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Commercial Air Conditioning, Commercial HVAC

How Will the R-22 Refrigerant Phase Out Impact Your Commercial AC?

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have mandated phasing out refrigerants that have been commonly used for air conditioning and commercial refrigeration equipment for many years. R-22 refrigerant will become illegal to manufacture or import to the US in less than 3 years. In the meantime, supply will dwindle & prices will rise. How will the R-22 refrigerant phase out impact your air conditioning or refrigeration equipment and the cost to maintain it?

The R-22 refrigerant (also known as Freon) phase out plan is likely to cause expensive problems for many business owners in the near future. The situation is prompting smart owners and facilities managers to research their options and develop a proactive plan. Do you need to replace your equipment? How long can you wait? Are there other options?

Read on to learn more about what’s coming and how to take action.

Why is the R-22 refrigerant phase out happening?

The dangers of refrigerants have been known for decades. The industry standard for many years was Freon (also known as R22), a hydrochlorofluorocarbon gas, or HCFC. Back in the 1970’s it was discovered that HCFC gases were quickly depleting the Earth’s ozone layer, and an international treaty called the Montreal Protocol called for a worldwide phase-out of these types of refrigerants. Since then, the EPA has been gradually increasing the restrictions on the use of R-22, and in December of 2019 the R-22 refrigerant phase out will be complete and it will be illegal to manufacture or import into the United States.

What are the potential consequences of the R-22 refrigerant phase out for your business?

1. Rapidly rising repair costs over the next 2+ years

As the cost of R-22 refrigerant rises, the cost of fixing equipment that uses R-22 will increase dramatically. Last year prices rose 50 percent and the increase promises to be even more this year. A repair that requires replacing refrigerant may cost you a sum that’s just not worth investing in an older unit.

2. Additional consequences of refrigerant leaks

If your older AC or refrigeration equipment develops refrigerant leaks, there’s an added consequence in addition to the cost of the repair. Because of the dangers to the environment of refrigerants leaking into the atmosphere, the EPA has strict regulations regarding timely repair of any known refrigerant leaks. If ignore a diagnosed leak and you are found to be in violation, you could be charged significant fines.

Learn more about refrigerant leaks and your responsibility:
AC Troubleshooting: Refrigerant Leak
What You Need to Know About F Gases and HVAC Service

3. Losing business due to AC problems

When an air conditioning repair becomes prohibitively expensive, you may be forced to replace your equipment on an emergency basis. That means your business might be without AC for days or even weeks as you find and have a replacement system installed. How many customers will you turn away and how much business will you lose in that period of time? What do you stand to lose in employee productivity?

3. Dangers of counterfeit or fake refrigerants

As the R-22 refrigerant phase out deadline looms, demand will increase and supply for R-22 will reach an all time-low. As a result, the EPA has already reported cases of counterfeit and contaminated refrigerants being sold that have caused explosions and fires.

Don’t put your business, your employees and your customers at risk. If you do need a repair prior to the R-22 refrigerant phase out deadline, only purchase refrigerant from a trusted HVAC service supplier. And make sure your service company and technicians are certified in safe refrigerant handling.

By law, technicians who may handle refrigerant when servicing air conditioners and refrigeration equipment must be EPA 608 certified. This means they have completed an educational program and passed a certification exam. Since the certification never expires, you need to make sure your service provider keeps up with changes in the regulations. You should also make sure your HVAC-R service provider uses EPA-approved refrigeration handling equipment when working in your building.

How to plan for the R-22 refrigerant phase out

If you want to avoid expensive repairs involving R-22 refrigerant over the next few years, now is the time to consider proactive action.

For most commercial systems more than 8 years old, you have 3 options:

  1. Stay the course until you’re forced to make a change
  2. Retrofit your existing system to use a new refrigerant
  3. Replace your equipment with a modern system that uses new refrigerants

To get the facts and learn the pros and cons of each option, get our informative guide: R-22 Refrigerant Phase Out: Do You Need to Replace Your AC?.
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Consult HVACR experts to devise the R-22 refrigerant phase-out plan that’s right for you

Ask your contractor about their R-22 refrigerant phase-out strategy. If they don’t have one, that’s a red flag. You need to know that are on top of the situation, and that their techs are trained in what to do in every situation.

Whatever your situation, feel free to reach out to the experts at Arista to discuss your options and develop a smart strategy to be ready for the R-22 refrigerant phase out that’s rapidly approaching.