If you are a facilities manager who has responsibility for older air conditioning systems, chances are you are alarmed by the news that R22 is being phased out. Does this mean you’ll need to replace a lot of expensive equipment all at once? You’re probably also wondering about the R22 phase out schedule and how quickly you need to act.
In this article we’ll discuss the timeline for R22 being phased out to help you understand the urgency of the situation. Then we’ll discuss the options for facilities with R22 air conditioning equipment and some tips for making the best decision for your company.
R22 Phased Out: THE TIMELINE
You might not be aware that the EPA’s ruling for R22 being phased out began decades ago, limiting the available supply a little at a time. Prices for R22 rose slowly at first. Now that the final ban is looming and availability is declining sharply, R22 prices are skyrocketing. We’re betting you’ve noticed that part, because your repair bills are going up as a result.
Here’s what will happen over the next couple of years as R22 is phased out.
The remaining R22 phase out schedule in the United States (as per the EPA final rule) is as follows:
January 1, 2018: R22 production drops 30% from 2017 supply to 9 million pounds.
January 1, 2019: R22 production drops 55% from 2018 supply to 4 million pounds.
January 1, 2020: R22 phased out completely: no new or imported R22 allowed in the U.S.
What does this R22 phase out schedule mean to you? Each time supply is reduced, R22 prices (and repair prices) will jump up. Come January 2020 when R22 is phased out completely, it will not be legally available at any price. That means your old equipment can no longer be repaired, and you’ll be forced to replace it the next time it breaks down.
If you’d like to know more about the background and why R22 is being phased out, read this previous post about the R22 refrigerant phase out.
R22 Phased Out: THE OPTIONS
For businesses that may have many pieces of air conditioning equipment, the fact that R22 is being phased out means you have to take a hard look at your equipment and your budget. And you have to decide on your comfort level with risk.
These are the options you’ll need to think through:
Do nothing now and wait for the inevitable breakdown of each unit. If a unit breaks after January 2020, you’ll have to replace at that time. If it happens prior to 2020, you’ll need to decide if you want to replace at that time, or invest in what will likely be an exorbitant price for a repair. One thing to keep in mind: the closer we get to 2020, there will be lots of equipment owners in the same boat as you, all needing their systems replaced. You know what it’s like when you need a repair during an August heat wave? This situation will likely be a whole lot worse. When your system finally breaks and you need an emergency replacement, and you could be without AC for some time while you wait for installation availability.
Retrofit your older systems to use a new refrigerant. In some cases, you can invest in a retrofit or conversion that allows your older system to use certain newer refrigerants. That option won’t be possible for all systems, so you’ll need an inspection to determine if it might work for you.
Replace proactively. The upfront cost can be a hurdle, especially if you’ve got multiple systems to replace before R22 is phased out. However, this can be the most cost-effective option in the long run.
Learn more about the pros and cons of each option from this informative guide: R22 Refrigerant Phase Out: Do You Need to Replace Your AC?.
This related article will also be useful: How Long Should An Air Conditioner Last.
R22 Phased Out: MAKING A DECISION
Those in charge of older air conditioning equipment have a decision to make before R22 is phased out.
Here are a few recommendations that can help.
1. Consider the impact on your business of being without air conditioning.
As we mentioned earlier, the longer you wait to replace, the longer you may have to wait for that replacement installation to be done. How will your business function in the meantime? Is it a risk you’re willing to take until R22 is phased out and your hand is forced?
2. Factor in energy savings.
When figuring out the cost of replacement, don’t forget that installing newer, more efficient systems can result in big reductions in energy expenses. Those savings can add up faster than you may think.
3. Consider your longer-term need for the equipment.
In some situations, it may make sense to wait. For example, if you are closing a location or moving to a new location soon and the old equipment will no longer be your problem. However, don’t forget to check out the equipment you’ll be getting in your new space.
4. Consider retrofit as a short-term solution.
A retrofit can be a solution that can help you buy time until you’re ready to invest an expensive replacement. Since there are technical limitations, you’ll need an HVAC expert to inspect and tell you if it’s possible for your equipment.
5. Plan for replacement to spread out the cost.
If you’ve got a lot of equipment to replace, your HVAC company should work with you to prioritize and come up with a plan to replace equipment over time before R22 is phased out. That’s a smart strategy to minimize your risk and manage the cost in a way that doesn’t break your budget.