Right off the bat, I’m going to let you know this will be a somewhat technical article. There’s a good reason for it, though.
Your air conditioner’s refrigerant may become obsolete by 2020, with all the price increases that a decrease in supply usually includes. That’s not a game we’ll be playing, but more on that in a bit.
R22 refrigerant (also known as Freon) is being phased out, and will no longer be produced by 2020. Unfortunately, the majority of units that we work on in Oklahoma City and Edmond use Freon, and if your air conditioning unit was manufactured before 2010, there’s a good chance yours does too.
I haven’t seen much about this phaseout online that is geared toward consumers, but I think it’s something worth sharing, especially since you’ll see the effects in your wallets in the next few years.
About 25 years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began mandating the phaseout of R-22 refrigerant (Freon) due to concerns over its ozone-depleting properties. As of 2010, units were no longer produced that were already charged with the refrigerant. In 2020 production of this chemical will stop completely.
Many of our clients are just now hearing about this because of how the phasing-out system works. There were more than 50 million pounds of Freon produced in 2014, and only 18 million pounds produced this year. There will be less than 10 million pounds in 2018, less than 5 in 2019, and zero in 2020.
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, so we have fielded a lot of questions from our concerned residential and commercial clients. Here are answers to some of the most common ones.
What are the alternatives?
The generally accepted alternative right now Is R-410A refrigerant, sold under various trade names, including Puron® and SUVA 410A®. However, using these or other alternatives, will void warranties on the compressor, which is like the engine of your HVAC system.
They have been known to cause premature failure of other costly and crucial components. We aren’t using these alternative refrigerants and will not unless the equipment we install will honor their warranties.
Why should I care?
This will increase the cost of many routine repairs. Because R-22/Freon is rapidly becoming a commodity of limited supply, we have seen our costs as HVAC contractors go up over 500% in recent years.
And unfortunately, this is probably the tip of the iceberg. A small refrigerant leak could soon leave you facing the decision of spending a few thousands to charge the system and repair the leak, or replace your condenser unit, which could cost even more.
The purpose of the national phaseout is to force the consumer to replace the equipment to a more environmentally friendly, energy efficient model, rather than to continue to repair the older, inefficient units.
I can’t just put R-410A in my R-22 system?
Unfortunately, no. It would be the equivalent of running diesel through a gasoline engine. Multiple parts of your system use this refrigerant, so you’d have to replace both the condenser unit and evaporator coil.
Depending on the type of equipment you install and contractor you select, these replacements would run you $5,000-$10,000, and you would still have your existing furnace.
Will Baxter keep carrying R-22 refrigerant?
We have set a level of pricing to the end user (you) as a ceiling for us. We will stop using R-22 rather than charging increasingly more unreasonable prices to you, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see this happen in 2018 or 2019. At that time, we’ll have to let some people know we are unable to add any R-22 to their systems and will only be able to replace their unit.
This will only change if a replacement alternative is accepted by manufacturers without voiding warranties. It’s unlikely manufacturers will do that in a timely manner, though.
The purpose of this isn’t to scare you, but to help you be an educated consumer. If you have a refrigerant leak and an R-22 system, the prices for repairing that leak will only increase. You may want to get it taken care of sooner rather than later.
If you have questions or concerns about your current HVAC system, we’re happy to talk with you about them.