R-22 refrigerant, or Freon, was and still is one of the most popular refrigerants used in the world. R-22 is an HCFC refrigerant and can harm the Ozone layer. It was originally invented by a partnership with General Motors and the DuPont company all the way back in the 1930’s. These new CFC and HCFC refrigerants were known under the DuPont brand name Freon.
R-22, along with it’s sister product R-12, were one of the first mainstream refrigerants to be used across the country and the globe. It was found in varying applications including your home air conditioner, your supermarket freezers, all the way to your local hockey team’s ice rink. R-22’s efficiency, safety, and overall low cost caused an explosion of growth in the refrigeration and cooling industry.
It wasn’t until the late 1970’s and 1980’s when we found that all of this excessive R-22 and R-12 usage was causing damage to the Ozone layer. The world reacted by having over one-hundred countries sign the Montreal Protocol treaty. Since then, we have all been working towards phasing out CFC and HCFC refrigerants entirely. As I write this article, in the Summer of 2018, we are quickly approaching the end of R-22.
|Name - Scientific:||Chlorodifluoromethane|
|Name (5):||Genetron 22|
|Future:||Phased Out Across US By 2020 Year.|
|Application:||Residential & Commercial Air-Conditioning.|
|Application (2):||Industrial Refrigeration, Chillers, and Centrifugal Compressors|
|Application (3):||Commercial Refrigeration (Supermarkets), and Transport Refrigeration.|
|Replacement For:||CFC R-12 Freon|
|Ozone Depletion Potential:||0.055|
|Global Warming Potential:||1,810|
|Toxicity Levels:||A (No Toxicity Identified.)|
|Flammability Levels:||Class 1 -No Flame Propagation.|
|Lubricant Required:||Mineral Oil, also known as Alkyl Benzene.|
|Boiling Point:||-40.7° Celsius or -41.3° Fahrenheit|
|Critical Temperature:||96.14° Celsius or 205.05° Fahrenheit|
|Critical Pressure (Absolute):||4,990 kPa|
|Manufacturers:||Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.|
|Manufacturing Facilities:||All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.|
|Manufacturers (2):||After 2020 No Imports or Manufacturing Allowed on R-22.|
|Color:||Colorless Liquid & Vapor|
|EPA Certification Required:||Yes, 608 certification required.|
|Require Certification to Purchase?||Yes, 608 certification required.|
|Cylinder Color:||Light Green|
|Cylinder Design (2):||Thirty Pound Tank|
|Price Point:||HIGH - $450-$550 Per Cylinder|
|Future Price Prediction:||Very High -$600 And Up Per Cylinder|
|Where to Buy Can or Cylinder?||Individual Cylinders Limited Due to EPA's 608 Certification.|
|Bulk Purchasing:||CLICK FOR A QUOTE!|
Points of Note
Alright folks so we’ve gone over some of the basic facts about R-22 but now let’s take a look at some of the more interesting points about this refrigerant:
- R-22 along with R-12 were one of the fathers of the modern refrigeration industry. Sure, there were other refrigerants used before them, but these CFC and HCFC refrigerants were the true pioneers. Before they came we were either using Ammonia (R-717) or Carbon Dioxide (R-744) for most of our refrigeration needs. While these refrigerants did cool there were fundamental problems with them. Ammonia was toxic and very deadly if exposed to. So, you did not want to have an Ammonia refrigerator or an Ammonia home air conditioner. If a leak was to occur you could be putting your whole family in danger. While Carbon Dioxide is perfectly safe there was another problem that early engineers ran into. R-744 operated at a VERY high pressure. This high pressure caused components such as compressors, evaporators, and condensers to fail and fail again and again. That’s not even mentioning the hoses, seals, and o-rings constantly failing due to the high pressure. R-12 and R-22 provided a safe, cheap, low-pressure, and a cheap alternative to current refrigerants on the marketplace.
- R-22 is a very diverse refrigerant and it can be found in numerous applications. During it’s peak time it could be found in your home air conditioner, your office air conditioner, your super market refrigerator and freezers, your local ice rink, even your local industrial plant. It’s versatility was amazing but the cost to the environment and the climate were too much.
