The HVACR industry has known that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is phasing out production of R-22 refrigerant. The agency, which has perfected the art of foot-dragging when it comes to allocation announcements, says that the final allocation amount for 2012 is still undetermined, however, EPA is considering a 55-90 million lb (24-40 million kg) limit.

That’s the news from Keilly Witman, manager of the EPA’s GreenChill Partnership program, reported at the recently concluded Food Management Institute annual conference in September. She added that it’s time to start thinking about alternatives to R-22.

“It’s certainly not too early to start thinking about what you’re going to do in 2020”, Witman said. “CO2 (carbon dioxide/R744) is good to go in just about every application (except air conditioning) that will be used in stores. The trend is without question towards low GWP refrigerants. The EPA is going to determine the amount of R22 that manufacturers can produce and import for the year 2012 to the year 2014. There is a level that we have to be at in 2015 and this time what the EP has decided to do is, instead of letting everyone drop of the cliff on December 2014, we’re staggering the reductions so that it gets less and less, so that everyone is prepared.”

R22 is now only available for maintenance and servicing existing HVACR systems. In December 2011, the US EPA approved three hydrocarbon refrigerants as acceptable substitutes in household and small commercial stand-alone refrigerators and freezers.

Provided equipment meets UL 250/471 standards, and the charge is limited to 57 grams of R600a and 150 grams of R290, the SNAP rule allows:
• Use of R600a (isobutane), R441A (HCR-188C1) in new household refrigerators & freezers;
• Use of R290 (propane) in new, retail food self-contained units.

Witman said the most recent change is that CO2 is now acceptable for use in new vending machines, and CO2 has been listed as acceptable for use in all the other commercial refrigeration uses. Carbon dioxide-chilled vending machines were approved in August 2012, making it the first acceptable natural refrigerant in the vending product category.

The EPA is reviewing the following refrigerants as suitable R22 alternatives in different HVACR applications:

  • CO2 (carbon dioxide)
  • R290
  • R441A
  • Fluoroketone
  • HFC1234yf
  • Solstice1233zd
  • HFC1234ze
  • HFC32