Montreal Protocol and the Phaseout of R22
“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is adjusting the allowance system for the consumption and production of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to phase out production and import of these chemicals in accordance with the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Protocol). Under the Protocol, total United States HCFC production and consumption is capped, and will be completely phased out by 2030.” (source Federal Register)
While most HVAC equipment manufactured today uses other, safer types of coolant, many systems manufactured before 2010 still use the HCFC-22 coolant originally developed by DuPont. To be fair to those who own these systems, the EPA has developed a gradual, long-term phase-out plan for the coolant. Full implementation of the Clean Air Act Section 608 phase-out, overseen by the EPA, is scheduled for 2030, at which time the HCFC phase-out will be complete. In the interim, gradually increasing restrictions will be implemented.
Montreal Protocol and R22 Phase-Out Consumer Effects
- The consumer whose HVAC equipment uses freon or another HCFC coolant will see the following changes:
- As the phase-out period advances, regulations regarding HCFCs will increase.
- Consumers who use large amounts of coolant will be responsible for timely repair of coolant leaks and, in some cases, installation of leak-detecting equipment.
- As supplies of these coolants decrease, demand will increase, causing prices to rise.
- Consumers will eventually need to replace their R-22 equipment with newer models that use more environmentally-friendly coolants.
- The phase-out will occur slowly to allow time for planning your long-term HVAC strategy. Consumers might opt for:
- Replacing an R22 model with newer equipment now to avoid being affected by the phase-out
- Starting to save for a replacement system while continuing to use your current HVAC equipment or AC unit until R22 becomes more scarce and more expensive
- Replacing only the affected component(s) of your HVAC system
- Upgrading your system to an ENERGY STAR-qualified, high-efficiency system
- Replacing your commercial HVAC system or refrigeration equipment and claiming a Section 179 deduction
- Waiting until HCFCs are banned before replacing your current equipment (not recommended)
As R22 is gradually phased out, alternative refrigerants are being introduced. One of these substitutes is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer. R-410A is manufactured and sold under various trade names, including GENETRON AZ-20®, SUVA 410A®, Forane® 410A and Puron®.
With proper maintenance, your heating and cooling units will have sufficient R22 unless a leak occurs. Since production is limited, repair costs for units leaking R22 refrigerant have gone up and are expected to rise. Routine maintenance can help protect your system from a failure and from the rising cost of freon. The best thing you can do is properly maintain your unit to prevent leaks. Remember, routine maintenance is far less expensive than emergency repairs.
If you are interested in learning more about the Montreal Protocol or seeing how this affects your air conditioner unit, give the experts at Air Hawk Heating and Cooling a call. 813-929-HAWK or 727-SAME DAY!