R-22 Phaseout

Posted by: jlarson
Feb 2010

In this post we’ll be talking about refrigerant, the EPA mandated R-22 phase-out and and how it effects you as a homeowner in Las Vegas.

R22 Jug R410a jug

To help you understand why this effects you lets first talk about how it affects us the contractor and technician, and the standard practices that we must follow.

Contractors servicing Air Conditioning systems that contain HCFC refrigerants are required to maintain an EPA Section 608 certification. Under the EPA refrigerant regulation it is illegal to intentionally release any refrigerants when servicing, repairing and or maintaining equipment regardless of the refrigerant type. In most cases special recovery equipment must be used during the servicing, repairing and or maintaining of Air Conditioning equipment. As a certification holder you must only use EPA-certified recovery and recycling equipment. Refrigerant recovered from Air Conditioning systems must not be sold to a new owner, instead it must be sent to an EPA-certified reclaimer prior to sale. One exception to this is if the refrigerant is being charged back into the same system or to another system owned by the same person, in this situation the refrigerant doesn’t need to be recycled or reclaimed. Furthmore prior to equipment disposal, in the case of replacing a system, contractors must properly recover the existing refrigerant from the system to ensure the future supply, protect the ozone layer and to comply with the law. Contractors must then send the recovered refrigerant to be reclaimed or destroyed.

The production of equipment and import of HCFC refrigerants specifically R-22 has been phased-out, and more specifically the production of equipment was mandated to stop on January 1, 2010 both in the United States and Worldwide. According to the EPA this phase-out was implemented to repair the ozone layer and reduce incidences of skin cancer and cataracts. As a Contractor, you’re not required to stop using HCFC refrigerants however the available supply will continue to decrease in the future and the cost will increase. Additionally, the EPA has not banned the sale or use of refrigerant and air conditioning equipment containing R-22 however it’s important to understand that the sale of equipment systems containing R-22 refrigerant is limited to the current inventory, and as mentioned above the production of equipment systems containing R-22 stopped on January 1, 2010. Another notable phase-out will be implemented in 2015 when there will be a 90% manadated reduction of the production of HCFC refrigerants, in 2020 a 95.5% reduction and in 2030 a 100% reduction. The current inventories of R-22 equipment systems are expected to rapidly decrease in Las Vegas as the 2010 summer approaches. The EPA has approved several acceptable replacement refrigerants to replace HCFC’s. R-410A is the accepted non ozone depleting replacement for R-22. If you currently own a home that has an air conditioning system that contains the non ozone depleting R-410A refrigerant then the phase-out WILL NOT have any effect on future services, repairs, replacements and or maintenances of your system(s). However if your home has an air conditioning system that contains R-22 refrigerant then the phase-out WILL have an effect on the future services, repairs, replacements and or maintenances of your system(s).

The following are potential effects:
1) The cost of R-22 refrigerant is likely to increase due to the decrease in production, this is the result of simple supply and demand, the effect is rise in cost for service, repair and maintenances.

2) R-22 and the replacement R-410A refrigerant have oils that do NOT mix. When replacing an Air Conditioning system this requires the installing company to flush the refrigerant line-set with a solvent to remove all remnant of R-22 refrigerant oil or replace line-set completely. This process will result in an increased cost due to labor and material, the effect is rise in cost for retrofitting.

3) When replacing an R-22 Split System Condenser the indoor Evaporator Coil will need to be replaced with an R-410A compatible Evaporative Coil for the correct operation, truest efficiency and for warranty validity. This additional component will be cause for increased labor and material cost, the effect is rise in cost for retrofitting and decrease in utility liability.

A complete 13 SEER R-410A split air conditioning system will be very close in price as compared to a complete 13 SEER R-22 split air conditioning system. The difference applies when considering partial retrofit installations. It has become common with R-22 split systems to do partial retrofits, by this I mean only replacing the Condensing unit and leaving the existing Evaporative Coil in place. One of the reasons this has become common in the industry is because it’s cheaper (It’s a corner cutter thats not recommended). Since the R-22 phase-out has taken place the availability of R-22 Condensers will rapidly become obsolete and this option of a partial retrofit will also become a thing of the past. Complete R-410A retrofits will be the only option. With this, increased costs will apply because the indoor Evaporative Coil has to be installed. Even though there will be a higher cost to perform the installation, the system will have a higher efficiency which will provide for utility savings. The utility savings are great enough to give you a return on your investment.

Self-Contained (rooftop) systems will not be affected by additional labor or materials during the retrofit process.

REF: http://www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/phaseout/hcfc.html


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