R22 is being phased out worldwide because of its harmful effects on the ozone layer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set January 1, 2020, as the date when R22 is banned from production and importation in the United States. After that date, R22 cannot be manufactured in the U.S. and it cannot be imported. This means that after January 1, 2020, HVAC systems that use R22 will be obsolete. If the repair requires adding R22 refrigerant to the system, the only options will be reclaimed and previously-produced R22 refrigerant. As you know, while some simple electrical repairs do not require recharging the refrigerant, most service calls do require a refrigerant recharge.
HVAC system owners that have leaky systems and that have been periodically injecting new R22 into the system will be forced to replace their system. In the lead up to 2020, R22 can still be used in repairs and maintenance. But, the supplies of R22 are already shrinking. Now that we are in 2020, this will lessen the global supply of R22 that will be available. This will lead to the costs of the refrigerant to soar—making certain once routine repairs very expensive.
What if you own R22-dependent systems?
These customers can continue to use their systems after January 1, 2020, and get as much useful life as possible out of their systems, until they need a repair. But, this course of action means they may be forced to make an emergency HVAC system replacement which will be much more expensive than a well-planned HVAC system update. For most HVAC owners, this is indeed a gamble. Some R22 units may be able to be converted to use a different refrigerant. However, many conversions may only buy the customers a few more years of useful life. The numbers for many system owners will not favor retrofitting. The best option, but the one most customers dread, is replacing their system in 2020. This gives them the most reliability and cost predictability.