HVAC: Saying Goodbye to HCFC-22 (R-22) Refrigerant
I was recently asked by a friend why their HVAC repairman had to replace the whole R-22 refrigerant HVAC unit when the compressor malfunctioned.
In 1987 an international environmental agreement (Montreal Protocol) was formed to regulate and phase out all CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) refrigerants associated with the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol was adopted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Title VI of the Clean Air Act and in the mid 90’s all CFCs and halons refrigerants were phased out of production and use.
On January 1, 2010, the phase-out and ban of HCFC-22 (i.e., R-22) and R142b refrigerants began with a requirement for the consumption of R-22 and R-142b refrigerants to be reduced by 75% below the U.S. baseline. The use of virgin R-22 refrigerant may not be used in new equipment and new HVAC equipment may not be manufactured using R-22. As such, the use of virgin and reclaimed R-22 and R-142b refrigerants are only allowed in the servicing of existing equipment.
On January 1, 2015, the phase-out and ban of R-22 and R142b refrigerants required the consumption of R-22 and R-142b refrigerants to be reduced by 90% below the U.S. baseline. The use of virgin and/or reclaimed R-22 and R-142b refrigerants are only allowed in the servicing of existing equipment.
On January 1, 2020, the phase-out and ban of R-22 and R142b refrigerants required the consumption of R-22 and R-142b refrigerants to be reduced by 99.5% below the U.S. baseline. The use of stockpiled virgin and/or reclaimed R-22 and R-142b refrigerants is only allowed to service existing equipment and no equipment and/or component is to be manufactured for R-22 and R142b. Further, on January 1, 2030, all R-22 and R142b refrigerants and manufactured equipment currently in operation will be banned and will require replacement.
Now with all HCFCs refrigerants being phased out and/or banned, what refrigerants will be used in new HVAC equipment?
The acceptable Non-Ozone depleting refrigerant alternatives are R-134a, R407C, R410A, and R-407A. However, it should be noted that new refrigerants (i.e., R410A) operate at a higher pressure and require larger coil sizes due to less efficiency of the refrigerant. As they say, all good things change.
About the Author
Richard L. Ellsworth, P.E. is a consulting engineer with our Kansas City Office. Mr. Ellsworth provides consulting services in the investigation and analysis of mechanical fractures/failures of materials and components, mechanical systems, and equipment specifications. You may contact Rick for your forensic engineering needs at firstname.lastname@example.org or (913) 859-9580.