R22 Phase Out in Air Conditioning
What is the R22 Legislation?
The EC Ozone Regulation (No. 1005/2009) was introduced to phase out HCFCs, including R22 gas, used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems.
Since 1st January 2015, it has been illegal to use virgin, recycled and reclaimed R22 to maintain or repair air conditioning equipment. If your organisation currently operates an R22 system, it’s vital that you’re planning how to replace it.
R22 Phase Out Timeline
- 1st January 2004: HCFCs, including R22 refrigerant, was banned for use in new air conditioning systems throughout the EU
- 1st January 2010: Virgin R22 refrigerant was banned for use in maintenance and repairs
- 1st January 2015: All R22, including recycled and reclaimed refrigerant, will be banned for use in maintenance and repairs
What are the Reasons for the R22 Legislation?
R22 gas is an HCFC, or hydrochlorofluorocarbon, commonly used in air conditioning, process cooling and industrial refrigeration. It has been banned for use in new equipment in the UK since 2004.
The ban is in place because HCFCs are ozone-depleting substances. This means that when they’re released into the air they react with and damage the ozone layer. This results in greater UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface, causing wide-ranging environmental effects. These include rises in skin cancer, cataracts and sunburn, smaller and lower quality crop yields and destructive changes to ecosystems.
In accordance with the Montreal Protocol and due to their detrimental impact on the environment, R22 and other ozone-depleting substances are being phased out globally. Modern refrigerants, such as the industry standard R-410A, which do not damage the ozone layer, are now being used in their place.
There are more F-Gas regulations coming into force in the EU, which will further limit the use of HFCs in refrigeration by 2030. These include R404A, R422A, R422D and R507, which will be gradually phased out to reduce emissions. The aim is to reduce their usage to around a fifth of current levels, shifting to climate-friendly technology wherever possible.
What Happens If I Do Nothing?
If you don’t take action soon, it could have serious implications for your organisation.
After the deadline, it will be illegal to replenish the refrigerant in your system, so even minor faults could make your air conditioning unusable and irreparable. You might need to order an emergency replacement, decommission your system or close your site, just to comply with the legislation.
This could prove particularly damaging if you rely on air conditioning or refrigeration for your day to day operations, even if it’s just to keep your workplace at a reasonable temperature for staff.
If you do nothing, you’ll be left with an inefficient system that you won’t be able to maintain or repair. It will need replacing sooner or later – you just won’t know when until it hits you.
Planned transitions are always more cost-effective than reactive changes, so make sure you’re starting to consider your replacement options.
What Do I Need to Do About the R22 Regulations?
You need to replace at least part of your air conditioning system as soon as possible, making sure any remaining units and pipework are free from R22 refrigerant. There are plenty of R22 replacement options, so start planning now and make sure you choose the one that’s right for you.
We can help you identify R22 equipment, survey your site(s) and give you advice on how best to approach the transition.
R22 Replacement Options for Air Conditioning
Since 1st January 2015, it has been illegal to maintain or repair air conditioning systems that use R22 refrigerant. However, this doesn’t restrict your replacement options and major manufacturers, including Mitsubishi Electric and Daikin, have developed flexible solutions to meet individual needs.
The main R22 replacement options available to you are:
- Total System Replacement
- Replace Outdoor and Indoor Units
- Use a ‘Drop-in’ Refrigerant
Total System Replacement
This involves replacing all parts of your air conditioning system, including outdoor and indoor units, pipework and electrical wiring. It ensures you have the most up to date equipment with the lowest running costs and is the best long term solution to the R22 Phase Out.
In some cases it’s impossible to re-use your existing components, making a full system replacement the only available solution. The downside to this approach is that it involves the highest initial capital outlay and increases the installation time.
If you have the resources to upgrade your entire system, it’s certainly worth doing. You will get the most energy efficient air conditioning system with the lowest lifetime costs. However, if your initial budget is limited, speak to your installer about the alternatives.
Replace Outdoor and Indoor Units
By reusing your existing infrastructure, including pipework, wiring and power supply, you could cut installation costs by up to 55% and minimise the impact on your organisation. This approach significantly reduces installation times and can come very close to matching the benefits of a total system replacement.
You will see major improvements to performance, energy efficiency and running costs, without having to make an overwhelming investment.
All major manufacturers offer partial R22 replacement solutions. This involves installing state of the art air conditioning units and integrating them with your existing infrastructure. It guarantees that your piping network is clean, fit for purpose and free from the banned R22 refrigerant. Depending on the equipment you have in place, it’s even sometimes possible to replace the outdoor units only, which further reduces installation time and costs.
Partial R22 replacement solutions also give you an opportunity to upgrade your system, increasing the capacity or number of units. This approach brings your old infrastructure up to speed with your organisation’s current needs. We can work with you to design a system that is truly fit for purpose, saving you money by using the foundations you already have in place.
Use a ‘Drop-In’ Refrigerant
Drop-in refrigerants mimic the function of R22 in old systems without the legal implications or negative environmental impact. However, the term is somewhat misleading. In reality, it’s impossible to use a substitute refrigerant without complex re-engineering and re-commissioning.
Taking this approach will diminish your system’s reliability and performance, leaving you at risk of failure or unplanned downtime. Maintaining your ageing system will become increasingly expensive and many manufacturers don’t support alternative refrigerants due to the problems they cause.
Drop-in refrigerants should only ever be used as a short term measure. Even then, it’s vital they form part of a suitable replacement plan. While drop-in refrigerants may reduce your immediate capital spending, they are not cost-effective solutions to the R22 Phase Out and should be avoided where possible. Of all the R22 replacement options, drop-in refrigerants are the riskiest, and, in the long run, most expensive.