The Homeowner Guide To The R-22 Phaseout
There’s been a lot of talk about the upcoming ban on R-22 – also known as Freon – and what it means for your AC unit.
Some homeowners hear about a ban and worry that their AC unit will need to be replaced immediately. The good news is there is no reason to panic or get overly concerned.
We’re here to help you understand the R-22 phaseout and what – if anything – you need to do about it.
Let’s start at the very beginning with the most basic information of all.
What Is R-22 Refrigerant?
R-22 is a widely used refrigerant in air conditioning units. It’s sometimes referred to as Freon, although that is actually a specific brand name (similar to how people often refer to tissues as “Kleenex”).
R-22 has been a very useful product as a refrigerant, but it comes with a huge catch: It is a Hydrochlorofluorocarbon, or HCFC refrigerant. When a HCFC refrigerant leaks or is vented out of an Air Conditioning system, the man-made chlorine molecules attack the upper Ozone contributing to ozone depletion.
Since there are good refrigerant alternatives that don’t contain the chlorine molecule linked to Ozone Depletion, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated a phase out of all R-22.
A Complete Ban On Making And Importing R-22 In 2020
A major step of the phaseout will be a complete ban on producing or importing R-22 as of January 1, 2020.
This does NOT mean that it will be illegal to have an air conditioning system that uses R-22 beginning in 2020, only that no more R-22 will be made or imported.
There will, however, be existing pre-manufactured supplies of R-22 on hand. R-22 will continue to be reclaimed from existing Air Conditioning systems as they are repaired or replaced and sent back to the manufacturer to be cleaned up and sold back to distributors for reuse in existing systems that still use R-22 refrigerant.
This relaxation process will continue to provide R-22 until the supply of reclaimed R-22 runs out. While this is not a permanent, long-term solution, it does create some short-term options. It’s expected that the price for R-22 will increase as supplies decline.
Who Needs To Worry About The R-22 Ban?
The first message on the ban: no one needs to panic about this!
If you have a relatively new AC unit that was manufactured any time after 2010, you will likely not be affected by this ban. Most AC systems manufactured after 2010 will use Non-Ozone depleting HFC refrigerants such as R-410a.
If you do have an HVAC system that still uses R-22, understand that it’s likely that your AC unit has sufficient R-22 to continue running properly. Should a leak occur, however, you still will have several options.
One of your options would be to have a contractor find and repair the leak, and then recharge the system with R-22. That will work until supplies run out.
Another option – although we usually wouldn’t recommend it – is to have your existing AC system retro-fitted to use a different non-ozone depleting refrigerant. If you choose this path, make sure doing this won’t void a manufacturer’s mechanical warranty or the equipments’ safety certification, or it’ll cost as much as getting a new unit.
The final option is to replace your old inefficient AC unit with a new energy efficient system containing refrigerant that does not harm the Ozone if a leak occurs.
Other Considerations When Replacing Your AC
Homeowners need to be aware of the upcoming R-22 ban, but there is no need for immediate action or decisions unless your R-22 is leaking or low.
However, there are also other very good reasons to consider AC system replacement, including saving money on energy bills, making an environmentally-sound choice, and the peace of mind that comes from having a new system with an excellent warranty.
Are you a Northern California homeowner who needs an AC repair or replacement? You’ll love the expertise and friendliness of our technicians – schedule an appointment by clicking here.