Production, Importation of hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-22 to Cease in 2020

HCFC-22 (also known as R-22) has been the refrigerant of choice for residential heat pump and air-conditioning systems for more than four decades. Unfortunately for the environment, releases of R-22, such as those from leaks, contribute to ozone depletion. In addition, R-22 is a greenhouse gas and the manufacture of R-22 results in a by-product (HFC-23) that contributes significantly to global warming. Because of the negative effects of this refrigerant, in 1987 the Montreal Protocol, an international environmental agreement, established requirements that began the worldwide phaseout of ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons).

These requirements were later modified, leading to the phaseout in 1996 of CFC production in all developed nations. In 1992 the Montreal Protocol was amended to establish a schedule for the phaseout of HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons). HCFCs are less damaging to the ozone layer than CFCs, but still contain ozone-destroying chlorine. The Montreal Protocol as amended is carried out in the U.S. through Title VI of the Clean Air Act, which is implemented by EPA. (Source)

Residential Uses Commercial and Industrial Uses
  • Window air-conditioning units
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Central air-conditioners
  • Air-to-air heat pumps
  • Ground-source heat pumps
  • Ductless air-conditioners
  • Chest or upright freezers
  • Packaged air-conditioners and heat pumps
  • Chillers
  • Retail food refrigeration
  • Cold storage warehouses
  • Industrial process refrigeration
  • Transport refrigeration

Initially, The EPA looked at allowing as much as 36 million pounds of new and imported R-22 in 2015; but, instead they opted to limit the total amount to 22 million pounds — making that almost a 60 percent drop off from 2014. The step down will continue with 18 million pounds of new and imported R-22 allowed in 2016, 13 million pounds in 2017, 9 million in 2018, and 4 million in 2019. No newly produced or imported R-22 will be allowed in the U.S. on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

As the manufacture of R-22 is phased out over the coming years, manufacturers of residential air conditioning systems are offering equipment that uses ozone-friendly refrigerants. EPA has reviewed several alternatives to R-22 for household and light commercial air conditioning and has compiled a list of substitutes that EPA has determined are acceptable. One of these substitutes is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer, but, like R-22, contributes to global warming. R-410A is manufactured and sold under various trade names, including GENETRON AZ-20®, SUVA 410A®, Forane® 410A, and Puron®.

Servicing existing units

Existing units using R-22 can continue to be serviced with R-22.  R-22 must be recovered and recycled (for reuse in the same system), reclaimed (reprocessed to the same purity standard as new R-22), or destroyed. After 2020, the servicing of R-22-based systems will rely solely on recycled or reclaimed refrigerants. It is expected that reclamation and recycling will ensure that existing supplies of R-22 will last longer and be available to service a greater number of systems. For the next 10 years or more, R-22 should continue to be available for all systems that require R-22 for servicing.

If you are considering any home improvement or purchasing a home, you should try to purchase a highly energy-efficient system. Energy-efficient systems result in cost savings for the homeowner. Today’s best air conditioners use much less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the mid-1970s. Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save significantly on your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model. Products with EPA’s Energy Star® label can save homeowners 10% to 40% on their heating and cooling bills every year. These products are made by most major manufacturers and have the same features as standard products but also incorporate energy saving technology. Both R-22 and R-410A systems may have the Energy Star® label. Equipment that displays the Energy Star® label must have a minimum seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). The higher the SEER specification, the more efficient the equipment. You should consider energy efficiency, along with performance, reliability, and cost, in making your decision.