R22 Phaseout

R22 Phase Out

Why you should be looking to replace old AC sytems – R22 Phase Out

New legislation is enforcing the removal and replacement of the low temperature refrigerant- R22 refrigeration system. R22 refrigerants are widely used throughout process chiller and industrial refrigerant plants, although these changes in legislation will affect any company that sustains the need for or has a high requirement for R22 refrigeration.

Why are the R22 legislation changes being made?

The reasoning behind the changes in the R22 refrigeration legislation is simple- studies have shown they have a detrimental effect on the ozone layer resulting in excessive UV levels. Due to this, the R22 refrigerants may contribute to further environmental damage.

The extent to which R22 refrigerants contribute to global warming is still the subject of intensive debate, although many affected companies have taken the opportunity to comply with the new regulations earlier than planned. This is being demonstrated at two levels:

Firstly, the majority of R22 refrigeration units are at least one third of their way through their foreseeable life. As existing R22 refrigeration systems begin to require modernisation, the majority of companies are choosing to phase these out rather than go to expense of needlessly repairing or maintaining them.

Secondly, unlike the R22 refrigerants, each new factory build/extension will now use refrigerants such as ammonia and R404A which have zero ozone depleting potential. These refrigerants are also proven to be more energy efficient than the R22 refrigerant and are therefore a wiser and more popular choice for the companies in question.

What are my company’s alternatives to R22?

Most companies that are affected by the R22 legislation will have a policy to specify only the following environmentally friendly refrigerants are incorporated in new equipment: ammonia, R404A and R407c. The chosen alternative is decided at business unit level and is usually dependent upon the business’ requirements towards energy efficiency.

The following is a brief guide intended to highlight the main points regarding the forthcoming withdrawal of R22 refrigerant from the market place.

Key Points

  • Virgin (new) R22 will no longer be available to purchase from the 31/12/2009
  • Reclaimed R22 will be available for use until 13/12/2014 (subject to availability) – this date is subject to review and is likely to be brought forward
  • The total volume of Reclaimed R22 in 2008 could only satisfy approximately 10% of the total demand for R22 in the same year.
  • No new R22 based AC units have been produced since 2003. The newest R22 based AC is therefore 6 years old, the majority, significantly older. None of the equipment will still be under the manufacturer’s warranty, even if regularly serviced.
  • There are an estimated 750,000 AC units in the UK using R22, with a total charge of 10,000 tonnes of refrigerant. The current usage of R22 is 2,206 tonnes per annum. Therefore, approximately 20% of R22 based AC has suffered refrigerant leaks in the past year There are alternate refrigerants available, commonly referred to as ‘drop ins’ to replace R22. These however are untested by most AC equipment manufacturers and can lead to other failures.

Implications

  • Equipment using R22 will become increasingly difficult and costly to repair.
  • Equipment using R22 is likely to be approaching the end of its useful life and failures are more likely than with newer equipment.
  • The sourcing of both reclaimed R22 and other spare parts for the equipment will become moreand more difficult, extending the repair times service providers are able to offer.
  • Alternate refrigerants, ‘drop ins’ are untested by most manufacturers. Independent tests show that they can work, but that on older and poorly maintained equipment they can also increase the likelihood of refrigerant leaks and main component failures.