you and your system.

When does the phase-out begin?

It already has. The Montreal Protocol requires the U.S. to transition away from R-22 to more environmentally friendly refrigerants such as R-410 A, so beginning in 1993, a schedule was established to ensure a smooth transition…

  • January 2010

    R-22 was no longer authorized for use in newly produced HVAC systems and could only be used to service existing equipment.

  • January 1, 2015

    The Montreal Protocol requires a reduction in U.S. consumption of R-22 by 90 percent below baseline.

  • January 1, 2020

    The requirement reaches near total reduction of 99.5 percent. Beyond this point, only recovered, recycled, or reclaimed R-22 may be used to service existing systems.

What exactly does this mean for my R-22 compatible system?

Existing HVAC systems using R-22 can still continue to be serviced with R-22, which should have an expected availability of 10 years or more beyond the cutoff date. Since supplies will be limited, however, pricing should be expected to rise.

Can I retrofit my system for a newer refrigerant?

Retrofitting existing systems for use with the new refrigerant, R-410 A, a more environmentally friendly refrigerant, is not required or recommended. In fact, retrofitting your existing system for use with this or other substitute refrigerants poses compatibility issues, fire, and explosion risks. R-22 should continue to be used in your system when needed for these reasons.

Does this mean I need to upgrade now?

Your HVAC system is a big energy user, accounting for more than 40 percent of your energy bills, making upgrading to a highly efficient system a very green thing to do. However, your decision to upgrade should be based on multiple factors, not just the R-22 phase-out, including the current performance and reliability of your existing system compared to the cost and energy savings of upgrading to a new one.

What could it save me?

Today’s best HVAC systems use far less energy to produce the same amount of conditioned air than those made in the 70s. For systems only 10 years old, Energy Star label upgrades can save you as much as 10-40 percent of your heating and cooling bills annually. If your system is older than that, the savings are even greater.

Ready to upgrade?

Though the sale of new systems running on R-22 has been banned since 2010, buyer beware: a loophole in The Montreal Protocol has led to some companies selling “dry” HVAC units – units without refrigerant included – as a more cost-effective means for home and business owners to deal with broken systems. Avoiding partial replacement with these “dry” systems is recommended, as they still require R-22 for operation. Ensure system longevity by opting for a system that will last you far beyond the phase-out. Make certain the system you choose is R-410 A compatible.

Burnt out on refrigerants? Talk to an Aire Serv® professional about your upgrade options today.