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In a previous article we talked about air conditioning refrigerants and how they make air conditioning possible. Following on from that article we are looking in depth at Refrigerant 22 (R22), how it came to be discovered, the subsequent issues found to be associated with it and the need to replace it in older air conditioning and refrigerant systems.
The History of R22 and Moving Forward
The first refrigerants discovered in the late 1800s until 1929 were flammable and/or toxic gases e.g. ammonia, ethyl ether, methyl ether, methyl chloride and sulphur dioxide. As a consequence of the nature of these gases a number of fatal accidents occurred in the 1920s because of the leakage of methyl chloride from refrigerators.
In order to try to address this, a collaborative effort began between three American companies: Frigidaire, General Motors and DuPont to find a safer method of refrigeration.
In 1928 Charles Franklin Kettering the vice-president of the General Motors Research Corporation chose Thomas Midgley Jr. to head up a team at Frigidaire. Midgley went onto invent a “miracle compound” called dichlorodifluoromethane now designated as “Freon”, “Freon-12”, “CFC12” or “R12”.
Freon represents several different chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The CFCs are a group of aliphatic organic compounds containing the elements carbon and fluorine, and, in many cases, other halogens (especially chlorine) and hydrogen. Freons are colourless, odourless, non-flammable, noncorrosive gases or liquids. The first CFC – R12 came onto the market in 1931 followed by the first HCFC – R22 in 1934. The number after the R is a refrigerant class number which was developed by DuPont to help identify single halogenated hydrocarbons, as well as other refrigerants besides halocarbons Frigidaire went onto patent the formula for CFCs on December 31, 1928 under US patent #1,886,339. In 1930, General Motors and DuPont formed a company called Kinetic Chemicals to mass produce Freon.
Ozone Layer – Montreal Protocol and EC Ozone Regulation
Decades after its discovery scientists discovered that chlorine; a component of CFC and HCFC refrigerants, causes damage to the ozone layer and hence is bad for the environment. As a result R22 which came after R11 (CFC-11) and R12 (CFC-12) and was seen as an improvement due to its relatively low ozone depletion potential of 0.055 was included in the 1987 Montreal Protocol (PDF) list of substances that were to be phased out of production over time for new air conditioners and heat pumps.
The EC Ozone Regulation (No. 1005/2009) which applies to all EU countries was introduced to fulfil the obligations of the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer. The regulation looks to phase out HCFCs, including R22 gas and sets a higher standard than that required by the Montreal Protocol. Since 1 January 2015, it has been illegal to use virgin, recycled and reclaimed R22 to maintain or repair air conditioning equipment.
There will be more F-Gas regulations coming into force in the EU, which will further limit the use of HFCs in refrigeration by 2030. These include R404A, R422A, R422D and R507, which will be gradually phased out to reduce emissions. The aim is to reduce their usage to around a fifth of current levels, shifting to climate-friendly technology wherever possible.
The latest amendment to the Montreal Protocol, the Kigali Amendment, has proposed a phase-down the use of refrigerants such as R410A. The phase down is expected to begin sometime in the 2020’s. The leading replacement for R410A refrigerant is a pure, single component refrigerant called R32, which has one-third the global warming potential of R410A.
R22 Phase Out Timeline
1st January 2004: HCFCs including R22 refrigerant banned for use in new air conditioning systems throughout the EU.
1st January 2010: Virgin R22 refrigerant banned for use in maintenance and repairs.
1st January 2015: All R22, including recycled and reclaimed refrigerant, banned for use in maintenance and repairs.
Time For A Change – Replacing Your R22 Air Conditioning System
The phase out of R22 should be seen as an opportunity to replace old and inefficient air conditioning systems.
Those systems installed before 2004 are now at the end of their usable lives. Given that since 2010, the new European legislation prevents any new supplies of this gas from being made and at the end of 2014 recycled stocks cannot be used, conditioning equipment still using R22 is now being classed as “not serviceable”. It’s therefore even more important now for companies still using air conditioning which utilises R22 to look at replacing their old systems with modern air conditioning units.
As time has moved on so has the efficiency of modern air conditioning systems. Today’s air conditioning is as much as 50% more energy efficient in terms of heating and cooling than those systems that are still operating using R22. This gives modern systems a great cost savings advantage over older R22 systems.
The R22 phase out also gives companies an opportunity to improve their environmental credential and carbon footprint as modern refrigerants have a lower impact on global warming and consume less energy.
Synecore are experts in air conditioning and can provide advice on the most suitable products for your business to replace your old air conditioning system.
Our highly qualified professional air conditioning project managers and engineers provide a professional installation and commissioning service on all new air conditioning and refrigeration systems by major brands including Daikin, Mitsubishi Electric and Toshiba. We offer competitive warranty periods of up to seven years on systems installed and maintained by us. We will also decommission your old system and dispose of it correctly.