What is R-22?
R-22 refrigerant, most recognizable by the brand name Freon®, has been used for decades as the primary refrigerant in residential HVAC applications. In recent years, it was determined that R-22 refrigerant was contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer. The United States EPA, as well as other organizations around the world, began a phaseout of the use and production of R-22 refrigerant. R-410a is the new recognized standard in residential HVAC applications. All equipment manufactured starting in the year 2010 was made to use R-410a refrigerant.
What is the timeline for the production phaseout of R-22?
R-22 will remain in production until 2020. At that time, production will be completely banned. As the term “phaseout” indicates, the production will drop in phases each year until the year 2020 when it will no longer be allowed to be produced. The reduction in production is causing the supply of R-22 to be depleted more quickly than expected. It is also causing R-22 to become harder to obtain, as well as more and more expensive. Even though R-22 is still in production until 2020, this does not mean it will remain available or cost effective to obtain and use all the way up to that deadline.
How does this affect you?
If you system is newer than 6 years old, you are probably not affected. You can check the data panel on your HVAC equipment to determine what kind of refrigerant your system uses. If you have a maintenance agreement with us, our technician can discuss with you on your next maintenance visit if you are affected or not. If your system is older than 6 years old and/or uses R-22 refrigerant, you don’t need to be especially concerned unless your system is leaking refrigerant, develops a leak in the future, or needs a repair that would require evacuating or adding more refrigerant (like a compressor change).
My system uses R-410a... Do I need to do anything?
The phaseout of R-22 refrigerant will not have any affect on systems that operate on R-410a refrigerant.
My system uses R-22 but is running fine and I haven’t added any refrigerant, do I need to do anything?
You need to start budgeting for the eventual replacement of your system. The average life of a residential HVAC system is 10-12 years. It’s not really a matter of if your system will malfunction, it’s a matter of when. Not all repairs involve refrigerant, your system can easily be repaired when minor parts fail and remain in use for several more years. However, if you have already experienced a R-22 refrigerant leak or if your system develops a leak, or requires a repair that uses refrigerant, you will need to seriously consider replacement. The cost of obtaining R-22 is increasing and the availability is decreasing. There is no guarantee that when the time comes for you to need R-22 that it will be either available or affordable.
My system is older and/or is leaking refrigerant, what can I do?
1. You can have a leak search performed to pin-point exactly where your system is leaking and determine if it is repairable. If the leak can be repaired, you can have that done and refill the system with R-22 while it is still available. If your system develops a new leak, there is no guarantee that this will be an option if new leaks develop due to the decrease in availability and the increase in price of R-22 over the coming months/years.
2. You can purchase a more energy efficient and ozone friendly system that uses the new R-410a refrigerant. Not only would you not have to worry about the availability of the refrigerant for repairs, you would save in energy costs, as well as know that you are helping protect the environment. Our maintenance agreement customers can receive up to a 10 year FULL warranty on new HVAC systems! Talk about peace of mind! No worries about repairs on your new system for up to 10 years! (restrictions may apply, call for full details)
3. You can risk it and keep adding R-22 until it becomes unavailable or too expensive to obtain or justify the cost of repair.
If there is a leak in just one part of my system, do I need to replace the whole system?
Refrigerant flows through the outdoor coil and the indoor coil, as well as the copper line that connects the two. The entire system needs to use the same refrigerant. HVAC equipment manufactured before 2010 was designed to use R-22 refrigerant and equipment manufactured after 2010 uses R-410a. Since the two refrigerants are different and require different operation specifications, the two types of equipment are often not compatible. If you have a gas system, the furnace may not need to be replaced also, but it may be more cost effective to upgrade the entire system rather than waiting for the furnace to fail at a later date. In some cases one component of your system can be replaced and if the other portion later fails, it may be made compatible with minor modifications.
What about the R-22 alternatives or “drop ins?"
There are alternatives to R-22 being sold. However, we do not recommend them for a few reasons. One, you can’t mix refrigerant, so if you needed just a couple of pounds of refrigerant to get you going again and R-22 is not an option, all the refrigerant in your system would have to be reclaimed and the new refrigerant installed. This would also require changing some parts in your system to accommodate the new refrigerant. This kind of repair could potentially damage your system and it would more than likely be a temporary fix. In some cases, using the alternate refrigerant and the cost of making the necessary component changes, can be comparable to the cost of purchasing new equipment. In addition, most manufacturers have not recommended or approved the use of these refrigerants due to concerns over compatibility and reliability.
Can you just add R-410a to my current system?
Refrigerants can’t be mixed. Your system can only operate off one kind of refrigerant. R-410a is a completely different refrigerant than R-22 and the systems that are designed to use R-22 are not designed to use R-410a.
What about recycled R-22?
When R-22 is reclaimed from a HVAC system, it is sent off to be cleaned and re-sold as recycled. There is not guaranteed availability of the recycled R-22 and the price when it does become available is expected to be very high.
If you have any other questions regarding R-22 or R-410a refrigerant, give us a call or contact us! We are happy to assist you. As always, we give FREE quotes on equipment replacement.