This year, 2013, may be the last year of good availability of R-22. It almost certainly will be the last year of “inexpensive” R-22. In fact, we have probably already passed the “inexpensive” threshold. I would like to review the available quantities of R-22 to show a little perspective. The base year that is used in determining the percentages of allowable R-22 production in 1999 when 300 million pounds of R-22 was manufactured or imported in the US. That was cut to 100 million pounds by 2011. However, the reduction also coincided with the elimination of R-22 in the manufacture of new equipment beginning in 2010. Truthfully, we did not feel much of a squeeze because the primary purchasers of the refrigerant were no longer buying it. We even had a bit of a glut for a while, actually driving prices down. Then came the panic of January 2012 when all R-22 production ceased and prices jumped significantly almost overnight. This happened because the EPA had not finalized the rule allowing producers to manufacture and/or import HCFCs in the years 2012 – 2014. Basically, manufacturers did not want to risk receiving a big fine for exceeding the limits in a rule that had yet to be published, so they stopped making R-22. To get the R-22 flowing again, the EPA sent producers a letter stating that the EPA would not bring action against them so long as they did not make more than 55% as much in 2012 as they were allowed to make in 2011. So the amount of R-22 was cut to 55 million pounds for 2012. In fact, that rule has still not been finalized. Instead, the EPA has sent another letter to producers effectively limiting the 2013 allocation to 39 million pounds. Some wholesalers are now concerned about the availability of R-22. It is conceivable that some vendors may run out without being able to replenish their supply. The law of supply and demand is kicking in, driving the prices higher. In fact, now R-22 is now generally higher than the many R-22 replacement refrigerants. I still recommend using R-22 in systems designed for R22. However, you might want to start learning about the different replacement refrigerants available in your area as it looks like R-22 will soon be difficult to find, expensive, or both. One caveat: STAY AWAY FROM FLAMMABLE DROP-IN REFRIGERANTS SOLD OVER THE INTERNET! Putting a flammable gas in a system not intended for flammable gasses is extremely dangerous!
To read more about the availability of R-22 in 2013 read the ACHR News article.