You may think that ozone-depleting chemicals are a thing of the past. You see all these “CFC-free” labels everywhere, and give modern society a pat on the back for doing the right thing. However, did you know that the use of one kind of refrigerant harmful to the environment actually increased in 2013 to a whopping 63 million pounds (Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute/AHRI)?
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have indeed been phased out in developed nations as far back as 1996. But there is still widespread use of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Those sneaky chlorofluorocarbons just added “hydro” to their chemical composition. While not as harmful to the ozone layer as CFCs, they still do damage to it mainly due to the “chloro” part of their chemical makeup. One particular refrigerant, HCFC-22 (or R-22) has been the main one used in residential units for over 40 years. In addition to being harmful to the ozone layer, it is also a greenhouse gas. Its production results in another, more damaging gas called HFC-23.
In this regard, the Montreal Protocol (the same international agreement that phased out CFCs) was amended in 1992 to add HCFC to the phase out list.
Phase Out Schedule
The first deadline in the phase out schedule set by the Protocol was in January 1, 2014, wherein the U.S. was required to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 35%. The country met this goal by banning the production and import of HCFC-141b, “the most ozone-destructive HCFC” (EPA). The EPA, instead, shifted production and import to HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b.
The second deadline was in January 1, 2010, when the U.S. was required to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 75%. Certain allowance holders are still allowed to produce or import HCFC-22, but only to service existing equipment. This effectively means that heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) manufacturers can no longer make new equipment using HCFC-22.
The next deadline is coming very soon – January 1, 2015. By then, the U.S. should have reduced its HCFC consumption by 90% below the baseline. This translates to consumption not exceeding 30 million pounds of HCFC. As mentioned though, U.S. consumption actually went up from 55.4 million pounds in 2012 to 63 million pounds in 2013. It’s down to 51 million this year, but that’s a full 20 million more to go.
If things pan out as planned, the U.S. should have reduced consumption by 99.5-100% by the year 2020.
What This Means to You
If you’re still using R-22 refrigerant, you may want to make the shift soon. Individuals, technicians, and businesses alike are scrambling to try and make a smooth transition. This can be problematic, as day-to-day operations may be interrupted in the process. You also need to consider the costs involved in replacing equipment. Handled improperly, the HCFCs could easily leak out into the atmosphere.
The Refrigerant Buyback Program
The problem with buy back programs is that many HVAC companies leave large cylinder consolidation to the end users. This leads to contamination or the formation of an unusable (and therefore worthless) mixed gas. At least one estimate shows that because of this, around one third of all cylinders collected contained mixed gas. This can lead to thousands of dollars in losses.
We at Level One HVAC provide a hassle-free solution. We bring the recovery cylinders straight to you. Our team of highly trained experts do all the work for proper large cylinder consolidation. We then use our very own distillation equipment to ensure maximum yield when removing contamination. You get 100% worth of the recovered refrigerant detailed in provided purity and volume reports, and we safely dispose of the waste free or for a nominal charge depending on the quality. We also buy all refrigerants, even burnt. Contact us today or learn more on our Refrigerant Services webpage. Also stay on the look out for more information on our new Refrigerant Services company.