Spring is upon us, and soon enough, the air conditioners will be cranked up to beat the summer heat and keep residents cool. But something else is already here that will affect your budget and service needs: the phase-out of R-22.

HCFC-22 (Hydrochlorofluorocarbon), also called R-22, is one of the next two HCFCs that the United States will phase out. According to the EPA, the key dates to phase out HCFCs are:

January 1, 2010

Ban on production, import and use of HCFC-22, except for continuing servicing needs of existing equipment.

January 1, 2015

Ban on production, import and use of all HCFCs, except for continuing servicing needs of refrigeration equipment.

January 1, 2020

Ban on remaining production and import of HCFC-22. After 2020, the servicing of systems with R-22 will rely on recycled or stockpiled quantities.

Percent of R-22 Consumption Allowance

Not the first time…

This isn’t the first time the Senior Living industry has had to deal with a refrigerant phase-out. R-12 was a refrigerant and aerosol spray propellant used until 1995, when it was banned in developed countries except in the use as a fire retardant in submarines and aircraft. After the deadline passed, R-12 canisters were only available from stockpiles accumulated before the deadline or from those recovered from existing equipment, and subsequently jumped in price from $500 to over $1,200. Buildings across the nation that decided to keep the R-12-filled assets eventually had to replace them, as the cost of maintaining them became too high.

Let’s take a closer look at the R-22 phase-out by answering some key questions to help you better understand the phase-out, if your community is at risk and the steps you can take to address it.

What is R-22 and why is it being phased out?

R-22 is a colorless gas commonly used as a propellant and refrigerant in heating, cooling and refrigeration systems. It’s often referred to by a brand name like Freon®. R22 is an environmental danger because it contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer, the part of the upper atmosphere that reduces the amount of harmful ultraviolet radiation that reaches Earth from the sun. When it was discovered in the 1970s that HCFC gases were quickly depleting the Earth’s ozone layer, an international treaty called the Montreal Protocol called for a worldwide phase-out of these types of refrigerants, which has led us to where we are now.

Is R-22 being used in your community?

Most often, you can find the refrigerant type by checking the nameplate on your condenser.

If your unit is more than 10 years old, there’s a high likelihood that it’s reliant on R-22. Units built after January 2010 most likely use the new, approved replacement refrigerant, R-410a, but it’s possible they don’t. If you’re unsure, contact TELS® Building Services to find a qualified HVAC specialist to evaluate your system.

How can you prepare?

Generally, you have three options moving forward for how to prepare your community to meet this emerging challenge.

Please Note: With the increase of R-22 pricing, the cost of a couple pounds of refrigerant in addition to a trip charge and an hour of labor will likely fulfill an NTE. You should be prepared to approve an increase for any refrigerant-related dispatches immediately if you are considering options 1 or 2.

Option 1: Run to Fail

If you feel like your older equipment is in good shape, has been properly maintained and is free from refrigerant leaks, this could be a viable option.

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Pros

  • Least expensive option in the short term
  • Could go many years without needing repairs
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Cons

  • Repairs only increase in price with time, due to both the cost of R-22 and the age of your system
  • Potentially longer service response times

Option 2: Retrofit Your Older System to Use a New Refrigerant

You may consider retrofitting your system and recharging it using a modern replacement refrigerant like R-407c, which has a higher safety rating, is more environmentally friendly and performs slightly better on energy-efficiency tests than R-22.

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Pros

  • Delays the expense of full replacement
  • Less expensive repairs once converted
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Cons

  • Not possible in all situations
  • May make a system less efficient and result in higher energy bills
  • May void a manufacturer’s warranty

In some cases, you can invest in a retrofit or conversion that allows your older system to use certain newer refrigerants. This option isn’t possible for all systems, and you’d need an inspection by a licensed HVAC technician to determine if it can work for you.

Option 3: Proactively Replace the System

This is usually the best option for communities with heating and cooling assets over 11 years old or those that frequently need charging (indicating a leak).

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Pros

  • Minimizes the risk of expensive emergency repairs
  • More energy efficient and less expensive to operate
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Cons

  • Expensive up-front costs

Need help deciding which option is right for you?

TELS Building Services is here for you. We can discuss your needs and help you find a solution that’s right for your specific circumstance. Our on-staff experts will answer your questions, and our licensed, vetted network of local HVAC technicians is ready to help with all your service needs, from emergencies to full replacements and everything in between. Call 888-433-3224 or view our services.

Freon® is the registered trademark of The Chemours Company FC, LLC