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Refrigerant Battle of the 21st century

R22 vs R410, Why the Big Scare.

Today 5/9/2017

I would like to start by saying this is an update from 2012. Since this article was posted a few thing have changed. The biggest change has been the cost of the R-22, it has more than tripled in cost from the past year and a half. Even with this increase you should not be charged more than $135.00 per pound for R-22. I have seen many of my competitors charging an outrages amount per pound for the R-22 ($200.00) which makes me feel very sad for those who have been hit by hard times and are now getting raked over the coals.

I really want everyone to understand when R-22 refrigerant is gone, it’s not a big deal. We have several replacements already being used and are working just fine. We have M-99, Nu-22 and R-421. Many more on the way so don’t sweat the phase out of R-22 because it’s no big deal. NU-22 is by far is the best, it is a direct replacement for the R-22, you don’t have to make any modifications to the air condition unit, just remove the old R-22 and fill it up with the new NU-22. (We did not note every step to convert). Read the article below.

We have all heard or read the latest news about the phase out of R-22 refrigerant. Our government has made the decision for our own good to phase out the use of R-22 refrigerant or (CFC Production). This decision was made back in 1987, called the The Montreal Protocol. If you look a little deeper you will find an assortment of articles about the whole phase out.

Below I have posted a few articles about the phase out and what it means to the consumer.

So many companies and contractors have started scare tactics, and have done very well to scare the bejesus out of the public. The primary concerns from my customers are what’s going to happen when all the R-22 refrigerant is gone or when the phase out is at 100%?  How do we fix our air conditioners when they break down, or what if all we need is a re charge of R-22 to get it going again?

These concerns go unanswered for so many, because the articles they find online are all about up selling the new refrigerant and the new air condition systems. The HVAC industry wants everyone to move on and replace the old units with the new R-410 units and get everything up to date. This of course is great for the industry selling the new air conditioners and  for all the HVAC contractors, who get to tell you your equipment is obsolete and a thing of the past, in fact some tell you it cannot be repaired and you MUST replace the system if you want air conditioning. This of course is a load of crap, and the primary motivation for the service techs, are getting additional commissions on every sale they bring in. (This is a whole other article of course).

Well, the day has come and gone and with all the fears of not being able to service the older air condition systems and or not being able to get parts for them has all turned out to be a bunch of bunk. I’ve replaced A-coils, capacitors, compressors, contractors, pressure switches, filter driers and the list goes on. All of these parts for R-22 were so easy to get, I didn’t have to do anything more then walk to my van or stop at one of the many suppliers and ask for them for the parts.

The R-22 ac units are still being fixed every single day. The way the law was written, is, that air condition systems could not be manufactured and shipped with R-22 refrigerant pre-installed, so the units are shipped empty or as we call it dry charged. So the manufactures are selling them empty and the installing contractor charges the unit with R-22 or in my case with one of the new R-22 replacements, at the time of installation. (We don’t sell the R-22 systems as of 2014.)

So many companies have used this scare tactic to increase their profit margins and continue to tell customers they have to replace the complete system because it’s the law or maybe they tell you the parts are not available anymore or some type of BS story.

I have been selling the new style units (R-410) for many years now, I have done this however with complete honesty, and I have explained to my customers the benefits of a new high efficiency unit vs their older system. The older system is not less efficient because of the refrigerant in the system both refrigerants offer high efficient units and both will lower the monthly bills compared to a 15 year old system.

I’m going to supply you with info I’ve gotten from the EPA and other sources online, good luck.

Background: Ban on Production and Imports of Ozone-Depleting Refrigerants a.k.a. Montreal Protocol

In 1987, the Montreal Protocol, an international environmental agreement, established requirements that began the worldwide phase out of ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons). These requirements were later modified, leading to the phase out in 1996 of CFC production in all developed nations. In 1992 the Montreal Protocol was amended to establish a schedule for the phase out of HCFCs (hydro chlorofluorocarbons). 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.

Phase Out 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.

For more information about this phase out, see fact sheets about the HCFC Phase Out Schedule and Frequently Asked Questions on the HCFC Phase Out.

