R-22 Refrigerant, What you need to know!!

March 1st, 2011 → 5:38 am @ // No Comments

R22 is Going Away:

Even if you have no technical knowledge of HVAC, if you work in facilities, you are aware that Refrigerant 22 is being phased out. As of January 1, 2010, it will be illegal to charge R22 into a system unless that system was built prior to January 1, 2010. The bottom line is that all manufacturers will be building systems that utilize a refrigerant other than R22 by that date. As of January 1, 2020, all production of R22 will cease, and the only R22 available in the United States will be refrigerant that has been recovered from existing equipment. As of January 1, 2030, R22 may not be used at all. Keep in mind that almost all of the air conditioning equipment currently serving your stores is charged with R22. R22 has also been the refrigerant used in almost all residential air conditioning systems and has been used extensively in commercial refrigerators. Even with the deadline looming only 1.5 years from now, the majority of commercial HVAC units currently being sold are still R22 units.

So how does this rock your world? There are lots of things to be concerned about. Most manufacturers are in the midst of switching production over to equipment that utilizes R410A as a refrigerant. The nature of this refrigerant is such that it operates at pressures approximately 1.5 times higher than R22. All of the components that were used for R22 systems have to be redesigned for the higher pressures found in R410A systems. This includes coils and compressors. The first challenge will be for component manufacturers to produce a sufficient quantity of R410A compatible components to fill the need for all of the new equipment being produced. The next challenge, will come down the road,when component manufacturers become reluctant to produce replacement parts for R22 systems because they know the future need will be limited and they have converted their productionlinesovertoproducingcomponentsthatarecompatiblewithR410A. What will the availability be for replacement parts for the systems currently serving your stores? So, we need to concern ourselves with the current and near future availability of R410A units, as well as the future availability of R22 replacement parts.

We also need to be concerned about the limited availability of R22 for repairs to existing equipment. The production of R22 is being phased out and limits have been set as to how much R22 can be manufactured. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has modeled the phase out of R22 based upon current use, current supply, and allowable

production. It has included the use of refrigerant that is reclaimed and recycled from existing systems in this model. EPA has predicted that there will be sufficient Refrigerant 22 available to meet the needs of existing systems through the year 2030. What if they

are wrong? What if manufacturers of R22 decide to shut down production facilities for R22 rather than maintain lines used to produce a product with a limited future? What if the EPA’s estimate of the quantity of refrigerant that will be recycled is not correct? There are some refrigerant mixtures that have been brought on to the market recently that are

being sold as “drop-in,” replacements for R22. These are relatively new products and their ability to perform over the long term has not yet been proven.

Another item of concern, is the fact that R410A is actually a mixture of refrigerants, and as such, when it leaks out of the system, the components of the mixture leak out at different rates. This makes the practice of simply adding refrigerant to a system that is low on charge questionable. I have heard differing opinions on this from different manufacturers. It appears that the current safe bet is to remove the existing charge and completely recharge any system that is low on refrigerant. If the R22 substitute mixtures mentioned above become used widely, they will be subject to the removal and recharge scenario as well because they two are mixtures.

We are speaking mostly of availability issues here, and as we know from experience limited availability causes large increases in cost. We have no way of predicting where the cost of R22 and components designed for R22 will go. In the last year, we have seen the wholesale cost of R22 increase by 90%. In the early 1990’s, a refrigerant known as R12 was phased out. The federal government actually taxed the refrigerant at 100% of its value and escalated the tax each year in an effort to speed up the process of changing over to other refrigerants. I have no doubt that if it appears that the supply of R22 is going to be insufficient to meet the demand, the cost of R22 will skyrocket no matter if the government chooses to levy taxes or the market availability pushes the cost.

So what can you do to soften the blow that we are going to receive as R22 is phased out? The first thing you can do is to make sure all of the HVAC equipment purchased by your company for new construction as well as replacement work utilizes R410A rather than

R22. Systems that use R22 may be less costly and more readily available in the current market, but you may be mortgaging your future by continuing to purchase R22 equipment. The second thing you can do to lessen the effect of R22 phase out on your company is to institute an aggressive, proactive replacement plan. Reducing the number ofR22unitsatyourstoresisheonlywaytocontrolyourfutureHVACrepaircosts. You really don’t want to be in the position of having 80% of your stores being cooled by units that are 15 years old or older in the year 2020.

Contact Thermal Air Conditioning Inc if you have any questions you may have.

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