Purchasing and Repairing Home Air-Conditioners or Heat Pumps
In 1987, the Montreal Protocol established requirements for the worldwide phaseout of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). In 1996, all developed nations ceased CFC production. In 1992, the Montreal Protocol was amended to phase out the production and use of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which also contribute to ozone depletion and climate change.
HCFC-22 (also known as R-22) has been the most common refrigerant in residential heat pumps and air-conditioning systems for many decades. As HCFC-22 and other HCFCs are phased out, manufacturers of residential air-conditioning systems are offering equipment that uses ozone-friendly refrigerants. While these replacement refrigerants, primarily R-410A, do not deplete the ozone layer, they do lead to climate change and need to be handled responsibly to avoid releases to the atmosphere.
Learn more about the HCFC Phaseout.
What Does the Phaseout Mean for Consumers?
- Currently, domestic chemical manufacturers may no longer produce new HCFC-22 , and importers may no longer import new HCFC-22 ;
- Existing domestic stocks of HCFC-22 can be used to service existing equipment (this will no longer be the case after 2020); which means that
- After 2020, only recycled, reclaimed, or previously produced HCFC-22 can be used to service existing equipment.
As HCFC-22 is phased out, non-ozone-depleting alternative refrigerants are being introduced. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA reviews alternatives to ozone-depleting substances to evaluate their effects on human health and the environment. EPA has reviewed several alternatives to HCFC-22 for household and light commercial air conditioning and has compiled a list of acceptable substitutes.
Servicing Existing Units
Homeowners can continue to have units installed manufactured before 2010 serviced with HCFC-22. There is no EPA requirement to get a new system or convert existing HCFC-22 units for use with a non-ozone-depleting substitute refrigerant.
Such conversions, called "retrofits," are allowed if the alternative has been found acceptable for that type of use. Alternative refrigerants will not work well without making changes to system components. As a result, service technicians who repair leaks to the system will most often continue to charge HCFC-22 into the system as part of that repair.
System leaks harm the environment and result in increased operation and maintenance costs. Routine servicing helps reduce the impacts on the environment.
Homeowners should work with dealers that employ service technicians who are EPA-certified to handle refrigerants Technicians often call this "Section 608 certification," which refers to a section of the Clean Air Act that requires minimizing releases of ozone-depleting chemicals from equipment.
Installing New Units
Transitioning to a new refrigerant requires the redesign of heat pump and air-conditioning systems. New systems incorporate compressors and other components designed for use with specific refrigerants. Consumers should be aware that system dealers should be trained in installation and service techniques required for use of specific substitute refrigerants.
Purchasing New Systems
Today's air conditioners are not only increasingly ozone-friendly, but also energy efficient. ENERGY STAR® Exit products can help save homeowners money on their heating and cooling bills every year. More information on energy-efficient air conditioning can be found at:
- EPA's ENERGY STAR program for heating and cooling equipment Exit
- ENERGY STAR Guide to Energy Efficient Heating and Cooling Exit(PDF, 24 pp, 1,419 K)
- Home Improvement Energy Yardstick with Energy Star Exit
- Department of Energy on energy-efficient air conditioning Exit
- Energy Solutions for Heating and Cooling your Home Exit