Two independent refrigerant legislative actions are in line to affect supplies of all HCFCs such as R-22 and all HFCs such as R-410A. But the HVACR industry is moving to prevent either action from negatively affecting the ability of contractors to do service work.

That was one aspect of an Executive Roundtable Audio Event hosted by DuPont in early September.

Mack McFarland, DuPont Environmental Fellow, told those listening in on a conference call that the U.S. Clean Air Act is causing a 58 percent reduction in current levels of R-22 production beginning in 2010 and a phase out of the refrigerant by 2020. And he said pending climate change legislation appears to be pointing to a phase down in HFC production starting in 2012.

Regarding HCFCs, he noted the Environmental Protection Agency is projecting a supply of 110 million pounds of virgin R-22 in 2010 while the demand is 137 million pounds for the refrigerant overall. “What does this mean?” asked McFarland. “It means R-22 users need to plan to respond to decreased availability now and consider retrofitting with HFC refrigerants.”

He proposed a two-step plan involving contractors retrofitting what R-22 equipment they can with HFCs that the industry is making available for such a procedure, and then servicing R-22 equipment that is not retrofitted with recovered R-22. He also noted the need for increased reclamation efforts that bring recovered refrigerant back to AHRI-700 purity standards.

At the same time, he acknowledged that pending U.S. climate change legislation has been targeting HFCs, but that the industry “was able to get HFCs out of the broad carbon basket,” that could have resulted in even higher costs and a more rapid phase down. He said it appears now that HFCs will face “only modest equivalent fees” and a reduction schedule that will allow “time to develop and deploy next-generation low-global warming potential refrigerant options.”

He said, “The point is that HFC refrigerants will remain the cost-effective retrofit option.”

During the conference, DuPont promoted one such HFC refrigerant, R-438, which the company markets as MO-99.

Nick Strickland, market development manager, said the refrigerant has “similar pressure enthalpy performance as R-22 and uses mineral oil.” He said the tradeoff is a “slight capacity loss” compared with R-22.

Publication date:10/26/2009