Phase out of common refrigerant gas used in air-conditioning systems

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources would like to inform the public that the phase out of a specific refrigerant gas that is used to cool some of Bermuda’s industrial spaces, commercial spaces and homes is likely to affect supplies of this gas on the island. The phasing out of certain gasses is in line with the Montreal Protocol of 1987, designed to reduce ozone depletion.

Those with heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems which use R-22 (HCFC-22) may be best served by changing to a non-ozone-depleting gas in the near future.

Industry stakeholders and those with permits to handle refrigerant gases have been aware for some time that hydrochlorofluocarbons (HCFCs) would be phased out internationally, including a refrigerant gas commonly used in older HVAC systems in Bermuda, called R-22.  

The international phase out of HCFCs also affects the manufacturing of these gases. Recent changes associated with phasing out the manufacturing of HCFCs has meant a tightening of requirements necessary before the gases can be exported.

In addition, an amendment to the original protocol has not been extended from the UK to Bermuda and other Overseas Territories (OTs). The OTs are required to ratify the amendments before this extension from the UK can be provided. As a result, the original manufacturers of HCFCs cannot send gases to Bermuda until this extension process has been completed.

HCFCs can still be procured from other suppliers (for example, from the US) once the necessary import permit has been approved by the Environmental Authority. However, purchasing from suppliers rather than the original manufacturer is expected to incur a greater cost for replacement HCFC gases.

The Department is currently working to complete this ratification of the amendment to the original protocol so it can be extended from the UK. In the interim, the Department advises that consumers installing new HVAC systems ask for non-ozone-depleting refrigerant gases and encourage existing customers who have R-22 based systems to consider changing them to non-ozone-depleting refrigerant gases.

It is also important to note that there are some compliant refrigerant gases that can be substituted in existing R-22 systems without the need to replace blowers, condensers and associated pipework. An HVAC supplier’s service personnel should be able to advise on any compatibility issues.

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