R22 is in a phase out. No new equipment for R22 after January 1 2010, and no more R22 production after January 1, 2020. Recovered/recycled R22 will still be available the 2020 cutoff, but that is when the prices will start to rise. Equipment installed today will most likely have been replaced by 2020, except for the luckier homeowners who still have running systems. R22 systems can be converted to R407a with a complete oil flush and exchange (somewhat difficult but not impossible to do, also the compressor could be replaced and the remaining system flushed to the manufacturer's requirements).
The EPA will allow the production of R-22 systems to the year 2010.
The EPA will allow continued use of R-22 to the year 2030, well past the typical life expectancy of any system installed today.
R-22 has been scientifically shown to have relatively low Global Warming Potential and Ozone Depletion Potential.
The Clean Air Act does not allow any refrigerant to be vented into the atmosphere during installation, service, or retirement of equipment. Therefore, R-22 must be recovered and recycled (for reuse in the same system), reclaimed (reprocessed to the same purity levels as new R-22), or destroyed. After 2020, the servicing of R-22-based systems will rely on recycled refrigerants. It is expected that reclamation and recycling will ensure that existing supplies of R-22 will last longer and be available to service a greater number of systems. As noted above, chemical manufacturers will be able to produce R-22 for use in new A/C equipment until 2010, and they can continue production of R-22 until 2020 for use in servicing that equipment. Given this schedule, the transition away from R-22 to the use of ozone-friendly refrigerants should be smooth. For the next 20 years or more, R-22 should continue to be available for all systems that require R-22 for servicing.
The only thing you missed in your pretty good description is that the availability of R-22 will probably be cost prohibative sooner than later. Obviously we dont have a crystal ball so we have to use some speculation.
I too think 410A.com is a good place to start. Remember, Genetron (honeywell) who owns that site also produces R22 so they aren't taking a bias step to make it out to be the devil. They'll produce what the market and law dictates.
In the past year, HCFC's which include R-22, other refrigerants and other propelants have production and importation limits in the US. Last year HSCF's were mandated to be reduced by 35% of 1999 levels (65%). In 2007, they will be reduced again to 35% of 1999 levels.
The equipment containing these will no longer be made after 2009 ends. Again, there takes some speculation but the largest purchasers of refrigerant are the manufacturers. Once they stop buying it, the market can do one of two things. Either the price will stabalize because the demand will fall off leaving the supply available for contractors or the decision to slow production even further will make the supply short. No law dictates that chemical mfg's must continue to produce the HCFC's.
After that, in 2015 (9.5 years from now) the law clearly states that HCFC production has to be reduced again to 10% of 1999 levels. To say that clearly, in 2015, there will only be a reduction to only 10% of the supply. One can only guess what effect that will have on the supply and demand.
Most likly IMHO, the holdout contractors and thier customers will be the ones seeing extrememly high prices for refrigerant and repair. At the end of this year, we have an unrelated requirement for 13 SEER. That said, a total system change is required when replacement is needed.
Wouldnt it seem almost fruitless to install a complete system that has the potential of costing big bucks to repair in only a few short years? I tend to believe that the wiser choice would be R-410A. Regardless of my beliefs, or any contractor for that matter, the information should be shared with the consumers so they can make their own educated decision. Given the facts, I suspect more would lean toward the 410A.