With all the talk about the phaseout of R-22 — with its huge range of air conditioning and refrigeration applications — one thing that seems to be often overlooked is that the refrigerant is not going away any time soon.

Yes, it will be newly manufactured and imported in lesser amounts each year until the spigot for new and imported R-22 is turned off in 2020 — or as early as 2018, as some are advocating. But this is not a ban on the continued use of the gas for as long as supplies, whether stockpiled or reclaimed and reintroduced to the market, exist.

If you work on systems utilizing R-22 — from residential air conditioners to supermarket refrigeration units — and you can get your hands on R-22, feel free to continue to use the stuff. In fact, there are many in the industry who say that the best refrigerant for an R-22 system is R-22. There are a number of non-hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants that have been introduced to the market, primarily hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and HFC/hydrocarbon (HC) blends that work quite well, thank you, as retrofits in such instances, but in the end sticking with R-22 can be considered a viable option.

That latter statement, of course, depends on what you and your customers want. Some large supermarket chains are intentionally moving away from R-22 to lower-global warming potential (GWP) HFCs or so-called natural refrigerants.

For those of you who are in the R-22 camp, here are some things to remember:

Manage your supplies — You are not dealing with an unlimited supply. There is a finite amount out there and whatever is out there come 2020 (or 2018) is the maximum amount that will be there. If you plan to be in the industry for some time after that, take supplies into consideration.

Stay away from questionable sources — Internet buying is a slippery slope. Too-good-to-be-true deals from outside mainstream sources could lead to all sorts of problems with purity and/or whether or not the refrigerant came through legal channels. This is all a way of saying: Know
your supplier.

Recover and recycle — It’s still the law, just as is owning a recovery machine. Make sure you use the tool that it is adequate for your needs and that you get a new one when the old one wears out. Every pound of R-22 you recover and reintroduce to the system is a pound you don’t have to buy from the shrinking global inventory.

Commit to reclamation — If you are recovering and recycling refrigerant over and over again, issues with contamination will arise. Reclaim addresses that situation. This is even more significant should you come upon a system in which you were not initially involved with.

Keep systems tight — The old bromide is that if a system is not leaking, you are not contributing to ozone depletion or global warming, no matter what refrigerant you are using.

A final thought: New systems coming into the industry are not running on R-22. So there is a finite amount of R-22 equipment to be serviced. The longer you keep such equipment running efficiently, the longer you are granting customers an environmentally acceptable and cost-effective situation before they eventually have to switch out to equipment with non-HCFC refrigerants.

Publication date: 3/10/2014 

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!