R22 is a refrigerant that is also a chlorodifluoromethane and more widely recognized as a hydrochlorofluorocarbon — a greenhouse gas. R22 is used extensively in air-conditioning units and HVAC systems. R22 has a negative impact on ozone in the atmosphere and is being phased out by order of the Federal Government.
R22 Phase Out
The government declared that all new air-conditioners would be R22 free by 2010. As a chemical, R22 is not to be used after January 1, 2020. What that means for people who have an HVAC or air-conditioner that needs replaced is that they will need to purchase a system that contains R410A refrigerant. R410A is an environmentally friendly chemical that works in the same capacity as R22, but without the damage to the ozone layer.
If you have an older system that has R22 in it, then you can have it serviced through the end of 2019 without incident. After January 1, 2020, air conditioners with R22 cannot be recharged. They will need to be replaced if they develop a leak. That does not mean your system cannot be serviced or repaired, so long as the repair does not involve the refrigerant. If you have an older system talk with a North American Technician Excellence (NATE) HVAC contractor to see if you need HVAC repairs or HVAC replacement.
Why is R22 Bad?
R22 is bad because, as a gas, it works its way to the upper atmosphere where it breaks apart ozone and converts it into carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that causes a lot of problems not just to the environment as a whole, but specifically to agriculture and farms. As a gas, it reflects income solar radiation back to earth causing the area to warm up. When mixed with water (rain) it becomes carbonic acid that damages plants by burning their leaves. As an air pollutant, Carbon dioxide is deadly to humans in large enough doses. In smaller doses, it leads to asthma and respiratory disease.
When is R22 Used?
R22 was used during the manufacture of refrigeration units. Currently, it is only used to refill or recharge air-conditioner units that have had a leak.
What Does This Mean for Upgrading or Servicing My Old System?
Until January 1, 2020, it does not mean a whole lot for A/C repair. If your old system requires service, then it is business as usual. There is no regulation about servicing your old system unless it involves recharging the refrigerant. If your old system should break down and needs replacing then, it simply means that you need to choose a new system that has R401A. A quality HVAC contractor can help identify HVAC problems.