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 R22, 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 R22 are less damaging to the Ozone than CFCs, R22 was given much more time to be retired.
Freon R22 phase out time line:
1998- The EPA restricts the amount of R22 that can be produced in a given year.
2010 –The manufacturing of products that require R22 is made illegal.
2013 – The EPA dramatically accelerates the phase out of R22 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 R22 will be illegal.
R22 from recycled sources and old stockpiles can still be used for repair of existing systems, however there is no guarantee on how long these reserves will last. Owners of R22 air conditioners (systems that are 10 or more years old) are faced with three choices.
- Just wait until your system breaks.
- Replace the R22 Freon with a newer blend of refrigerant.
- Replace your system proactively.
While option 1 is viable and legal, the dwindling supplies of R22 will cause repair prices to rise and will likely take much longer to complete.
In some instances retrofitting your system with a new refrigerant 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 R22 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 R22.
The last option, is what most businesses are trying to put off, The 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 R22 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