What Freon’s Phase-Out Means for You
Freon and other hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants were once popular because they were considered non-toxic, non-corrosive and nonflammable. In the 1970s, however, the EPA determined that HCFCs like Freon damage the ozone layer. Accordingly, the EPA formally labeled R-22 Freon as an ozone-depleting substance (ODS).
IMPORTANCE OF THE OZONE LAYER
Ozone, a thin, protective layer found in Earth’s stratosphere, does a relatively good job of protecting us from UVB, a specific type of solar UV radiation that can damage DNA, cause non-melanoma skin cancers and increase the growth of dangerous melanomas. UVB is also linked to cataract development – a clouding of the lens in the eye.
Polymers used in construction materials and clothing degrade faster when exposed to high levels of UVB radiation. Plus, excess UVB has been linked to lower crop yields and adverse impacts on fisheries, such as interference with the early development of fish, crab and shrimp.
PHASE-OUT OF FREON
In 1987, an international agreement called the Montreal Protocol established a timeline for phasing out HCFCs like Freon. The five-step phase-out began in 2004, and by 2010, manufacturers were banned from using Freon in new appliances and other equipment that required coolants. As a result, consumption was reduced by 75 percent.
In 2015, step three required a 90 percent reduction in consumption. In the 2020s, consumption must be reduced by 99.5 percent. In 2030, all production and importation of HCFCs will end, and there is a mandate to destroy any remaining such refrigerants at that time.
It is important for both commercial and residential customers to understand that equipment operating on R-22 Freon is living on borrowed time. It isn’t a matter of whether such equipment will cease to be an option for you, it is merely a question of when.
WIDESPREAD USE OF FREON
R-22 Freon has long been used in:
- Refrigerators and freezers
- Air conditioners
- Heat pumps
- Vehicular AC
- Refrigerated trucks
- Cold storage
- Ice machines and chillers
OPTIONS AND ALTERNATIVES
The price of R-22 Freon refrigerant has risen as much as 10 times above previous levels. This price increase raises the stakes when it is time to recharge air conditioners and other cooling equipment.
PURCHASE NEW EQUIPMENT
Given the fact that a complete phase-out of Freon is inevitable, some people will simply want to purchase new equipment that uses compliant refrigerants. Of course, budget constraints may require a gradual changeover to modern systems. For businesses, the cost of changing to a new system is often partially offset by Section 179 deductions. Today’s newly manufactured cooling systems often use R-410A because it is EPA approved and reduces energy consumption.
RETROFIT EXISTING EQUIPMENT
Businesses with expensive equipment that uses Freon may want to consider retrofitting. Have a professional conduct a cost-benefit analysis to help you make the best decision. Retrofits typically include the replacement of filters, dryers and elastomeric components before an approved refrigerant like R-410A, R-427A, R-422-B, MO99 or NU-22 is used.
To offset costs, it is sometimes possible to recycle Freon by using it in different equipment owned by the same company. As one piece of equipment is retired, the refrigerant can be used to recharge air conditioners and other equipment owned by that business.
In environmental terms, the phase-out of R-22 Freon refrigerants should ultimately produce positive results. The EPA states that, “through domestic and international action, the ozone layer is healing and should fully recover by about 2065.”
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Whether you find that a retrofit or new EPA-compliant equipment is the best option, know that Church Plumbing and Heating is your source for the best HVAC systems and central heating installation. We are an established, locally owned HVAC contractor serving Elkhart, South Bend and other communities in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan.
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