- I mentioned it briefly above but R-22 is being phased down and being phased out across the world. In fact, the United States is somewhat behind the ball when you compare us to other countries like the European Union. (They’ve had R-22 phased out for years.) R-22 contains Chlorine and Chlorine was found to damage the Ozone layer. Basically, what happens is an R-22 unit develops a leak in the system. This leak allows refrigerant to be vented out and into the environment where it slowly drifts upwards to the atmosphere and the Ozone layer. The Chlorine in these refrigerants do not break down and begin to corrode the Ozone layer. Venting can occur either through a natural system leak, or by accidentally venting of a refrigerant cylinder. This is why you have to be 608 certified in order to purchase and handle refrigerant. The EPA figures if you are 608 certified you at least know what you are doing and you have gone through the training to prevent venting. Regardless if you are certified or not there are very harsh consequences if you are found to be intentionally venting R-22 refrigerant into the environment.
- R-22 is one of the longest serving refrigerants. It began to see use in the 1930’s and we still use it today. While the numbers are dwindling due to the phase out there are still millions of units out there as I write this article.
- Please see below table for the R-22 United States’ Phase Out Schedule. (All credit goes to the EPA.gov website for the below table, Click here for the official source.)
Year to Be Implemented Implementation of HCFC Phaseout through Clean Air Act Regulations Year to Be Implemented Percent Reduction in HCFC Consumption and Production from Baseline 2003 No production or import of HCFC-141b 2004 35.0% 2010 No production or import of HCFC-142b and HCFC-22, except for use in equipment manufactured before January 1, 2010 2010 75.0% 2015 No production or import of any other HCFCs, except as refrigerants in equipment manufactured before January 1, 2020 2015 90.0% 2020 No production or import of HCFC-142b and HCFC-22 2020 99.5% 2030 No production or import of any HCFCs 2030 100.0%
- As you can see folks by the above chart we are quickly approaching the end of R-22 here in the United States. I’m writing this article in the summer of 2018 and that means we only have about eighteen months before all imports and production of R-22 ceases.
- Please be aware that due to these phase outs the cost of R-22 has gone up and up. The highest I’ve seen it was around seven-hundred dollars for a thirty pound cylinder. In the summer of 2018 the price has begun to fall again and is hovering around three-hundred and fifty to four-hundred dollars a cylinder. No one knows for sure what the market will do next year though. It could stay flat at this three-hundred and fifty price or it could jump on up to seven-hundred again.
- While after 2020 you won’t be able to purchase ‘new’ virgin R-22 cylinders you will have a couple of options. A lot of vendors and distributors right now are going through the ‘R-22 Gamble.’ What I mean by that is there are businesses buying up R-22 by the pallet(s), or trailer loads, and then having the product sit in their warehouses. The hope here is that when 2020 rolls around the price of R-22 skyrockets and these companies can make a hell of a profit on their aged inventory. So, when 2020 hits you will have the option to buy virgin R-22 cylinders but you’ll be paying a pretty penny for them.
- The other option for finding R-22 in post 2020 is what’s called refrigerant reclamation. Refrigerant Reclaimers are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency to clean used R-22 refrigerant so that it can be used again in a new machine. I’m hesitating to use the word ‘recycle,’ here as it means something different in the refrigerant world, but in essence that is what they are doing. They are recycling older used refrigerant that a technician recovered from an aging unit. The tech then takes this recovered refrigerant back to his office, dumps it in a tank, and then the bulk tank is sent to a refrigerant reclaimer to be cleaned and be made ready to use again. The good news here is that reclaimed R-22 will be cheaper then virgin bottles. The bad news is that to some people reclaimed refrigerant has a stigma attached to it. Two of the biggest reclaimers in the country are Hudson Technologies and A-Gas Americas.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How Do I Know If My Unit Takes R-22 Refrigerant?
