SMO Energy

R22 refrigerant phase out

R22 Refrigerant Phase Out: What You Need to Know

In 2020, the United States government banned the production of R22 — a refrigerant found in many older air conditioning units and heat pumps. If your system uses R22, you probably have many questions about the phase-out and how to know if a replacement is necessary. In this guide, we will answer your questions about the phase-out and discuss what it means for you. 

What Is R22?

R22, or Freon, is a refrigerant that absorbs and releases heat to cool your home. It is most often used as a cooling agent in air conditioners, mini-splits and heat pumps. Older systems are more likely to use Freon.

What Is Happening to R22?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified R22 as an ozone-depleting substance (ODS). Ozone-depleting substances are being phased out as part of the U.S. Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which was first introduced in the 1990s. 

Chemicals in ozone-depleting substances like R22 eventually reach the stratosphere, where they deplete the stratospheric ozone layer. The ozone layer is a hot topic when discussing the climate crisis — it keeps us safe from harmful UV radiation. Holes in the ozone layer increase the earth’s temperature and leave people more exposed to the sun’s rays. Aside from protecting an estimated 45 million people from skin cancer, the Montreal Protocol will help protect plant life, crops and marine ecosystems. 

According to the EPA, R22 ozone depletion is dangerous for the climate and the environment. The R22 refrigerant phase-out began in 2020, when the United States government banned its production, citing the harmful effects it poses to the ozone layer and the environment. It is also illegal to import R22 into the U.S. Since 2020, only recovered, recycled or reclaimed supplies of R22 are available. 

How Does the Phase-Out Impact Me?

If your home currently uses R22 in its air conditioning system, you are free to continue using the system for the remainder of its life. If your air conditioner is less than 10 years old, it is likely safe to continue using it. Regardless, you will still want to make a plan for when its life is up. Emergency replacement of your AC unit or heat pump will be much more stressful than a well-planned replacement. 

However, many companies, including SMO Energy, will no longer replenish R22 in older systems that currently have a low supply. If your R22 levels are low, it might be time to invest in a new system altogether. 

What Are My Options?

The ban makes the price per pound of R22 increase substantially every year. Additionally, there are no “drop-in” replacements for R22 — your unit runs best using the refrigerant it was made to handle. You can “retrofit” your current unit, but these conversions may be costly or potentially damaging to your equipment. However, you still have some options if you are dealing with low R22 or an old unit. 

Some of the choices you might have include:

  • Keeping your current unit: If your air conditioner is less than 10 years old and still runs well, you can likely continue using it for the time being. 
  • Repairing your current unit: You could choose to repair your unit, but doing so could be extremely costly given the rising prices of R22. Prices are only likely to go up as supplies go down, meaning replacing your unit might be a better decision when you need extensive repairs. 
  • Replacing your unit: You may want to replace your unit if it is more than 15 years old, requires an extensive repair, is low on R22 or is no longer meeting your heating or cooling needs. 

replace r22

Benefits of Replacing Your R22 System

If your system is old or you are running low on R22, you may be worried about having to replace it. However, you can see the following benefits when you purchase a new air conditioning system:

  • Improved system performance
  • Better indoor air quality
  • Lower operating costs
  • Increased efficiency
  • More environmental friendliness

R22 Refrigerant Phase-Out FAQ

Do you have more questions about the R22 phase-out or R22 AC unit replacement? Find your answer below.

How Do I Know if My Air Conditioner Uses R22?

Generally speaking, your air conditioner probably uses R22 if it was built before 2010. Newer machines might use a different chemical to operate. To be sure, you can look at the device’s nameplate, found on your outdoor condenser of central air conditioning systems. 

If the nameplate does not have the refrigerant listed, contact the company that sold you the unit or call the manufacturer with the unit’s model number on hand. 

 What Is the Replacement for R22?

The most common alternative for R22 is R410a, more commonly known as Puron. R410a is a high-efficiency refrigerant blend and has an ozone depletion rating of zero, making it a much more sustainable option. 

How Can I Be More Environmentally Friendly With My R22 System?

If you have an air conditioner that runs on R22, there are still some steps you can take to make your home more environmentally friendly during the lifetime of your machine. Perhaps the best thing you can do is maintain your machine as best you can. 

R22 leaks are bad for your appliance and the environment, and “healthy” machines do not leak as often. If your AC unit does leak, you can ask the technician to repair the leak rather than replace the R22. This will also help you save money on repairs

How Should I Dispose of My Old Appliances Containing Refrigerants?

When you purchase a new HVAC or AC system, the installer will likely remove your old system for you. You can also arrange to have the appliance picked up via curbside service. Make sure not to tamper with the machine before getting rid of it. 

Get a Quote for a New System From SMO Energy

SMO Energy is family-owned and operated, serving the Southern Maryland, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel areas. Our Service Department receives over 3,000 hours of technical training annually to provide our clients with the best possible experience.

At SMO Energy, we understand purchasing a new system can be overwhelming and stressful. We want to help you make the best decision for your home and budget. If it is time for a new HVAC system for your home, schedule a free consultation with SMO Energy. We will provide you with an estimate for a new energy-efficient system that does not run on R22.

r22 quote for a new system