In 1987, developed nations came together to establish the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to phase-out the production and importation of ozone-depleting substances, including harmful chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
The agreement allowed for certain ozone depleting substances to continue in use for a limited period of time, including hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs, e.g. R22 refrigerant gas), which are used in the maintenance or servicing of refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment.*
In Canada, more than 95% of commercial and residential air conditioning units and more than 50% of commercial refrigeration equipment operate on HCFC refrigerants (primarily R-22).
Canada and other developed nations are now moving forward with regulatory plans to eliminate the use of HCFCs and dispose of the surplus inventories that remain in use.
By 2020, the annual allowable amount of HCFCs will be reduced by 99.5% except HCFC-123 which can be imported or manufactured until 2030 to service large air conditioning units (chillers) under the remaining .5% allowance. No new HCFC equipment is to be manufactured or imported into Canada.*
There are a variety of options available to replace both HCFC refrigerants and equipment or systems. Building and equipment owners need to understand the impact of the HCFC phase out and consider two options:
1) To retrofit their existing HCFC equipment and use an acceptable alternative refrigerant instead of R- 22. Retrofitting is typically the less costly option.
2) The second option is to replace existing HCFC equipment. While this option is more costly upfront, building owners will get the most energy efficient air conditioning system with the lowest lifetime costs.
Some of the replacement options for HCFCs include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), although this may only be a short term solution. An ammonia system, is another option for large commercial air conditioning systems. Both options require the replacement of equipment. Talks over replacement options are ongoing and reductions may start in 2018.
For more information on HCFC alternatives and the HCFC phase out schedule, click here.
Any operator of equipment running on R22 should consider the impact of this ban and ask for advice from a qualified service contractor to ensure that any business-critical equipment is retrofitted with an alternative or replaced before 2020.
The first step is for commercial and industrial owners to invest time in reviewing their current equipment, taking into account the lifespan, and whether or not the equipment can continue to be maintained after 2020.
Next, they should discuss with a service contractor or equipment specifier both short and long term plans for their equipment needs.