Understanding the R-22 Refrigerant Phase Out

R-22 refrigerant was one of the most common fluids used in air conditioning units until 2020. As of January 1, 2020, it has been globally banned. 

The Environmental Protection Agency created a 10-year phaseout plan to eliminate it, creating a transition phase for homeowners.

Why eliminate a substance that’s so important to AC systems’ functioning? The EPA discovered it is harmful to the ozone layer, so it’s been outlawed, except in already manufactured and used systems. This ban is worldwide, and takes place over several years. 

Table of Contents

What is R-22 Refrigerant?

R-22 refrigerant is a hydrocarbon refrigerant that contains traces of propane, butane, and other elements. It is highly flammable and colorless. 

When determining if your system uses it, you may see it called Coolant Express 22a, ES-22a, Frost 22a, Priority Cool, and Maxi-Fridge. The refrigerant is no longer produced or used in the United States unless present in older HVAC units, so if you bought a newer unit, you don’t have to concern yourself. 

However, if your unit needs repair, your HVAC technician may have access to an older refrigerant supply. If not, you may have to consider alternatives or purchase a new unit.

Reasoning for the R-22 Phaseout

The main reason for the R-22 refrigerant phaseout is its damage to the Earth’s ozone layer. The emissions from R-22 created an ozone hole over the South Pole, contributing to the Earth’s climate change crisis. 

To reduce the damage and slow climate change, the EPA phased out the use of R-22 refrigerant over several years. The phaseout is part of the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to combat ozone depletion worldwide. 

The goal is to switch to more environmentally friendly refrigerants that cool houses without harming the environment.

Impact on Homeowners

Homeowners face the largest effects of the R22 refrigerant ban. If you still have an AC unit that uses R22, you have a few options:

Use Stockpiles or Reclaimed Refrigerant

The ban is in full effect, but some HVAC companies may have stockpiles or reclaimed refrigerants. Because of the low supply, the cost is usually high, so it’s worth looking into alternatives. However, this may be an option if you want to keep your old system.


An experienced HVAC professional may be able to retrofit your system to use a different refrigerant. Keep in mind that this isn’t an easy process and could be costly.

Since technicians cannot just replace R22 with something else, they must modify your system to allow it to accept a refrigerant with different pressures.

Replace Your Unit

The final option, and the one that may be most economical, is to replace your AC unit. While the upfront cost is likely more than a repair, it eliminates the use of R22 and the need for specialized and more expensive repairs.

Transitioning Your HVAC System

Since your two main options are to retrofit or replace your existing R22 refrigerant system, let’s examine the pros and cons of each.

Pros of Retrofitting Your AC Unit

  • Don’t have to pay the hefty cost of AC replacement
  • Can change the refrigerant and stop doing damage to the ozone layer
  • Don’t lose use of your existing system

Cons of Retrofitting Your AC Unit

  • You may lose efficiency with the retrofit, which may cost you more in utilities
  • If you have a manufacturer’s warranty, a retrofit modification can void it
  • Voids the safety certification

Pros of Replacing Your AC Unit

  • Better for the environment because you stop using R22
  • A new unit will likely be more energy-efficient
  • A new unit is likely cheaper to repair and/or maintain

Cons of Replacing Your AC Unit

  • The upfront cost is likely much more than repairs
  • You may be without AC temporarily while you find a new unit
  • You may need ductwork repairs or installation for the new unit

Before deciding which option is best for you, consult an HVAC professional familiar with the R-22 phaseout and its effects on your system and cooling needs. A professional can help you look at the big-picture costs to ensure you make the most economical decision now and throughout the unit’s lifetime.


The ban on R22 refrigerant may seem detrimental, but there are ways to work around it. Since the ban is in phases, homeowners will have plenty of time to get used to their current systems, and it warns them that they may need to replace them when the refrigerant runs out.

The key is to work with a certified technician who understands R22, the ban, and the most effective options for your home. A new system may not be required, but only a professional can help you make the right decision.


Is r22 refrigerant still available?

R22 refrigerant is only available from HVAC companies with an old stockpile or reclaimed refrigerant. It is no longer in production and is banned in the United States and many other countries.

Why was r22 refrigerant banned?

R22 damaged the Earth’s ozone layer. Because of its negative impact, the EPA banned it, but in phases, so as not to affect millions of homeowners at once who have AC units using the banned substance.

Is it illegal to recharge the r22 refrigerant?

It’s not illegal for HVAC companies to recharge R22 refrigerant with leftover supplies. What is illegal is the production of new R22. 

However, if a company has access to R22, it can use it to repair a system. Companies that take R22 out of a system are required to turn it in to have it recycled, but it may be reused.

What refrigerant can I substitute for r 22?

A certified technician can tell you what refrigerant you can use in your AC system. Keep in mind that most systems require a retrofit to ensure the proper and safe use of a replacement refrigerant.

Check Out Additional HVAC Resources