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 certainly incredibly important. Most air conditioning units older than 10 years utilize an AC refrigerant called R22 that’s commonly recognized as Freon*, and is noted by the EPA as HCFC-22. In this article, 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
Fast forward a few decades and 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, started 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 considered one of the worst offenders.
Timeline and R22 phase out progress in 2018
In 2003, the phase out of R22 production and imports commenced. By the beginning of 2010 the production and import of R22 was reduced. However, servicing current, existing equipment is still permitted as long as there is an available supply of R22. To guarantee the public’s compliance with the new law, all sales of R22 must be bought by a certified technician R22 refrigerant will be obtainable to service existing air conditioners after 2020.
So how does this affect prices?
If this sounds like a case study on supply and demand, then you are on the right track. As you likely understand, older air conditioners more often have 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 increased due to scarcity.
Don’t forget that in order to buy R22, you have to be an EPA-certified technician. So, the average homeowner is unable to purchase a cylinder themselves. In addition, there are some firm regulations now on how refrigerant is reclaimed and recycled, which adds to the cost. This cost is passed on to the homeowner as companies must cover the increased overhead connected to R22 repairs. There are requirements for importing, labeling, record keeping, reporting, destruction and reclaiming of R22 from existing air conditioners.
So, what does this mean for you?
The cost of R22 is radically increasing because of the declining supply, and new refrigerant will no longer be available for use at all after 2020, except from recycled quantities.
If you’re thinking, “Holy cow, this is starting to sound expensive,” you’re spot-on, it is. This is why when our technicians come out to review your unit we check to see what refrigerant your unit uses, and in the majority of the cases, we’ll advocate for an upgrade because of the increasing cost of maintaining an R22 air conditioner.
How do I know if my unit uses R22?
If you have 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 check the type of refrigerant your system runs on by looking at the appliance’s nameplate. This nameplate is normally found on the outdoor condenser of your central air conditioning system. If you can’t locate it, you can check your user’s manual. If that doesn’t work either, 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 made the switch from R22 to R410a, which you may recognize by the brand name Puron. In the remainder this article, we’ll use the name R410a (although Puron is a familiar brand, there are other companies that make R410a). There are some valuable 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 information about “drop-in” replacements for R22. We strongly against against this option. Normally a homeowner who is concerned about the cost of replacing their unit seeks out an alternative, and this feels 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 simply swap out the refrigerant. The phrase “drop-in” is indicating retrofitting a system, which when done properly can cost the homeowner as much, or more, money than installing a new unit that uses R410a. In part, this is because different refrigerants operate at different pressure levels and need different parts to run, which results in the technician needing to replace the most expensive components of your system to work with the new refrigerant. If this vital step is skipped, your system will quickly stop working, and you’ll need to get a new unit anyway. If you are insistent on exploring retrofitting, 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 normally 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 choices with your HVAC provider if you’re concerned about cost. At Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning, we offer financing that makes a replacement achieveable, and we watch for any manufacturer and utility rebates that would make it easier to swallow an unforeseen replacement. To avoid emergencies on a hot day, a lot of of our customers elect to do a pre-emptive replacement, and replace an old AC before it breaks down. If you’re considering that route as well, 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 challenge may not apply to you, because it’s likely that your system uses the new, approved replacement refrigerant, R410a. However, air conditioners installed after 2010 might use R22, so it’s wise 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 summarize, if your HVAC equipment was produced prior to January 2010, particularly if it’s older than a decade, you have these options:
- Purchase an upgraded, more environmentally-friendly system that uses R410a.
- Contact an expert to replace the parts in your current AC system to help make it compatible with an approved air conditioner refrigerant. This is not advised.
- Remain 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. The law doesn’t require you to replace your air conditioner. At some point, your AC will quit running 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 lots of 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 can be more efficient and present you superior comfort, helping to decrease your energy costs.
You could also select the status quo and continue using recycled R22 air conditioning refrigerant for the near future. While this sounds like a nice alternative, the price of servicing old R22 A/C systems is starting to go over several hundred dollars (easily a down payment on a new system). You may also see the prices increase as demand continues to rise on a substance that is no longer produced or widely available.
If you aren’t sure what type of AC refrigerant your air conditioning system uses, our team is here. Contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing today and we can provide an inspection to confirm if you are currently using R22 and, if so, what you can do.
The good news
While making the move to an approved AC refrigerant may intimidating, it’s helping to save the ozone layer. These regulations will help defend 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 far-fetched to say that you, as a homeowner, are a grand part of this by replacing an old R22 unit with a newer, ozone friendly unit.
If you have any questions, please use us for a free, in-home consultation by filling out the form below.
*Freon is a registered trademark of the DuPont Corporation
How to Choose a Suitable HVAC System
When it comes to keeping your home comfortable all year, nothing is more essential than choosing the right heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. This choice influences your daily comfort, monthly utility bills and all-around home efficiency. However, with so many system types,... Continue reading
Year-End HVAC Maintenance Checklist
Now that the air starts to get cold, you know it’s time to winterize your residence for the cooler months ahead. Your heating system is crucial to maintaining a cozy, warm setting. A well-maintained furnace provides the comfort you want while using less energy. Routine inspections also make your... Continue reading
2024 Furnace and Air Conditioning Trends
In the ever-changing world of home heating and cooling, keeping up with the latest HVAC trends is crucial for homeowners who want to enhance their home’s comfort and efficiency. Looking into 2024, the HVAC industry continues to innovate, bringing cutting-edge technologies and trends that promise... Continue reading