Buyer Beware – Is It Illegal For a Tech to Recharge Your A/C With R22?
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Despite what some HVAC contractors say, recharging a system with R22 is NOT illegal. Although R22 has an ozone-depleting potential (ODP) above zero and causes global warming, the EPA has NOT outlawed the use of that refrigerant. The EPA has, however, taken measures to reduce the usage of R22 in the coming years.
If you charge some exceptionally large systems with R22, you may have to prove that you have fixed a leak. When commercial and industrial systems contain more than 50 pounds of refrigerant, you may recharge with R22, but the system may have to undergo regular leak inspections.
Both R22 AND R410A are regulated and must be controlled. These refrigerants cannot be vented, so we use recovery machines and tanks to remove old refrigerant. You should not mix these refrigerants, so we label our recovery tanks to avoid mixups.
R22 is an HCFC, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon. HCFCs consist of hydrogen, chlorine, fluorine, and carbon. The chlorine is what depletes the ozone. R410A is an HFC, a hydrofluorocarbon. HFCs have the same chemical elements as HCFCs except for chlorine, so they do not deplete the ozone layer. However, they still have a global warming potential (GWP) worth monitoring and regulating.
So, although recharging with R22 may not be the recommended course of action for some systems, it is NOT illegal. (It’s illegal to top off a non-R22 system with R22, though.) After R22 begins its phaseout in 2020, we will have to rely on stockpiled or reclaimed refrigerant stock.