This is a comprehensive guide on R22 Replacement that will provide your options. Before we get into the options for your R22 refrigerant replacement we will provide some backstory as to the reasons why HCFC-22 commonly known as R22 Freon is being phased out.
The past decade the Environmental Protection Agency commonly known as the EPA has been on a mission to phase out emissions of chemicals that affect our ozone layer. In the ’90s the EPA phased out halons and CFCs. Since 2010 the phase-out process of HCFC-22 (R22 Freon) and HCFC-142b (R142b Freon) has been in effect.
January 1, 2010 – Ban on production, import and use of HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b, except for continuing servicing needs of existing equipment
January 1, 2015 – Ban on production, import, and use of all HCFCs, except for continuing servicing needs of refrigeration equipment
January 1, 2020 – Ban on remaining production and import of HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b. After 2020, the servicing of systems with R-22 will rely on recycled or stockpiled quantities
January 1, 2030 – Ban on remaining production and import of all HCFCs
What Does This All Mean?
As of January 1, 2020 buying R22 refrigerant will be limited as companies’ ramp down production and won’t be allowed to sell any after that date.
If you are one of the many consumers that have an air conditioner that uses R22 below are your available options:
-Retrofit your existing system
-Replace your system
If your air conditioning system is not broken you don’t have to do anything at this point. However, some homeowners are already being proactive and having their R22 refrigerant systems retrofitted.
If My R22 is Low Can I Just Top it Off?
No, refrigerants are not meant to be mixed like that. If you begin to mix your own refrigerants then you are operating outside of the manufacturer’s guidelines. If something were to go wrong with that system it will void any warranties. Additionally, if an HVAC company were to do this for you they can be liable for any problems they cause.
In the USA there is no drop-in replacement for R22. The EPA guidelines state that there cannot be a drop-in replacement without modifying the system components.
What is the Best R22 Replacement?
You will find that there are several refrigerant blends however, not all will work well as a replacement for R22 and may void the manufactures warranty on your HVAC system.
Replacing R22 is not as simple as just draining the refrigerant and adding a different type. Different refrigerants have different flow rates, capacities, COP, MFR, and discharge. When you choose the best replacement refrigerant for the system, you then need to understand what steps to take to ensure proper functionality.
Not all systems can be retrofitted. You need a certified HVAC technician to inspect your system and determine if a retrofit is possible.
Many of the older systems use mineral oil which doesn’t work correctly with the newer R22 replacement refrigerants. In this case, you will need to change to a POE oil.
Most of the time the best R22 replacement is going to be R-410A, R-407C or R-421A. However, this is really dependent on the HVAC system and you should consult a certified HVAC technician.
Words of Warning
Anytime you use a refrigerant that is not recommended by the manufacturer it will void the warranty. If the HVAC system is under warranty it might be best to wait to use an R22 replacement until after the warranty expires. This isn’t always a viable option and the homeowner should know all their options.
Retrofits Vs New Air Conditioner
If you have an older air conditioner you may want to consider a full replacement Vs a retrofit. Many of the older units were meant to run off lower pressure and the R22 replacements run off a higher pressure. This will eventually cause refrigerant leaks, and the condenser to wear out faster. In the long run, you could end up paying for costly repairs.
A new air conditioner will be more energy-efficient, designed to work with the new refrigerants, and come with a warranty. If properly maintained a new air conditioning system can last for over twelve years with little to no problems.