The majority of air conditioning units installed before 2001 use R22 as the refrigeration gas. R22 is an HCFC which is an ozone depleting substance and is regulated by the EU regulation on Ozone Depleting Substances which came into force in 2000. The regulation states the following;

HCFCs have been banned in all new equipment since the 1st of January 2004.

It will be illegal to use virgin HCFCs after the 31st of December 2009 for the service and maintenance of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment.

A complete ban on the use of all HCFCs including reclaimed/recycled HCFCs will be in place by the 1st of January 2015.

As a user of equipment using HCFCs what should you do?

Below is a brief outline of the recommend steps;

  1. Establish which HCFC refrigerants are being used and in what equipment.(most commercial air-conditioning systems will use R22).
  2. Make plans as to the impact of the phase out of HCFCs on this equipment.
  3. Take actions from the options below.
  4. Replace existing equipment with a new system.
  5. Keep existing equipment operational with an alternative non ozone-depleting refrigerant.
  6. In conjunction with 1 and 2 above, recover R22 for recycling to reuse in existing systems.
  7. A planned mix of all the above options.
  8. Do nothing. This is a very risky option. Remember – it is illegal to stockpile virgin HCFCs for use after the 1st of January 2010. Those doing nothing will be dependant on obtaining supplies of reclaimed/recycled R22.

The obvious problem with continuing to operate R22 equipment beyond 2010 is that no-one can be sure of the availability of R22 or how expensive it’s going to become.

Other considerations are that any equipment using R22 is becoming older and less efficient. New equipment is much more energy-efficient and will save money on energy bills. 21 Degrees can advise on these issues and have computer programmes to calculate how much energy a new system would save you.

To download more information on R22, phase-out click here.


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Richard Daigle, Global Director of Facilities, Idexx Laboratories Inc, Maine,USA.