Homeowners may have various types of appliances including window units, dehumidifiers, central air conditioners, air-to-air heat pumps, ground-source heat pumps, and ductless air-conditioners that contain HCFC-22 (also called R-22) or its blends. The following information will help homeowners make informed decisions when purchasing, servicing, or disposing of air-conditioners or other equipment.
How can I find out if my home air-conditioner contains R-22?
Most air-conditioners have a nameplate on the unit that identifies the refrigerant it contains and other information, such as safety certifications and electrical ratings. For a central air-conditioner, the nameplate is usually on the outdoor condensing unit. If a nameplate is not provided, there are several other ways that you may be able to obtain the information. You could check your owner’s manual for the information. The person/company that sold or services your air conditioner would likely know what refrigerant it uses. Or, if you know the manufacturer and model number, you could call the manufacturer or check its web site.
Am I allowed to purchase a new home air-conditioner that contains R-22?
Self-contained systems manufactured before January 1, 2010, may be purchased. These are typically window units.
New split air-conditioning systems that use R-22 and must be installed onsite (e.g. central air-conditioning units) may not be sold after December 31, 2009. After January 1, 2010, R-22 may not be produced for new AC/refrigeration systems and instead will be limited to the servicing of existing systems. Consumers should be aware that supplies of R-22 will also be more limited after 2010. As R-22 is being phased out, non-ozone-depleting alternative refrigerants continue to be introduced. In addition to the refrigerant type, you should consider energy efficiency, along with performance, reliability, and cost in deciding which type of air-conditioner to purchase.
Will I be required to stop using R-22 in my home air-conditioner or other equipment?
No. You will not be required to stop using R-22 and you will not be required to replace existing equipment just to switch to a new refrigerant. The lengthy phaseout period provides time to switch to ozone-friendly refrigerants when you normally would replace your air-conditioner or other equipment. This transition is important because supplies of R-22 will be more limited after 2010, which may cause the price of R-22 to increase. Starting in 2020, new R-22 may no longer be produced, so consumers will need to rely solely on recycled or reclaimed quantities to service any systems still operating after that date.
What if I own an air conditioner that needs R-22 added after 2010?
You may continue to have your equipment containing R-22 serviced after 2010, although only a limited amount of new R-22 will be manufactured (to meet the servicing needs of equipment manufactured before January 1, 2010). After 2020, production of R-22 will be prohibited and only recovered, recycled, or reclaimed supplies of R-22 will be available for servicing existing equipment. So, in the future, R-22 supplies will be more limited and costs may rise.
I own an air-conditioning unit that contains R-22 and I want to minimize its impacts on the ozone layer.
What can I do?
If you have equipment that contains R-22, the most important thing you can do is to maintain your unit properly. Major leaks rarely develop in units that are properly installed and maintained; however, appropriate servicing is necessary to minimize potential environmental damage and maintenance costs. For more information on what regular service your unit requires, please consult your owner’s manual or contact the company that sold or services your unit.
It is important to select a reliable service contractor. Technicians must have EPA certification to service equipment containing R-22. It is illegal to intentionally vent (release) any refrigerant when making repairs. Therefore, technicians are required to use refrigerant recovery equipment during service. Also, request that service technicians locate and repair leaks instead of “topping off” leaking systems. This will help ensure that your system operates at its optimal level, which reduces emissions of refrigerant and saves you money by reducing your household energy use and avoiding additional repairs in the future.
What You Should Know about Refrigerants When Purchasing or Repairing a Residential A/C System or Heat Pump
Background: Ban on Production and Imports of Ozone-Depleting Refrigerants
In 1987 the Montreal Protocol, an international environmental agreement, established requirements that began the worldwide phaseout of ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons). These requirements were later modified, leading to the phaseout in 1996 of CFC production in all developed nations. In 1992 the Montreal Protocol was amended to establish a schedule for the phaseout of HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons). HCFCs are less damaging to the ozone layer than CFCs, but still contain ozone-destroying chlorine. The Montreal Protocol as amended is carried out in the U.S. through Title VI of the Clean Air Act, which is implemented by EPA.
HCFC-22 (also known as R-22) has been the refrigerant of choice for residential heat pump and air-conditioning systems for more than four decades. Unfortunately for the environment, releases of R-22, such as those from leaks, contribute to ozone depletion. In addition, R-22 is a greenhouse gas and the manufacture of R-22 results in a by-product (HFC-23) that contributes significantly to global warming. As the manufacture of R-22 is phased out over the coming years as part of the agreement to end production of HCFCs, manufacturers of residential air conditioning systems are offering equipment that uses ozone-friendly refrigerants. Many homeowners may be misinformed about how much longer R-22 will be available to service their central A/C systems and heat pumps. This fact sheet provides information about the transition away from R-22, the future availability of R-22, and the new refrigerants that are replacing R-22. This document also assists consumers in deciding what to consider when purchasing a new A/C system or heat pump, or when having an existing system repaired.
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.