R-22 – What Is It And Why Do I Need To Know About It?

For anybody involved in industrial refrigeration, chilling rumours about a mysterious gas called R22 and its impending doom have been around for a while. But what exactly is this substance they keep on talking about and why should I care about it? Here’s your need to know guide.

What is R-22?

R-22 or HCFC-22 is a common refrigerant and propellant which has been widely used in refrigeration for several years. Its full name is Chlorodifluoromethane or Difluoromonochloromethane – hence the preference for R-22, which rolls off the tongue slightly better. HCFC in turn means Hydrochlorofluorocarbon, an organic compound that contains only carbon, chlorine, and fluorine. The problem with CFC’s is that they are now known to cause ozone depletion. Whilst the use of CFC’s as a propellant in products such as aerosols was phased out long ago, R-22’s effectiveness in refrigeration meant that it remained the gas of choice up until relatively recently.

What is ozone depletion?

So what exactly is ozone depletion? If you let your memory take you back to the nineties you probably remember there was talk of holes in the ozone layer being caused by the contents of dodgy deodorants. Climate science has evolved a lot since then, and we now know that there is a phenomenon in which the stratospheric ozone over the Earth’s Polar Regions is depleted, resulting in a significant thinning of the ozone layer over Antarctica. It is now known that CFC’s make a significant contribution to this depletion of the ozone.

Why does ozone depletion matter?

The ozone layer prevents much of the harmful rays in the UV spectrum from reaching Earth. Such rays are known to be harmful to human, animal and plant life. UV rays can cause skin cancers, the consequences of which are potentially fatal. Their interaction with exhaust fumes can have devastating effects on the young, elderly and those suffering from breathing disorders such as asthma. Instances of skin damage on whales have also been reported in scientific studies, as has damage to plants, which can have a knock-on effect on the entire food chain.

How does all this affect me?

There are two key areas in which R-22 has historically been widely used – air conditioning and refrigeration. In order to ensure that our obligation to protect the environment for present and future generations is fulfilled, governments have introduced new legislation on the use of R-22. In the UK, a significant change occurs on 1st January 2015, from which time recycled R-22 can no longer be used, this follows the banning of new R22 in July 2012. The most common drop in is R417A, and because of this drop in it means that you can keep older systems on R22 going past this date.

However in older systems it may not be cost effective to ‘Drop In’ a different refrigerant and remember that you are still using an old system with old components. The other issue with R22 being phased out is that components are no longer being produced for R22, so there could be an availability issue when it comes to spare parts.


What should I do next?

Most importantly, don’t panic. If you are unsure about how the law changes might affect your business, or if you need to upgrade but would like to discuss your options further, you should consult a qualified refrigeration expert. Carlton Services are one such expert, offering professional advice and solutions from 2079-certified engineers. Whatever the scale of your business, they can talk you through your options to find a solution that will help to protect not only your bottom line but also our precious planet.


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