Many older air conditioning systems in the United Kingdom operate on refrigerant R22.
R22 is a hydrofluorocarbon (HCFC) which has been categorised as ozone depleting and has been the subject of a long term phase-out.
Since 1st January 2015 it is illegal to use R22 to service industrial refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, this regulation also applies to recycled and reclaimed R22.
If your air conditioning system operates on R22 then you have three options, convert, replace or leave as is. If you choose the third option then it should be borne in mind that it is illegal to break into the refrigeration circuit and repairs will not be able to be undertaken. This is more important if the air conditioning is serving a critical area of your building.
It is possible to convert an R22 system using a ‘drop-in replacement’ refrigerant. Any conversions should only be carried out by a suitable qualified engineer. Whilst this may seem a cost-effective solution, the conversion will cause a reduction in cooling capacity and efficiency.
Finally, there is the replacement option. Leading manufacturers, recognising the problems that this phase-out of R22 would cause, have designed systems that are able to re-use existing refrigerant grade copper piping thus reducing potential installation costs. This option also means that you get to choose when your old system is replaced rather than waiting for the inevitable.
For more information on the R22 phase-out programme visit http://archive.defra.gov.uk