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What is the Phase-out of Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS)?

HVAC Maintenance Pittsburgh PA

As the pending regulations stipulate a specific manufacturing cutoff date of January 1, 2025, for residential and light commercial unitary products and January 1, 2024, for air-cooled scroll chillers, existing R410A
equipment built prior to that date can be sold and installed indefinitely. This will impact your home HVAC Unit! In 1982 when I started residential and light commercial heating and cooling, refrigerant R-12 and R-22 were commonly used to cool houses and other items like beverage coolers, refrigerators, freezers even larger commercial coolers. Then, R-12, and R-22 were being phased out and replaced by the new R-410a refrigerant in 2010.  Now, 13 years later, R-410a is being replaced by R-32 and R-454b as well asa several other refrigerants.  All to decrease ozone depletion potential (ODP) and global warming potential (GWP). Environmentalists found R-410a has less ozone depletion potential (ODP) since it doesn’t carry chlorine in its composition that R-22 does, but the global warming potential (GWP) of it was still too high. In fact, R-410a’s GWP is actually higher than the old R-22!

The new-new refrigerant coming very soon for residential and light commercial is more than likely R-454b and R-32. The existing R-22 refrigerant was phased out and though still available at a much higher cost from recycled only. With refrigerant R-410a being phased out, I’d imagine the same similar cost for refrigerant will be more than likely similar as the R-22 phase out. Though R-410a over time maybe slower than R-22 phase out.

In response to this, manufacturers have been trying to figure out a better refrigerant to use, one with no ozone depletion potential and less global warming potential. 

Originally the phase-out of R-410A equipment was slated for January 1, 2023, for many reasons that goal is not going to be reached. For most HVAC applications (excluding VRF), the goal seems to be a ban on any refrigerant with a GWP greater than 750 by 2025. This would exclude manufacturing equipment using R-410A till 2025. Much like the phase-out
of R-22, the government is taking its time on eliminating it to avoid drastic spikes in costs. The price of R-22 was relatively stable till the year 2019. The complete ban on manufacturing/imports went into effect in 2020 R-22.

Even though R-22 only has an ODP of 0.5 per metric ton, its effect on the ozone layer isn’t suitable for future generations.  And like I said before, while the R-410a has no ODP, it has a little higher GWP.

R-454b offers pressures much more similar to R-410a and R-32 which was another option for use as a low GWP refrigerant, but its potential of 675 is higher than 500 protocol wanted.  A dip below 500 will likely become the industry standard soon, so it makes sense to choose R-454b at this time. The EPA has approved the refrigerant R-454b for use in light commercial
and residential applications for new equipment.  This is why the major brands are already planning for new equipment in the future to use the new refrigerant on January 1st, 2023 (which is the date the 2022 California
Energy Code begins.)  And if manufacturers have to start making it for California, they’re not going to keep making R- 410a systems as well as R- 454b systems.  Essentially, as this happens in California and other states, it
will happen in the rest of the country as well. Here is a comparison of the two refrigerants being the top runners:

R-32
 Zero Ozone Depletion 
 1/3 GWP of HFC 410A 
 Superior energy efficiency 
 High refrigeration capacity & thermal conductivity 
 Low-pressure drop 
 Single-component refrigerant easy to handle and recover
 Low toxicity 
 Readily available (R32 is used in the manufacture of R410A
which is a blend of 50% R32 & 50% R125
 R-32 is currently used with other refrigerant gasses to make R-
410a. R-410a is the current refrigerant choice for all
manufacturers of HVAC equipment (Until January 1, 2023)

Note: R-32 is technically listed as flammable. Studies have shown, however, the conditions needed to ignite R-32 are so specific and extremely unlikely to exist, and as such it is not something concerning in the vast majority of residential or commercial applications.


R-454B
 Higher efficiency for heating than R-32
 Requires less refrigerant by 5-10% than equipment using R-410a
uses
 R-454B has a lower GWP (Global Warming Potential) at 465-GWP
than does R-32 at 675-GWP
 The close operating pressures and temperatures of R-454B when compared with R-410a allows manufacturers to build equipment using parameters that are very close to that of equipment that uses R-410a.

Note: R-454B is technically listed as flammable much like R-32, although to a lesser degree. Studies have shown, however, that the conditions needed to ignite R-454B are likewise so specific and extremely unlikely to exist and as such it is not something concerning in the vast majority of residential or commercial applications.

The residential codes that just came into effect on January 1 st,  2020, are already established.  Nowhere in the codes is the use of A2L, mildly flammable refrigerants are approved, so some changes will have to be made for the codes beginning January 1 st , 2023, for other reasons that goal won’t be reached for that to happen.  Training will also have to be made
ready for the transition over to 454b, and certification might be mandatory when that happens. Mildly flammable A2L tier refrigerants can’t be used in existing R-410a and R-22 systems. Compressors must be upgraded.  Systems designed for R-454b will require a slight less of a charge than today’s R-410a systems and will be about 5% more efficient than current refrigerants.  If we’re going to be using this refrigerant, some things will have to change.  Most importantly, the residential codes that are currently in effect.  Nothing in it allows for the use of A2L (mildly flammable) refrigerants to be used in residential and light commercial equipment systems. Manufactures, AHRI and others have already created classes that will teach today’s technicians all about the new refrigerants.  NATE will also have certification testing available for technicians.  Even though we’ll be using the same types of equipment to handler R-454b, they must be approved for use with A2L refrigerants, which use features like fans to dissipate fumes from the electric motors, refrigerant sensing controls and
other safe handling and working with new refrigerant and equipment. For those reason we will need training and certification. 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. This training will cover safety, as well as requirements for proper installation and maintenance of equipment that use A2L refrigerants. Will R-22 and R-410a still be available to service existing HVAC equipment?  Yes, these refrigerants will be available and the equipment in use can be repaired and refrigerant charge will be available. One might say there’s never been a better time than now to replace your older equipment. Keep up to date as we continue our blogs. Snyder Heating and Cooling

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