What Does the HCFC-22 Phaseout Mean for Consumers?

Availability of R-22

The Clean Air Act does not allow any refrigerant to be vented into the atmosphere during installation, service, or retirement of equipment. Therefore, R-22 must be recovered and recycled (for reuse in the same system), reclaimed (reprocessed to the same purity standard as new R-22), or destroyed. After 2020, the servicing of R-22-based systems will rely solely on recycled or reclaimed refrigerants. It is expected that reclamation and recycling will ensure that existing supplies of R-22 will last longer and be available to service a greater number of systems. As noted above, chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce, and companies will no longer be able to import, R-22 for use in new A/C equipment after 2010, but they can continue production and import of R-22 until 2020 for use in servicing existing equipment. Given this schedule, which was established in 1993, the transition away from R-22 to the use of ozone-friendly refrigerants should be smooth. For the next 10 years or more, R-22 should continue to be available for all systems that require R-22 for servicing.

Alternatives to R-22 in Residential Air Conditioning

As R-22 is gradually phased out, non-ozone-depleting alternative refrigerants are being introduced. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA reviews alternatives to ozone-depleting substances to evaluate their effects on human health and the environment. EPA has reviewed several alternatives to R-22 for household and light commercial air conditioning and has compiled a list of substitutes that EPA has determined are acceptable. One of these substitutes is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer, but, like R-22, contributes to global warming. R-410A is manufactured and sold under various trade names, including GENETRON AZ-20®, SUVA 410A®, Forane® 410A, and Puron®. An additional refrigerant on the list of acceptable substitutes for R-22 in residential air conditioners and other products is R-407C. Residential air conditioners and heat pumps using R-407C are not available in the U.S., but are commonly found in Europe. EPA will continue to review new non-ozone-depleting refrigerants as they are developed.

Servicing existing units

Existing units using R-22 can continue to be serviced with R-22. There is no EPA requirement to change or convert R-22 units for use with a non-ozone-depleting substitute refrigerant. Such changes, called “retrofits,” are allowed if the alternative has been found acceptable for that type of use.  R-407C is allowed for retrofits but R-410A is not allowed in retrofits due to its higher working pressures. In addition, the new substitute refrigerants would not work well without making some changes to system components. As a result, service technicians who repair leaks to the system will most often continue to charge R-22 into the system as part of that repair.

Installing new units

The transition away from ozone-depleting R-22 to systems that rely on replacement refrigerants like R-410A has required redesign of heat pump and air conditioning systems. New systems incorporate compressors and other components specifically designed for use with specific replacement refrigerants. For instance, if a new outdoor unit (typically called a “condensing unit,” containing the condenser and compressor) is installed, it is likely that a new indoor unit (typically called an “evaporator”) will also be required. With these significant product and production process changes, testing and training must also change. Consumers should be aware that dealers of systems that use substitute refrigerants should be schooled in installation and service techniques required for use of that substitute refrigerant.

A Common Sense Approach to Servicing Your System

Along with prohibiting the production of ozone-depleting refrigerants, the Clean Air Act also mandates the use of common sense in handling refrigerants. By containing and using refrigerants responsibly — that is, by recovering, recycling, and reclaiming, and by reducing leaks — their ozone depletion and global warming consequences are reduced. The Clean Air Act outlines specific refrigerant containment and management practices for HVAC manufacturers, distributors, dealers and technicians. Properly installed home comfort systems rarely develop major refrigerant leaks, and with proper servicing, a system using R-22, R-410A, or another refrigerant will reduce its impact on the environment. While EPA does not mandate repairing or replacing small systems because of leaks, system leaks can not only harm the environment, but also result in increased operation and maintenance costs.

One important thing a homeowner can do for the environment, regardless of the refrigerant used, is to select a reputable dealer that employs service technicians who are EPA-certified to handle refrigerants. Technicians often call this certification “Section 608 certification,” referring to the part of the Clean Air Act that requires minimizing releases of ozone-depleting chemicals from HVAC equipment.

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