The HVAC industry is bracing for the planned phase out of Freon (R22) in HVAC units. Many home owner are still unaware of the phase out or are unclear about how it will affect them. The more you know about what is going to happen with R22, the better you will be able to prepare for what needs to happen with their aging R22-dependent systems.
R22 Phase Out Timeline
R22 is being phased out worldwide because of its harmful effects on the ozone layer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set January 1, 2020 as the date when R22 becomes illegal in the United States.
After that date, R22 cannot be manufactured in the U.S. and it cannot be imported. R22 still in use in HVAC systems will not be affected.
What Does the R22 Phase Out Mean for Maintenance and Repairs?
The R22 phase out date means that after January 1, 2020, HVAC systems that use R22 will be obsolete. If the repair requires adding R22 refrigerant to the system, the only options will be reclaimed and previously-produced R22 refrigerant.
While some simple electrical repairs do not require recharging the refrigerant, most service calls do require a refrigerant recharge.
HVAC system owners that have leaky systems and that have been periodically injecting new R22 into the system will be forced to replace their system.
In the lead up to 2020, R22 can still be used in repairs and maintenance. But, the supplies of R22 are already shrinking. The closer it gets to 2020, the smaller the global supply of R22 will be available. This will lead to the costs of the refrigerant to soar—making certain once routine repairs cost prohibitive.
Advising R22 System Owners
Obviously, it is not wise to install a system now that uses R22. But, what about customers who already own R22-dependent systems?
These customers can continue to use their systems after January 1, 2020 and get as much useful life as possible out of their systems, until they need a repair. But, this course of action means they may be forced to make an emergency HVAC system replacement which will be much more expensive than a well-planned HVAC system update. For most HVAC owners, this is indeed a gamble.
Some R22 units may be able to be converted to use a different refrigerant. However, many conversions may only buy the customers a few more years of useful life. The numbers for many system owners will not favor retrofitting.
The best option, but the one most customers dread, is replacing their system before 2020. This gives them the most reliability and cost predictability.