Why Phase out R22 or Freon 22?
Refrigerant R22 is used in number of refrigeration and air conditioning systems. R22 is the halocarbon compound named monochlorodifluoromethane with chemical formula CHClF2 and it is the hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC). R22 is one of the most popular refrigerants used in cooling systems, but unfortunately, the halocarbons (chlorine and fluorine) present in these compounds have the potential to cause depletion of the ozone layer in the atmosphere leading to greenhouse effect. The ozone layer destroying potential of R22, which is HCFC is much lesser than the other chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), still in the long-term they do have detrimental effects on the atmosphere.
The depletion of ozone layer from the upper layers of atmosphere results in ultraviolet rays of the sun to reach the surface of the earth. This leads to high temperature on the earth and the ultraviolet ray themselves are very harmful to the skin of human beings. To avoid the long-term dangers of the R22 and other CFCs, it has been decided to phase out the use and production of R22 completely along with other CFC refrigerants.
Time Line for Phase Out of Refrigerant R22
In the year 1987 conference was held, where a protocol by the name “Montreal Protocol" was signed by a number of countries to phase out the use and production of CFC refrigerants. US is one of the 190 countries where the manufacturing of R22 has to be stopped in phase manner and where the alternatives have to be found out.
As per EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the timeline for phase out of R22 from United States is as follows:
January 1, 2010: By this date there would be complete ban on the production and import of R22 and R142b. However, there is exception for the on-going servicing needs of the existing plants and equipment.
January 1, 2015: By this date there would be ban on the sale and use of R22. There is exception for certain cases, including the serving needs of the existing refrigeration and air conditioning equipment.
January 1, 2020: By this date there would complete ban on the production and import of R22 refrigerant. The gas would not be available even for servicing of the existing plants.
After January 2020, the refrigeration and the air conditioning systems using R22 would have to depend on the stockpile of the refrigerant available with them. One just can’t really predict till when R22 would be available after the January 2020 deadline. It may also be available till the expiry of the equipment, but it would be surely lot more expensive. The owners of these equipment would have to either switch to the new alternative refrigerant or bear the costs of the highly expensive refrigerant R22 at that time or they may have to totally shutdown the equipment.
Timeline for R22 Phase out
Implications on the users of R22 of Phase out
At present the demand for R22 is much more than it was expected in 1998, when the phase out of the refrigerant started. Though a number of alternative refrigerants causing no ozone depletion are available, the equipment using R22 are still the best sellers. The manufacture of new equipment and growing base of the installed equipment is increasing the demand for R22.
With the phase out of the R22 now becoming eminent in the coming years, the US companies are now not investing in the R22 production. As the deadline is getting closer the availability of R22 is becoming difficult, which is making the operation and maintenance of the existing equipment quite expensive. Even the raw material used for the manufacture of R22 gas, mainly chlorine, fluorspar, and natural gas, have become highly expensive.
What the Customers should know about R22 Phase out?
As per EPA phase out of R22 means:
1) The phase out of R22 would repair the ozone layer of the atmosphere and help prevent the diseases like skin cancer and cataract caused by the UV radiations of the sun.
2) The customers need not replace the existing equipment immediately nor they have to stop using R22, but in the long run the cost of the refrigerant is bound to increase.
3) Till now there is no ban on R22 refrigerant or on its use by EPA.
4) The phase out period gives enough time for the customers to shift to the ozone friendly refrigerants.