Is R-22 Illegal to Use in My Air Conditioner After 2020?

Using R-22 Refrigerant in the Sacramento Valley

“I was told by my HVAC technician that we had to replace our AC system because R-22 was illegal to use starting in 2020.”  As I’m writing this blog post at the beginning of summer in 2019, I’ve been told this a few times already.  Every day, people are being straight-up lied to in their homes by either super salesy technicians trying to pad their pockets with commissions, or new technicians who don’t know the real truth about the phase-out of R-22.  Stayed tuned and I’ll tell you more!

Is R-22 Really Going to Be Illegal?

“You’ll have to replace your system ma’am because R-22 will be illegal starting in 2020.”

“I’m sorry sir, your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant, and it would be illegal for us to refill it with R-22.  You’re going to have to replace your system.”

This is the stuff that gives the HVAC industry a bad name, and I just want you to know that nothing could be further from the truth.

Relying on Expertise

There are things about my car that I have no idea about.  And when I take it to the mechanic, they tell me a part on my car is broken and needs to be fixed, and I pretty much just go along with it because I have no idea what they are talking about when it comes to repairing cars.  If that mechanic wanted to deceive me and rack up a huge bill, they could very easily do so because they know a lot more about that car than I do.

It’s very similar in HVAC.  We, as mechanics of your AC system probably know more about it than you do, and it would be pretty easy for someone to only give you some of the truth, or just straight-up deceive you, coercing you to pay out big bucks for a new air conditioning system when you really don’t need to yet.

I just went to a home here in Rancho Cordova that is only 10 years old.  So, his air conditioning system is 10 years old.  They’ve had two companies come out and tell him since his system is leaking refrigerant it would be illegal starting in 2020 to make repairs on it even saying they could be reported to the EPA and fined, or lose their license.  They went on to say that the system was past its normal life span anyway and he should think about getting a new system.

Wow!  That’s some seriously conniving salesmanship right there.  It sounds more like a salesperson than a real HVAC technician.  Just because someone is dressed up in an outfit with the stereotypical button-up, collared shirt with an American flag on the arm doesn’t make them a technician.

Let’s Be Real 

At what point does a $10,000-dollar system need to be changed out, every 10 years, or even 12 years?  HVAC systems can be repaired as long as the owner of that system wants to keep it.  If the parts are available, we can repair your system as needed.

If you’ve watched any of my videos or read this blog, you know my home’s basic, old, contractor-grade air conditioner’s compressor went out after 11 years.  I didn’t even remotely think about changing this system out.

Why?  Because your central air conditioning system was designed to last about 20 years.  You can read more about this topic here.  Maybe even more if you really wanted to hold onto it.  Like some of you, I’ve taken very good care of my AC system.  I’ve done the maintenance on it for several years.  So, my system is very clean and still runs great even though I had that one major repair when the system was 11.  That system is 21 years old now, and even though I’ve had to replace a small part here and there, the system has worked great for the last 10 years.

Now that the system has reached that 20-year mark, honestly, I am looking to replace it with a new system.

Availability of R-22

But let’s get back to the phaseout of R-22.

Yes R-22 is being phased out.  It’s been slowly phasing out since the Montreal Protocol of 1987.  This was one of the first internationally organized efforts to stop the production of ozone-depleting substances like Freon R-22 from eating away at the stratospheric ozone layer.

We as technicians can’t continue to just keep going back to the same house year after year and refill the system with R-22.  That would be negligent.  So, it’s very important to find and repair the leak so the tubing the refrigerant travels though stays sealed.  That way there won’t be any more leaks or expensive fill-ups to get your system cooling.

That’s why the U.S. has agreed to phase it out of production because of its damaging effect on the ozone layer.  And it’s working!  According to atmospheric chemist Paul Newman, “Ozone levels are projected to return to the levels they were in 1980, by 2032.”

Here’s the truth

In 2020, R-22 refrigerant can’t be PRODUCED anymore.  But there’s still some quantity of it sitting around in warehouses waiting to be sold.  I have no idea how much.  But even after that runs out, there will still be recycled R-22 that we can use.  You see, we as technicians are mandated by the government to recover the refrigerant we take out of systems and hand it over to certain entities so they can clean it up and use it again as recycled R-22.

What’s Supposed to Happen

We use a company called Rapid Recovery here in Sacramento.  They come out to our shop and take the little tanks of R-22 we’ve recovered from systems around town and transfer them into larger holding tanks until it can go through the cleaning process.  This is supposed to be happening all across America and other parts of the world who participate in the Montreal Protocol.  Some companies do it, some don’t.

I used to work with a technician who was a private contractor over in Iraq during the conflicts over there.  They were there to keep the troops cool in their large tents.  He went on to admit he saw technicians just letting that old R-22 spray off into the air like it was nothing.  Literally pounds of it at a time.  Now that’s a shame.

Have you ever heard of a technician purposely letting freon into the atmosphere?  In order to create awareness about this bad practice, leave a comment below and tell us about it.

Alternatives to R-22

There’s no doubt as R-22 Freon becomes scarcer, the price of it will skyrocket.  But there is relief.  You should know there are alternative refrigerants like R-407c, R-422b, and others.  These refrigerants operate near the same pressures as R-22, but don’t have all the chlorine in it that ruins the ozone layer.  And they cost half the price of R-22.

So, it will absolutely not be illegal for your EPA certified technician to buy R-22 and refill your system with it.  It will not be illegal to make repairs to your system just because it has R-22 in it.

Your Choice

Be aware that there are alternatives we can use.  You can freely make the decision to either repair or replace your system as you see fit.  It’s not for your technician to decide.  Please don’t ever let a technician tell you that you have to replace your system.  It’s not true.  Once again, as long as the parts are available to repair your system, it can be repaired.  There are refrigerants that can help you get your older R-22 system cooling again.

Summary

I really hope you have a clearer understanding of R-22 and the phase-out of it.  Just think of like this.  If R-22 Freon is used in your air conditioner, you’re grandfathered in.  No one can take that away from you.

Please leave me a comment down below if this is something you’ve encountered.  Has a company in your area told you they can’t service your equipment anymore because it uses R-22?

Thanks so much for stopping by, and we’ll see you on the next blog post.

 

Don’t miss our video on this topic:

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4 Comments

  1. As Regards to R22 refrigerant used in older HAVC can it be replaced by any such referigerant like the two mentioned. which are the new products used for modern cooling systems. If so what other changes would apply to older systems.

  2. When i was in the Coast Guard we would regularly “dump”entire ships service chiller systems to atmosphere. It woul take about 10 hours to dump 1 fo 2 systems. We were not allowed to recover refrigerant

  3. Just so I understand: Can R-22 be pulled out of an existing system and refilled with another non ozone layer threatening refrigerant? This is quite timely as I just heard on NPR how the entire world came together and successfully stopped or slowed the Ozone depletion problem via the Montreal Protocol. Thank you for posting. I will be calling your company for my next air system maintenance or change out. Your company is part of the solution!

    • Yes, to answer your question, and we use R407c since it is the closest match to R22 we can find out there. Also its the most effective of all the other alternative refrigerants at the higher temps we experience here in Sacramento. Just don’t let anyone mix R22 and another refrigerant because then it wouldn’t be either of those anymore. Lol.

      What’s interesting is even the refrigerants 410a (which is the new refrigerant we use on systems, and is also on its way to being phased out) and R407c and other alternatives for R22, while not having any ODP (ozone depletion potential), they still have significant GWP (global warming potential) if released into the atmosphere.

      Thanks so much for your comment and we hope to get to serve you someday.


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