- On the outside of your home air conditioner (The unit that sits outside) you should see a white tag with a bunch of information on it. Here is where you will find exactly what type of refrigerant your unit takes. Chances are though folks if your unit is from before 2010 that it is taking R-22 and if it is after 2010 then it is an R-410A unit.
- Can I buy R-22 today without an Environmental Protection Agency license?
- No, in order to purchase ANY quantity of R-22 you need to be 608 certified with the EPA. The only other way around this is by providing an intent to resale certificate. This certificate states that you will not actually use the product but that you are instead selling it to another end user. It will then be on you to collect the 608 certification of the person or business that you will be selling to.
- Why is R-22 so expensive?
- R-22’s extreme cost can be tied to the global phase-down and phase-out. It is already banned from being manufactured or imported in the European Union and here in the United States we only have until 2020 before it is also banned here. This upcoming ban has caused a shortage across the industry which has raised price. I do not see the price going down anytime soon.
- When did the R-22 Phase-Down Begin?
- The official phase-down began back in 2010. The phase-down was a tiered process and with each passing the year the belt tightens until we hit that 2020 deadline where no more imports or production can occur. Please refer to the phase out table that we provided in our ‘Points of Note’ section of this article.
- Why was R-22 Phased Out?
- R-22 was phased out due to the Chlorine that it contained. It was found that when R-22 was vented into the air either through a leak or venting that the Chlorine would float up and into the Ozone layer where it would not break down. The Chlorine then caused damage to the Ozone layer that alerted scientists.
- Where Can I Get R-22 After 2020?
- As I said above, R-22 will no longer be able to be imported or manufactured in the United States. Once this law is in effect there will be only two ways for you to obtain a cylinder:
- Purchase a ‘virgin,’ cylinder from someone who still has excess R-22 inventory in stock.
- Purchase ‘reclaimed’ R-22 refrigerant from a certified reclaimer. Reclaimed R-22 is refrigerant that was used previously and has since gone through a cleaning process so that it can be used again in a different machine.
- As I said above, R-22 will no longer be able to be imported or manufactured in the United States. Once this law is in effect there will be only two ways for you to obtain a cylinder:
- What is the Alternative to R-22?
- There are many alternative options to R-22. Some of these require you to retrofit your entire system in order to take the new refrigerant. While others, like DuPont’s MO99, require little action. I won’t get into too much detail here but I have written a couple articles on this topic which can be found by clicking below:
- What Took R-22’s Place?
- The HFC refrigerant known as R-410A was the selected R-22 replacement. As I write this article in 2018, R-410A is by far the fastest growing refrigerant market out there. While 410A does not harm the O-zone layer it does have a very high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. Because of this high GWP I do not see R-410A lasting more then ten or fifteen years. After that, a new, more climate friendly, alternative will appear in the marketplace.
- If I Have An R-22 Unit Do I Need To Switch To An R-410A Machine?
- You are not obligated to switch by any means. If you want to be more environmentally conscious, then by all means switch to a R-410A unit. If it was me I would hang onto my R-22 unit until something major breaks and you have a costly repair on your hands.
- Should I Repair My R-22 Machine?
- This is a tough decision. As the years go by and we get further and further away from 2010 the machines that are out there get older and older. So, if you repair your unit today and recharge with R-22 you could be facing the very same problem six months or a year down the road. Older machines tend to break more often and you could be upside down on your machine after only a couple of repairs. It may make sense to switch to a newer R-410A unit.
- Can I Convert My R-22 Unit To Take R-410A?
- No! R-410A, or Puron, operates at a MUCH higher pressure then R-22. If you were to put 410A into your existing R-22 system you could cause permanent damage.
- Can I put R-22 Into My R-410A Machine?
- No! Same thing goes. Your 410A machine is meant for just that, 410A. It is not meant for anything else.
History of R-22
Most of you may not read this section of the article but I have always been fascinated by history rather it’s world history or if it’s just the history on a refrigerant like R-22. Everything has a story and it is always fun to learn something new.
