R22 is an Ozone Depleting Substance (ODS) according to the EPA . R22 units are those air conditioning systems which use the refrigerant R22 to pump the heat from inside a building to outside and vice versa. Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) are chemicals that can damage the earth’s ozone layer if they escape into the upper atmosphere. ODS include hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are still in use as refrigerants.
The only ODS still widely in use are HCFC refrigerants, especially R22 and blends such as R408A. The use of virgin HCFCs in maintenance and servicing of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment is banned since the end of 2009. Recycled and reclaimed HCFCs can continue to be used until the end of 2014.
Therefore, the deadline to change an R22 system is end of 2014. It is up to every contractor now to notify their customers of the impending danger to their systems. There is replace technology available with Mitsubishi Electric as discussed previously. This has the advantage of using the existing pipe work. The problem with R22 being phased out is that if the equipment develops a leak then it is impossible to replace the refrigerant.
An option that can exist is to use a drop in replacement which is a refrigerant that has been blended to act similar to R22 in terms of performance. However it will not be as efficient and it needs to be tested in each application first. Therefore the preferred option is to change out the unit in favour of a non ODS refrigerant such as R410a.