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In an effort to close holes in the Earth’s ozone layer, the Department of Energy agreed to phase out environmentally unfriendly refrigerants like Freon. Since January 1, 2015, HVAC manufacturers have not been allowed to ship new air conditioners and heat pumps containing Freon, also known by its unfriendlier name, R22.

R22 heat pumps can still be serviced and recharged, but by 2020, no new R22 will be manufactured in or imported into the US. Soon, the refrigerant will be permanently retired.

DOE Bans Dry Shipped R22 Heat Pumps after February 1

As a way to sidestep this regulation, some manufacturers “dry-ship” R22 heat pumps and air conditioners that do not contain any refrigerant at all. The installer adds the refrigerant to the system at the time of installation. While this technicality meets the requirements of the federal law, let’s just say that the Department of Energy is not amused.

As of February 1, 2016 the DOE said that it will sue manufacturers that dry ship new R22 heat pumps or air conditioners to their distributors. Distributors with dry systems in inventory can still install them and add R22, but manufacturers can no longer provide dry systems.

The DOE has also reduced the cap on the amount of new R22 production this year, from 22 million pounds to 18 million pounds. R22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), is mostly used in developed countries, and is known to damage the Earth’s ozone layer. The damage could be completely repaired by 2050 if the rate of progress continues.

The current R22 alternative is R410A, which itself is being phased out. R410A is a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC). While it’s friendlier than HCFCs, it still has a high potential to contribute to global warming. Additionally, it’s very flammable, which makes it a tougher sell. R410A is NOT a direct replacement for R22! R22 systems cannot directly use or be retrofitted to use R410A. The entire system must be replaced.

Late last year, Trane began demonstrating a new commercial chiller that uses DR-55, a low Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerant. DR-55 is a drop-in replacement for R410A, which means that an existing R410A system could use the new refrigerant directly, with no retrofitting required.

Other approved refrigerants include ethane, isobutane and propane, all of which are flammable! Two additional refrigerants, 441A and HFC-32, are also currently approved for use in refrigeration and light climate control applications.

Working with refrigerants requires special training, and can be dangerous, especially if the wrong refrigerant is added to a system. The new refrigerants work very well and can keep your home or business comfortable in a wide range of conditions. They’re also environmentally friendlier. If you’re thinking about replacing existing R22 heat pumps or air conditioners, or you would like to do your part to help protect the ozone, give us a call at New England Ductless at (617) 915-2803. We’ll be happy to show you some efficient, environmentally friendly alternatives to R22 heat pumps and air conditioners!

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