What You Should Know About the R-22 Refrigerant Phase-Out

Summer is right around the corner and the temperatures and humidity levels are on the rise. If you have an older air conditioner, you may have some decisions to make before you start it up for the season. If your AC system has developed leaks, you may need to decide if you should have it recharged with more refrigerant or replace the unit entirely. The type of refrigerant your unit uses may factor into that decision.

For over 40 years, most air conditioners were manufactured to use R-22 refrigerant. Freon was a popular brand name for this refrigerant. Due to environmental concerns surrounding the ozone-depleting properties of R-22, the U.S. government enacted a policy requiring that use of R-22 be phased out. The EPA has been gradually reducing the amount of R-22 that can be produced and imported each year leading to a complete ban on production and importation by Jan. 1, 2020. If your air conditioner uses this refrigerant, this could impact you and your wallet.

While all HVAC equipment manufactured after Jan. 1, 2010 uses R410A, a more environmentally friendly refrigerant, there are still many units manufactured prior to that date that rely on R-22 being used. Does this mean you have to run out and buy a new air conditioning unit immediately if yours uses R-22? No. As long as your unit is operating properly, you can continue to use it indefinitely. The problems arise if your unit develops a leak. Until Jan. 1, 2020, your unit can be serviced and recharged using R-22. However, because production of R-22 is being reduced each year, supplies are being depleted, leading to significant increases in the price of the R-22 refrigerant. This means it could cost you double the money to recharge your air conditioner this year than it did even just a year or two ago.

If you find yourself facing the challenge of how to handle a leak in your unit, it is worth weighing the cost of recharging it to get by for another season or two with the cost of replacing it with a newer, more efficient unit that uses the new refrigerant. A replacement system will provide you with a reliable unit as well as lowering operational cost with the newer higher efficient replacement systems.