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Part 1: R-22 Being Phased Out, Not Eliminated
By James Piper, P.E.
July 2009 -
Changes are coming to building HVAC and refrigeration systems. As a result of new environmental regulations, manufacturers are ceasing production of refrigerant R-22 for use in new HVAC and refrigeration equipment. Manufacturers will be able to produce a restricted amount of the refrigerant for use in existing units, but they will not produce R-22 refrigerant for new systems.
What does this mean for maintenance and engineering managers? Many chillers — screw, scroll, piston, and large centrifugal — in commercial, institutional, and industrial facilities still use R-22, and it is one of the most commonly used refrigerants in large and small HVAC and refrigeration systems. What happens to these units after Jan. 1, 2010?
The first thing to consider is R-22 will be available long after Jan. 1. The regulations are phasing out R-22, not eliminating it. Manufacturers will limit production levels to 25 percent of the 1989 level.
Additional restrictions in 2020 will end the production and importing of R-22. Managers still will be able to find supplies of recovered and recycled R-22, but no new additions to the stock will be available.
Also, as organizations take chillers that use R-22 out of service, the refrigerant will be reclaimed and recycled. It is uncertain how much refrigerant will be available, but it is likely this combination of limited production and recycling will be adequate to smooth the transition from R-22 to alternative refrigerants. By some estimates, the supply of R-22 will be sufficient to meet demands for 20 years.
The price of the refrigerant probably will increase, but the adequate supply should keep those increases well within an acceptable range. In time, managers most likely will see additional price increases, particularly as new restrictions on its production go into effect and the supply dwindles.
Beyond R-22: Managers' Options
Part 2: Should Managers Replace Systems Using R-22?
Part 3: R-22 Conversion: Provide a Baseline of Refrigerant Requirements