R22 has now been fully phased out. Here’s how it happened:
Refrigerant 22 (also known as R22 and Chlorodifluoromethane) was the most commonly used refrigerant in air conditioning systems since the 1950’s.
Its ozone depletion potential (ODP) was 20 times less than most other refrigerants of its time, and for this reason it became the last of the ozone-depleting refrigerants to be phased out.
As we entered the new Millennium, most of the mainstream equipment manufacturers had started to introduce new equipment ranges that operated on refrigerant R407C, being the short-term, ozone-friendly replacement for R22.
R22 phase out – Stage 1 (enforced on 01/01/2003)
In 2003, the first stage of the R22 phase out was enforced when a total ban on the production of new R22 air conditioning systems was imposed.
R22 phase out – Stage 2 (enforced on 01/01/2010)
On 1st January 2010, the next stage of the R22 phase-out was enforced making it unlawful for anyone to charge an air conditioning system with new R22.
From this point on, when a system operating on R22 suffered a refrigerant leak or needed to have its refrigerant charge removed in order to facilitate a repair, it could no longer be re-charged with new R22. Reclaimed (2nd hand) R22 could still be used.
Many of the equipment suppliers used this legislation to their full advantage by promoting the message that new equipment was required; however this wasn’t the case as those with healthy, leak-tight R22 air conditioning systems could continue to use them unaffected by the phase-out.
R22 phase out – Stage 3 (enforced on 01/01/2015)
On 1st January 2015, the third and final stage of the R22 phase out was enforced making it unlawful for anyone to charge an air conditioning system with R22, be it new or reclaimed.
Therefore today, should an R22 system suffer a refrigerant leak or need to have its refrigerant charge removed in order to facilitate a repair; it can no longer be recharged with R22.
Whilst the refrigerant manufacturers now offer ozone-friendly ‘drop-in’ replacement refrigerants for R22, we’ve been testing these replacement refrigerants for a number of years now and have concluded that despite their name, their characteristics differ too much from those of R22 to be considered a true replacement.
We typically find it difficult to predict the performance or reliability of R22 systems when charged with these drop-in refrigerants, commonly experiencing reduced efficiency, compromised operating conditions and premature component failures which we can only attribute to the different characteristics of these substitute refrigerants.
This concern is echoed by the equipment manufacturers who refuse to warranty spare parts designed for use with R22 if used with an alternative refrigerant.
R22 phase out – Summary
Those with tighter budgets who operate later, well maintained R22 systems may continue to do so.
Should the need for a re-charge arise, you’ll be faced with a choice of either using a substitute refrigerant and accepting the operational problems that these ‘drop-in’ refrigerants can bring, or more sensibly now, replacing your R22 equipment with new.
Refrigerant phase-out issues aside, the higher running costs, reduced reliability and failing availability of spares for older R22 systems all now point to an equipment upgrade being the most sensible route forward.
Larger organisations that have their environmental policies and activities in the public eye, can no longer afford to be seen operating R22 systems. Indeed, most Companies of this stature have been replacing their R22 systems on a staged basis over the past few years, not only to honour their own environmental responsibilities, but also to meet their targets to achieve a reduction in energy consumption.
R410A is the long-term ozone-friendly replacement for R22, but having very different characteristics it cannot be used in systems designed to operate on R22.
There are a number of good reasons why the replacement of your existing R22 equipment should now be seriously considered.
1. Air conditioning systems have a typical life expectancy of around 15 years. With most of the mainstream manufacturers having stopped producing R22 systems around 2000, any R22 air conditioning systems still in operation today are either at, or approaching the end of their useful lives.
Similarly to a motor vehicle, as the age of an air conditioning system increases, so does the likelihood of breakdown. Money spent on more frequent call-outs and repairs may be better spent on new R410A equipment which come with a 3 year warranty as standard.
2. The availability of spare parts for many R22 systems is now patchy, with many parts now being obsolete.
3. Through advancements in technology, today’s R410A air conditioning systems consume as little as half of the power consumed by older R22 systems of an equivalent capacity.
4. Many of today’s air conditioning systems incorporate a timeclock and energy-saving controls as standard to further reduce running costs.
5. Today’s air conditioning systems are quieter than older models and their intelligent electronic controls provide improved comfort through a better control over the temperature and distribution of the air.
Irrespective of which category you find yourself in, here at Gelidus we are happy to offer sound and friendly advice to ensure that your R22 phase out responsibilities are managed in an efficient and practical manner.