What Will Happen to R22 and How it Affects You
If your air conditioner was installed before 2010 and you don’t know what R22 is then you should probably learn. R22 refrigerant is a chemical that keeps the air coming from your air conditioning system cool, so it’s unquestionably incredibly vital. Most air conditioning units older than 10 years have an AC refrigerant called R22 that’s commonly identified as Freon*, and is stated by the EPA as HCFC-22. In this guide, we’ll use the name R22. This refrigerant was introduced in the 1950s and became the leading AC refrigerant in the residential heating and cooling industry.
The Montreal Protocol
Several decades later the world realized that R22 refrigerant was aiding in the depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer. That’s not great. So, the U.S. EPA, in cooperation with other agencies and groups around the world, began a phase out of lots of ozone-depleting agents as part of an international agreement known as the Montreal Protocol. The regulation lists many HCFCs and CFCs (different types of refrigerants that deplete the ozone layer), but R22 is believed to be one of the worst offenders.
Timeline and R22 phase out progress in 2018
In 2003, the phase out of R22 production and imports began. By the start of 2010 the production and import of R22 became prohibited. However, servicing current, existing equipment is still permitted while there is an available supply of R22. To ensure the public’s compliance with the new law, all sales of R22 must be acquired by a certified technician R22 refrigerant will be obtainable to service existing air conditioners after 2020.
So how does this affect prices?
If you’re thinking that this sounds like a great case study for an economics professor teaching supply and demand, then you are right. As you likely understand, older air conditioners could more frequently experience leaks and need repairs. Any units that are older than 2010 are more likely to use R22, which means there’s a lot more demand for it, and a reduced supply. Prices have only gone up due to scarcity.
Don’t forget that in order to obtain R22, you’ll need to be an EPA-certified technician. So, the average homeowner can’t purchase a cylinder themselves. Also, there are some strict regulations now on how refrigerant is reclaimed and recycled, which adds to the cost. This cost is passed on to the homeowner as companies are forced to cover the increased overhead associated with R22 repairs. There are requirements for importing, labeling, record keeping, reporting, destruction and reclaiming of R22 from existing systems.
So, what does this mean for you?
The cost of R22 is radically increasing because of the diminishing supply, and new refrigerant will no longer be available for use at all after 2020, with the exception of recycled quantities.
If you’re thinking, “Man, this is starting to sound expensive,” you’re correct, it is. This is why when our professionals come out to assess your unit we look to see what refrigerant your unit uses, and lots of cases, we’ll advise an upgrade as a result of the increasing cost of sustaining an R22 air conditioner.
How do I know if my unit uses R22?
If you own an air conditioning system that was built before 2010, your AC will probably have R22. However, if you installed your air conditioner after January 1, 2010, then your unit may not have R22. You can see the type of refrigerant your system runs on by reading the appliance’s nameplate. This nameplate is typically found on the outdoor condenser of your central air conditioning system. If you can’t find it, you can grab your user’s manual. Otherwise, you can reach out to your local Service Experts center. If you have a maintenance agreement with us, we also have your information on hand and a tech can let you know right away if your unit uses R22.
Instead of Freon, use Puron
The industry has moved from R22 to R410a, which you may know by the brand name Puron. In the remainder this article, we’ll use the name R410a (although Puron is a well-known brand, there are other companies that make R410a). There are some serious benefits to switching from an R22 air conditioning unit to one that uses R410a. It offers a higher safety rating tests than R22.
You may have heard of “drop-in” replacements for R22. We strongly recommend against this option. Typically a homeowner who is anxious about the cost of replacing their unit seeks out an alternative, and this sounds like an easy solution. It often costs the homeowner more money, and almost always voids the manufacturer warranty. The reality about “drop-ins” is that there is no “drop-in” solution where you just swap out the refrigerant. The phrase “drop-in” is suggesting retrofitting a unit, which when done correctly can cost the homeowner as much, or more, money than purchasing a new unit that uses R410a. In part, this is because different refrigerants operate at different pressure levels and demand different parts to run, which forces the technician to replace the most expensive components of your system to fit with the new refrigerant. If this vital step is avoided, your system will quickly stop working, and you’ll be forced to install a new unit anyway. If you insist on exploring this option, then consult with an HVAC specialist to determine your best replacement refrigerant.
