R-22 is a common refrigerant found in many air conditioners, heat pumps and refrigeration systems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates this refrigerant because it is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) and is phasing it out because it has been found to be an ozone depleting substance. As of 2010, the EPA prohibits the manufacture of any new equipment containing R-22. All new systems must contain an alternative refrigerant. However, R-22 system parts (e.g., condensers, heat pumps and evaporator coils) can still be purchased as long as they were manufactured before 2010 or do not contain any refrigerant. The manufacture of R-22 will continue until 2020.
Air conditioning and heating systems are designed to work with specific refrigerants. Refrigerant types can not be mixed. An air conditioning and heating system’s compressor is designed for use with only one type of refrigerant. However, some evaporator coils are designed to work with multiple refrigerant types.
There are other refrigerants that can be used in an R-22 system. However, these products can not be mixed with the existing R-22. Your system’s existing R-22 must be completely recovered by a licensed individual before any other refrigerants can be introduced into your system. It is important to note that, while there are replacements for R-22, they are found to be less effective than that of the system’s original R-22. Using a replacement refrigerant for R-22 should only be done when there is no alternative.
The phase out of R-22 has, and will continue to affect homeowners and business owners. Refrigerant leaks and system component failures, coupled with the rising cost of R-22, will prematurely force the purchase of new air conditioning and heating systems. This is increases the cost for the homeowner by reducing the total number of solutions for possible system repair.
The future cost of R-22 will continue to rise due to the EPA’s restrictions and diminishing supply. It is recommended to avoid any costly repairs to an existing R-22 system. The purchase of a new R-410A, or other non-HCFC refrigerant, could be the best decision as repairs for these systems are less costly.