R-22, or Freon (a brand name) as it is commonly referred to, is in the process of being completely phased out. This is one of the most common refrigerants in existence, and has enjoyed widespread use in a variety of domestic, commercial and industrial applications since it was developed.
The refrigerant is the result of a combination of a number of elements including hydrogen, carbon, fluorine and chlorine; hence the common reference HCFC-22. It is the popular member of the HCFC family of refrigerants.
If you are interested in learning why this refrigerant is being phased out, you have come to the right place. Read on below to learn more about the global R-22 phase out as a whole.
History Of R-22
To understand why R-22 is being phased out globally, it’s important to start by understanding how it came to being. Back in the 1920s a carbon, fluorine and chlorine (CFCs) compound was developed for use as a refrigerant. However, after a short while it was discovered that the compound was not suitable for use due to its harmful effects on the environment.
This led to the development and introduction of HCFCs as a safer and better alternative to the harmful CFCs. The new compound was odorless, non-flammable and non-toxic; this meant that it could be safely used as a refrigerant in domestic and commercial appliances including air conditioning units. R-22 quickly became the industry standard as far as refrigerants were concerned.
However, history would repeat itself as it was later discovered that the refrigerant had the same harmful effects on the environment as had been the case in the previously banned CFCs. This discovery by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) led to the international ratification of the decision to phase out its production and use in 1987.
Common R-22 Applications
As previously stated above, R-22 established itself as the most popular refrigerant in the HCFC family. The compound was widely used in domestic and commercial air conditioning units. It was also used in dehumidifiers, water heaters, mobile air conditioners, heat pumps, commercial refrigeration units, industrial refrigeration units and many other applications as a refrigerant.
International Agreements Set The Stage For The Phasing Out Of R-22
R-22 is being phased out globally as a result of agreements made through global environmental protection treaties. The Montreal Protocol, which was completed and agreed upon, back in 1987 made the first and most deliberate step in pushing for a global R-22 phase out.
The Montreal Protocol is a global agreement that aimed at protecting the ozone layer from destruction by discouraging, with the aim of eliminating in totality, the production and use of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS in short). CFCs and HCFCs were among the most destructive ozone depleting substances known to man at the time. This is exactly why R-22 (the most abundant HCFC compound due to its widespread use as a refrigerant) is being phased out.
The Kyoto Protocol (1997) which aims to safeguard the earth’s climate by significantly decreasing the production of green house gases, CFCs and HCFCs among them, also added more weight to the decision to phase out R-22.
What Happens When The Stratospheric Ozone Layer Is Destroyed?
R-22 was found to blame for the destruction of the ozone layer. Although this might be seen as the reason why a global decision was reached to end its production and use, it’s the impact of destroying the ozone layer that ultimately led to this decision.
The ozone layer plays a vital role in keeping harmful UV radiation from reaching the surface of the earth. Its destruction would ultimately threaten life on earth. UV radiation is linked to increased cases cataracts, skin cancer, destruction of marine life and a significant decrease in the productivity of agricultural land.
How Is R-22 Being Phased Out?
The Montreal Protocol, and amendments made along the way, has charted the way forward as far as the phasing out of R-22 is concerned.
As per the provisions of the agreement, R-22 was not to be used in any appliances manufactured after 2010. Furthermore, its production and use was to be reduced by 75 percent. Some manufacturers were however exempted. R-22 could however be recycled and reused; but not in new appliances as stated above.
As of 2015 to 2019, the production of R-22 would be further reduced by up to 90 percent. No more exemptions were offered; however, some organizations were still allowed to handle recycling and reuse of the refrigerant.
As of 2020 to 2030, the production and use of R-22 would be scaled down by 99.5 percent globally; this would mark the final stage in the phase out process. Any companies licensed to handle recycling or reuse of the refrigerant would be required to adhere to stringent operational guidelines. Any remaining R-22 would be destroyed in 2030 by the EPA, marking the end of the phase out process.
The widespread use of R-22 made the phase out process much more complicated, necessitating the adoption of the elaborate multi-stage process described above.
How You Can Help
If you have an AC unit, or any other appliance for that matter, that uses R-22 you have a responsibility to ensure that the R-22 phase out is a success. By now you already know that R-22 is harmful to the o-zone layer; as such, it is important to avoid any environmental release of the refrigerant.
You can help avoid such releases by keeping your AC unit, and any other relevant appliances, in perfect working condition; especially with regard to issues involving refrigerant leaks. If the system is performing below par, and the repair man suggests a refrigerant top up, be sure to ask them to check for any leaks first. Simply topping up the system without fixing any existing leaks, no matter how small they may be, will lead to ozone damage.
Fixing leaks permanently also comes with a number of associated benefits including improved operational efficiency of the system, resulting in significant energy savings. Furthermore, this eliminates the need for regular repairs, saving you a significant sum as well.
If you have an air conditioning unit that uses R-22, it’s recommended that you call in a qualified specialist to handle any repairs or replacement, and to find out what r 20 refrigerant is. You can also ask them about how the phase-out affects you and the continued operation of your air conditioning unit.