Your manufacturer will probably not pay for the parts to make this swap because retrofitting your AC system will likely void the warranty. It’s typically just a temporary fix, but buying a new upgraded AC system will probably benefit most homeowners in dependability, satisfaction, and long-term comfort.
It’s wise to discuss pricing options with your HVAC provider if you’re worried about cost. At Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning, we have financing available that makes a replacement affordable, and we watch for any manufacturer and utility rebates that would make it easier to swallow an unexpected replacement. To avoid emergencies on a hot day, many of our customers choose to do a pre-emptive replacement, and replace an old system before it breaks down. If you’re of a similar mind, then you’re in good company!
If your unit was built after 2010, you’re probably safe
If your heating and air conditioning system was built after January 2010, the R22 phase out problem may not apply to you, because it’s probably that your system uses the new, approved replacement refrigerant, R410a. However, air conditioners installed after 2010 might use R22, so it’s ideal to check with an HVAC Expert. You can always find this and the refrigerant type by checking the nameplate on your condenser (the condenser is the outside unit).
What do I do if my air conditioner uses R22?
To recap, if your HVAC equipment was produced prior to January 2010, especially if it’s older than a decade, you have some options:
- Shop for an upgraded, more environmentally-friendly system that uses R410a.
- Reach out to an expert to replace the parts in your current unit to help make it compatible with an approved air conditioner refrigerant. This is not what we recommend.
- Stick with using recycled R22 and burn money like it’s the ozone layer.
To be clear, the EPA regulates the production and use of this refrigerant, but not your unit. You are not required by the law to replace your air conditioner. Eventually, your AC will not work and it will need to be replaced, and only R410a units will be available to purchase.
The most straightforward option is to purchase a new, upgraded air conditioner, particularly if your current air conditioner is already more than 10 years old. Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning has several financing options that help make the purchase affordable, and again, we look out for rebates from HVAC manufacturers and local utilities to make it easier on you. New AC equipment is more efficient and present you superior comfort, helping to decrease your energy costs.
You could also choose the status quo and continue using recycled R22 air conditioning refrigerant for the time being. While this sounds like a nice alternative, the expense of servicing old R22 A/C systems is starting to surpass several hundred dollars (easily a down payment on a new system). You may also see the prices climb as demand continues to rise on a substance that is no longer produced or widely available.
If you aren’t aware of what type of AC refrigerant your air conditioning system uses, we can help. Reach out to Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing today and we can provide an inspection to determine if you are currently using R22 and, if so, what’s the best next step.
The good news
While making the transition to an approved AC refrigerant may stressful, it’s helping to save the ozone layer. These regulations will help guard the ozone layer in the Earth’s atmosphere, which helps block radiation from the sun and prevents serious illnesses, such as skin cancer. It’s not implausible to say that you, as a homeowner, are a big part of this by replacing an old R22 unit with a newer, ozone friendly unit.
If you have any questions, please reach us for a free, in-home consultation by filling out the form below.
*Freon is a registered trademark of the DuPont Corporation
Eight Ways to Upgrade Your HVAC System
During the cold winter months in the U.S., there’s no better way to enhance your home’s comfort than with some effective upgrades. It’s not simply about keeping the house toasty warm as the snow begins to fall—it’s about boosting efficiency and improving the very air you breathe. Learn... Continue reading
How to Pick Out a Good HVAC System
In terms of keeping your home comfortable during every season, nothing is more critical than picking out the right heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. This choice impacts your daily comfort, monthly utility expenditures and general home efficiency. Then again, with so many... Continue reading
Annual HVAC Maintenance List
As soon as the air starts to get cold, you know it’s time to prepare your home for the cooler months ahead. Your heating system is crucial to maintaining a cozy, warm setting. A well-maintained furnace supplies the comfort you desire while using a smaller amount of energy. Routine inspections... Continue reading