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Everything You Need To Know About The Refrigerant Phase-Out

Everything You Need To Know About The Refrigerant Phase-Out

The Refrigerant Phase-Out

Every air conditioner and heat pump requires a substance that actually creates the cold air that keeps you comfortable during the hot summer months. That necessary coolant is referred to as refrigerant.

As a homeowner, you most likely do not think about your air conditioner’s refrigerant very often, and that is all right. Unless you have a potentially serious issue with your system, the only thing you should know is that its refrigerant is vital to keeping you cool.

In the last few years there has been a lot of US legislation passed that could affect you, especially if you have an older air conditioner. The primary focus of the legislations focuses on the type of refrigerant known as hydrochlorofluorocarbon or HCFC, namely R-22.

HRFCs such as R-22 have been used as coolants for more than 40 years and they work well. However, they have been proven to increasingly contribute to ozone depletion and even global warming. For this reason, in 1987 an international agreement known as the Montreal Protocol called for a gradual phase-out of R-22 in all air conditioners and heat pumps.

The schedule of this phase-out is as follows:

  • January 1, 2004: The U.S. is to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 35%
  • January 1, 2010: The U.S. is to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 75% New R-22 cannot be used in new HVAC equipment.
  • January 1, 2015: The U.S. has to reduce is consumption of HCFCs by 90%
  • January 1, 2020: The U.S. has to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 99.5%

Refrigerant that has been recovered or recycled can still be used beyond 2020 to service existing units, but chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce R-22 to service existing air conditioners or heat pumps.

The good news is that so far we are on track to meet all of the deadlines, but how does this affect you as a homeowner?

How Does The R-22 Phase-Out Affect You?

If you have an older system that uses R-22 as a refrigerant, there is no need to install a new system. You have the option to convert your system from R-22 to a more environmentally friendly type of refrigerant, but even that is not necessary. If you have a leak, your system can still legally be temporarily recharged with R-22.

If you are installing a new air conditioner you should replace both your indoor unit (evaporator) and outdoor unit (condenser). This particular course of action should be taken since air conditioners and heat pumps need to be specifically designed for different types of refrigerants and if you replace one without the other, there is no guarantee they will work together.