What Is Going On with R-22 Refrigerant and the EPA?

You may have heard some rumblings about R-22 lately. So what exactly is going on? Well, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) issued the Final Rule in 2009 to begin phasing out R-22 refrigerant because of its harmful effect on the environment (ozone layer). The plan was to create a slow and steady reduction in supply and increase in reclamation (reclaiming the existing R-22 from current systems) from 2010-2014 to help ensure a smooth transition away from R-22.

Apparently, it’s not going well. Currently, the industry is at 30% of the EPA’s stated goal for reclamation. Significant inventory still exists and retrofitting old units has created additional R-22 supplies. Since R-22 use did not see the reductions anticipated, the EPA took some drastic measures to make sure change happens in the market.

In January of 2012, the EPA issued a new proposal for 2012-2014. The original proposal called for a 10% reduction in production and importation rites of R-22 from the previous year’s numbers. On January 20th, the EPA upped the ante by demanding an additional 35% (making a total reduction of 45% from last year’s numbers).

What this means for consumers is that the supply of R-22 will be reduced and the demand will increase. What we learned in basic Economy 101 is that we should expect a sharp increase in the price of R-22 refrigerant. And there’s no reason to see it going anywhere but up. Unfortunately, the most popular replacement refrigerant, R-410A, cannot be used in systems designed for R-22 refrigerant. Manufacturers are working on other refrigerants, however, that are more interchangeable. If you own an older air conditioner and need replacement, it would be wise to consider replacing it with a newer model that can use the newer refrigerants. Otherwise, you may be forced to pay top dollar for R-22 in the future.

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