The Phaseout of R22 Refrigerant
On September 15 1987, every nation on earth ratified The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. It is to date the only treaty ever approved by all United Nations Member States, which is comprised of all 197 countries in the world. According to the UN, the agreement regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 manmade chemicals referred to as ozone depleting substances. When those chemicals are released into the atmosphere they damage the stratospheric ozone layer, which is the natural shield that protects humans and the environment from harmful levels of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
A primary focus of The Montreal Protocol was its slow phase out of the use of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are gases used worldwide in refrigeration, air-conditioning, and foam applications that deplete the ozone layer. In the Montreal Amendment of 2007, nations recognizing the potential benefits to the climate of our planet decided to accelerate the scheduled phase out of HCFCs. Leading the developing countries, the United States agreed to completely end manufacturing and distribution of these pollutants by 2020.
Chlorodifluoromethane or difluoromonochloromethane is commonly known as HCFC-22, or R-22, and it is used as a refrigerant in commercial and residential air conditioning equipment. R-22 has been slowly phased out of use in new equipment sold in the United States over the past fifteen years. In 2004, the Montreal Protocol required the United States to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 35%. That reduction rose to 75% in 2010, up to 90% by 2015, and finally next year in 2020 it will be completely phased out of new systems and chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce R-22 to service existing air conditioners and heat pumps in the United States.
About a year from now, on January 1st, 2020, R22 will be an officially banned substance in our country and it will be illegal to produce, distribute, or use. Another chemical called R-410A will be replacing R-22 as the acceptable refrigerant in air conditioning applications in the US going forward. This chemical substance does not contain bromine or chlorine and does not contribute to ozone depletion. It also has a much lower impact on global warming thanks to the reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the power plants that produce it. Consumers will be glad to know that R-410A has a higher seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) than R-22 by reducing power consumption, which will save money on your bills.
Now that we have explained the history of why R-22 has been banned, we need to talk about what it means for you if your air conditioning system uses it. Basically, you have a few options going forward and we here at American Airflow would like to make this transition as painless as possible. Your first option is to let your AC equipment run as long as it may and hope that no new refrigerant is needed for any upkeep or repairs in the near future. We do not advise this route, for obvious reasons, as it could lead to your system breaking down in the middle of summer and instead of a quick fix you might be required to replace the entire system while sitting in a hot house.
While you and your family debate the pros and cons of replacing the entire air conditioning system in your home, you might want to look into a retrofit or conversion of your old equipment. Basically your technicians will remove all of the banned chemical substance from your equipment and then add the safer alternative. Swapping out the refrigerants can be a costly endeavor, but of course it is much cheaper than a full system replacement. Unfortunately, this is not a viable option for every AC machine, so you need to speak with your HVAC contractor to see if it is right for you.
If you are considering a system replacement, but you are understandably concerned about the cost, you should talk to your local HVAC contractor. They will explain the many benefits of replacing the entire system with modern and energy efficient equipment. This not only includes the priceless cost of peace of mind to be comfortable in the heat of the summer, but also how much money you will be saving on future energy bills. Over time, that saving adds up to a whole lot of money so it is important to factor that into your decision and treat a replacement as the investment it is.
We at American Airflow understand that system replacement is a major investment for every family. We know very well that the cost involved in a new central air conditioner for your home can be a bit overwhelming, but that is why we have extremely convenient financing options for our customers that make it a whole lot easier. There are financial opportunities that may even allow you to begin construction without a down payment, which is a huge relief to countless households in America. There are plenty of contractors out there that have partnered with reputable financing companies, so make some phone calls and set up some meetings to find the best fit for your budget.
One important thing to consider during your decision making process to replace your air conditioning system or not is how long to wait to move forward with the job. The further we are into the year, the closer we are to an outright ban on R-22. That means that the clock is not only ticking for you, but for every other person in your region that has an AC unit in their home. The longer you procrastinate that inevitable conversation with your local HVAC contractor, the less time they will have on their calendar to allocate resources for your project. We are encouraging our customers to start thinking about their next move now so they are not panicking at the last minute to find time and money to move forward during peak season.
This is not meant to scare you into making a rash decision. We simply want you to be informed so that you are prepared to make the necessary changes in your AC system that will be required by law.