Why should owners of air conditioning using R22 refrigerant consider replacing it?
Any air conditioning over 10 years old probably uses R22 refrigerant, an ozone-depleting CFC which was banned in most new systems in 2002. By EU law R22 systems will become unserviceable at the end of 2014, meaning that it will be illegal to repair them in the event of any failure. It is not economical to repair the systems as spare parts and recycled R22 are expensive and in short supply.
Modern replacement systems use more environmentally friendly refrigerants and are up to 60% more energy efficient than R22 systems, meaning that owners often pay back replacement costs in energy savings alone within 3 or 4 years.
So, with the strong likelihood that any air conditioning system over 10 years old contains R22, what are the choices facing owners of such equipment?
Essentially there are 4 options :-
1. Do nothing;
2. Continue to use the equipment, using recycled R22 if the system needs refilling;
3. Replace the R22 refrigerant for one of the replacement ‘drop in’ alternatives now available;
4. Replace the old R22 installation with a new one using an environmentally friendly refrigerant.
Initially, in these tough economic times, option 1 may seem to be the most attractive. Nothing in the regulations prohibits the continuing use of R22 equipment so, if it’s operating properly, there is no urgent need to replace it. The risk with this strategy is that at some stage the equipment will require repair , and the system’s owner will be forced to choose between options 2, 3 or 4.
If you are unsure whether your air conditioning system contains R22 look for an information plate on the outdoor (condenser) units or the indoor (fan coil) units. Alternatively, the manufacturer, the original installer or your maintenance provider should be able to help.
Fortunately, companies such as ours, Andrews Air Conditioning Services, offer a wide range of technical expertise and commercial guidance for building owners and occupiers. We are members of the Register of Companies Competent to Handle Refrigerants (REFCOM).
Many owners and operators of R22-based air conditioning have already acted to replace these ageing systems and are now reaping the benefits of improved performance, energy efficiency, reliability and environmental compliance. Those who have still to act should be actively considering their options because a sudden breakdown may result in an important decision also becoming very urgent.
Please read our guide to R22 replacement for more detailed information about your options.