Last edited 04 Mar 2021

R22 phase out

R22 is an HCFC (hydrochlorofluorocarbon) that is used as a refrigerant. It is one of the most commonly used refrigerants in the UK. Examples of its use include:

R22 is also an ozone depleting substance (ODS).

From January 1st 2015, EC regulation EC/1005/2009, which relates to substances that deplete the ozone layer, prohibited the use of HCFCs such as R22 and R408A in any form, even for maintenance, in order to protect the ozone layer.

New equipment using HCFCs was banned in 2001 (2004 for small air-conditioning systems), and the use of virgin HCFCs was banned in 2010, when it also became illegal to manufacture HCFC refrigerants or for suppliers to keep them in stock.

From January 1st 2015, a new restriction prevented the use of re-cycled and reclaimed HCFC. The new regulations do not prohibit continued operation of plant using existing quantities of HCFC refrigerant, but prevents invasive maintenance, replacement or topping up.

More modern refrigeration and air-conditioning systems should already comply with regulations. However, older systems may use HCFCs, and as most refrigeration systems leak to a certain extent, 'doing nothing' will cease to be an option. Many of the better maintained systems will accept 'drop-in' non-ODS refrigerants, such as EC F Gas Regulations compliant HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons, including 417A, 422A, 422D, 424A, 427A, 428A and 434A). However these substitutes generally lead to a drop in efficiency and so the system may need to be supplemented with additional compressor and/or heat exchanger capacity.

Badly maintained equipment or old HCFC systems may not lend themselves to conversion and could need complete replacement with a compliant HFC, hydrocarbon, ammonia or carbon dioxide system. Such an upgrade on a 10,000 sq ft office building could cost the tenant or landlord the equivalent of 30% of the annual rent as well as causing considerable disruption. It is likely therefore that landlords and tenants will be looking at the small print of their leases to establish where liability lies for such costs. In some cases the courts may have to determine who pays.

NB On 15 October 2016 it was announced that 170 countries in Kigali, Rwanda, had agreed that all HFCs should be phased out through an amendment to the Montreal Protocol. See HFC phase out for more information.

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