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R22 Refrigerant Phase-Out – What You Need to Know

If you have an older air conditioning system in your home, chances are good that it uses a refrigerant called R22 (sometimes called HCFC22 or freon). Unfortunately, this type of chemical coolant contains ingredients that have been found to be harmful to the Earth’s ozone layer. To counter this, R22 can no longer be produced or imported. We at Frank Gay Services have some information for you on what you can do to keep your home cool and comfortable during the phase-out of this refrigerant.

What is R22?

As mentioned above, R22 is a chemical refrigerant that is used in air conditioning systems and heat pumps to cool your home. A refrigerant is a substance made up of certain chemicals that flows through your air conditioning or heating pump. The refrigerant cools the air in your home by absorbing and releasing heat, so you are left with a more temperate, comfortable environment.

R22 and the ozone layer

Since the 1970s, environmental scientists have been studying areas of the ozone layer that are thinning, to the point of creating a hole in the layer over Antarctica. The ozone layer is a part of Earth’s atmosphere that protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. UV rays have been found to increase the risk of cancer in humans, so the ozone layer depletion poses a danger of higher cancer diagnoses, as well as other problems such as blindness and cataracts. Heavy exposure to UV rays is also harmful to plants and animals.

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)

Environmental scientists found that certain chemicals were having a direct effect on the depletion of the ozone layer. Some of these chemicals, called hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) have historically been used in refrigerants, including those for home cooling like R22.

The Montreal Protocol

In 1987, an international treaty to was created to protect the ozone layer. The treaty, called the Montreal Protocol, called for phasing out certain chemical substances that were known to be detrimental to the ozone layer, including HCFCs. Since the treaty was signed, the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica has been slowly shrinking.

Recent R22 rollback developments

As of January 1, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has banned the production and import of R22 chemical refrigerant due to its detrimental effect on the ozone layer. Since then, only recovered, recycled, or reclaimed supplies of R22 have been available for use in home air conditioning units.

What this means for you

If you have an air conditioning unit that uses R22, don’t fret! The EPA’s plan to phase out the use of R22 spreads over the next eight years. Until then, you have a few different options to keep your home cool as the refrigerant is phased out. There are several factors to consider as you weigh your options, including cost, energy efficiency, performance, and reliability. Give us a call at (407) 279-3270 to talk to one of our AC pros.

Replace your unit

Air conditioning units manufactured after 2010 don’t use R22 coolant, so if you opt to get a new one, you’ll be all set. If you haven’t replaced your air conditioning system or heating pump in the last dozen years, you may be due for a new one anyway. Contact us at Frank Gay Services for professional AC installation.

When it comes time to replace your unit, look for products with high SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) standard ratings. This will let you know that your AC has been found to be energy efficient within federally mandated standards.

Systems that have higher efficiency ratios will work better and use less energy, which can end up saving money for you in the long run.

Keep your existing AC and have it serviced

If your current system is working fine and still uses R22, a licensed HVAC professional from Frank Gay Services will be able to service your equipment. They will be able to find and repair any leaks in your air conditioning unit to keep any R22 from flowing into the ozone layer. You should have your HVAC system serviced annually, and schedule to have your air filters replaced as well. This will keep your home cool and comfortable and will help protect the environment at the same time.

You will eventually need to replace your unit, however. Air conditioning systems that use R22 will not work with alternative refrigerants. Also, supplies of R22 are more expensive to replace than newer options, so it may make good financial sense to replace your system.

Alternatives to R22

Since the January 2020 R22 production ban, new chemical refrigerants have appeared on the market. The most common is R410A, which uses non-ozone-depleting chemicals. This refrigerant is sold under a variety of brand names, all of which are EPA-approved for home AC systems and units. Your Frank Gay Services AC professional can let you know what is available to you.

Many, if not most, air conditioning units manufactured after 2010 are built specifically to use R410A, so when the time comes to replace your current unit, you will not have to worry about what type of refrigerant it uses.

Stay cool and stay safe

Reducing the harmful chemicals that led to the depletion of the ozone layer has shown to have real, measurable results. In order to keep our houses cool and to keep ourselves safe from damaging ultraviolet rays, it makes sense to do what we can to keep the ozone healthy as well.

Talk to the pros

As mentioned above, you still have time before air conditioning systems and heat pumps that use R22 are completely phased out. We believe in keeping our customers as informed as possible because nobody likes surprises—at least, not the kind that leaves you without functioning AC! Take the time to do your research and see if replacing your unit now is the right move for you, or if your current system will be functional for some time to come.

We are here to help all Orlando, FL residents keep their homes cool, comfortable, and safe, and we have the answers to any questions you may have about the R22 phase-out. Give us a call at (407) 279-3270 or schedule an appointment online to talk to one of our HVAC pros.

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