Rumer-Loudin, Inc.

Another Refrigerant Phase Down?!

The purpose of this article is to try to explain the next refrigerant phase down. I am not espousing a certain political or scientific view, simply trying to inform property owners about what they might be facing in the very near future regarding residential air conditioners and heat pumps. Please don’t kill the messenger! We contractors groan at having to deal with these changes too because we have new safety regulations, equipment operation, and refrigerant properties about which to learn and adapt.

Basically, a refrigerant is a medium to convey heat from one place to another. Various types of refrigerants are evaluated for their global warming potential (GWP), toxicity, and flammability. The Montreal Protocol and AIM Act calls for the phase down of refrigerants with higher GWP. R-22 was the go-to refrigerant for decades used in residential HVAC equipment through 2009. It has been phased down during the time frame of January 2010 through 2020 when manufacturing and import was no longer permitted. Any R-22 on the market has either been stockpiled or possibly recycled. Of course scarcity increases price. I can remember when my father, Larry Rumer, the founder of the company, was angered when a 30lb jug of R22 went to $30 per can. I have recently seen a jug priced at $3000 and R22 is typically sold to the consumer at about $180 to $300 per pound. Please realize these prices include the cost of machinery and tools to recover, weigh, measure, and check the pressures in the system. The replacement for R-22 in newly manufactured equipment from 2010 to current was 410A.

Now, the industry, as required, is phasing down 410A by 85%, in increments, through the year 2036. The replacement lower GWP refrigerants being used by HVAC manufacturers are R-32 and R454B. The latter has increased thermal conductivity which meets future efficiency goals which keeps operating costs lower. These gasses are classified as A2L refrigerants. “A’ referring to toxicity of A (lower) or B (higher) and “2” referring to flammability (1,2, or 3 with increasing value indicating increased flammability.) The “L’ indicates lower (than level 3) burning velocity.

I was bit alarmed when I heard the word “flammable” associated with refrigerant. My research found that, handled properly, like many other flammable substances (propane, gasoline fumes, a candle wick, lamp oil) the conditions needed to create an event for A2Ls to ignite are extremely rare. Mildly flammable does not mean explosive. Even if ignited, the flame will likely burn slowly and self-extinguish. As well, HVAC manufacturers are incorporating sensors and mitigation panels as an added precaution

Three conditions are needed for an A2L to ignite:

  • Leak: A significant leak occurs that reaches the lower flammability limit (LFL) concentration, which is above 10% for A2Ls. In an enclosed space, this could require a leak of around 300g/m3.
  • Concentration: The refrigerant is highly concentrated.
  • Ignition source: The refrigerant is exposed to an open flame or high-energy ignition source. However, laboratory tests have shown that even a blow torch flame may not be able to ignite A2L refrigerants. 

You may be surprised to learn that self-contained refrigeration appliances like a window unit have used A2Ls since 2015, that 9 out of 10 cars on the road today use A2Ls, and that 70 million units worldwide (especially in Europe and India) use A2L refrigerants.

As a property owner, what does this mean for you? If you have an R-22 unit that is working fine, you can continue to use it. If you have one that is leaking, the cost to repair it may out-weigh the benefits of keeping it, but, if you can find a contractor that has R22 stock and can recharge the system, you can do so. Just remember that leaks are very hard to find and that a recharge may last you hours, days, or months. That is the gamble. You may want to be planning for replacement soon. If you have an R410A unit, it can still be repaired, and current manufacturer inventory can be sold. R410A has not yet been banned for manufacture nor import (most 410A refrigerant comes from China); however, it is being phased down. Regarding the new A2L refrigerants, some models are currently available and will be heavily phased in over the next year. Because of the new technology used, the equipment prices will be higher than the 410A units. Things to consider are how long you want to stay in your home, will you be selling soon, do you want to increase your homes’ value, or do you just want to survive the heat and get by?

It is so important to choose a professional company who will properly handle the refrigerant, explain your options, handle any warranties, and be able to make proper repairs. The refrigerants and components cannot inter-mix. Unfortunately, we have come across situations where a previous company put R410A in an R22 unit with disastrous results.

I have tried to simplify this topic. There are many scientific and technical explanations plus government acronyms that can be found online. As well, changes are frequent in this industry so this information is current…for now.

Rumer-Loudin, Inc. has been in business since 1975 with offices in St. Clairsville, Barnesville, and Moundsville. If you have questions about this article or any other HVAC topic, feel free to email them to

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