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 read up. R22 refrigerant is a chemical that keeps the air coming from your air conditioning system cool, so it’s certainly incredibly vital. Most air conditioning units older than 10 years use an AC refrigerant called R22 that’s commonly recognized as Freon*, and is referred to 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 main AC refrigerant in the residential heating and cooling industry.
The Montreal Protocol
Moving ahead a few decades the world realized that R22 refrigerant was aiding in the depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer. Not a great thing. 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 launched. By the start of 2010 the production and import of R22 became prohibited. However, servicing current, existing equipment is still acceptable if there is an available supply of R22. To ensure the public’s compliance with the new law, all sales of R22 must be bought by a certified technician R22 refrigerant will be accessible 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 correct. As you can imagine, older air conditioners may have more 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 very limited supply. Prices have only risen due to scarcity.
Don’t forget that in order to purchase R22, you must be an EPA-certified technician. So, the normal homeowner is unable to purchase a cylinder themselves. Plus, there are some strict regulations now on how refrigerant must be 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 connected to R22 repairs. There are requirements for importing, labeling, record keeping, reporting, destruction and reclaiming of R22 from existing units.
So, how will this affect you?
The cost of R22 is considerably increasing because of the dwindling supply, and new refrigerant will no longer be available for use at all after 2020, except from recycled quantities.
If you’re thinking, “Man, this is starting to sound expensive,” you’re spot-on, it is. This is why when our experts come out to assess your unit we check to see what refrigerant your unit uses, and in many 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 typically have R22. However, if you installed your air conditioner after January 1, 2010, then your system 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 usually found on the outdoor condenser of your central air conditioning system. If you can’t locate it, you can read 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 recognize by the brand name Puron. For the rest of 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 information about “drop-in” replacements for R22. We strongly advocate against this choice. Typically a homeowner who is concerned about the cost of replacing their air conditioner seeks out an alternative, and this feels like an easy solution. It typically costs the homeowner more money, and nearly always voids the manufacturer warranty. The truth 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 system, which when done right can cost the homeowner as much, or more, money than installing a new unit that uses R410a. In part, this is because different refrigerants work 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 skipped, your system will quickly stop working, and you’ll need to get a new unit anyway. If you insist on exploring retrofitting, then consult with an HVAC company to determine your best replacement refrigerant.
Your manufacturer will possibly not pay for the parts to make this swap because retrofitting your AC system will likely void the warranty. It’s usually just a temporary fix, but shopping for a new upgraded AC system will probably benefit most homeowners in dependability, satisfaction, and long-term comfort.
It’s wise to discuss pricing offers with your HVAC provider if you’re worried about cost. At Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning, we offer financing that makes a replacement doable, and we monitor for any manufacturer and utility rebates that would make it easier to handle an unforeseen replacement. To reduce the chances of an emergency on a hot day, many of our customers decide 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 challenge may not apply to you, because it’s likely that your system uses the new, approved replacement refrigerant, R410a. However, systems installed after 2010 could still use R22, so it’s wise to check with an HVAC Expert. You can always find this and the refrigerant type by reading 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, specifically if it’s older than a decade, you have these options:
- Buy an upgraded, more environmentally-friendly system that uses R410a.
- Call an expert to replace the parts in your current air conditioner to help make it compatible with an approved air conditioner refrigerant. This is not what we recommend.
- 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 system. You aren’t required by law to replace your air conditioner. Ultimately, your AC will quit running and it will need to be replaced, and only R410a units will be available for sale.
The most straightforward option is to get a new, upgraded air conditioner, specifically if your current air conditioner is already more than 10 years old. Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning has lots of financing options that help to meet your budget, 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 give you superior comfort, helping to lower your energy costs.
You could also pick the status quo and continue using recycled R22 air conditioning refrigerant for the foreseeable future. While this sounds like a good alternative, the price of servicing old R22 A/C systems is starting to exceed 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 accessable.
If you aren’t confident 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, which option works best for you.
The good news
While making the switch to an approved AC refrigerant may stressful, it’s helping to save the ozone layer. These regulations will help protect 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 exaggerated 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 critical than choosing the right heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. This choice influences your daily comfort, monthly utility costs and general home efficiency. But, with so many system types, sizes and... 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 delivers the comfort you desire while using less energy. Scheduled inspections also make... Continue reading
HVAC Trends: What’s New in 2024
In the continuously changing world of home HVAC, keeping up with the latest HVAC trends is imperative for homeowners seeking to enhance their home’s comfort and efficiency. Looking into 2024, the HVAC industry continues to innovate, bringing new technologies and trends that promise to transform... Continue reading