Top 4 Steps for HVAC Contractors to Navigate The Phase Out of R22

shutterstock_1540348469-r22-v2Author: Brett Knox
December 8, 2022 - 4 MIN. READ

The R-22 phase-out continues, but the move to newer, more eco-friendly refrigerants will not be complete for years. What should you do to prepare for the future of R-22?

Executive summary

Millions of older AC systems still run on R-22 even though you cannot make, buy, or import it. To service older units, you need a strategy to successfully and legally navigate the regulations surrounding R-22 in order to keep your customers happy. These four steps will guide you in supporting and servicing your customers' existing R-22-based AC units or helping them upgrade to a new one.

The top 4 steps to navigate the R-22 phase-out

Regulations surrounding R22 have been in place for over a decade, with initial rules governing its usage beginning in 2010 and escalating over the next ten years. R-22 cannot be legally manufactured or imported into the U.S. as of 2020.

Before the production ban, R-22 was used in virtually all AC systems, leaving behind a vast base of millions of legacy installations. The manufacturing and import ban does not outlaw using existing R-22-based AC units or prohibit the maintenance of those systems.

Most systems require repairs, maintenance, and refrigerant recharges from time to time. Since the newly made R-22 is unavailable to service these units, reclaimed refrigerants are necessary. R-22 will thus become increasingly scarce, causing its associated costs to escalate. This 4-step strategy can guide you in the best methods to serve your customers and avoid costly detriments to the R-22 supply chain.

Step 1 – Reclaim R-22 whenever possible

Since newly manufactured R-22 is no longer available, R-22 in existing units is the only current source. The retirement of older systems presents an opportunity for you, as the R-22 in those older units can be reclaimed and resold.

When dismantling a legacy system, always extract the R-22. The refrigerant can then be processed, packaged, and resold, often at a premium over other refrigerants, making it a wise decision to develop an R-22 reclamation procedure in your standard system retirement processes to help take advantage of this aftermarket.

As less and less R-22 is available to be reclaimed, the price for the remaining refrigerant will continue to increase. You’ll want to check with an EPA-certified reclaimer for a quote, but reclaiming the R-22 refrigerant will always be worthwhile whenever retiring an old AC unit.

For instance, Aspen Refrigerants is currently paying around $13.00 a pound, depending on purity, with no mixed gas disposal fee, for reclaimed R-22 . At that rate, you can reclaim 30 pounds of R-22 per truck and earn an additional $390 for adding only one step to your unit retirement process.

Step 2 – Stock up on available R-22

Because R-22 has become increasingly scarce, the demand and price for reclaimed R-22 are increasing rapidly. Wholesale prices reported by a New Jersey contractor rose about 125% in only one year, ballooning from $595 for a 25-pound bottle in April 2021 to $1300 in April 2022. Examples of specific spot market prices include $1110 per jug offered by Carrier and almost $1200 per jug for Aspen R-22.

Given the escalating value of R-22, buying supplies promises a solid return on investment (ROI). You can resell what you do not use to other contractors for profit.

Step 3 – Identify R-22 alternatives

Depending on the circumstances, you may want to keep an older unit in service but replace the R-22 with an alternative refrigerant. Check the EPA webpage on refrigerant choices for more information on viable alternatives.

R22 replacements include R410A, R134A, R407C R407A, MO99, and RS-44b. Since their operating characteristics vary, you will want to become well-versed in the pros and cons of each. Some are suitable for a direct retrofit, while others require oil changes or other modifications to replace R-22. And, due to greater availability, most are less expensive than R-22.

Step 4 – Consider refrigerant conversion and line-set changes

A line set may be required if you and your customer decide to convert your AC unit from R-22 to an alternative refrigerant. The line set is the copper piping that carries coolant between a split-section AC unit's interior and exterior sections. Leaks in the line set, corrosion, wear, or different operations specifications for alternative refrigerants may dictate a line-set replacement.

In summary

While the R22 phase-out can cause maintenance problems with older AC systems, it also presents some opportunities for you. You can benefit from the mandated transition to new, more eco-friendly refrigerants and provide value for your customers. Opportunities include the creation of an aftermarket in reclaimed R22, conversions to new refrigerants to extend the life of older units, and installing more efficient replacement systems.

So do your homework on new refrigerants and their best uses, be on the lookout for R22 reclamation opportunities, and become an expert in helping customers make sound decisions on recharging, retrofitting, or replacing their older AC systems.

Raiven can help navigate the R22 phase-out

Raiven helps you and your customers manage the transition away from R22. Our purchasing platform offers substantial discounts on HVAC equipment, parts, refrigerants, and supplies from leading suppliers. Check out some of the many benefits:

  • Pre-negotiated discounts of 7-25%+ from industry leading suppliers like Carrier, Ferguson, Grainger, Graybar, Koch Filter, and more.
  • Up-to-the-minute alerts on pricing and supply-chain status on HVAC equipment, supplies, and refrigerants.
  • Private marketplace houses all your preferred suppliers in one location for easy access to your discounts. No more bouncing around websites comparing prices.
  • AI-powered purchasing tools that find the lowest prices even when employees shop outside your preferred suppliers.

Contact Raiven for details on how we can help you guide your customers through the R22 phase-out.

Article Sources: