R22, commonly known as Freon, was the HVAC coolant of choice for about four decades until the 1980s, when it was found to be a chlorofluorocarbon that contributed to ozone depletion. In 1987, the Montreal Protocol, signed by the United States, set a timeline for the elimination of R22 systems and conversion to more environmentally sensitive systems fueled by R410A. Though the American conversion has been slower than in other countries, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with ensuring the protocol's timelines are met. You can do your part by following the rules and converting to the right kind of air conditioning system.
Check the condition and capacity of your air conditioning units. If the quantity of R22 is more than 50 lbs. on any single unit, any leaks must be fixed within 30 days (some exemptions exist; see the EPA link in the References section). Call a service technician to ensure your unit is operating safely. If not, it may be time to switch to the preferred R410 system.
Make sure you don't require stricter controls. HVAC units that use more than 2,000 lbs. of R22 have to install an EPA-monitoring unit that instantly detects leaks. (See Reference 2)
Contact a service technician to estimate how much a new R410A system will cost, compared to any R22 system repairs and the increasingly expensive cost of R22. (See Reference 1) As of Jan. 1, 2010, R22 systems were no longer manufactured or sold in retail outlets; however, second-hand HVAC systems that use R22 are still available. According to the EPA, units manufactured before January 2010 can still be charged with R22, but the cost to do so is expected to rise dramatically as it's manufacture decreases.
Refill your refrigerant properly, which must be approved by the EPA (confirmation on the canister). Repair leaks when they appear and replace the system with a R410A system by 2020. From 2020, R22 will no longer be available to refill your system. Technicians and private owners removing a system are mandated to recycle any old R22 with a reclamation specialist. (See Resource 2)
Familiarize yourself with the protocol's objectives, to help the country achieve them and avoid EPA sanctions. By 2015, the United States has pledged to have removed 90 percent of freon from the American atmosphere. By 2020, all manufacturing will be banned and it anticipated that 99.5 percent of freon will be phased out. And by 2030, the possession of R22 will be prohibited and protocol experts expect that 100 percent of freon will be phased out.