R-22 Freon Truth

What is Happening to R-22 Freon, and How Does It Effect me?


The Facts
The U.S. EPA is proposing to significantly reduce allowances to produce and/or import virgin R-22 ranging from 11-47% per year over the period 2012-2014  for servicing existing R-22 equipment.  Under this proposal, 2012 allowances would be reduced between 55 to 80 million pounds, 2013 allowances would be reduced to
between 46 to 69 million pounds and 2014 allowances would be reduced to  between 36 to 58 million pounds.
( The reduction has already started in FULL swing and has left us with doubled prices for R-22 Freon and a 50% reduction on production for the year 2012.UPDATE: Another increase in price has been implemented from EPA as of May 2012, bringing the increase to 400%)
What are my choices and how does this effect me?
If you are an owner of an R-22 freon system, your choices are clear. Dupont has already recommended that you replace your system with a new system that has the new freon R-410a or have their retrofit kit for another type of freon (ISCEON) installed. Since R-410a is now much cheaper to buy, you are better off putting your investment into a new system. Until then, you will be paying double, triple or even more to have your system topped off with R-22 freon which at this moment is sitting at $70+ per pound and by 2014 will be eliminated.
Since Dupont and the EPA have initiated the shortage this year, we have experienced already a major shortage for refilling R-22 systems. Due to the already 50% reduction, and 85% of America using R-22 freon, we are well aware that this may cause mass problems for those that rely on their air conditioning for the hot summer months.  It is recommended this year to start your summer service early, as there may be long waiting periods for freon once we hit 100 degrees and prices will be staggering.
(may also be viewed at EPA’s website at https://www.epa.gov/ozone-layer-protection )







Availability of R-22

The Clean Air Act does not allow any refrigerant to be vented into the atmosphere during installation, service, or retirement of equipment. Therefore, R-22 must be recovered and recycled (for reuse in the same system), reclaimed (reprocessed to the same purity standard as new R-22), or destroyed. After 2020, the servicing of R-22-based systems will rely solely on recycled or reclaimed refrigerants. It is expected that reclamation and recycling will ensure that existing supplies of R-22 will last longer and be available to service a greater number of systems. As noted above, chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce, and companies will no longer be able to import, R-22 for use in new A/C equipment after 2010,  but they can continue production and import of R-22 until 2020 for use in servicing existing equipment. Given this schedule, which was established in 1993, the transition away from R-22 to the use of ozone-friendly refrigerants should be smooth. For the next 10 years or more, R-22 should continue to be available for all systems that require R-22 for servicing.

Servicing existing units

Existing units using R-22 can continue to be serviced with R-22. There is no EPA requirement to change or convert R-22 units for use with a non-ozone-depleting substitute refrigerant. Such changes, called “retrofits,” are allowed if the alternative has been found acceptable for that type of use.  R-407C is allowed for retrofits but R-410A is not allowed in retrofits due to its higher working pressures. In addition, the new substitute refrigerants would not work well without making some changes to system components. As a result, service technicians who repair leaks to the system will most often continue to charge R-22 into the system as part of that repair.

Installing new units

The transition away from ozone-depleting R-22 to systems that rely on replacement refrigerants like R-410A has required redesign of heat pump and air conditioning systems. New systems incorporate compressors and other components specifically designed for use with specific replacement refrigerants. For instance, if a new outdoor unit (typically called a “condensing unit,” containing the condenser and compressor) is installed, it is likely that a new indoor unit (typically called an “evaporator”) will also be required. With these significant product and production process changes, testing and training must also change. Consumers should be aware that dealers of systems that use substitute refrigerants should be schooled in installation and service techniques required for use of that substitute refrigerant.

A Common Sense Approach To Servicing Your System

Along with prohibiting the production of ozone-depleting refrigerants, the Clean Air Act also mandates the use of common sense in handling refrigerants. By containing and using refrigerants responsibly — that is, by recovering, recycling, and reclaiming, and by reducing leaks — their ozone depletion and global warming consequences are reduced. The Clean Air Act outlines specific refrigerant containment and management practices for HVAC manufacturers, distributors, dealers and technicians. Properly installed home comfort systems rarely develop major refrigerant leaks, and with proper servicing, a system using R-22, R-410A, or another refrigerant will reduce its impact on the environment. While EPA does not mandate repairing or replacing small systems because of leaks, system leaks can not only harm the environment, but also result in increased operation and maintenance costs.

One important thing a homeowner can do for the environment, regardless of the refrigerant used, is to select a reputable dealer that employs service technicians who are EPA-certified to handle refrigerants. Technicians often call this certification “Section 608 certification,” referring to the part of the Clean Air Act that requires minimizing releases of ozone-depleting chemicals from HVAC equipment.