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Survey proves end-users still ignoring R22

R22 volumes sent to distributors for reclaiming virtually unchanged to a year ago

A survey from the British Refrigeration Association has confirmed the fears of many that end-users remain ill-prepared over the phase-out of virgin R22, with only six months to go.

The survey of refrigerant distributors found that sales of virgin R22 was almost the same as the previous year.

Distributors, who had predicted a 25 per cent drop, as end users switched to alternative gases, expressed alarm that change was not taking place fast enough.

Peter Dinnage, technical manager of distributor IDS said: “If end users and contractors do not take action now, there will simply not be enough time or potentially the manpower available to convert or replace existing systems. I don’t know when the cut-off point will be, but logic dictates it has to be only a matter of a few months away.”

At the same time, R22 sent to distributors for reclaiming was also similar to the volume in 2008, at 200 tonnes, With this level suggesting the available reclaimed gas will only be 10 per cent of expected demand, there were warnings again of real supply problems.

Mr Dinnage said: “The simple fact is that if a significant number of equipment users do not convert or replace R22 equipment and then make the product available for reclamation, demand for reclaimed product will outstrip supply by a massive margin. The reality is that there will be a very significant shortfall of quality reclaimed refrigerant in 2010. Relying solely on reclaimed refrigerant is plainly not an option.”

Mr Dinnage reiterated the warnings that distributors have offered consistently in recent months: “End-users who have not converted to direct replacement refrigerants, replaced existing equipment, or don’t have a robust plan in place, may find air conditioning and refrigeration equipment out of action for a considerable period of time in the event of a leak or even routine service, with potentially severe knock-on effects on their production, output or work environment.

“It is a very genuine and serious concern.”

But he also warned that there were further problems in store, if the industry is not careful: “Most know that it will be illegal to use virgin product for topping up systems after 31 December 2009, but there are still some people who are unaware that it is illegal to stockpile virgin product this year for use in 2010.  

“And of course all refrigerant suppliers will be de-stocking the supply chain of R22 over the next few months too.”

He added that the facts needed spelling out to end users and contractors alike: “In 2010 the only R22 that can legally be used will be recycled or reclaimed product and those using such product will need to have documentary proof of its source.“