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R-22 Refrigerant (Freon) Is Obsolete: What Next?

Dec 18, 2019 8:00:00 AM / by Melink

The United States has slowly been phasing out the use of R-22 refrigerant (or Freon), a Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant found in older commercial and residential HVAC equipment.

Commonly used in roof top units (RTUs) and split systems,  R-22 and other HCFC refrigerants are known to deplete the Earth’s protective ozone layer and contribute to harmful climate change.

To combat this, the U.S. has slowly been phasing out the use of R-22 refrigerant, per the following phase-out schedule:

  • 1/1/2010: The U.S. government bans the use of R-22 in new HVAC equipment.
  • 1/1/2015: The U.S. government bans the production and import of all R-22.
  • 1/1/2020: The U.S. government bans the use of all R-22 (with a few exceptions).  Only expensive, reclaimed R-22 can be used for repair of older R-22 equipment.  Effectively, this is the end of the road for R-22 use in the U.S.

 

How does the 2020 R-22 refrigerant ban affect my facility? 

  • The cost to repair older R-22 units is now skyrocketing and is usually cost-prohibitive.
  • R-22 costs per pound have risen approximately 500% in the past five years — up to 12 times the cost of modern-day, more ozone-friendly refrigerants.
  • Older R-22 units have much lower Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) ratings and are as much as 50% less efficient than current-day, high-efficiency units. 
  • In most cases, older R-22 RTUs cannot be converted to R410A refrigerant. These older units will need to be replaced with RTUs that are more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly. 
  • Emergency replacement, AKA “Fix-on-fail,” is the costliest way to repair older R-22 units. In fact, this philosophy is around 70% more expensive per unit than a proactive roof-sweep or planned equipment replacement program.

 

So what should I do now, and where should I start? 

First, to really understand how the R-22 ban affects your business, we recommend companies start with an HVAC inventory. Conduct a detailed survey of all facilities to verify the age and condition of all HVAC equipment, including newer and older HVAC units.

Secondly, Melink recommends involving a national or regional HVAC installation partner, as well as an independent national testing, balancing and commissioning partner to provide the unit data and a complete assessment of the entire mechanical system. (Check out these tips for hiring a Test & Balance partner).

Ideally, the assessment should include the following:

  • Duct-work inspections
  • RTU and exhaust fan inspections
  • Airflow measurements to verify proper building airflows and to identify existing air-balance issues

If the entire HVAC system is not inspected, the building will often continue to have comfort problems and building balance issues, even after the new equipment is installed. Without a thorough inspection, the positive effects of the new, energy-efficient (and R-22 refrigerant ban-compliant) HVAC equipment will not be fully realized, resulting in a lower-than-expected ROI.

For further information on HVAC surveys and other custom scopes of work, please e-mail TBestimating@melinkcorp.com, call at (513) 965-7300, or leave a comment below.

 

Sources:
Air Conditioner Refrigerant Costs — On The Rise? (Fixd Repair)
What Is the #1 Way to Save Money on Your Rooftop Unit? (U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy)

 

 

Tags: HVAC Test & Balance

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