What is R-22 refrigerant, and what does the R-22 phase-out mean for me?

R-22 refrigerant, the chemical that makes cooling your home possible, has been the refrigerant of choice for residential heat pump and air conditioning systems for more than four decades. Unfortunately for the environment, the release of R-22 (often from air conditioning system leaks) contributes to ozone depletion.

Because of this harmful effect, the government has changed the refrigerant standards for residential air conditioners, leading to the phase-out and elimination of R-22 refrigerant by 2020.

This regulation also requires air conditioning manufacturers to cease the shipment of R-22 refrigerant with any newly produced air conditioning systems. In other words: R-22’s days are numbered.

What does this mean for my air conditioner?

So, what do you do if you are a homeowner with an R-22 system? Here’s the facts of the matter: there is no requirement to stop using your system, nor is there a requirement to replace your existing equipment. New air conditioners will use a new, more environmentally friendly refrigerant, but your existing system is, in a word, “grandfathered” in.

There is one scenario in which this switchover could impact you, however: a refrigerant leak.

Refrigerant leaks and R-22 scarcity

Since the switch is being made from R-22 refrigerant to a better solution, less R-22 is being made. As we rapidly approach the end of the decade and the start of this regulation, R-22 is being phased out, introducing scarcity. After 2020 arrives, no new R-22 is being made at all: the remainder will be from recycled or reclaimed sources.

As such, remaining supplies are increasing in cost in accordance with supply-and-demand. In all likelihood, you’ll still be able to get R-22 in the next decade, but it could cost you. A lot.

Can I change out my R-22 refrigerant for a different type in my existing system?

Technically yes, but this is highly discouraged by manufacturers because it could damage your system. As such, using a different refrigerant in place of R-22 will void your manufacturer’s warranty.

There are alternative replacement refrigerants (drop-ins) available, but there is an ongoing concern about the compatibility and the impact to system reliability. Because of this, most HVAC technicians you talk to will want an R-22 system to continue using R-22.

What are my other options?

Another option is to replace the entire system with one that uses the more environmentally-friendly R410A. New systems are by far more energy-efficient and can significantly save on energy costs and sound pollution.

Because R410A is a completely different refrigerant, it cannot be mixed or used in an existing air conditioning system designed for R22. When a new R410A unit is installed, both the outdoor unit and indoor coil must be replaced.

The indoor air handler/furnace may not need to be replaced, but sometimes it is more cost-effective or necessary to replace both the indoor coil and air handler/furnace.

Get a personalized R-22 refrigerant recommendation

At Air Control, we always make recommendations for homeowners based on their specific situation. Every home, homeowner, and their family’s needs are very different.

That’s why we recommend you contact us with your R-22 questions so that we can give you a more detailed explanation and personalized advice.

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