R22 Phase out. Replace or Modify?

BSRIA’s Director of Engineering, Mike Smith, is concerned that many Building Owner/Operators may be unaware of the changes in Refrigerant legislation that could have a major impact on their business. 

Many Building Owner/Operators may be unaware of the changes in Refrigerant legislation that could have a major impact on their business. On the 1st of January 2015, the latest element of legislation in the phasing out of R22 for Air Conditioning and refrigeration systems came into effect. The legislation dictates that whilst you can run an R22 refrigerant based AC unit, when it breaks down you may no longer repair it, if any repairs undertaken on the unit involve the handling of the refrigerant, this includes not being permitted to reuse the refrigerant in the system.

The Government website simply states, “You can still use your old equipment, but your technician can’t do any work that involves breaking into the refrigerant circuits”.

The outcome of this legislation is that if an Air Conditioning system is currently operating using R22, it is on borrowed time. To ensure that any disruption to the working environment has minimal impact, it is important that a strategy is developed to deal with a failure scenario.

BSRIA believes that the impact of this change is potentially so great on a business that a strategy that fits the individual application needs to be developed.  But what are the options?

1)      Replace Plant:- This leads to a number of advantages, including having the most energy efficient option. Allowance can be made for any changes in building use or expected changes in building use, ensuring that the plant delivers the required cooling load.  New plant will have a longer life than modified equipment. 

There are of course disadvantages, the largest of which is the cost involved in replacing systems. The other associated considerations are the installation disruption and longer implementation time for the replacement project.

2)      Modify Plant to use a New Refrigerant:- The advantages of this option would be a quick implementation in comparison to replacement, in addition the capital cost would also be lower. 

 The disadvantages of choosing this option would be the plant life would not be extended, therefore the major capital expense of replacement will at some point still need to be incurred, the cooling capacity of the system could reduce and the energy efficiency of the system may get worse.

For those who have yet to decide on their strategy, the time to develop an action plan is now. BSRIA recommends that you follow the following simple 3 step guide:

1)      Identify all the equipment using R22, ensure this covers all equipment including Air Conditioning and where appropriate Refrigeration equipment.

2)      Develop a database of information about each piece of plant, examples of the information to be included on the database are:

  • Quantity of refrigerant in the system
  • System age, and expected life span
  • Current cooling load and any anticipated future cooling load
  • Plant design details (including component details)
  • Plant efficiency performance
  • What business function each AC  plant serves

3)      Evaluate the priorities for your business continuity and decide on the most appropriate option for your application - Replace or Modify? To make the best decision it is important to be in possession of the relevant information, which is why it is important to ensure that steps 1 and 2 are carried out.

Mike Smith is BSRIA's Director of Engineering

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