According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) most recent numbers, the total amount of R-22 reclaimed in 2017 dipped slightly when compared to 2016. With the production of R-22 ending at the end of this year, this is not great news for the HVACR industry. There is good news, however! Refrigerant reclaimers are adamant that there is ample supply of R-22 still widely available, affordable, and legal to meet the industry’s needs and will continue to be so long after production of R-22 ends on Dec. 31.
According to industry experts, the level of stockpiled R-22, as well as the reclaimed R-22 supply pipeline, is more than enough to meet market demand for the near future. The reclaim industry is robust and the market is educated about both the importance of refrigerant reclaim and the legal requirements for reclamation.
Even though the phase-out deadline for R-22 is looming, it is interesting to note that prices of R-22 have actually decreased over the last 12 months. This indicates that R-22 is readily available and that the amount of virgin and reclaimed material is sufficient to meet the installed base of equipment for at least the next few years.
Reclaimers would like contractors and technicians to be more careful when recovering refrigerant, as the amount of mixed refrigerants they are receiving has increased. While most mixed refrigerants can be reclaimed, it can be costly and time consuming which will eventually lead to higher prices being charged.
The percentage of mixed refrigerants has inevitably increased as the number of different replacement refrigerants and alternatives have increased. In order to minimize refrigerant mixing, HVACR companies need to educate their teams starting with labeling systems when replacements are installed to ensure they have recovery tanks for each kind of refrigerant.
Another challenge is the low-cost HFCs flooding the market that may not be of the highest quality. Those in the industry need to think carefully before purchasing any refrigerant. Always buy from reputable suppliers who have a long-term track record of supplying all types of refrigerants.
The myth that R-22 won’t be available and won’t be affordable is the biggest challenge to a continuing and growing reclaim market in the coming years. While recovering refrigerant from a system can be a hassle, the bottom line is that recovering and recycling refrigerant is absolutely vital if the industry wants to ensure it has enough refrigerant available to service the R-22 systems that will be in place for years to come. Otherwise, the myth could be a self-fulfilling prophecy.