A refrigerant that is common in a variety of homes as well as commercial and industrial appliances, Freon is technically a brand name belonging to the company DuPont, but is often used as an all-encompassing term for HCFC refrigerants. HCFC gets its name because the refrigerant is a combination of hydrogen, carbon, fluorine and chlorine. The most common HCFC is currently R22, sometimes referred to as HCFC-22. However, it is in the process of being phased out and will eventually be prohibited entirely.
The Regulators of R22 Freon
In the United States, Freon is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, a government agency responsible for creating and implementing laws that protect the environment. Since determining that R22 is an Ozone Depleting Substance, it has worked in conjunction with international agencies on a project called the Montreal Protocol. Developed in 1987, the program is responsible not only for Freon regulations and laws, but for ridding the environment of any substances that harm the ozone layer.
Why R22 Freon Must Be Banned
To understand why R22 Freon must be banned, it helps to know why it was developed in the first place. In 1928, a mixture of carbon, fluorine and chlorine known as CFC was used as a refrigerant, but was determined to be unsafe for use in the home and unsafe for the environment rather quickly. HCFC was developed as a replacement and was considered safer because it was not flammable, toxic or corrosive and it was odorless. However, after more testing in the mid-1970s, the EPA determined that R22 is just as bad for the environment over the long term because it damages the ozone layer.
A Timeline for the R22 Freon Ban
The EPA and related international agencies began actively phasing out R22 Freon in 2010. It phased out 75 percent of HCFC by limiting manufacturers to how much they could produce and consume, although there were some exemptions. Reclamation, recycling and reusing R22 was still allowed, but was not allowed to be used in any newly manufactured appliances or equipment.
The next phase of the ban began in 2015 and is expected to continue through 2019. Agencies further decreased production and consumption of R22 by 90 percent in 2015. As of that same year, there are no more exemptions for any manufacturers. Some companies can still reclaim, recycle and reuse HCFC.
Between 2020 and 2029, there will be a 99.5 percent reduction of R22. New production will be prohibited and everybody must reduce consumption. Only licensed reclaimers will be allowed to recycle and reuse HCFC refrigerant. The process will require adherence to strict guidelines. In 2030, the EPA will destroy any remaining R22 to complete the transition. From there, this refrigerant will be completely banned.
How the R22 Freon Ban Affects Consumers
The phasing out of R22 affects consumers of all types. Many appliances and equipment in homes, businesses and industrial worksites use HCFC. It is common in HVAC units, refrigerators and freezers, dehumidifiers, window-mounted air conditioners, air conditioning systems in cars and trucks, and air-to-air and ground-source heat pumps. R22 is also used in less common equipment, such as:
People who use equipment or appliances that operate on large amounts of R22 are required to repair any coolant leaks within a certain time frame and, in some cases, must also install leak detectors. Consumers can also expect prices of R22 to rise because of the rules of supply and demand. As less R22 is produced, it will become more expensive until more consumers replace their appliances and equipment, a task that will be mandatory over the next few years.
The Future of Refrigerants
The future of refrigerants is actually already here, and it has been since the 1990s. The newest coolant is safer for the environment and is known as R410A. Currently, it is more expensive than R22 because it is not as widely used and available, but this will change during the course of the phasing out of R22. As supply and demand of R410A evens out, so will its cost. R410A also has an added benefit: In addition to being better for the environment, it is becoming clear that appliances and equipment using the coolant tend to experience fewer vibrations. Fewer vibrations mean products don’t break down as often.
The Options You Have
When it comes to ridding your home, business or industrial site of R22, you can go about it in several ways. If you have the funds to do so, you should consider purchasing new appliances and equipment as soon as possible. The sooner your home or business runs on R410A, the sooner you’ll be in compliance with EPA regulations and not have to worry about the upcoming ban altogether.
Unfortunately, most people won’t have the money to purchase all-new equipment right away, but there are other options. If you have several appliances or pieces of equipment that will need to be replaced, consider purchasing one per year. You might also be able to save money for new equipment and replace your R22 pieces once the HCFC becomes rarer and is more expensive. When you do purchase new appliances, it helps to look for those that are ENERGY STAR-certified. If you own a commercial HVAC unit, you might be eligible for a Section 179 deduction once you upgrade.
You do have the more complicated option of keeping your current appliances and equipment. In this situation, you would be required to hire a professional who could switch out any R22 components in your equipment and replace them with the required R410A components. However, this could become nearly as expensive as simply purchasing new appliances and is often time-consuming. Some experts also express concern that old appliances won’t operate well with new refrigerant components and might end up needing to be replaced anyway.
Getting Up to Code
Getting your home or business up to code when it comes to the R22 Freon ban might seem complicated, but this is why the EPA has created such a long timeline for its implementation. As long as you understand your appliances, the Freon regulations and laws, and how they affect your home or business, you will be able to create a plan for change that will meet your needs.
Article brought to you by Eric Doman through Compact Appliances website