If it feels like only yesterday that you dropped several thousand – or tens of thousands – of dollars on a brand new central air conditioning system, you may not want to hear about the Environmental Protection Agency’s ban on R22, a refrigerant that you may be more familiar with under the brand name of Freon. But it’s a reality, and its effects are growing quickly more acute, especially for homeowners who have air conditioning units manufactured before 2010.
That’s the year that HVAC manufacturers were required to stop producing R22-consuming units, so if yours was built pre-cutoff, it could be using R22.
But not for much longer.
By the year 2020, 99.5% of R22 will be phased out and banned from production. It’s not a new ban – R22, has been a target of the international community since 1987 when the Montreal Protocol was developed to phase out all ozone depleting substances.
Nearly 90% of R22 has already been phased out. To put this in perspective, 110 million pounds of R22 were available in the United States in 2010. By 2013, the supply was only around 39 million. The plan calls for supply to drop to 13 million pounds this year.
You don’t need a degree in economics to understand how supply and demand are going to affect the cost of running your HVAC system if it still uses the banned gas.
Why The Ban Happened
As far back as the 1970s, the EPA determined that R22 was partly responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer, a part of the earth’s atmosphere that is vital in protecting us from harmful UV radiation. A damaged ozone layer is tied to increasing temperatures, which can be harmful to people and crops, and to sun damage that can lead to cataracts and skin cancer.
In fact, data from satellites, weather balloons and other instruments have shown that the ozone layer has begun to repair itself, which is good news for supporters of the ban.
What It Means To You As A Homeowner
It’s impact on the ozone aside, the ban may have a significant impact on your pocketbook. If your air conditioner was installed prior to 2010, and more relevantly, if it was manufactured prior to 2010, chances are it uses R22.
When you invest in something as significant as a new HVAC system, you hope to enjoy many trouble-free years. You probably don’t plan to replace the system less than a decade later. But the reality is that it may become costlier to run your current system than to replace it with a new one.
This is especially true if you have an older system that is already prone to leaks and breakdowns. While it is still acceptable for R22 to be added to older units, the cost is becoming prohibitive. In the past year alone, the cost per pound for R22 has more than quadrupled, and with average systems requiring seven to ten pounds of the refrigerant, you may be looking at upwards of $1,000 to repair and refill your unit.
So if your system is older and already showing signs of its age, it’s time to seriously consider replacing it. Given the cost to replace R22, it may be financially wiser to invest now and take advantage of available rebates to help offset the cost.
Even if your unit is on the newer side of old, time isn’t on your side. The system may be humming along now, but in a few years when R22is all but archaic, it will be that much more expensive to obtain.
You may be confident that you won’t run into any issues for some time, but right now may still be the right time to think about a replacement. Better to plan, research and know your options before you end up behind the eight ball on the hottest day of the year.
New HVAC Systems
Air conditioning units manufactured after 2010 use the coolant R-410A, which lacks the damaging chlorine found in R22.
As the cost of R22 increases exponentially, the cost of R-410A has been dropping. Also on the plus side, the technology used to manufacture the newer HVAC units results in fewer equipment failures and a reduction in noise level.
If you’re thinking of replacing an old system, or planning for a near-future replacement, you also have the opportunity to take advantage of rebates from manufacturers and utility companies. Depending on your area, rebates can range from $500 up to $2,000, which can go a long way to offsetting the pain of an unanticipated expense.
So whether you’re already feeling the sting of keeping up with R22 costs, or if you’re a planner and want to stay ahead of the curve, give us a call or contact us online. We’ll come to your home and discuss your options with an honest assessment and free estimate to replace your air conditioner.
Have questions about the ban or new equipment options? We’re here to answer them all!