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Replacing R22 air conditioning systems

3 Aug 2011

R22 is a common refrigerant and continues to be used in up to 100,000 air conditioning systems across the UK. These are installed in shops, offices, restaurants, public buildings and leisure centres.

However, R22 is being phased-out under EU ozone protection legislation. The regulation EC: No 2037/2000 on (ODS) Ozone Depleting Substances came into effect on 1st October, 2000.

As a result of the legislation:

It is worth noting that there are reports that the European Commission may bring this final date forward by up to three years.

A recent survey of 350 companies, carried out by the Carbon Trust, showed that 70 per cent have at least one air conditioning or refrigeration system using R22. It concludes: “In most cases, these plants are of strategic importance, as they provide crucial cooling.”

Building owners and operators with air conditioning running on R22 need to act now to secure the continuity of their operations.

What to do

Companies who have air conditioning and refrigeration equipment that depends on R22 have three main options:

Replace with new

This is the most radical option, as it entails replacing what might be a perfectly good plant – possibly with several more years working life left – with a new system. However, bear in mind that the cost of recycled R22 is likely to rise dramatically and there is unlikely to be sufficient supplies to go round.

Replacment technology

Most major manufactures of air conditioning systems offer replacement technology, this means you can replace the indoor and outdoor units while keeping the interconnecting pipe work, This option dramatically reduces the cost compared to a complete new installation and also has less impact on the business


This entails removing the R22 from plant, and replacing it with an alternative refrigerant not subject to legislative controls. There are a number of alternative refrigerant blends on the market, designed to mirror the characteristics of R22. However, they can be very expensive and we would only recommend this for commercial chillers.

Managed approach

Existing plant is retained and kept running on recycled R22 – if sufficient supplies can be obtained. The law allows this until the beginning of 2015, although, as mentioned, this date may be brought forward by up to there years.

The right option for any given situation depends on a number of factors. These include:

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