If your AC unit was produced before 2010, you may be familiar with R22, a type of refrigerant used to keep the air in your air conditioning cool. This has historically been an important component of AC systems, becoming the industry leader after its release in the 1950s. In recent years, environmental regulations have changed and R22 has become a topic of much discussion and change. Here is everything Comfort Experts wants you to know about the substance and how new regulations affect you.
The Problem with R22
In the 1980s, it became clear that certain substances used on Earth were depleting the ozone layer. In order to hedge the side effects of this depletion, the Environmental Protection Agency and many international counterparts developed the Montreal Protocol, a series of phase-outs for many ozone-depleting agents. This included many refrigerants, with R22 being one of the most severe substances listed. The phasing out of R22 production and imports began in 2003, with both activities being prohibited by 2010. Because many current, working systems still required R22, AC repair services were allowed to continue its use in service of those situations. In these cases, all R22 was only able to be sold to certified technicians.
As of 2020, all production and imports of R22 will be eliminated. The substance will only be available if it has been recycled, and for existing air conditioners.
Using R22 Today
Despite this ban going into effect, many people do still have AC systems that require R22 and may work for more years. Because they are older, these AC systems are also more likely to experience leaks and require repair. This means there is still a demand for R22, even though supply is very limited. Because of the scarcity of R22 and additional regulations on recycling refrigerant, R22 can be fairly expensive to purchase. Because homeowners cannot purchase R22 themselves, providers take on the overhead associated with importing, record keeping, recycling, and destruction of R22. This cost is typically passed on to homeowners who need to maintain their existing AC systems.
What Are My Options?
If your AC unit was produced prior to 2010, it is more than likely utilizing R22. Because the average lifespan of an air conditioner is 10-15 years, many of these units are likely nearing the time they will need to be replaced anyway. Current systems use the more environmentally friendly R410a and you will not need to worry about R22 regulations. But if your system isn’t ready to be replaced, and you don’t want to pay high prices for using R22, you may have another choice. An AC repair expert can replace parts in your AC to make it compatible with a more modern, approved refrigerant. This can also be expensive and is not best practice, but can be done if your system is operating well.
Eventually, your AC will need to be replaced and the new units will be using R410a or another environmentally friendly option.