Phase Out of Refrigerants
As a result of concerns related to depletion of ozone and global warming there are significant changes coming to the cooling and refrigeration industry regarding the refrigerants that they use. At the end of December 2019 R-22 refrigerant is set to be phased out under the Montreal Protocols. What does this mean for the consumer? After 2019 no more virgin HCFC-22 can be produced for use in the United States. This does not mean you must abandon your existing functioning R-22 equipment. Existing equipment may continue to be serviced and used. It is anticipated that the existing R-22 stockpile and recovered R-22 from existing equipment will be sufficient to service equipment for years to come and possibly until the existing aging equipment wears out. What can be expected is that the available R-22 will become more expensive as it becomes more rare and economic forces will make R-22 systems functionally obsolete for economic reasons.
Servicing Old Equipment
It cannot be stressed enough that there will be no restriction on the use of R-22 refrigerant after 2019. Contractors indicated that it can no longer be used are misguiding their clients. Even after R-22 is no longer cost effective to use, or is no longer available, there are replacement refrigerants such as R427A, which has been in use since 2005. The downside to the replacement refrigerants can be reduced life of the equipment related to oil re-circulation issues and a lower heat capacity reducing the efficiency of the equipment. Arkema Group has prepared a great PSA regarding the phase out of R-22.
Replacement Can Be Cost Effective
Based upon my own discussions with a few of the HVAC contractors I meet and work with most are recommending clients upgrade to new equipment. In addition to the benefit of having readily available refrigerant allowing for regular cost effective servicing of the equipment, newer systems operate at much higher efficiencies and handle humidity much more effectively in our climate.