Long story short... the end of R-22 is inevitable so its on you to decide whether to embrace the change now or wait it out as long as possible. The old phrase "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" may be what most of you are thinking as you read through this. But being prepared for what is to come with definitely make it easier when that time comes, because it will. I for one still use a system on R-22 and have needed to charge it a couple times (~$300 both times just in material costs for my 3 ton unit) which could have went towards a down payment on a new unit so its something I battle myself.
The temperatures are beginning to climb and A/C season is in the near future. While not everyone gets a professional tune up on their cooling system each year, for those of you that do, it may be wiser to put that tune up fee towards a new cooling unit. Or at the very least start planning on saving for a new unit as they arent the cheapest thing.
R-22, also known as Freon, is expected to be completely phased out by the year 2020. Studies have found the effects of R-22 to be negative and quite harmful to our ozone layer, you know, that thing standing between us and the sun's might. So you can hang onto your current system the way it is set up at this moment or choose to move on from R-22 to an approved refrigerant such as R-410a. But dont fear, the R-410a refrigerant excels in many ways compared to R-22. Other than simply being better on the ozone, it has a lower critical temperature, better performance in temperatures over 90 degree F, and removes more of the moisture and humidity.
After January 1, 2020, R-22 will be illegal to produce in the U.S. and all manufacturing or importing with come to a halt. Not to confuse anyone, this doesnt mean it will be illegal to continue operating a unit already operating with R-22, just that we wont be getting any more of it in the US; thus the supply will only go down. That means its going to cost you an arm and a leg if you need to recharge your system. Simple economics tells us that the price is going to continue to rise. Back in 2010, the EPA banned the use of R-22 in new A/C and Heat Pump equipment. This has caused a significant decrease in the supply of R-22 and when supply or availability declines the scarcity principle kicks in which raise the price. Unfortunately, when something is banned and supply is sure to be depleting with no return... dont expect to see the prices come down with it.
Dont want to buy a completely new unit just to switch from R-22?
Maybe you have a really nice unit that is performing just fine and you dont want to purchase a new unit just because of the R-22. Dont assume refrigerant is interchangeable in the same system like using E89 in a vehicle that only requires E87. R-22 built units are not compatable with R-410a refrigerant or any other type so please do not call a tech to switch it over and then become upset when you find out you need to change things to make it work. They all operate under different pressures that the components of your unit would not support for long. You can opt to change the lines and some of the parts to support an approved refrigerant. So now you are able to keep your unit, save on the cost of buying new, and your refrigerant is compliant with the EPA. Only thing to consider is that the unit was originally intended and built to run off of R-22 so changing it may decrease the efficiency of the unit. A decrease in efficiency means higher utility bills, therefore the cost of switching out the parts may not be the best when looking at the long term picture.
If you do have an older unit, it might be scary to think of the thousands of dollars it will cost to replace with a new unit but if you really think about it... Thats a new unit, under warranty, running an approved refrigerant that is more efficient and delivers less wear on the unit. Your old unit is out of warranty, most likely not as efficient as the new units, and each time you pay for service your money is going to something that is on its last leg when it could have went towards your new unit. Im a big advocate of being proactive instead of reactive and my savings is about their for a new unit, just praying I dont get another leak or worse before then.
For the price conscious homeowners, its also important to note that switching from R-22 to an approved refrigerant may qualify you for a rebate. Like most things that are set to phase out at a future date, the government likes to incentivize people to buy early. So you could end up saving big now opposed to paying full price later; either way your system is going to need to be replaced eventually. Once R-22 has been phased out and the only units on the market are environmentally friendly, the rebates will more than likely go away as there is no reason to incentize any longer. At least thats the rebate life cycle I've seen for products in any industry. Just another item to consider and make sure to ask if your area is offering rebates.
So the choice is yours:
- Continue running your system with R-22 until it begins leaking or breaks down all together, then upgrade
- Change out the internals on your current system so that it can use an approved refrigerant
- Replace your system all together
So the next time you have a leak and need to recharge your unit with R-22, ask your tech to go over some options to switch over to a refrigerant that isnt going to be banned anytime soon. This is a simple consultation that shouldnt cost you anything to gain some added knowledge, so you have nothing to lose. I started with a phrase, so I have to end with a phrase... "It never hurts to ask".