As you may have noticed by now, the price of R-22 has gone way up! The short version is that the EPA is speeding up the phase down R-22 production. By how much we aren’t sure yet but the price is climbing. What are our options in place of virgin R-22?
First of all reclaimed R-22 will be an option as the virgin R-22 supply goes down and the price goes up. A second option is the HFC replacements for R-22. Until now the replacements haven’t been in much demand as R-22 was still cheaper. It looks like that situation is finally changing. Most of the R-12 replacements that we have been using for years contain some amount of R-22 so we should see their cost rise as well. What are our options?
"Drop-in" replacements, just drop in rite? Yes, and then again no. The so-called drop-in replacements don’t normally require an oil change or metering device change, however, they cannot be "dropped in" on top of the existing R-22. All of the existing R-22 charges must be removed, refrigerants cannot be mixed. The drop-ins like Icor’s NU-22B will work in existing R-22 A/C equipment while One-Shot and R422D work well in refrigeration equipment. The drop-in replacements have lower capacities then R-22 so system output will be 5 to 10% lower. In many cases, the equipment run time will be longer but will still adequately cool. Lower amp draws and discharge pressures will make up some of the efficiency lost due to the longer run times. If the original system capacity is on the low end, this type of retrofit may not be the best choice. An already undersized system will only be made worse with additional capacity losses. Undersized TXVs will need to be upsized during the retrofit or a starved evaporator may result. Though Icor, Honeywell, and others may say an oil change is not always necessary to check with the compressor manufacture first. Tecumseh requires an oil change to POE on systems utilizing a receiver with HFC R-22 replacements.
Basic retrofit guidelines:
Record normal system operations before you begin.
Recover R-22 from the system, weigh and record the amount.
Replace or install a filter drier.
Replace the metering device as needed.
Leak test and evacuate the system down to 500 microns.
Recharge only liquid with 90% of the original charge. (You may not be able to charge by sight glass with blends)
Run the system and adjust the charge and TXV as needed using the proper PT chart.
Label the system as to what refrigerant you used for the retrofit.
Non-drop-in replacements like R-407C, or Honeywell’s Performax LT have close operational and capacity characteristics to R-22 making them a great choice. In some cases, system capacity may even increase. Valve changes won’t normally be required however readjustment may be needed. These non-drop-in replacements require as much as 95% POE oil in the compressor. Multiple oil changes or a total system flush with RX11 will be required to achieve the 95% POE requirement. With any retrofit, the filter drier should be replaced or one installed.
Before starting any retrofit, refer to refrigerant manufacturer and compressor manufacturer’s website for guidelines.