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Debunking the R-22 myth: What HVAC consumers really need to know about the phase out

Written by Alexandra Villalba

With the R-22 phase-out right around the corner – January 1st, 2020 – many consumers are concerned about what that will mean for their current HVACs that still use R-22 refrigerants. For those of you who are not familiar with this phase-out, as of January 1st, 2020, HVAC systems that use R22 will be obsolete. This means that, if the HVAC repair requires adding R-22 refrigerant to the system, the only options will be reclaimed or previously-produced R-22 refrigerant. While this phase-out does impact the future of new HVACR systems and refrigerants, it does not necessarily signify a revolutionary change for current refrigerators and HVAC systems, so consumers need not despair over the circulating R-22 myths.

R-22 – traditionally known as Freon – was the old standard for refrigerants. This common chemical coolant and propeller – known as hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC 22) – is comprised of a single halogenated hydrocarbon. It is extremely effective at cooling, which is why R-22 has been the main choice for refrigerators and HVACs for decades. However, much like CFCs, R-22 refrigerants also have the ability to deplete the ozone layer due to the presence of chlorine atoms in its structure. Because of its harmful side effect on the environment, the production of R-22 is being phased out of HVACR products around the U.S. by the end of 2019.

Since the announcement was made that R-22 will no longer be produced as a refrigerant, many have been worried that they will have to replace their current refrigerators and HVAC systems with new ones because they use R-22 refrigerants. However, this is not the case. “All it means is that the virgin production and importation of R-22 will cease after this year,” Aspen Refrigerants Sales Manager Lori Byres says. R-22 can still be recycled and reused to repair HVACR systems that need added refrigerant.

Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency has no plans to ban the use of R-22 to service equipment in the U.S. any time soon, so R-22 remains a valid and available resource for consumers to service their existing HVACRs.

Moving forward, replacing the outmoded R-22 freon refrigerant will be the R-407c. This refrigerant has a very low loss in capacity (0 – 5%) relative to R-22 and is less expensive than many other R-22 replacement refrigerants. However, this refrigerant cannot be used in HVACRs that previously used R-22 refrigerants. So those HVACRs will have to be serviced with reclaimed or previously-produced R-22.

While there is currently an ample supply of R-22 extant in the U.S – about 40% of the goal amount of 25 million pounds according to the EPA – contractors are still not reclaiming enough R-22 to maintain a sustainable amount for long-term use. Aspen Refrigerants has set up a reclamation program across the U.S. to help encourage contractors to recycle and reuse R-22: “Aspen’s Reklaim program is the key to the long-term availability of R-22, and it’s important for contractors to understand the profitability of recovering R-22 and other refrigerants and selling them to Aspen”…” Many contractors are not reclaiming refrigerant because they say they don’t have time, but reclaiming can be quite profitable. And it’s absolutely necessary for the long-term availability of R-22”, said Jay Kestenbaum, Senior Vice President of Sales and Purchasing at Aspen Refrigerants. With this program, contractors and technicians can dispose of unwanted or used refrigerants at any of the Aspen ReKlaim centers around the U.S. and receive money back for their troubles!

Other recyclable refrigerants that the EPA wants to emphasize are CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) – organic compounds that contain carbon, chlorine, and fluorine – and HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbons) – organic compounds composed of hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon. All these refrigerants have value and are environmentally responsible to reuse by contractors and technicians. By recycling R-22, HFCs, CFCs, and other used refrigerants, consumers and contractors can not only help the environment but can also ensure the availability of these refrigerants for future consumption. And, bonus, you can get paid for your trade-in! It’s a win-win-win!

Be sure to consult with an HVAC service expert like Stryker Heating & Cooling to learn about what type of refrigerant your HVAC and refrigerator use and how you can help recycle unused refrigerant today!

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