Essential Guide to Refrigerant Phase-Out for HVAC Professionals

The world of refrigerants is changing.

The US EPA is mandating that manufacturers, contractors, and owners phase out refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP) and ozone-depleting potential.

A significant portion of HVAC systems currently operate using R-22 and R-410A, including thousands of rooftop units (RTUs), air handling units (AHUs), make-up air units (MAUs), dedicated outdoor air units (DOAS), chillers, and heat pumps. As of January 2020, the manufacturing and importation of new R-22 has been banned in the United States. R-410A is scheduled to phase out starting December 31, 2024, unless legislation changes.

Creating a strategic plan to maintain existing R-22 and R-410A units or facilitate customer transitions to newer, eco-friendly systems is essential for minimizing operational disruptions, even when immediate system conversions aren't necessary.


Don't panic, plan it

The manufacturing and import ban does not prohibit using or maintaining existing units. Under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, R-410A is still available to service existing units, with the phaseout deadline awaiting final regulation.  

While the mandated refrigerant phaseouts begin transitioning the industry to newer, eco-friendly refrigerants, the process will take years to complete. This means existing legacy units using R-22 and 410A can remain in operation.  


Reclaimed R-22 Refrigerant

While newly manufactured R-22 is unavailable, HVAC contractors and technicians can still service existing customer equipment using reclaimed supply. However, refrigerant costs will rise as the supply of R-22 diminishes.  

As older systems are retired, R-22 can be reclaimed from these units, processed, packaged, and resold back into the market.  Recovered refrigerant can be reused within the original or other systems under the same ownership.  

Reclaimed refrigerant for resale must be recycled through EPA-certified refrigerant reclaim facilities and meet EPA-certified purity standards outlined in Appendix A to 40 CFR Part 82, Subpart F. 

Recovering refrigerant is straightforward, and bypassing the proper recovery procedures by venting refrigerant into the atmosphere is unlawful. Using industry standard practices, proper tools, and equipment ensures refrigerant recovery is achieved safely, efficiently, and fully compliant with regulations. 

The EPA has compiled a list of certified reclaimers here. 


Availability of R-410A Refrigerant

The end date for phasing out R-410 is later than that of R-22. Existing systems using R-410A can remain in operation. However, new production equipment is transitioning to alternative refrigerants. 

As a Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), the production of R-410A is slated to decrease by 85% by 2036. This gradual phase-down will lead to the same supply and demand challenges that R-22 is experiencing today.  

The new regulations have some allowances. For instance, If HVAC equipment that uses R-410A refrigerant has already been purchased, it can still be installed for future projects. 

However, HVAC Manufacturers are already preparing for the change by reducing R410A production and increasing next-generation equipment production. 

Current retrofit options for R410A are limited, and staying aware of options will be important moving forward. MRG can assist you in selecting options for your specific project. 


Identify Refrigerant Alternatives

Viable replacement refrigerants are possible for some legacy units, depending on several factors.  

Replacement refrigerants should never be mixed if R-22 or R-410A are still present. It is necessary to entirely recover the original refrigerant charge and evacuate the system into a deep vacuum.

Additionally, to be compatible with new refrigerants, the oil in existing HVAC systems must be changed to a suitable lubricant, such as POE (M099 is the exception). Most older systems use mineral oil, which is less viscous than POE oil and incompatible with most replacement refrigerants. 

 One replacement refrigerant option for R-22 is R-407C, but the experienced team at MRG can help you identify the refrigerant that best suits your needs and the rated tools, procedures, and training to ensure safe use. 


Consider Unit Upgrade 

As the phaseout continues, the costs of R-22 and 410A refrigerants will steadily increase until they are no longer available.  

Given older HVAC units' declining efficiency and reliability and rising maintenance and refrigerant costs, now may be the optimal time to consider system replacement. 

Retrofitting to newer HVAC systems with environmentally friendly refrigerants will optimize your system and energy savings, and you will also be compliant well before government-mandated deadlines. 


Assess and Educate Yourself and Your Customers 

The best practice is to educate yourself and your team about the regulations and alternatives available.  

Conduct a thorough inventory of your existing refrigerant stockpile and assess the compatibility of your equipment with alternative refrigerants.  

It is essential to communicate proactively with customers and team members regarding regulatory changes, identify retrofitted or upgraded systems for new refrigerants, and recommend system replacements. 

Building trust and transparency with your clients will strengthen your relationships and position you as a reliable partner in their HVAC maintenance needs. 


Embrace the Future

No matter your system needs, MRG has you covered. We stock R-410A, R-407C, and Bluon in-house, available on the shelves. 

Contact MRG to discuss a system evaluation and recommendations for industry-leading sustainable refrigerants. Our expert team will help you navigate the phaseout and ensure a seamless transition to lower GWP refrigerants.