R-22 Is Going Away – Find Out What It Means For Your HVAC System


One of the biggest changes in the HVAC industry is the phase-out of R-22 refrigerant in favor of other, more environmentally-friendly alternatives. So what does this mean for your HVAC system? If you've recently purchased a new heat pump or central air conditioner, then you're already set and have nothing to worry about.

If you've purchased an HVAC system within the last decade and you're thinking about keeping it a while longer, you'll need to be prepared for the upcoming changes within the next few years.

The End of the Road for R-22

For decades, heat pumps and central air conditioners have relied on R-22 as an effective and reliable refrigerant for heating and cooling. But while the use of R-22 and other hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) have done wonders for overall home comfort, the same can't be said of the environment's well-being.

In recent years, scientists have discovered that HCFC-based refrigerants contributed to the erosion of the earth's ozone layer. In response, the U.S. and other nations around the world began phasing out HCFCs in favor of less harmful alternatives for refrigeration, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

The phase-out involves a gradual reduction in HCFC production, culminating in a total cessation of all new HCFC production by 2020. Afterwards, HVAC contractors will have to rely mostly on recycled or recovered supplies of R-22 when servicing older air conditioners and heat pumps. HVAC manufacturers are also prohibited from selling new units that come pre-charged with R-22.

Alternatives for Existing HVAC Systems

If you've purchased your HVAC system prior to January 2010, then chances are it still uses R-22. As existing supplies of R-22 dwindle, the cost of servicing your HVAC system will increase dramatically unless you're able to find a drop-in replacement. Drop-in replacements offer varying degrees of compatibility with units that normally rely on R-22:

  • R-407C offers the closest performance to R-22, but it requires a complete change in lubricating oil before it can be used in most R-22-based units.
  • R-438A and R-422D offer weaker performance at higher temperatures, but they offer better lubricant compatibility. However, these drop-in replacements can't be used in HVAC systems with semi-hermetic compressors or mixed metering devices.

In addition to replacing the refrigerant, your HVAC contractor may also have to swap out seals, O-rings and other components to prevent leaks and ensure complete system compatibility. This extra work could add to the cost of maintaining your existing HVAC system.

Should You Buy a New System Instead?

That depends on how long ago you've purchased your current HVAC system and how much life it has left. For instance, if you purchased your system back in 2009, then it may be more cost -ffective to get a full decade's use out of it before considering a replacement. On the other hand, you'll want to think about replacing your HVAC system right now if it's already more than a decade old.

Replacing your HVAC system now has its perks. For starters, your new system will use R-410A, a more environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient HFC alternative to HCFC refrigerants. R-410A is the new standard when it comes to residential refrigeration, which means you'll see it used more often in brand-new HVAC systems. Since R-410A relies on higher system pressures to effectively work, it can't be used in existing R-22 systems.

With a new HVAC system, you can also take advantage of the latest advances and improvements in HVAC technology. Today's latest HVAC systems now feature variable speed blowers, multiple-stage compressors and a host of other technologies that offer improved comfort, reduced energy consumption and lower maintenance costs.

In the end, it's up to you to decide whether you want to get a few more years out of your current R-22-based HVAC system or step up to the latest HVAC systems in preparation of the R-22 phase-out. If you have specific questions about heating and air conditioning service, make sure contact an HVAC contractor.


27 August 2015

Cool off Your AC Bill

Every summer, I agonized over energy bills that would shoot into the stratosphere as a result of my efforts to keep cool in the heat. Every time I turned the temperature down, my bills increased. This summer, I decided to take some of the control over my energy bill back. I installed reflective film on my windows that reduced the amount of light and heat coming into the house. I started serving more cold meals or asking my husband to barbecue outside, so that my air conditioner didn't have to compete with the hot stove, and I started doing laundry at night to reduce appliance heat in the house at peak times. I also had ceiling fans installed. So far, the difference in my bill has been tremendous. This blog is a way for me to explore other ways to reduce energy drain during the summer months.