Questions and Answers About R-22a Safety
1. What is R-22a?
R-22a is a hydrocarbon refrigerant blend with primary components including flammable substances such as propane and butane. In some cases, it may also contain small amounts of other hydrocarbons or a pine-scented odorant. This refrigerant is a highly flammable, colorless gas that is heavier than air.
“R-22a” has been sold under the names Blue Sky 22a, Coolant Express 22a, DURACOOL-22a, EC-22, Ecofreeze EF-22a, Enviro-safe 22a, ES-22a, Frost 22a, Maxi-Fridge, MX-22a, Oz-Chill 22a, Priority Cool, and RED TEK 22a
2. What are the potential safety risks of R-22a?
Because R-22a is flammable, it can burn or explode if there is enough product concentrated in one space and the refrigerant comes in contact with an ignition source.
3. R-22 and EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program
R-22 (also known as HCFC-22) is an ozone-depleting refrigerant which has been widely used in home air conditioning systems and its supply is now being phased out in response to the Montreal Protocol. EPA reviews health, safety, and environmental impacts of refrigerants through its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program, which evaluates and regulates substitutes for the ozone-depleting chemicals that are being phased out under the stratospheric ozone protection provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA). In Section 612(c) of the CAA, the Agency is authorized to identify and publish lists of acceptable and unacceptable substitutes.
4. Is it legal to use R-22a as a refrigerant in air-conditioning equipment designed for use with HCFC-22?
No. EPA’s SNAP Rule 21 listed as unacceptable (prohibited) refrigerant products sold as 22a and all refrigerants identified as flammability Class 3 in ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 34–2013 for retrofitting residential and light commercial unitary split AC and heat pumps. These are the units on the side of a house typically referred to as “central air conditioning.”
For more information, see SNAP Rule 21
5. What should I do if I suspect R-22a was used in my air conditioner?
If you believe R-22a or another hydrocarbon refrigerant was introduced into your air conditioner, EPA recommends that you contact your local fire department for guidance. New refrigerant recovery equipment that has been designed and approved for use with flammable refrigerants is now available. You may also report a violation of EPA's regulations. EPA continues to investigate instances where propane-based refrigerants have been marketed and sold as a substitute for R-22 and take enforcement actions where appropriate.
6. What actions has EPA taken against the illegal use of R-22a?
EPA cannot comment on any specific enforcement actions that it may be undertaking or that are in the early stages of investigation. However, EPA has settled with companies over allegations of illegal activity regarding the sale of R-22a as a refrigerant and will continue to take enforcement actions where appropriate. Some examples of past enforcement actions include:
- EnviroSafe (2015)
In a settlement with EPA, Enviro-Safe Refrigerants, Inc., of Pekin, Illinois, agreed to pay a $300,000 civil penalty and cease marketing and sale of unapproved flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances. Enviro-Safe allegedly violated Clean Air Act requirements through the marketing and sale of three flammable hydrocarbon refrigerant products, HC-12a, HC-22a and HC-502a, as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances without providing the requisite information to EPA for review and approval.
- Northcutt (2016)
In a settlement with EPA, Northcutt, Inc., of Wichita, Kansas, agreed to discontinue domestic marketing and sales of unapproved flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants as substitutes for an ozone-depleting substitute, send a warning letter to past domestic purchasers of the substitutes, and pay a $100,000 civil penalty. Northcutt allegedly violated Clean Air Act requirements through the marketing and sale of two flammable hydrocarbon refrigerant products, ES 22a and ES 502a, as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances without providing the requisite information to EPA for review and approval.
7. Has EPA identified other flammable hydrocarbons or blends that can be safely used in air-conditioning equipment designed for use with HCFC-22?
No. EPA has not found any flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants acceptable for use in existing air-conditioning systems designed for use with HCFC-22.
8. Which refrigerants are allowed to be used in air-conditioning systems for air-conditioning equipment designed for use with HCFC-22?
The list of acceptable refrigerants for use in home air conditioning is available at this link: Acceptable Substitutes in Household and Light Commercial Air Conditioning. You can find EPA’s lists of acceptable refrigerants for other uses here.
9. Has EPA identified other flammable hydrocarbons or blends that can be used safely as refrigerants in new refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment?
EPA has listed a number of flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants or refrigerant blends as acceptable substitutes for use in certain types of new refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment. EPA notes that the listings for household and commercial refrigerators and freezers and room air conditioning units apply only to new equipment that was specifically designed to be used with that refrigerant.
EPA expects the list of acceptable substitutes, including flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants or hydrocarbon refrigerant blends, to expand. The current lists of acceptable refrigerants for use in refrigeration and air conditioning can be found in the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning section.
These determinations were based on detailed assessments of the risks posed by each flammable refrigerant in the particular application or type of equipment to be used. In addition, in many instances EPA’s regulations adopt the results of safety reviews by industry standards-setting bodies as mandatory use conditions. Thus, EPA’s rules further reduce risk by setting requirements for the amount of refrigerant used, design and testing of equipment, and warning labels, among other things.