R-22 Phase-Out – Why the Recent Panic?
Yes, it’s true, millions of homeowners across the United States are very concerned about the R-22 Phase-out. Why? For starters, on January 1, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will officially enforce the rule that the manufacturing or importing of R-22 refrigerant (also known as Freon) will be illegal.
Why Should The R-22 Phase-out (Freon Replacement) Matter To You?
While it may not have seemed as big back in 2003 when this all first started, the fact remains, the R-22 Phase-out (From R-22 to R-410A freon replacement) will become more and more difficult (and very expensive) to get in 2020 and beyond.
Prices have and continue to be on the rise while the R-22 replacement refrigerant supply is quickly dwindling. And unfortunately for homeowners, after 2020, only limited recycled R-22 refrigerant will be available to service existing air conditioners.
Let’s Take a Quick Look at The History Behind the R-22 Phase-Out
The phase-out of R22 replacement production started back in 2003.
In the 1970s, someone discovered that R22 refrigerant gases, otherwise known as hydrochlorofluorocarbon gas, or HVFC, were depleting the Earth’s ozone layer.
So a treaty called Montreal Protocol called for a worldwide phase-out, which in turn caused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in cooperation with other agencies and groups around the world, to create a plan to phase out R-22 as well as many other ozone-depleting agents.
How R-22 Consumption Has Declined This Last Decade
This graph shows EPA’s consumption allowance of R-22 by percentage. Limits started in 2010 and have seen significantly declined.
In 2017 R-22 Freon cost, per pound was an estimated $78. That rose to $98 come 2019.
Post-2020, due to production being prohibited, we will mostly experience a supply and demand price hike. We project prices R-22 freon replacement will at minimum, double.
How many pounds of Freon does an A/C Unit typically need?
Residential units, when services, leak on average, 3-5 pounds. Average size units hold 5+ pounds. The average ticket price for a freon refill was $320.
If you own an older system that has a leak and you have to replace freon and fix the leak, there are no guarantees the fix will hold causing you to eventually replace your old unit with a new one.
So What Can You Expect After January 1, 2020 for this R-22 Phase-out?
The Good and Bad News.
The good news is that according to the EPA guidelines, dated August 2018, any recovered or reclaimed R-22 is approved for use. And while this helps meet the needs of a homeowner with an existing R-22 system.
The bad news is that R-22 will quickly become obsolete, and as it does, the prices will continue to spike due to supply and demand.
Learn more about the phasing out of HCFC refrigerants to protect the ozone layer here by the EPA.
What Should the R-22 Phase-Out Mean To You
Bottom line, there are three options to consider if you have an R-22 HVAC unit:
- Stay the course and ride it out as long as you can (consider our care club program to keep your unit running strong).
- Request a service call to see if we can retrofit your existing R-22 system to use a new refrigerant (it may be possible)
- Request a price on a completely new and modern HVAC replacement. (get one of our coupons & rebate to save BIG)
Let us explain your options, there are 3:
1) Consider Staying the Court and Riding it Out
We get it; we don’t know any homeowner we met that was excited about the R-22 Phase Out. And there is a percentage of homeowners that decided to ride it out as long as they can.
If your HVAC equipment is in good shape, meaning you have it regularly serviced (tuned up bi-annually), then this may be the least expensive option for now. Just know there are upsides and downsides.
- The upside: most systems, under eight years old and well-maintained, are free of refrigerant leaks. So if your unit has no leaks, it is possible that your freon could last for years without needing replacement.
- The downside: if your unit is older, chances are it’s built up corrosion on the coils that are causing leaks. And as the R-22 phase-out continues to increase the price of replacement freon, you may find yourself waiting – like that long line at the local DMV. Dreadful, we know. Why? Well R-22, after January 1, 2020, will be on a first-come, first-serve emergency basis.
- Our recommendation: if you choose to stay the course, consider joining our Care Club where you can save on bi-annual tuneups to help extend the life of your old unit!
2) Consider a Retrofit of your Current Unit
If you know you have an R-22 system and consider a retrofit, you may be in luck. Many manufacturers are making replacement refrigerants for an R-22 conversion.
- The upside: One converted to the new refrigerant, replacement of the new refrigerant will be less expensive since the new refrigerants are less costly, at least for now.
- The downside: We estimate that these conversions can cost anywhere from $500 to $1000. And if you own an older HVAC unit, we could not recommend retrofitting as you’d be far better of investing in a new HVAC system altogether. Also note, at this time, where is no refrigerant that can be mixed with R-22, so a full conversion must be done. By the way, if you are a commercial customer, there is no R-22 conversion options for commercial units.
- Our recommendation: Request a service call, and we’ll send a qualified technician to your home that can inspect your system and confirm if its capable of a retrofit.
3) Consider A New and Modern Unit
If your unit is old and has many leaks, it may be time to replace the entire HVAC system that uses new and approved refrigerants. But the reality is, in a few years, your R-22 unit will need a replacement.
- The upside: For starters, replacing to a new and modern unit is a wise decision as it eliminates the risk of an expensive emergency repair. You and your family will also have the peace of mind that you’ll have a trusty A/C unit that will keep you cool in the heat of summer. And as you run your unit, you’ll know it’s energy-efficient (environmentally friendly) and far easier on your pocketbook to run.
- The downside: Of course, its the upfront expense of replacing your unit. But think of the energy costs you’ll save, not to mention the costly emergency service calls and repairs. New units make sense whenever possible.
- Our recommendation: If you decide this option, make sure to ask us about our new equipment coupons and rebates to save big!
How Can I Determine If I have an R-22 (phased-out) or R410a (replacement) unit?
You can quickly check your system to determine what refrigerant it uses by checking the tag on the unit. It will typically have either R410a (currently approved refrigerant in new equipment) or R-22 (the refrigerant being phased out).
If your system has the new R410a in it (2010 and later), you should be able to identify it by the pink labels on and around the valves on the outside of the unit.
Do I need to Replace My Duct Work Too?
Rest assured that replacing an HVAC system does not mean that you must return the ductwork as well. Yes, its ideal to have a technician check for any duct leaks for optimal performance.
Having your ducts in good condition means that you’ll be able to save money should you replace your HVAC units. Having your ducts regularly cleaned saves on your monthly bill, usage costs, and repairs.
What’s The Bottom Line For This R-22 Phase-out?
Being prepared is the best thing you can do as this R-22 phase-out continues through 2020 and beyond. So if you do have a newer HVAC system and wish to continue using the R-22 refrigerants, remember, global supply will run out sooner, rather than later.
Whatever you decide, R-22 replacement refrigerant pricing will increase due to demand, and emergency repair for older systems can add up.
Like an automobile needing an oil change, consider an annual HVAC maintenance plan to maximize the life of your HVAC unit, whether it’s older or newer.
But no matter what, request a service call and have one of our service techs give you the best recommendation.
Besides being known for The Fleet that Can’t Be Beat, since 1965, Crystal Heating and Cooling have been committed to providing fast, friendly, dependable residential HVAC products and services.
You can count on us to help make the transition out of an R-22 HVAC unit the most natural possible.
With a fleet of 40+ rapid response trucks, we are proudly serving Ste. Genevieve to St. Charles and everywhere in between.
Learn more about your options as we can inspect your system then talk through if this R-22 phase-out affects you and, if so, what you can do about it.
Don’t put your R-22 replacement options off any longer.