Is It Time To Move On From R-22 Refrigerant At Your Multi-Site Facility or Commercial Property?

Is It Time To Move On From R-22 Refrigerant At Your Multi-Site Facility or Commercial Property?

by | Commercial HVAC, Commercial Refrigeration, Energy Efficiency, Facility Maintenance, Facility Management, R-22

R22 at CMI MechanicalThe 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer and its subsequent amendments forever changed the way air conditioning units were made.

The Montreal Protocol was written to phase out refrigerants that contribute to the depletion of the earth’s atmospheric ozone layer.

The first major Montreal Protocol milestone was January 2010 when US and EU manufacturers could no longer build air conditioning units with R-22 and R-142b refrigerants.

At the time, R-22 was the most common refrigerant in new air conditioning units and the change required HVAC manufacturers to completely redesign their equipment.

The First Big Shift Away From R-22 Refrigerant

CMI Mechanical Installs Carrier HVAC UnitsIn preparation for the ban, the Carrier Corporation introduced the first residential air conditioning unit in 1996 that used a Montreal Protocol compliant refrigerant called R-410a. 

The entire HVAC industry followed Carrier and began transitioning from R-22 to R-410a in their heating and cooling equipment. (There are other alternatives to R-22 including R-407C and R-134a, but R-410a was the refrigerant adopted for most residential and light commercial units.)

Refrigerant Users Facing Supply and Demand Costs

Supply and Demand of R-22 - CMI MechanicalOn January 1, 2010 when the manufacturing of R-22 units ended, businesses needing a new heating and cooling unit had to either depend on the stock of already manufactured R-22 units or install a new unit with R-410a.

With each passing month, the inventory of R-22 got smaller and smaller and, with the diminishing supply of units, the price for R-22 equipment went up.

For Facilities Managers only needing to add R-22 to their existing unit as part of a repair, R-22 was still available, but again as the supply of R-22 was used, the price for repairs increased.

Within a few years of the ban, the supply of new R-22 units was exhausted and businesses needing a new commercial heating and cooling unit had no choice but to purchase HVAC equipment with R-410a.

For unit repairs that required adding R-22, the cost of R-22 was so expensive Facility Managers, Property Managers and businesses often found it cheaper to replace a functioning R-22 unit with a newer R-410a unit when the cost of future repairs and higher efficiencies were taken into account.

When Should You Replace Your R-22 Commercial HVAC Unit?

Commercial HVAC InstallationUnfortunately, it’s not possible to empty out the R-22 and put in R-410a. R-410a equipment works at a higher operating pressure meaning an existing R-22 unit either has to be filled with R-22 or replaced with an R-410a system.

If your multi-site facility or commercial property have R-22 equipment, you will face this choice sooner than later. The life expectancy of small capacity air conditioning units and Rooftop Units is between 10 to 15 years; meaning R-22 units installed just before 2010 are nearing the end of their life.

Fortunately, there is no better time to consider replacing an older unit.

In addition to a readily available, affordable, and environmentally friendly refrigerant, today’s heating and air equipment is reaching extraordinary levels of operational efficiency.

In 2010, SEER ratings around 20 were considered exceptional.  With variable speed compressors, small equipment size, and efficient fans, some manufacturers are producing R-410a equipment with  SEER ratings approaching 40.

Talk to a trusted commercial mechanical contractor to understand the options to bring you commercial HVAC unit into regulatory compliance and achieve energy cost savings like never before.