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Commercial Air Conditioning, Commercial HVAC

How Will the R22 Refrigerant Phase Out Impact Your Commercial AC?


r-22 refrigerant phase out | freon phase out

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. As of January 2020, R22 (also known as Freon), the standard HVAC refrigerant for decades, is illegal to manufacture or import to the US. As a result, supply is dwindling & prices have risen dramatically. How will the R22 refrigerant phase out impact your air conditioning or refrigeration equipment and the cost to maintain it?

The R 22 refrigerant phase out plan is likely to cause expensive problems for many businesses with older AC systems. The situation is prompting smart business owners and facilities managers to research their options and develop a proactive plan. Do you need to replace your equipment? Are there other options?

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

Why is the R22 refrigerant phase out happening?

In the 1970s it was discovered at certain types of refrigerants (including the industry standard air conditioner refrigerant R22 or Freon), were depleting the Earth’s ozone layer. 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 manufacturing and importing R22, and as of January 2020 the R22 phase out is complete. R22 can no longer be manufactured or imported in the US, and the current supply will not last long.

What are the potential consequences of the R22 refrigerant phase out for your business?

1. Rapidly rising repair costs 

Now that R22/Freon can’t be manufactured or imported in the US, the only available source will be reclaimed refrigerant. Over time, the supply will dwindle and the cost will increase. As the cost of R22 refrigerant rises, the cost of fixing equipment that uses R22 will increase dramatically. 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, you could face consequences above and beyond 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?

4. Dangers of counterfeit or fake refrigerants

Now that the R22 refrigerant phase out is complete, demand will increase and supply for R22 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 to an older system after the R22 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 air conditioner 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 R22 refrigerant phase out

If you want to avoid expensive repairs involving R22 refrigerant, it’s smart to act now.

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

  1. Stay the course until you’re forced to make a change
  2. Consider R22 replacement options (retrofit your existing system to use a new AC 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: R22 Refrigerant Phase Out: Do You Need to Replace Your AC?.

R-22 refrigerant phase out

Consult HVACR experts to devise the R22 refrigerant phase-out plan that’s right for you

Ask your contractor about their R22 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.