Refrigerant, is the compound (working fluid) used in air conditioners, heat pumps and refrigerators to transfer heat into or out of an interior space. This fluid boils at a very low temperature enabling it to evaporate and absorb heat.
You may have heard that R-22 refrigerant is in the process of being phased out. The phaseout started in 1987 as part of the Montreal Protocol, an international environmental agreement, establishing requirements that began the worldwide phaseout of ozone-depleting CFCs followed by the phaseout of CFC production and then in 1992 was amended to establish a schedule for the phaseout of HCFCs. R-22 is an HCFC and has been the refrigerant of choice for decades. As part of the agreement to end the production of HCFCs, manufacturers of HVAC systems are offering equipment that uses ozone-friendly refrigerants such as Puron.
The next phase is January 1, 2015 when the U.S. will be required to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 90% below the U.S baseline. The final phase is January 1, 2020 when the U.S. will be required to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 99.5% below the U.S. baseline. Refrigerant that has been recovered and recycled/reclaimed will be allowed beyond 2020 to service existing systems, but chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce R-22 to service existing air conditioners and heat pumps.
The EPA has reviewed several alternatives to R-22 for household and light commercial air conditioning. One of these substitutes is R-410a.
Existing HVAC equipment 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. Such changes, called “retrofits”, are allowed if the alternative has been found acceptable for that type of use but R-410a is not allowed in retrofits due to its higher working pressure. In addition, the new substitute refrigerants would not work well without making some changes to system components.
Properly installed home comfort systems rarely develop major refrigerant leaks, and with proper servicing, a system using R-22, R-410a, or another refrigerant will reduce its impact on the environment. While EPA does not mandate repairing or replacing small systems because of leaks, system leaks can not only harm the environment, but also result in increased operation and maintenance costs.
One important thing a homeowner can do for the environment, regardless of the refrigerant used, is to select a reputable dealer that employs service technicians who are EPA-certified to handle refrigerants.
If you would like to see a complete copy of this article, please go to www.epa.gov .
If you have any questions about R-22, are considering upgrading your old system or would like to have a maintenance performed on your existing system to ensure that there are no leaks, please call us at one of our three offices. And yes, our service techs and our install crews are EPA-certified.