R-22 refrigerant also known as Air Conditioner Freon is slowly being phased out in the United States. The EPA determined that R-22 refrigerant contains ozone-depleting chemicals and began phase out in 2010. By 2020 R-22 will no longer be produced nor will it be imported into the United States. The good news is most air conditioning unit manufacturers began producing units that use R-410A, a newer refrigerant made without the ozone-depleting chemicals in 2010. So if you have purchased a new unit in the last 7 years your unit most likely runs on R-410A. The bad news is before 2010 R-22 was the most commonly used refrigerant. This means almost all residential systems purchased before 2010 are made for R-22. The new R-410A refrigerant is not interchangeable with R-22. What does all this mean exactly?
Because of the ban, R-22 prices have skyrocketed. It is harder to come by and therefore the demand outweighs the supply. So if you own a system that uses R-22 repair prices will continue to increase over the next 2 years. According to the EPA’s phase-out timeline in 2020 R-22 refrigerant will no longer be manufactured, imported or allowed to be used even for servicing needs. So if your unit uses R-22 and it breaks down or needs a repair requiring refrigerant exchange, the only option will be to purchase a new unit that uses R-410A refrigerant or to convert your current system to mo-99 or 407C or another compatible refrigerant. In order to convert your system, you have to evacuate the system of all refrigerants and replace the dryer. Then recharge with the new refrigerant in addition to whatever repair was needed. However, by 2020 most units using R-22 will be at least 10 years. The average life cycle of an HVAC unit is 15-20 years. With the advancements in technology the newer systems are also more energy-efficient and have more convenient features saving you time and effort in the long run.
Although you don’t have to make a decision today, it’s good to know what’s coming. If you aren’t sure which type of refrigerant your system uses you can check the nameplate located on your outdoor condensing unit. Or next time we are out for a tune-up, repair, or maintenance we will let you know. We can also always give you options for replacement so you know what to prepare for in the future, even if you aren’t looking to replace right away.