4531409_sEUROPE: The industry has again been warned that hundreds of thousands of air conditioning and refrigeration systems in Europe will become unserviceable at the end of this year.

“The fact is that despite a fast approaching Europe-wide ban, reports suggest that a significant amount of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment remains operating with the refrigerant HCFC R22; this is a reminder that such equipment is almost at the of its serviceable life – by law,” says Mike Nankivell, marketing director of Daikin’s UK distributor Space Airconditioning.

Popular since the 1940s and employed in literally millions of applications throughout the world, R22 is now the subject of a phase-out around the world due to its ozone-depletion potential. In Europe, where advanced action has been taken, R22 has been banned in new equipment since 2004 and now faces a complete service ban at the end of this year. It has been estimated that as many as 500,000 systems could be affected.

“In most cases, R22 units in Europe have already reached the end of their normal life expectancy and are considered obsolete,” says Mike Nankivell. “Spare parts are becoming scarce and maintenance more costly, but critically, the use of HCFC R22 for any servicing and maintenance purposes is banned from January 1, 2015 – just a few weeks away. In essence this means that if such equipment needs servicing or suffers a breakdown, users will face problems.”

R22 – the legal position

Recycled R22 can legally be sold and used until December 2014, after which the use of R22 throughout Europe is banned.

As many service and maintenance procedures necessitate the removal and/or replacement of the refrigerant, from the end of this year, Mike Nankivell points out that it may prove impossible to carry out cost effective repairs because once removed from the equipment R22 refrigerant cannot legally be put back in.

“As a result, owner/operators really must consider replacing any air conditioning, heat pump and refrigeration equipment that contains HCFC R22,” he says.

It should be noted that existing, working equipment that contains R22 can still be legally operated beyond the end of this year; the ban affects the purchase and/or use of any HCFC R22 for service and maintenance purposes from January 1 2015.

“We are not scare-mongering,” Mike Nankivell asserts. “We have been offering advice on this subject for many years. We understand that in the recent recession, end-users might have been putting off the expense of replacing older R22-based refrigeration or air conditioning equipment. The fact is that if the efficient operation of such equipment is an important factor in your business then delaying its replacement is no longer a viable option.”

Mr Nankivell warned: “For anyone considering just replacing the R22 refrigerant with substances offered as potential alternatives, it should be noted that these can adversely impact performance and reliability and so are not recommended by equipment manufacturers.”