EPA Warns About Dangerous R-22 Substitutes for Air Conditioning

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a warning to homeowners, propane manufacturers, home improvement contractors and air conditioning technicians regarding the unapproved use of propane as a substitute for R-22 refrigerant, used in older model air conditioning units. The United States is phasing out the use of R-22 refrigerant as part of an international treaty agreement to reduce the effects of climate change.

The EPA is investigating claims of injuries and explosions resulting from the unauthorized substitution of propane to recharge air conditioning units. As a substitute refrigerant, propane is marketed as R-290, 22a, 22-A, R-22a, HC-22a, and CARE 40. Residential and commercial R-22 air conditioning units are not fitted to handle propane as a refrigerant, and the use of propane in these units poses a serious safety risk, especially to homeowners and air conditioning technicians.

Propane is authorized for use as a substitute refrigerant in certain commercial freezers and refrigerators, but the EPA has never authorized its use in air conditioners of any kind. Homeowners are cautioned to avoid using propane with any appliance that is not specifically labeled as propane-ready.

The temptation to use a “substitute” refrigerant for R-22 is high, since R-22 is being phased out, its cost is rising and the supply of R-22 is dwindling. As tempting as it may be, there’s no good reason to compromise the safety of your family to save a few dollars. If you have an older air conditioning unit that requires a recharge, new R-22 is still available and will be produced through 2020 for servicing purposes. After 2020, new R-22 will not be produced, and only reclaimed, recycled R-22 will be available for servicing.

The older your air conditioning unit is, the less efficient it is. Over time, inefficient units become even less efficient. Newly produced units are much more efficient to operate, use more ecologically friendly refrigerants and may even be eligible for tax credits and interest-free financing options.

At Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, we use only the refrigerants that are recommended for your air conditioning units during servicing. If you would like more information about air conditioning, air conditioning maintenance or would like us to safely recharge your R-22 air conditioning unit, please call us at (617) 288-2911 to set up an appointment.