Many home and business owners are unaware that R-22 freon—the type of refrigerant most commonly used in home cooling systems—is being actively phased out, meaning changes in not only new units that are being produced, but also existing units that are currently in use. The phase out leaves home and business owners with unanswered questions: Will this impact the cost of repairs to my HVAC system? Do I need to replace the entire unit? What are my options?

Approximately 25 years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated the phase out of R-22 as the result of growing environmental concerns. Acting in accordance of The Clean Air Act, the phase out was enacted to protect the Earth’s ozone layer from the ozone-depleting compound (chlorine) found in R-22. Production of new air conditioning units charged with R-22 ended in 2010, and by 2020 the servicing of R-22-based systems will rely solely on recycled refrigerants. Though chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce or import R-22 for use in new equipment, they can continue production and import of R-22 until 2020 for use in servicing existing equipment.

As R-22 is gradually phased out, alternative refrigerants are being introduced. One of these substitutes is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer. If your air conditioner was manufactured before 2010, it most likely utilizes R-22 refrigerant. The good news here is that existing units using R-22 can continue to be serviced with R-22 as there is no EPA requirement for change or conversion of these units. Your heating and cooling units should have sufficient R-22 unless a leak occurs. With limited production of R-22, the cost to service these units is continuing to rise. This means that meaning that you should take the necessary steps to protect yourself from the rising cost of refrigerant. Routine maintenance is the best weapon against system links, and should be performed at least two times per year. Remember, maintenance is far less expensive than emergency repairs!

If necessary, retrofit units—converted R-22 units utilizing a substitute refrigerant—are allowed if the alternative has been found acceptable for that type of use. Substitute refrigerants can work well in R-22 units with a few changes to system components. For example, simply replacing R-22 refrigerant with R-410A in a preexisting R-22 unit is not recommended due to its higher working pressure. However, a certified professional can replace R-22 condensers with R-410A condensers, as long as the system coil is also updated, providing consistency in the refrigerant cycle, as one cannot be replaced without the other, and allows the retrofit to get you by for several more years. Of course, if your old unit is on its last legs already, the purchase of a highly energy-efficient system is probably the best bet. Today’s air conditioners use much less energy, provide cost savings in maintenance and electric costs, and offer a green alternative to R-22 units.

No matter how old your unit is, our professional technicians are here to help you determine the right move for your home or business, and budget! From our annual maintenance plan that catches problems before they get out of hand, to the latest in energy efficient American Standard and Amana units, we’ve got you covered. If you have questions about the refrigerant change, or just need to have your unit inspected and serviced, click HERE or call 865-938-1005 today!