As part of Australia’s commitment to the Montreal Protocol, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are being gradually phased out.
The one that affects most of us is HCFC-22, commonly known as R22.
According to the Australian Government Department of the Environment, R22 is the main refrigerant gas that has been used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems since the 1990s.
The reason R22 is being phased out is that leaks contribute to ozone depletion.
The national bank of this refrigerant has been reduced significantly over the past seven years (with imports down from 70 tonnes to just 2.5 tonnes) and all major air conditioning manufacturers are moving entirely away from R22.
In fact, by 2029, only recycled or reclaimed R22 will be available to service existing air con units, freezers, and so forth.
However, despite what some misinformed or misleading contractors are saying, you won’t need to buy a new air conditioner if your A/C unit runs on R22.
Nor will you need to regas (retrofit) or fit with a new unit.
Yes, R22 is being phased out, but if your current system is in good working order, and serviced regularly you do NOT have to upgrade to an alternate system.
Licenced resellers like Acer Services can still buy it, and existing units using R22 can continue to be serviced for another decade or two.
With the phasing out, refrigeration suppliers have been forced to cut their allocations to distributors dramatically, and due to the laws of supply and demand –– it is getting more expensive.
Therefore everyone who owns an air conditioner using this refrigerant will have to think smarter.
Let’s look at some of the things you can do…and other things you mustn’t do!
First things first, can you mix R22 with other gases?
Definitely not…it would be like mixing unleaded petrol with diesel.
Each gas has been designed for a specific temperature-pressure application.
Having said that, some unscrupulous contractors will top up R22 with a similar refrigerant like R438a in an attempt to save themselves time and money.
You simply cannot use an alternative refrigerant to top up a system charged with R22 and no amount of “she’ll be right, mate” will ever change that.
Instead you must recover and reclaim the existing R22 , OR retrofit the unit with the new refrigerant.
Incidentally if you do mix refrigerant gases, it will make your air conditioning warranty null and void, so that is another reason not to attempt it.
Phasing out R22 – what are your options?
Using a Drop-in Refrigerant.
Although you can’t mix gases, there is such a thing as a drop-in refrigerant.
These have been designed to work within a unit designed for R22.
They work, but with some brands of drop in you will notice some performance loss, in some cases up to a ten percent decrease in the system’s performance.
Drop in refrigerants are worth considering if you have an expensive air conditioning system that still has a lot of service life potentially left in it.
For example, if you have a commercial system with a $100,000 replacement cost, it may be better to settle for that lower performance rather than incur what could be considered an “unnecessary” expense.
On the other hand, if a replacement is affordable, it may be better to do this…
or you may end up throwing good money after bad.
Reclaiming R22 Refrigerant.
Sometimes, for example when maintenance is being carried out, it may be necessary to remove the R22 gas, in a process called reclaiming.
However, it isn’t always bad news – chances are you WON’T be up for a new air conditioner.
The existing R22 can be reclaimed and later restored to save you the unnecessary cost of new gas.
There are two ways that this gas can be dealt with. It can either be captured in:
- a reclaim bottle which is to be disposed of in an environmentally-sound manner by a wholesaler, or
- a pump-down bottle, which can be safely recycled.
The trouble with reclaim bottles is they can be contaminated, either with oil or acid… and you don’t want either of these going into your freshly repaired air con system.
Best practice reclamation – as used by Acer Services – is to always use a pump-down bottle.
These are completely empty and sealed, so you know that it has been painstakingly cleaned and that there are no contaminants.
This is crucial because with air conditioners, cleanliness is everything.
Any contaminants can significantly reduce the A/C’s service life – the purer the refrigerant the better.
Replacing R22 Refrigerant
If you do have to replace the gas in your air con, you should use an approved hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) alternative.
The most common HFC refrigerants used as a replacement for R22 include:
- R407a, and
The latter is the common replacement for split system air conditioners.
Modern air conditioners such as the brand new Bronte range from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are also being developed to operate on more environmentally-friendly HFC alternatives such as R32 and R-1234ze.
Why it is important to use a trusted technician for all R22-related maintenance?
Trust and experience is vital when dealing with R22.
You should always make sure maintenance is carried out properly by a senior, experienced technician.
Just like a car mechanic, you have to have a great relationship with someone who knows the history of the equipment, and thoroughly understands:
- What has been done
- By who
- Parts and service components.
For more information and advice about the R22 Phase-Out and how it will affect YOUR air conditioner – or to book a service and get a detailed report on the state of your unit – call Acer Services on 1300 165 663, or simply click here to contact us.