R22 gases - all you need to know

Modern air conditioning units are quiet, efficient and are greener than ever before.

However, many older units contain R22 gas, which is now banned because of its harmful effect on the environment.

EU legislation is enforcing the removal and replacement of R22 refrigerant as studies have demonstrated that this gas is harmful to the ozone layer.

Equipment containing R22 gases, only have to be removed if the unit is faulty. However, if you aren’t already, you should start planning for HCFC/R22 phase out now.

Available options include:

  • Replacing the whole refrigeration installation and wiring with a new system. This is the best option in terms of efficiency, reliability and warranty but is also the most expensive in terms of initial cost.
  • Re-use the existing pipe work (and possibly wiring) and install a new condensing unit and evaporator coil that operate on an alternate HFC refrigerant. This could be a cost-effective alternative.
  • Replace the refrigerant within the system with a different, more easily available, refrigerant. Retrofitting with an alternative refrigerant overcomes the need to remove old equipment and install new systems and pipework. However, it’s difficult to predict system performance and reliability and can be very expensive without any guarantees on its longevity.

Scott Belfield, owner of K2 Heating and Cooling, said: “People used to take the opinion that ‘we’ll run it until it breaks’ and, ‘get it repaired if it breaks’ - but that is no longer an option”.

“If someone has a system and is using it, then it isn’t a problem, but, if it has an issue with a gas loss, problem within the refrigerant system or compressor, then you can’t replace parts so you have to replace it”.

“At the moment, 99 per cent of customers having the gases replaced for modern ones are those who are experiencing problems with their units.”

He said larger multi-site companies have rolling programmes to replace their old units, but millions are still in existence.

Scott said: “You can get some tax benefits on the newer units but replacing them is also more energy efficient.”

By law, premises that have equipment containing refrigerant gas have to have annual inspections, to ensure the units aren’t leaking.

Scott said: “Companies carrying out the checks have to be f-gas registered’.

“It doesn’t pose a health concern, but it is an environmental issue as the gases are so harmful to the ozone”.

“As long as a unit is working then you don’t need to necessarily get rid of it - but is has to be regularly inspected”.

“And with a service programme the engineers take on the legal responsibilities as they are responsible for monitoring the gases.

“At K2, we comply with all the legislation so the customer doesn’t need to worry about it.”