The first use of R-22 in air conditioning was in the late 1950s, mainly as a replacement for R-12 because it permitted the use of smaller compressors and piping.
In the 1980s, there was research that concluded that a hole was developing in the ozone layer of the Earth. Left unattended, the hole could potentially grow worse and in time allow harmful radiation to enter the atmosphere causing changes in weather patterns, etc. Some of this was eventually labeled “Global Warming”.
No matter where your politics or theories lie, in 1989, a multinational treaty called the Montreal Protocol was put into law. Part of the treaty discussed the phase out of certain chemicals that could potentially damage the ozone layer. Refrigerants as a family were top on the list. The treaty set a schedule for the elimination of refrigerants.
The R-22 replacement refrigerant is R-410A. The big story here is that the R-410A freon will not work in equipment that uses the R-22 freon. We have seen the cost of R-22 freon go higher and higher. Over the last couple of years the cost of replacement parts for R-22 equipment have forced the discussion of complete system replacements.
In 2014, the EPA allowed 51 million pounds of R-22 freon to be produced or imported. In 2015, the EPA has limited the total amount of R-22 freon to be produced or imported to 22 million pounds. The difference between 2014 and 2015 is almost a 60% decrease.
At this time the R-22 phaseout schedule is: 18 million pounds of new and imported R-22 allowed in 2016, 13 million pounds in 2017, 9 million in 2018, and 4 million in 2019. No newly produced or imported R-22 will be allowed in the U.S. on or after Jan. 1, 2020.
As the R-22 phaseout continues we expect the cost of freon and the cost of R-22 equipment replacement parts to continually rise.