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HCFC-22, commonly referred to as R-22, is a refrigerant used in commercial HVAC units. Starting on January 1, 2020, U.S. production and import of HCFC-22 will end. The HCFC-22 phase-out is a part of the EPA’s HCFC phase-out schedule, which the United States agreed to in 1987 as part of the Montreal Protocol. In order to complete the phase-out, there is a cap on the production and import of R-22.

Why is HCFC-22 being phased out?

HCFC’s – hydrochlorofluorocarbons – significantly deplete the ozone layer, a protective part of the atmosphere around the earth. Without this protective layer, dangerous UV rays from sunlight reach the surface of the earth, elevating the risk of skin cancer.  Although HCFC’s have considerably less ozone depleting potential than their predecessors CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), many HCFCs have high global warming potentials, of up to 2000 times that of carbon dioxide. In 1993, the EPA established the “worst-first” phaseout approach for the chemicals which have the highest ozone depletion potential, and HCFC-22 was among the first.

Can you still use an HVAC system with R-22?

Most HVAC equipment installed before 2011 uses this refrigerant. When Jan. 1, 2020, rolls around, R-22 will become scarce. In fact, HVAC contractors are already feeling the squeeze, as supplies of HCFC-22 are rapidly declining and the cost is skyrocketing. Unfortunately, this means making a repair to an HVAC unit that requires R-22 will become increasingly expensive.

You may continue to use HCFC-22 in your existing HVAC system for as long as necessary. But if your HVAC equipment requires a recharge with new R-22, recovered/reclaimed R-22 will be available. By asking your Chadwick service technician to check for leaks and perform preventive maintenance, you can help keep your refrigerant emissions down and reduce the need to purchase additional HCFC-22. As of January 1, 2018, technicians servicing stationary commercial air-conditioning systems containing HFCs require EPA certification.

When it’s time to repair your current HVAC equipment, you’ll have three choices: continue to operate your existing system with reclaimed R-22, convert your existing system, or purchase a new one. If you choose to convert your HVAC system:

  1. Retrofit your HVAC system for an ozone-friendly refrigerant.
  2. Confirm that all system components are compatible with the new refrigerant.
  3. Identify and repair leaks quickly.

Buying a new, more efficient HVAC system may require more money in the short run, but will most likely reduce your utility costs in the long run.

EPA’s Safe Disposal Requirements must be followed when disposing of HVAC equipment containing HCFC refrigerants. The refrigerant must be recovered in accordance with EPA’s requirements.

More info: EPA’s FAQ on HCFC-22 for contractors and technicians.