R-22 Refrigerant: What Is R-22 and Why Is It Being Phased Out? - Trane® (2024)

R-22 Refrigerant: What is R22 and Why is it Being Phased Out?

R22 refrigerant, (also known as R-22 Freon and HCFC-22 Freon) is a chemical used in both air conditioners and heat pumps to cool your home. On January 1, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the production and import of R-22 because of its particularly harmful impact on the ozone layer when released into the air.

In 2010, the U.S. stopped the sale of new air conditioning units that use R-22. But units manufactured in 2009 and earlier still use R-22 today. Its use will eventually be eliminated completely in the U.S., so all current and future homeowners must be prepared for the transition.

What is R-22 refrigerant?

R-22 refrigerant is one specific type of refrigerant, which is the main chemical your HVAC system uses to cool your home. Generally speaking, all kinds of refrigerants run through your air conditioner or heat pump, and they continuously absorb and release heat to cool your home.

Is R-22 refrigerant still available?

R-22 is no longer produced or imported into the United States, but it still exists inside some older HVAC units. If your unit uses R-22 and runs out, HVAC technicians may still have access to an existing recycled or recovered supply of this refrigerant and can service your unit as normal.

But, if you need to replace your unit altogether, you won’t be able to obtain another R-22-using system. Instead, your new unit will use a more sustainable replacement refrigerant, such as R-454B. (Don’t worry if you don’t know what that is, you’ll learn more in a bit!)

Why is it being phased out?

When R-22 is released into the air outside, it depletes the earth’s ozone layer, which in turn contributes to worldwide climate change. Collectively, all of the emissions of R-22 since its creation have resulted in an “ozone hole” over the South Pole, according to the EPA. To protect the ozone layer and slow climate change, the EPA is phasing out all production of R-22 and other ozone-depleting substances — like HCFCs, CFCs, and Halons.

The plan to eliminate R-22 has been rolled out in phases, the most recent of which occurred on Jan. 1, 2020, when the EPA declared R-22 would only be used from recycled and stockpiled quantities. The plan’s final stage is scheduled to be implemented on Jan. 1, 2030, at which time the government will officially ban the remaining production and import of all HCFCs. The goal is to eventually eliminate not just the production but also the use of R-22 and other HCFCs altogether.

What kind of refrigerant is in your HVAC system?

The refrigerant type your HVAC system uses should be listed in your owner’s manual. If you can’t find your manual, try contacting the company that sold or services your HVAC system to find out the type of refrigerant your unit uses.

What if my air conditioner or heat pump still uses R22?

If your HVAC system still uses R-22, you don’t need to replace or stop using your system right away. The EPA’s plan to phase out these harmful chemicals stretches out over several years so that homeowners can switch to environmentally friendly refrigerants at a time that’s convenient for their system.

Right now, HVAC systems that use R-22 can still be maintained and serviced by an HVAC professional with the existing supply of this older refrigerant. That means, if your unit uses R-22, you can still perform regularly-scheduled maintenance. Keep in mind, as the years of the production and import ban go on, the supply of R-22 will continue to dwindle, which will make it harder to get your unit serviced in the future.

The EPA is encouraging people who use HVAC systems with R-22 to replace them with a more eco-friendly option when their unit needs to be replaced.

Should I repair or replace a unit that still uses R-22?

HVAC Repair

If your air conditioning system is still functioning and still uses R-22, you can continue to have it serviced as normal if a small maintenance problem pops up. A licensed HVAC professional will have the knowledge, skills, and equipment to service your cooling unit and replenish the refrigerant if needed. To service an R-22-using system, your HVAC technician must be EPA Section 608-certified, which means they know the proper way to handle and dispose of harmful refrigerants.

As a homeowner with an R-22-using HVAC system, schedule yearly HVAC maintenance and change your air filters regularly. Doing so can help minimize environmental damage.

HVAC Replacement

Replace your R-22-using system when the unit has reached the end of its lifespan. Systems using R-22 haven’t been manufactured since 2010, so there’s a chance that, based on the lifespans of typical air conditioners and heat pumps, you might need a replacement soon. When you replace your unit, you’ll be doing your part to help the environment by retiring one more unit using this old refrigerant.

You can get further guidance in our Repair or Replace Guide.

Alternative options to R22 refrigerant

When it is time to replace your R-22-using HVAC system, rest assured your new system will be more environmentally friendly. Since 2010, the most common R-22 replacement was R-410A, a refrigerant without the ozone-depleting qualities of R-22.

Today, because of further environmental regulations, Trane is transitioning to using R-454B refrigerant and R-32 refrigerant in our residential cooling systems, using a phased-in approach. They are more sustainable refrigerants with a low global warming potential (GWP) and 0 ozone depletion potential (ODP)

Read this article on the refrigerant transition for a more thorough explanation of the reasoning and science behind the change.

Bottom line

R-22 was a commonly used refrigerant that is being phased out because of its harmful impact on the ozone layer. If your HVAC system uses R-22, don’t panic — you can still use and maintain your system as normal. But, when it’s time for your system to be replaced, you’ll need to upgrade to a more sustainable alternative.

All trademarks referenced are the trademarks of their respective owners.

R-22 Refrigerant: What Is R-22 and Why Is It Being Phased Out? - Trane® (2024)


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