What You Should Know about Refrigerants When Purchasing a Residential Air Conditioner System
An HCFC known as R-22 has been the refrigerant of choice for residential heat pump and air-conditioning systems for more than four decades. Unfortunately for the environment, releases of R-22 that result from system leaks contribute to ozone depletion. As the manufacture of R-22 is phased out over the coming years as part of the agreement to end production of HCFCs, manufactures of residential air conditioning systems are beginning to offer equipment that uses ozone-friendly refrigerants.
January 1, 2010:
After 2010, chemical manufactures may still produce R-22 to service existing equipment, but not for use in new equipment.
January 1, 2020:
Use of existing refrigerant, including refrigerant that has been recovered and recycled, will be allowed beyond 2020 to service existing systems, but chemical manufactures will no longer be able to produce R-22 to service existing air conditioniners and heat pumps.
Cost of R-22
While consumers should be aware that prices of R-22 may increase as supplies dwindle over the next 20 or 30 years, EPA believes that consumers are not likely to be subjected to major price increases within a short time period. Although there is no guarantee that service costs of R-22 will not increase, the lengthy phase out period for R-22 means that market conditions should not be greatly affected by the volatility and resulting refrigerant price hikes that have characterized the phase out of R-12, the refrigerant used in automotive air-conditioning systems.
Alternatives to R-22 in Residential Air Conditioning
As R-22 is gradually phased out, non-ozone-depleting alternative refrigerants are being introduced. One of these substitutes is 410A, a blend of hydro fluorocarbons (HFCS), substances that do not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer, but, like R-22, contribute to global warming. R-410A is manufactured and sold under various trade names, including GENETRON AZ-20, SUVA 410A, and Puron.
Existing units using R-22 can continue to be serviced with R-22. There is no EPA requirement to change or convert R-22 units for use with a non-ozone-depleting substitute refrigerant.