R-22 can trace it’s roots back all the way to the 1920’s and 1930’s. It, along with R-12 and R-11, were one of the very first ‘modern’ refrigerants. These refrigerants known under the classifications CFC and HCFC were a first of their kind. They were non-flammable, non-toxic, and were efficient. They answered all of the requirements for the ‘perfect’ refrigerant. These new classes of refrigerants were registered under the now famous DuPont brand name known as Freon.
These refrigerants were originally invented by a joint partnership of General Motors and the DuPont corporation in the late 1920’s. The mass production of R-22 began in the mid 1930’s and exploded from there. When the 1950’s and 1960’s R-22 was found in nearly every home, office, super-market, and industrial area. technicians started and end their whole careers just dealing with R-22 refrigerant. That’s nothing like it is in today’s world. Nowadays you have a new refrigerant coming out every few months.
All was not perfect with this explosive growth of CFC and HCFC usage across the world. As the decades wore on and the growth continued scientists began to notice a startling effect of these refrigerants. It was in the 1980’s that a team of scientists out of California realized that all of the Chlorine that was in CFC and HCFC refrigerants were causing damage to the Ozone layer. When vented or leaked the refrigerant would drift up and into the atmosphere. It is there where the Chlorine would do it’s damage. Eventually it got so bad that a thinning of the Ozone layer began to form over the Arctic. The scientists noticing this sounded the alarm and the world’s governments took action by creating the Montreal Protocol.
The Montreal Protocol is a treaty that was signed in the late 1980’s by more then one-hundred countries. It’s goal was to rid the world of using Ozone depleting substances like CFC and HCFC refrigerants. This treaty was enacted in countries all over the world. The first target was CFC refrigerants such as R-12. In 1992 R-12 was phased out of the automotive market in the United States and was replaced with the newer HFC refrigerant known as R-134a. R-134a had the benefit of not containing Chlorine so with its usage there would be no danger to the Ozone layer. The next refrigerant to go was the CFC refrigerant known as R-502 in the mid 1990’s. As time went by there were other CFC and HCFC refrigerants phased out but the big change didn’t happen until 2010.
In 2010 is when the phase out of the ever popular HCFC R-22 refrigerant was to begin. At that date no new machines could be manufactured that took R-22 as a refrigerant. This was the line in the sand saying that there would be no more Chlorine containing refrigerants used. While 2010 was the beginning there was a schedule of set dates every five years that would slowly phase out R-22 entirely from the United States. A picture of this phase out schedule can be found below.
It seemed that the end of R-22 was near. But, what would replace this so widely diverse refrigerant? In 1991 the new HFC refrigerant R-410A was invented by the Honeywell Corporation. (Back then they were known by Allied Signal.) After invention Honeywell licensed production and manufacturing rights of 410A to other companies but even today Honeywell still continues to lead production and sales of 410A.
410A saw it’s first use in a residential air conditioning system all the way back in the year 1996. (Hard to believe that was over twenty years ago!) The Carrier Corporation was the first company to introduce 410A into the residential marketplace and during that time they trademarked 410A as their brand name known as Puron.
While 410A could be found at homes in the early 2000’s it was sporadic. It wasn’t until we got closer and closer to the announced phase out date of R-22 that things began to pick up. Even though we were only a few years away from the phase out date there were still companies who had their heads buried in the sand and hadn’t bothered to train themselves or their technicians on the new technology. You can’t blame them really it’s human nature. The change was down the road and they would worry about it then.
In 2010 when the change did come into play and no new R-22 machines could be manufactured things began to get real for people. R-410A was the new refrigerant and it wasn’t going away, at least for a while. A lot of the old-timers out there got fed up with it all and decided to retire right around 2010. The younger guys or mid-career guys stuck around and got through the turbulent years. Today, in October of 2017, R-410A is one of the most widely used refrigerants in the world. It is used in the United States, the European Union, Japan, and many other countries. But what is it’s future? How long will it be around?
As I am writing this we are only about eighteen months away before the 2020 deadline hits for R-22. I write this article knowing that in a few years this will be a historical post used only as reference. There will so very few R-22 units out on the marketplace that new technicians will rarely come across them.
Thanks for reading and I hope that I was able to answer all of your questions and concerns.