If you haven’t heard about R22 yet and you have an air conditioner that was manufactured prior to 2010, you might get an education in a very unpleasant way. And if you have heard of it but are taking a head-in-sand approach until absolutely required, you might find yourself stuck between a rock and a hot place – when your AC finally dies one summer day and you have no choice but to replace it under pressure.
We want to help you avoid all of that! Here’s what you need to know about R22, how it can impact you and what you can do about it.
What Is R22?
You may know it by its brand name: Freon. It’s the coolant that makes your air conditioning work, if yours was born before 2010. Air conditioning units manufactured since then use a completely different coolant.
R22 was found to have deleterious effects on the ozone layer, which put it on the EPA’s “ban” list. As a result, it is no longer being used in newer air conditioners and is in dwindling supply until its ban takes full effect.
Why Should You Care About R22?
R22 has been on a path to being phased out since the 1980s. The reason you’re hearing about it now is because by 2020 it will be completely illegal to purchase. That means if your AC unit develops a leak or needs to be “topped off”, you’re going to be out of luck.
If you think you can wait to think about it until 2020, think again. Problems can start now if you find yourself with a need for R22. It’s lack of supply is driving costs up prohibitively.
And if you’re hoping to wait it out and only replace your air conditioner when absolutely necessary, consider the pressure you’ll be under to find a suitable unit at a good price and schedule timely installation during a busy, hot season.
Who Does This Affect?
In good news for the ozone layer, the ban has had a positive effect. Satellite and other data show that the ozone layer is repairing itself. Since the ozone layer is the only thing standing between us and the sun’s UV rays, a healthy ozone layer protects plants, animals and us from their harmful effects.
In not-so-good news, the ban can have a negative effect on your wallet, whether you’re a homeowner or a business owner. You can wait as long as you want, but a time may come when you will be forced to make the change.
The good news is that you *don’t* have to wait.. You can plan ahead and avoid unnecessary costs and the headaches that come with last-minute decisions.
What Should You Do If You Have An R22 Air Conditioner?
Most importantly, consider yourself educated and start planning now. Nobody wants to get hit with unexpected and unnecessary expenses, let alone at an inconvenient time (think: Dead of summer. Hottest day.)
Then evaluate your options. Realistically you have three options.
1. You could do nothing and wait until your air conditioner breaks down. Sounds tempting, but consider this: when it does break down, you’ll be competing for attention along with every other homeowner and business owner with the same problem. The end result may be a long wait in discomfort.
It also means you’ll be buying a new system at the most expensive time of year – when parts and labor are in high demand. That will be even truer when the ban takes effect and people who might ordinarily have repaired their system are suddenly forced to replace it.
2. You could retrofit your existing system to use one of the new coolants. Keep in mind that this is not feasible for all systems and will require a professional inspection to determine whether it’s an option.
But if you already have an old, damaged or leaking system, you may not want to put good money into retrofitting it when you could be left with similar repair problems – and costs – going forward.
3. You could replace your system now. Or sooner than “when it’s a crisis.” Yes, it’s an expense and an inconvenience, not only for homeowners, but for businesses with larger systems and multiple units.
But it could be an even bigger expense and inconvenience if you’re stuck without air conditioning after a breakdown.
Start planning now for the inevitable. Do your homework and get an estimate for replacing your AC with a newer (and probably more energy efficient) model.
Ask about HVAC bundles. If you have an older furnace, or are thinking about installing a new component like an air purifier, humidifier or dehumidifier, then bundling a whole installation can save you money over piecemeal replacement.
Plus, replacing components together means you know that the components were designed to work together as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Ask about rebates, too. There may be rebates from the state or your local utility company that will help offset the cost of your investment. An HVAC contractor will be able to tell you about any available.
Finally, inquire about financing options. If you can snag a 0% interest deal, that can help substantially, and it will be a far better option than paying crazy prices for R22 while you wait for your old system to die.
Signs That You Should Replace Your AC Sooner Rather Than Later
If you do have an older R22 unit and notice any of these telltale signs of imminent breakdown, consider replacing it sooner.
- Loss of cooling. If your system seems to be working hard without the benefit, that’s a good sign that it’s slowing down.
- Hissing or gurgling sounds. Those are pretty surefire signs of a refrigerant leak.
- Frozen coils. If you see frozen condensation or a puddle on the floor, that indicates a low refrigerant level.
- High electric bills. If your bills seem higher than usual, it’s usually a sign that you’re turning down the thermostat in an effort to keep cool. That can mean an especially hot day, but more likely it means your system isn’t doing its job properly.
If all or any of those sound familiar, you may be headed for a breakdown, so talk to an HVAC contractor about your options.
Whether you’re a homeowner with one or multiple units, or a business owner with an extensive system, get in touch with us for a free consultation to review your options and provide you with an estimate that suits your needs.