EPA Refrigerant Phase-Out: Do I Have to Get a New Air Conditioner?

The Earth is protected from the sun’s strongest ultraviolet (UV) rays by a layer of ozone in the stratosphere. When released into the atmosphere, chemicals that contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs) can eat away at this protective layer, exposing us to the harmful effects of UV radiation. In 1987, the United States signed the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement designed to reduce the production and use of ozone-depleting substances, including outdated refrigerants used in older residential cooling systems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with ensuring that the country meets the mandates established by the Montreal Protocol.

The EPA Refrigerant Phase-Out Calendar

In 1993, the EPA formed a calendar framework under which CFC and HCFC refrigerants would gradually be replaced with eco-friendly alternatives. Nearly 97 percent of the listed chemicals have been phased out of production since the program began, saving around 200 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

In January 2010, HVAC manufacturers were required to stop production of cooling and heating systems that operate with the most commonly used refrigerant, R-22, sometimes referred to as Freon. The refrigerant R-22 will still be produced to service existing air conditioners and heat pumps until 2020, but in lower quantities.

What the Refrigerant Phase-Out Means for You

The EPA does not require R-22 retrofits or replacements for existing HVAC systems. If replacing your current HVAC system, however, you’ll enjoy better energy savings and enhanced comfort while helping to protect the environment as well. The EPA estimates that you can save up to 40 percent on operating costs by replacing an outdated model with energy-efficient equipment. A new system equipped with a refrigerant replacement also means that you won’t have to worry about shortages and higher prices as R-22 is gradually phased out of production.

Several new refrigerants have been approved by the EPA as environmentally friendly alternatives to R-22. The refrigerant R-410A, also known by the brand name Puron, is the most commonly used refrigerant in new air conditioning and heat pump systems. Because alternatives like R-410A work at a higher operating pressure than R-22, however, refrigerant replacement isn’t as simple as just swapping out one refrigerant for another. The EPA has found the refrigerant R-407C to be a good alternative for an R-22 retrofit. A qualified HVAC contractor can determine which refrigerant replacement is best for your system.

The HVAC industry has responded to increased demands for better energy efficiency and eco-friendly refrigerants with equipment that boasts innovative technologies and new designs. A fast-changing HVAC industry means that it’s more important than ever to ensure that your installer is up to date on the industry’s latest developments and redesigns. As a Bryant Factory Authorized Dealer, WA Air Conditioning has been recognized for both our technical expertise and customer satisfaction, so you can be confident that our technicians have the skills to install the best new systems and the know-how to retrofit and service existing heating and cooling systems too.

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May 24, 2013 4:19 pm