As we wrap up 2019, and the whole decade it’s time we talk about something else saying goodbye, Freon! Ok, so refrigerant and air conditioning is probably the furthest thing from your mind in the depths of winter but it’s necessary to talk about now because come January 1st, 2020 Freon, also known as R-22, is going to be a thing of the past! This time on the ACE Home Services blog we’re taking a look at Freon, what it is, why we’re bidding it adieu, and what consumers like you can look forward to in the future.
So, what is Freon?
Freon is a gas that is, well was, the most commonly used refrigerant in air conditioning equipment. The more accurate name for the gas is R-22 or most accurately Chlorodifluoromethane. Yeah that’s a mouthful. Anyways R-22/Freon was the most commonly used chemical in A/Cs for years until 1987.
What Happened in 1987?
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer That’s What
Concerns over the environmental impact of ozone depleting substances (specifically containing chlorine or bromine) and the adverse effect they would all have to human health and the environment came to a tipping point. The Ozone was being depleted faster than had been seen and a hole was developing, which if left unchecked the results would have been catastrophic. To curb that harm, countries from around the world came together and said enough is enough. it’s time to act. As you might have guessed from the name, the Montreal Protocol established a plan to combat ozone depletion going forward.
How Did They Act?
With the protocol came phaseouts of the gas, both in the production of the gas and in appliances that use them and has been for over 30 years. This ramped up in the past 10 years when in 2010 R-22 production, importation and use was banned except for in the case of servicing existing equipment. In 2015 R-22 production, importation, and use is banned outright except for continuing servicing needs. When January 1st rolls around the ban will expand to the remaining import and production of R-22. Any systems that still use R-22 will have to get by on what’s on hand.
So, air conditioners that use Freon will have to be replaced?
Eventually, sure! But not necessarily today. If your air conditioning unit still runs on R-22, that chemical will become harder and harder to come by making the necessary regular maintenance air conditioning units need more difficult for repairmen to do. Supply and demand might (read: almost assuredly) also dictate that the price for those repairs increase dramatically.
What Can I Do?
You have a few options ahead of you. First look to see if your A/C even uses R22! If it’s a unit from after 2010 you’re probably in the clear, but if it’s older than that it is very likely that your unit uses R-22. An easy way to find out is to look at your unit’s nameplate for a notice: CONTAINS HCFC – 22.
If you do have an A/C unit running R-22 you have 3 options.
Option 1 – Buy a New A/C
Get a new air conditioning unit that uses EPA approved refrigerants, such as R-410a. While perhaps the most costly in the short term, it gets you a fresh start with a new unit ready to last years, and be easily serviceable in the future.
Option 2 – Retrofit Your A/C
Retrofitting your current unit to run on approved refrigerants instead of R-22 can save you the cost of buying a new unit out right but it doesn’t fix everything. The unit will still have a few miles on it and could be on its last legs, make sure you know how old your unit is and what repairs it needs and may need in the future before committing to this path.
Option 3 – Do Nothing
You can choose not to retrofit or replace your unit at all. This means that you’ll stick to using the banned R-22 in your unit, and as time goes on that material will become more and more expensive to use. You save money today, but it will quickly begin to add up as the unit runs the rest of it’s lifespan.
When they’re laid out like that, it’s hardly a choice at all right? The most financially sound decision is to replace the unit entirely, and the sooner you do that the better it will serve you. Need professional help inspecting your unit? Looking to learn more about the current state of your A/C system? Get in touch. ACE is here to help with every home service you might need, from updating your A/C to tuning up your heater, installing solar panels and everything in between. It’s your home and we want you to love everything about it!