R-22 and the New Year of 2015

R-22 30 Pound Refrigerant Cylinder
R-22 30 Pound Refrigerant Cylinder

First a little history lesson, R-22 has been around since the 1930s and turned into the primary refrigerant for all home and commercial units in the 1950s. If you had a air conditioning unit prior to 2010 chances are that it took R-22 Refrigerant. It ruled for over sixty years as the primary but it’s time was limited and everyone could see it coming. First it was R-12 that was phased out in 1994 due to the O-Zone depleting chlorine involved in R-12. (R-12 was the primary refrigerant used in all automotive applications.) It was only a matter of time before the next phase out would come for R-22 Refrigerant. After all, R-12 and R-22 are both HCFCs refrigerants and they both contain chlorine and they both cause damaged to the O-Zone layer. It only made sense that R-22 was next. The first steps begin in 2010.

R-22 Phase Out

In accordance to the Montreal Protocol,’  all HCFCs must be completely phased out in the United States by the year 2030. In 2010 it was announced that no new air conditioning machines could be manufactured or imported in the United States that take R-22. All new machines would have to take the alternative refrigerant known as R-410A or Puron. You could still buy R-22 on the market at this time but the slow phaseout had begun. Whenever they do a phase out like they like to stagger it to make it easier for the industries and for the consumers to adapt. So, R-22 has a staggered removal over the next few years.

In 2015 in compliance with the Montreal Protocol the United States is required to reduce it’s consumption of HCFCs by 90%. Think about that number for a second. 90%. So, if you thought the price of R-22 was crazy high now at about $300.00 a cylinder just wait until 2015.

References from the Environmental Protection Agency

There are a lot of helpful materials and references found on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. I’ll provide some of the information below as well as links to their original content. Please note that the copied text will appear in italics and will be a grayish color to distinguish between my writing.

Phaseout Schedule for HCFCs Including R-22

Under the terms of the Montreal Protocol, the U.S. agreed to meet certain obligations by specific dates that will affect the residential heat pump and air-conditioning industry:

January 1, 2004:
The Montreal Protocol required the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 35% below the U.S. baseline cap. As of January 1, 2003, EPA banned production and import of HCFC-141b, the most ozone-destructive HCFC. This action allowed the United States to meet its obligations under the Montreal Protocol. EPA was able to issue 100% of company baseline allowances for production and import of HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b.
January 1, 2010:
The Montreal Protocol requires the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 75% below the U.S. baseline. Allowance holders may only produce or import HCFC-22 to service existing equipment. Virgin R-22 may not be used in new equipment. As a result, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system manufacturers may not produce new air conditioners and heat pumps containing R-22.
January 1, 2015:
The Montreal Protocol requires the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 90% below the U.S. baseline.
January 1, 2020:
The Montreal Protocol requires the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 99.5% below the U.S. baseline. Refrigerant that has been recovered and recycled/reclaimed will be allowed beyond 2020 to service existing systems, but chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce R-22 to service existing air conditioners and heat pumps.

The above schedule is a great short and sweet summary of what to expect over the next few years on R-22. As you can see 2015 is the next big year but after that there aren’t any more changes until 2020. But, the theory is by 2020 most of the machines made before 2010 should be out of service or close to end of life. God help you if you have a Refrigerant leak in 2020 on an R-22 unit! It might be cheaper just to get a whole new 410A unit than to purchase more R-22.

The following table shows the U.S. schedule for phasing out its production and consumption of HCFCs in accordance with the terms of the Protocol. The third and fourth columns of the table show how the U.S. is meeting the international obligations described in the first two columns.

Comparison of the Montreal Protocol and United States Phaseout Schedules
Montreal ProtocolUnited States
Year to be Implemented% Reduction in Consumption and Production, Using the Cap as a BaselineYear to be ImplementedImplementation of HCFC Phaseout through Clean Air Act Regulations
200435.0%2003No production and no importing of HCFC-141b
201075.0%2010In addition to the HCFC-141b restrictions, no production and no importing of HCFC-142b and HCFC-22, except for use in equipment manufactured before 1/1/2010 (so no production or importing for NEW equipment that uses these compounds)
201590.0%2015In addition to the HCFC-141b, HCFC-142b and HCFC-22 restrictions, no production and no importing of any other HCFCs, except for use as refrigerants in equipment manufactured before 1/1/2020
202099.5%2020No production and no importing of HCFC-142b and HCFC-22
2030100.0%2030No production and no importing of any HCFCs

The above table is another great reference guide comparing the United States versus what is actually written in the Montreal Protocol. We are both heading towards the same goal and both seem to be on the right track for the 2030 entire phase out goal.

Is Now the Time to Buy?

How long will Puron be Around?
Is R-410A the Refrigerant of the future?

If you ask me? I would say YES. If you have the capital (and the proper license) to purchase a pallet of R-22 I would do it now! (You can purchase from our bulk purchasing page if interested.) I know that most R-22 cylinders are priced at about $300.00 a jug at this time but think about where R-12 is at right now. If you try to buy a cylinder of R-12 you’re going to end up paying $700, $800, sometimes even a $1,000 per cylinder. So, if you buy a pallet of forty jugs of R-22 at $300.00 a jug and sit on for about a year or two you could turn that investment around and sell each cylinder for double the price. I know a few people who did this in 2010 when the inital phase out started and they’ve made quite a bit of profit off of the phase out.

Don’t get to Comfortable with R-410A

You may be thinking that the new R-410A and R-134A are going to be around for a while. I mean we just phased out all of the HCFCs we have to be sticking with this new stuff for a while… right? Wrong! HFCs are already being pushed for phase out and R-134a is no longer allowed in the European Union at this time. It’s only a matter of time before the United States bans 134a and brings in the new 1234YF refrigerant. After 134a is banned they will come for Puron/R-410A next. So, point being don’t get too comfortable with the new HFCs they are next!

Thank you all for reading and I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a great 2015 new year!