San Antonio Home Inspector Explains R-22 Refrigerant




What is R-22 Refrigerant?

R22 is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems. It has been widely used since the 1950s due to its good thermal properties, stability, and compatibility with many materials commonly used in refrigeration systems. However, R22 has been found to have negative environmental impacts, particularly on the ozone layer. As a result, its production and importation have been phased out in many countries, including the United States, and it is becoming both very expensive while the equipment still using it is growing older.


Is R-22 a Bad Refrigerant?

No, quite the opposite, as it was widely used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems for many years due to its good thermal properties and stability. However, it was found to have very negative environmental impacts, particularly on the ozone layer.

As a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant, R-22 contains chlorine that reacts with ozone in the upper atmosphere, leading to ozone depletion.  The ozone layer is a protective layer in the Earth’s atmosphere that absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The depletion of the ozone layer can increase the amount of harmful UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface, which can have negative effects on human health and the environment. While R22 may have been a good refrigerant from a technical standpoint, its environmental impact led to the need for alternatives with lower ozone depletion potential and lower global warming potential.

The production and importation of R22 have been phased out in many countries, including the United States, under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which aims to protect the ozone layer and mitigate the effects of climate change. Therefore, newer refrigerants, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and natural refrigerants, are being used to replace R22 in modern air conditioning and refrigeration systems.



When was R-22 Refrigerant Banned?

R22 refrigerant has not been completely banned worldwide, but its production and importation have been phased out in many countries. In the United States, the production and importation of R22 were phased out under the Clean Air Act, with the final phase-out date being January 1, 2020. This means that R22 can no longer be manufactured or imported into the United States, except for use in certain limited circumstances, such as servicing existing equipment.


Where can I get R-22 Refrigerant?

You can’t, at least not in the United States. Well, you can’t buy it. However, R22 may still be available for use in servicing existing equipment that was manufactured before the phase-out. In the United States, for example, there is a limited supply of R22 that is available for use in servicing existing equipment until the supply is exhausted. It is important to note that the amount of R22 that can be used for servicing existing equipment is also gradually decreasing over time. In the United States, for example, the price of R22 has increased dramatically as the phase-out deadline approached, and it is expected to continue to increase as the remaining supply is depleted. The last time I heard a price qouted to me in September 2021, the price of R22 was in the range $150 to $200 per pound or more.


What if I have R-22 Air-Conditioning Equipment?

If your cooling system uses R22 refrigerant and is working properly, you do not have to replace it immediately. However, as R22 becomes more expensive, the cost of servicing your cooling system equipment may become prohibitive. Therefore, it is recommended to start planning for the eventual replacement of your R22 cooling system with a new system that uses an alternative refrigerant. This will not only ensure that you have a more environmentally-friendly system but also prevent the possibility of not being able to find R22 refrigerant in the future.

It is important to note that replacing a cooling system can be a significant investment, so it is important to consider factors such as the age and condition of the existing system, the cost of the new system, and the potential energy savings and environmental benefits of the new system when deciding whether to replace your R22 cooling system.


Alternative / Replacement Referigerants

There are several alternative refrigerants that can be used as replacements for R22 in air conditioning and refrigeration systems. The most common replacements for R22 are hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants such as R410A and R407C, which have been widely adopted as R22 alternatives.

R410A is a popular replacement for R22 and is used in many newer air conditioning systems. It has a higher cooling capacity than R22, allowing for more efficient and effective cooling. R407C is another popular R22 alternative that has similar thermodynamic properties to R22 and can be used in many existing systems with minimal modifications.

Other refrigerants such as R32, R438A, and R422D have also been developed as alternatives to R22. However, it is important to note that each alternative refrigerant has different performance characteristics, safety considerations, and compatibility requirements, so it is essential to consult a licensed HVAC professional to determine the most suitable replacement refrigerant for your specific air conditioning or refrigeration system.


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San Antonio, TX 78232

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Home Inspector Kyle D. Scott

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