A variety of air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment may contain HCFC-22 (also called R-22) or its blends. Such equipment includes packaged air-conditioners, chillers (e.g., air-conditioning systems for office buildings, hotels, shopping centers, and other large buildings), retail food equipment (e.g., supermarket food cases, walk-in refrigerators/coolers/freezers, ice cream machines, beverage vending machines, and stand-alone food/beverage display cases), cold storage warehouses, industrial process refrigeration, and transport refrigeration.
Am I allowed to continue using equipment that contains R-22?
EPA is not prohibiting the continued use of existing air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment owned by end users. Owners of R-22 systems may continue using and servicing their equipment.
If I expand an existing R-22 system can I continue to use virgin R-22?
If the expansion includes an increase in cooling capacity, then EPA will presume that the system’s purpose is changing and a new system is being manufactured, unless you can show that the intended purpose of the system has not changed. For the life of that expanded system you must use either reclaimed or recovered R-22 or an alternative refrigerant. Virgin R-22 cannot be used. Also, an increase in charge size by itself does not necessarily indicate that the intended purpose of the system is changing, though an increase in cooling capacity (i.e. an expansion) may often be accompanied by an increase in charge size. Again, virgin R-22 may not be used in a system that has become a newly manufactured system through an expansion.
How can I ensure that R-22 supplies will be adequate to meet my future needs?
You should establish a plan for your company to repair or replace leaking equipment and to recover and reuse the refrigerant from equipment that is discarded. With proper storage tanks, your company can store recovered HCFCs (i.e., from retired equipment containing R-22) for use in servicing other equipment that you own. Recovered refrigerant cannot be sold to a new owner for use as a refrigerant; instead it must be sent to a reclaimer prior to sale. In addition to recovering and reusing your own refrigerant, reclaimed refrigerant is available and may continue to be used after the production/import cut in 2010 and the production/import phaseout in 2020. Both new and reclaimed R-22 is likely to increase in price as the U.S. continues to phase out the production and consumption of R-22.
When should I convert my company’s equipment to an alternative refrigerant?
Many businesses have started to transition to alternative refrigerants. In deciding when to convert (or retrofit) to an alternative refrigerant, you should consider the amount of time that will be needed to finish all phases of the conversion. Keep in mind that the production and import of R-22 is decreasing every year between now and 2015 and will be phased out in 2020, so the availability of supplies will be uncertain. During the transition period, you have three basic choices: (1) convert your existing system, (2) buy a new one, or (3) continue to operate your existing system. If you choose to convert, confirm with your equipment supplier that the system is retrofitted to use an ozone-friendly refrigerant and that all components are compatible with the new refrigerant. Buying a new, more efficient system may require more money initially, but may reduce your electricity bill and save money over time. If you choose to continue to operate your existing system, you should ensure that leaks are repaired quickly.
I plan to purchase a new refrigeration or air-conditioning system soon. Should I buy a unit with an alternative refrigerant or a more affordable unit containing R-22?
As of January 1, 2010, equipment manufacturers are no longer allowed to produce new systems or new components that contain R-22. Manufacturers will be allowed to sell, and you will be allowed to buy, small appliances such as window air conditioners that contain R-22 that were in the manufacturer’s inventory prior to that date. New split systems using R-22 may not be installed after January 1, 2010. More information on these sales and use restrictions is found here. While production and import of virgin HCFC-22 will be allowed for servicing, this amount will decrease through 2020 and cease in 2020. If you plan to purchase new equipment, consider buying equipment that uses an ozone-friendly refrigerant. Your decision will likely depend on when you plan to purchase the new equipment and its expected lifespan. If you plan to operate the equipment beyond 2020, an alternative refrigerant may be the most economical decision over the long-term.