The HCFC-22 Phase-Out and Its Impact on Commercial Refrigeration in Florida

Way back in 2010, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer came into being as part of the U.S. Clean Air Act. This protocol set down the guidelines for the reduction of many ozone-depleting pollutants—namely commercial refrigerant substances. It specifically targeted products with Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

Among the products set to be phased out of use by the year 2020 is HCFC-22 (also called R22). And while this might just seem like a number to many people, it’s actually going to have a profound effect on everything from AC cooling to refrigeration systems. The reason? Until 2010, HCFC-22 was the refrigerant of choice in these consumer and commercial systems, making it one of the most-used chemicals in the world. It was a cornerstone of commercial refrigeration in Florida.

Where do we go from here?

Obviously, taking away such an important chemical leaves behind a major void. Without HCFC-22 to facilitate cooling in residential and commercial AC systems, an alternative is needed. This is where non-ozone-depleting options come in. The industry has been slowly phasing them in since 2010, and today there are several types in play that work to bridge the gap left by the HCFC-22 phase-out. Some options include R-134a, R-407C, R-410A and R-407A.

While it’s great that so many alternatives have been phased in and become commonplace in the industry, the downside is that none of them is really a direct replacement for HCFC-22. This means that there are incompatibility issues between the refrigerant and the mechanical systems that process it. Long story short: you can’t just substitute something like R-134a for HCFC-22 and expect your refrigeration system to work fluidly. In some cases, R-407C and R-407A can be used in retrofits; however, other refrigerants simply aren’t compatible.

This leaves many commercial businesses asking a very important question: do I need to retrofit my equipment? The answer depends. Is your HCFC-22 system leaking refrigerant at all? If not, you’re good to use it until it develops a leak. Once a leak develops or the refrigerant becomes depleted, however, you’ll need to upgrade.

Maintain what you’ve got

The best thing any business can do to avoid making a very costly upgrade is to maintain their current equipment. Your refrigeration technician can help keep your emissions low and your system in good working condition for years to come—but this is only a temporary solution. While you still have a working refrigeration system, it’s important to start planning ahead to upgrade your commercial refrigeration in Florida.

Speak with your regular refrigeration specialist or HVAC contractor today about the status of your system and your refrigerant options when it comes time to upgrade or retrofit. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to predict the future and plan accordingly.

Remember, 2020 is the target date for a total HCFC-22 phase-out, which means after this date you won’t be able to find so much as a single ounce of HCFC-22 to recharge your system! Plan ahead before that time comes.