The Phaseout of R22 and How it Affects You

Most homeowners have probably heard of R22 or its common name Freon. If you have an air conditioning system installed before 2010 and would like to know more, keep reading. Many air conditioning systems 10-15 years or older use a refrigerant called R22. Its commonly referred to by the EPA as HCFC-22. For the sake of simplicity we’ll call it R22 when we refer to it in this article. 

The Montreal Protocol

R22 was first introduced to the industry in 1950s and became the leading air conditioning refrigerant for use in the HVAC industry. Decades later the United States realized that R22 refrigerant was aiding in the depletion of the ozone layer. So, the EPA in cooperation with other agencies groups around the world, initiated a phaseout of R22 and other ozone depleting agents. An international agreement known as the Montreal Protocol took place in 1987. Considered on of the worst offenders R22 was slated to be phased out along with others. 

Phase Out Timeline: Where Are We Now?

Phaseout of R22 began in 2003, and carried on till 2010 when production and importation of R22 became prohibited. Existing equipment can still be serviced as long as supplies of R22 are available. However, by 2020 all production and importation of HCFCs and R22 will decrease by 99.5%. The only remaining sources for obtaining R22 refrigerant will be reclaimed and recycled ones. 

How Does This Affect Homeowners?

If you’re familiar with the concept of supply and demand, you’ve probably deduced that this means paying more out of pocket for A/C repairs. Older units often develop leaks and need repairs. Air conditioning systems older than 2010 often use R22 which means theres a high demand for it with a restricted supply. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that price will increase due to scarcity of supply. 
Part of the Montreal Protocol was to put in place stern regulations and a certification process for the recovery and recycling of R22. It also means that the general public no longer has access to purchase the refrigerant. Obtaining R22 requires certification by the EPA. In addition, requirements for importing, labeling, record keeping, reporting, destruction and reclaiming of R22 from existing systems increased costs. 
Because of these regulations and the diminishing supply, the cost of R22 skyrocketed. This means that when your air conditioning systems develops a leak its usually game over due to the increased cost of sustaining the system. This is the main reasons most companies advocate for the replacement of these older systems. The longer you wait the more money may be wasted on trying to sustain an obsolete system. 

How Do I Know if My Air Conditioner Uses R22?

If your system was installed before 2010 chances are it uses R22 as its refrigerant. However, if it was installed after January 1st, 2010 your system may not use R22. You can check the data plate on the outdoor system to help you identify whether or not your system uses R22. Most manufacturers labels identify which refrigerant is used in your system. Alternatively, you can check the user manual your system came with if you have access to it. Otherwise you can call your friendly services experts at Top Gun Heating and Air for an evaluation of your HVAC system, and we’ll be happy to help provide this info. 

What Replaces R22?

The latest refrigerant technology that has replaced R22 is called R410a or Puron. These names can be used interchangeably, but for the sake of the article we’ll stick with R410a. The key benefits to switching from R22 to R410a are higher efficiency, and higher safety ratings. R410a has an ozone depletion rating of zero and performs slightly better in energy efficiency tests than R22. 

Alternatives during the R22 Phaseout 

There are a lot of HVAC contractors out there advocating drop in replacements for R22 refrigerant with alternative ozone safe drop-ins. Enter at your own risk when it comes to these seemingly easy solutions. Most homeowners anxious about fronting the cost of replacing their air conditioning system may seek out alternatives like these. It will typically cost you more in the long run that it would if you simply decided to replace the whole system. These drop-in refrigerants are never meant to be mixed with the existing R22 in the system. This can cause poor system performance and damage to internal components of compressors. They are only meant to be used if the entire charge of the system is recovered and replaced with the drop in. This may even include additives that aid in oil return to compressor. 
More often than not many HVAC contractors don’t follow the manufacturers guidelines when it comes to R22 drop in replacements. The end result is usually more damage to an already older system, or terrible performance. Neither of these outcomes are acceptable for homeowners or quality contractors alike. This should be considered no more than a temporary band aid or short term solution. Ultimately, if your air conditioning unit requires the addition of refrigerant there are much bigger issues on the table. 

What Do I Do if my A/C uses R22?

At Top Gun Heating and Air we make financing available to all our customers and always discuss different pricing and options that can make replacement affordable. Also, we notify our customers when manufacturer or utility rebates are in effect that could help save you money on your purchase. Its always smart to consider preemptive replacement versus emergency replacement in the summer during peak demand. Often times installing and air conditioning system during this time will take longer and cost more. 
Only air conditioners made for the refrigerant R410a are being manufactured today. If you are seeking parts for use in an R22 system you may be disappointed to find that they are not manufactured anymore. Depending on what part of the system you’re trying to replace it may cost more than replacing the entire unit. Because of this, we recommend replacement as the best long term value. Investing in a new HVAC system will also carry with it the value of a 10 year manufacturers warranty. 
The EPA only regulates the production and use of R22, not your current air conditioning system. Be wary of HVAC companies that advise you to replace solely based on the fact that it uses R22. This alone is not a good reason for replacement, especially if the repair is related more to an electrical, or controls problem and not the components of the refrigeration process. 

Let Us Help

While making the transition to an approved A/C refrigerant may be stressful, you’re joining with thousands of homeowners all over Texas that are helping protect the ozone layer above earths atmosphere. All the while reducing the strain on the electrical grid by upgrading to a more efficient HVAC system. If you’re unsure as to the condition of your current heating and cooling system, reach out to the experts at Top Gun Heating and Air.
We can help you make an informed decision, and educate you on the different options available for your home. Superior home comfort and efficiency is just around the corner. 


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