Originally established in 1987, the Montreal Protocol is an “international environmental agreement” phasing out the use of ozone-depleting refrigerants in developed nations. The United States agreed to the 1992 amendment of the Montreal Protocol through Title VI of the Clean Air Act, as implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The Seattle area HVAC experts at Complete Mechanical can offer options for repairing or replacing existing equipment. A complete assessment of your current system is strongly recommended before determining your best option. Complete Mechanical has compiled this information to help you understand what some refer to as “the new energy laws.”
What is R-22?
For over 40 years, R-22 (HCFC-22) has been the preferred refrigerant for heat pumps and air conditioning systems. R-22, released into the environment (leaks, etc.) depletes ozone. Additionally, R-22 is a greenhouse gas, and its manufacture by-product, HFC-23 contributes to global warming. In other words, R-22 is harmful as produced, as used and as wasted. For this reason, more ozone-friendly refrigerants have been increasingly used for HVAC applications.
Phasing Out R-22
As of January 1, 2010 (this year), manufacturers of HVAC equipment cannot produce systems that use R-22. For existing systems, maintenance can be performed and the refrigerant replaced. Therefore, R-22 may only be produced or imported to service existing equipment. These measures were enacted to reduce US R-22 use by 75% of established baseline quantities.
By January 1, 2015, the US consumption of R-22 must be reduced by 90% from the established baseline. The final reduction to 0.50% of US established baseline (reduced by 99.50%) of R-22 used must be accomplished by January 1. 2020. After this final date, R-22 may not be produced. Repair of existing systems must be completed with reclaimed R-22 beyond January 1, 2020.
Maintenance of R-22 Cooling Systems
Although existing cooling systems can be serviced, perhaps determining whether to retrofit your unit with a less ozone depleting refrigerant or replacing the HVAC system completely. It is essential that alternative refrigerants not be placed in R-22 systems. The operating pressures vary greatly and can cause serious damage. There are alternative refrigerants that can be used in portions of R-22 systems, but the best option is to either alter or replace the system.
Handling Refrigerants Responsibly
The EPA mandates that refrigerants be handled with “common sense”, by:
containing and using refrigerants responsibly – that is, by recovering, recycling, and reclaiming and by reducing leaks – their ozone depletion and global warming consequences are reduced. (https://www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/)
An important factor to consider when choosing an HVAC contractor in Seattle, is to be certain the technicians are EPA certified. A common industry moniker is “Section 608 Certified” – in reference to the Clean Air Act section (608) about refrigerant handling. This certification is applicable to all refrigerants, not just R-22.
Choosing New HVAC System
One of the steps the EPA has taken to make choosing efficient equipment easier is through the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). Even with systems 10 years old, there can be significant savings. Ask your Seattle HVAC technician from Complete Mechanical for a full system inspection and possible options.