As the year 2020 rolls closer, the finality of the R-22 phase-out becomes more real than ever. Yet, this phase-out is nothing new. It is a project that has been in the work for several decades. Many people have chosen to ignore it entirely, but within a few years that will be impossible. Others have steadily prepared for the upcoming regulations.
In truth, regulation changes have been occurring consistently for some time now. The phase-out was never meant to be a swift and sudden act. Instead, the production of R-22 in the United States and other participating countries has been steadily restricted. As of January 1, 2018, the production was limited to 9 million pounds, which is a 30 percent decrease from last year. It will decrease again next year and finally, in 2020, the production will be no longer allowed. Nor will importation be allowed.
What Is The Phase Out
The official name for the act that is banning the production of R-22 in the United States is the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. It is most often referred to as the Montreal Protocol. It is a protocol that was added to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone layer. And though the complete banning of R-22 won’t occur until 2020, the act protocol itself was signed into action in 1987. That means this phase-out has been in the works for more than thirty years.
The protocol was agreed upon on August 26, 1987. It was signed into action in September of 1987. The Protocol would not be effective until January of 1989 and only if ratified by 11 states. Since the original protocol was created in 1987, it has gone through a total of eight revisions.
It’s estimated that this protocol will help the ozone layer return to a state similar to its state in 1980 by the year 2070 at the latest. Many people regard it as the most successful international agreement to exist.
What Are The Terms
The Montreal Protocol is meant to phase out the production of various substances that are known to severely damage the ozone layer. The popular R-22 refrigerant often referred to as Freon is only one of the many substances that will be banned. The majority of the substances included in the protocol are chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons(HCFCs). It was also later agreed upon to phase down hydrofluorocarbons(HFCs), which do not pose a threat to the ozone layer, but to possess a high global warming potential(GWP).
There are still many of substances that endanger the ozone layer that are not controlled by the Montreal Protocol. For example, nitrous oxide is an ozone-depleting substance but is not a part of the protocol. All of the substances controlled by the protocol either include bromine or chlorine. The substances are divided into the groups of CFCs, HFCs, and HFCs, as mentioned above. Each group has its own unique timeline regarding the gradually limit of production and eventual banning.
Where Does R-22 Fit Into This?
R-22 is the most commonly used refrigerant in the world and overall its production is actually increasing. Many people recognize the specific brand of R-22 known as Freon, though there are other manufacturers. Another name for R-22 is HCFC-22 because it is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon(HCFC), which is one of the three groups of substances being phased out by the Montreal Protocol.
There was a time when R-22 was considered a much safer refrigerant than other existing refrigerants. It was often used to replace CFC-11 and CFC-12 as they both have a very high ozone depletion potential(ODP). The ODP of R-22 is around 0.055, which was considered low at the time. However, it was eventually decided that even 0.055 was too significant of a level to be ignored.
In addition to its ODP, R-22 has a GWP of 1810. This means that R-22 has 1810 times the GWP of carbon dioxide. These two factors combined made it impossible to ignore the damage that R-22 was doing to the environment.
The phase-out of HCFCs has happened gradually in the United States as well as other countries. In 2004, the production and consumption of HCFCs were reduced to 35 percent below the existing baseline cap. In the same year, the most destructive HCFC, HCFC-141b, was completely banned. HCFC production was continually limited over the following years.
In 2010, that restriction reached 75 percent below the established baseline. It was also added that no new equipment could be manufactured that required R-22 to operate. Instead, it could only be used to service existing equipment. This marked a significant change in the HVAC industry as no new equipment was allowed to use R-22.
Of course, the biggest change will occur in 2020. At this time, overall consumption of HCFCs will be limited to 99.5 percent of the established baseline. Existing or recycled R-22 will still be usable beyond this point. However, no new R-22 will be produced in the country and it may not be imported from another country. In time, all R-22 in the country will be used.
What Does This Mean For Homeowners And Business Owners?
The big question is how this will affect homeowners and business owners that currently have HVAC systems requiring R-22. Considering how near 2020 is, it’s important for these people to begin considering their options. According to www.bluonenergy.com one option is to begin replacing those systems now. This could be particularly helpful for a business owner with a large number of systems. The gradual replacement of systems will help avoid a large lump sum expense in 2020.
Homeowners may choose to wait until their existing R-22 system fails. Though, if that occurs before 2020, then they will need to decide if they want to recharge R-22 or replace the system at that point in time. Keep in mind that the price of R-22 is skyrocketing and will continue to do so as the supply dwindles. Whatever your decision may be, now is the time to start planning, budgeting, and saving for this inevitable transition.