What Is R22 Refrigerant?
R22 is a refrigerant gas and is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC). It has been used commonly in air conditioning and refrigeration applications. However, R22 gas has been banned for use in new equipment for nearly 20 years now and since 2015 it has become illegal to use R22 gas in the repair of any failed equipment.
If you have equipment that pre-dates 2004, it may well contain R22 refrigerant. While this doesn’t pose any immediate danger, you need to be aware that if this system fails, your only option will be to replace the whole system with a modern equivalent.
Why Has R22 Refrigerant Been Banned?
R22 refrigerant has been banned for use in new equipment in the UK since 2004. The main reason for this is due to its effect on the ozone layer. Like all HCFCs, the R22 gas is an ozone-depleting substance which reacts with the ozone layer if released, causing significant damage.
I Have Equipment Containing R22 Refrigerant – Can I Continue To Use It?
Yes, you can continue to use equipment containing R22 while it remains in good working order. The units can (and should) be serviced under your normal maintenance routine. However, if there is any failure in this equipment, there are very limited options and the inevitable situation is that your equipment will need replacing in due course.
Can I Repair Equipment Containing R22 Refrigerant?
Works can undertaken on equipment that use R22 so long as they don’t involve works associated directly with the refrigerant. However, if the maintenance of the system requires the R22 refrigerant to be handled, decanted or topped up, this is prohibited.
Are There Any Alternatives To R22 Refrigerant?
As R22 refrigerant has been banned, there have been several developments of a drop-in gas, which is aimed to closely imitate the properties of R22 refrigerant. These gases are still available, but the supply of them is diminishing as the demand decreases. It is also very unlikely that a drop-in gas will have the same performance as the original refrigerant, causing the actual output of the systems to decrease and energy costs to rise.
The best long-term plan for any failed R22 system is to replace it entirely – this will give you a reliable modern system and run much more efficiently.