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A Consumer’s Guide to the R22 Refrigerant Phase Out

Welcome back to another entry here on the ACE Home Services blog! This time we’re heading back to a previous topic we’ve covered and updating it. The R-22 Phase Out finally took effect at the end of 2019 heading into 2020 and now, 6 months later how is that looking for everyone? 

One thing is for sure, as the temperatures heat up and more and more units are continuously running for the next few months a lot of folks who didn’t realize they were running on Freon are about to have a rude awakening. Just find out about that yourself? Did you call a local company and discover that they won’t service your unit and you’re confused why? ACE has you covered!

First, What is R22?

R22, also known as Freon, is a refrigerant that is most commonly used in air conditioning equipment.  Freon was the most common refrigerant used in all sorts of air conditioning units, both for the home and cars. 

What’s the Problem With It?

When Freon is used, the emissions put out into the environment are incredibly harmful, one of those is chlorine. Chlorine is extremely damaging to the earth’s Ozone layer when released into the air. It along with several other greenhouse gases and emissions were noted as harmful to the environment and in 1987 The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was put into effect. This prompted the phase-out of R22 and other gases in the first place. Some industries were able to adapt and make the switch faster, cars haven’t been using their version of Freon since 1994! Now it’s time for homes and air conditioners to do something about it.

How Do I Know If My HVAC Unit Uses R-22

There’s an easy rule of thumb for whether or not your AC unit is running R-22 or another type of refrigerant. If your unit was built before 2010, it is likely your unit still runs on R-22. The phase-out of R-22 began then, with newer models making the switch preemptively, when there was still time to do so. In 2010, the importation and production of R-22 was banned, so AC manufacturers took the first step by building newer units that ran on other refrigerants.

So: 

  • Before 2010, likely R-22
  • After 2010, likely not R-22

You’ll notice of course we stuck to  ‘likely R-22’ and ‘likely not R-22.’ This time period of AC unit manufacturing and installation wasn’t set one way so you need to go to the source, your unit and determine what kind of refrigerant it uses. Look on the unit’s nameplate to find out exactly what it runs on.

 The type of refrigerant your unit runs on can be found on the unit’s nameplate.

Right there at the top right: “Factory Charged with R-410A Refrigerant”

What This Means for Homeowners

So, your AC unit is breaking down, and you have found that it runs on R-22. What can you do now? If your unit uses R-22, there are a few things you can do:

Get a Modern AC Unit

Get a new air conditioning unit that uses EPA approved refrigerant. The most common alternative to R-22 is R-410a. This is without a doubt the best course of action. It might cost you more money upfront, but it will give you the best results. You’ll save stress and money in the long term when your AC unit uses an EPA approved refrigerant instead of the old, hazardous stuff. 

Retrofit Your Unit

Retrofit your unit so that it can operate using a different refrigerant. This will save you from having to deal with the effects of the R-22 phase out as well as the cost of buying a new unit. However, this won’t change the fact that your unit is older. If your unit is older, then it’s already nearing the end of it’s lifespan, so retrofitting this new feature might not give you that many more years. Please consult one of our expert HVAC technicians to better understand your options. You could be spending a pretty penny to modify a unit that will break down in a year or two.

Do Nothing

That’s right you could always do nothing. Don’t replace or retrofit your unit. Okay this isn’t really an option.If your AC is breaking down now or isn’t cooling like it should,  now is the time to act! This is not a recommended option and by law is illegal to use R-22 refrigerant in older HVAC units. 

To Be Clear

The R-22 Phase Out specifically applies to new R-22, but there are ways of recycling older refrigerants and getting some more viable R-22 out of it. But as with anything recycled, the amount of viable material decreases, making the usable R-22 more and more scarce over time. You may be able to find it for another few months, but that price will increase and soon enough R-22 won’t be available in any capacity.

Why You Should Act Now!

When January 1st, 2020 rolled around the existing stock of R-22 didn’t just up and disappear of course, but relying on an older AC unit and R-22 will cause a few problems down the line for you. Finding the needed R-22 will be much harder, as the supply will be low. As the months go on expect most shops to run out entirely, making the price skyrocket in its scarcity. Now the average service call will go up in price and you’ll have to scour the Valley (or wherever you are) to find a crew who even has any left. 

The longer you wait into 2020 and beyond, there’s also the increased risk of having to wait longer for new units and service. Many people won’t know about the R-22 phase out until they can’t find someone to service their unit. Especially as we hit the higher temps here in Arizona, this is the first summer where the government phase out of R-22 is in full effect, and when units start to break down, the demand for new R-22 free units will surge with folks needing to get a replacement STAT.  

Don’t risk it. If you know your unit is still running on R-22 and it hasn’t run out of coolant or broken down yet, consider scheduling a time with an HVAC technician to take a look and give you a good idea of how much longer you’ll be able to rely on it. While they’re there they can perform a tune-up and any other necessary maintenance to help prolong the life of the current unit, and get you through the summer heat.

Not sure what you’re working with? AC unit already giving you troubles? No matter the cause, or need ACE Home Services is here to help! We’ve been supplying the Valley with powerful and efficient AC units for over 25 years, and as a 9 Time Carrier President’s Award Winner, we have the experience, professionalism, and means to get your AC unit upgraded into the modern era. 

Schedule Your Service Today!

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