In 1987 the Montreal Protocol, a global agreement to protect the Earth’s ozone layer, began the phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Freon R-22, an HCFC, was the most popular refrigerant used in commercial air conditioners. Because of its heavy use, lack of substitutes, and the fact that HCFCs such as R-22 are less damaging to the Ozone than CFCs, R-22 was given much more time to be retired.
R-22 Phase Out Timeline:
1998 – The EPA restricts the amount of R-22 that can be produced in a given year.
2010 – The manufacturing of products that require R-22 is made illegal.
2013 – The EPA dramatically accelerates the phase-out of R-22 from 2030 to 2020.
2015 – The production limit is reduced by 57%. Refrigeration prices skyrocket.
2019 – Production is cut another 55%, to only 4 million pounds.
2020 – The production of R-22 will be illegal.
What to Do if Your Air Conditioner Still Uses R-22
R-22 from recycled sources and old stockpiles can still be used for the repair of existing systems, however, there is no guarantee on how long these reserves will last. Owners of R-22 air conditioners (systems that are 10 or more years old) are faced with three choices.
- Just wait until your system breaks
- Replace the R-22 Freon with a newer blend of refrigerant
- Replace your system proactively
While option 1 is viable and legal, the dwindling supplies of R-22 will cause repair prices to rise and will likely take much longer to complete.
In some instances retrofitting your system with a new refrigerant, the blend is possible, however, this can cause your AC to operate at a lower capacity and less efficiently. But first, a professional will have to determine if this is even possible. If it is possible, ALL existing R-22 must be drained before a new blend can be installed. AT NO TIME IS IT OK TO DROP IN A DIFFERENT FREON WITHOUT REMOVING ALL OF THE EXISTING R-22.
The last option, is what most businesses are trying to put off, system replacement. This seems like the scariest, and more importantly, the most expensive option. But this is actually the best course of action. With the current 179 tax breaks, business owners can save large amounts of money by switching now. Also, a business owner will be able to plan for his or her system to be changed at a convenient time, rather than worry whether or not the current system will fail at the busiest – or worse, the hottest—time of the year.
With the end of R-22 coming in less than a year, it is important for business owners to begin planning now for the future.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”- Chinese proverb