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What is happening with Refrigerants in Air Conditioning Systems?

What is happening with Refrigerants in Air Conditioning Systems?

We're glad you asked!

Due to environmental concerns, our governments have issued regulations that restrict both the handling and production of HCFC refrigerants. This is having, and will continue to have a significant impact on the air conditioning industry. We want you to know that manufacturers and contractors are aggressively responding to this challenge and are preparing now for the opportunities of the future.


Background

There have been many reports regarding air conditioner refrigerants and their effects on the earth¹s ozone layer. Refrigerant is the cooling agent used in air conditioning systems. Most all of the air conditioner products sold today utilize one refrigerant known as R22, which is from the family of refrigerants called HCFC¹s. HCFC¹s have been used for decades in a safe and efficient manor; but government regulation will eventually phase them out of use.


What are the current governmental regulations for Refrigerants?

The Manitoba Provincial Government, acting in response to an international treaty called the Montreal Protocol, provided new direction and authority to the Manitoba Environment Dept. As a result the Manitoba Environment Dept. passed an act and legislation regulating the handling and use of all Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS). In addition, they passed a requirement for the training of all technicians who handle and use these substances. These changes will eventually eliminate air conditioning refrigerants containing chlorine due to the concern about ozone depletion.

Manitoba is the only province to have an industry stakeholder association to assist in monitoring, educating, and training of individuals in the safe handling and use of ODS substances.


How does this affect the equipment that I might buy now?

While regulations call for the eventual phase out of R22, which is the refrigerant, used in current air conditioning equipment. Products that use HCFC refrigerants, such as R22, must stop being produced by the year 2010. All production of R22 refrigerant will stop by 2020.


Should I hesitate to buy a new Air Conditioner?

There is no need to hesitate buying current air conditioning equipment. The air conditioning industry has worked closely with all governmental agencies to coordinate the eventual HCFC phaseout so that consumers can have confidence that the products they purchase today will be capable of supplying their home comfort cooling needs for the full expected life-span of the air conditioner. Sufficient quantity of R22 refrigerant will continue to be produced for any service needs that may arise until 2020. After 2020, recycled refrigerants will be available, for many years, which will safely fulfill all service needs for products that use R22.


Will these refrigerant changes make new equipment more expensive?

Given the costs associated with developing the best new air conditioning products for customers, the initial cost of any new refrigerant is expected to be quite high. Today, cost of experimental alternate refrigerant is approximately four time that of the current R22 refrigerant; but, as production of new refrigerants increases, the cost will naturally come down.


What are the plans for the future?

Manufacturers are committed to the technological innovation that will be required to meet the future needs of consumers, and to that end have been working in cooperation with Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) on investigating long term replacements for R22. Through this research 13 potential replacements for R22 have been identified and many manufacturers have and are building test units. The focus appears to be most promising regarding two alternatives.

However, there are many factors to consider in adopting an equipment design that incorporates alternate refrigerant. One of the more important issues is the refrigerant lubricant, which is very different than what has previously been used. There will be manufacturers who will rush to be the first with an alternate refrigerant and that could mean sacrificing the reliability and useful life of the air conditioner. Dealing with a reputable contractor and building a good solid working relationship will insure that your needs as a customer will be first and foremost.



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