EPA Restrictions on Air Conditioner Refrigerant:
How the R22 phase out in 2020 will affect you
For decades, efforts have been underway to correct an issue with our air conditioners, one that has been helping to deplete the ozone layer. The problem is with the refrigerant our AC units use to ensure cool air travels through our homes. It’s not just in Kansas. This is a problem with air conditioning systems across the United States and even across the world. As other countries work to find their own solutions to decreasing the amount of ozone-harming refrigerant in the world, here in the United States a major restriction comes in to play starting on January 1, 2020. This is the R22 phase out.
This new environmental restriction is going to mean a lot for homeowners across America. KWCH TV in Wichita interviewed Hanna Heating & Air Conditioning about the R22 refrigerant phase out.
What is R22 Refrigerant?
R22 is commonly referred to as Freon (which is a registered trademark of the DuPont Corporation). It’s scientific name is chlorodifluoromethane. It was introduced in the 1950s. It became the most popular type of refrigerant used for systems in homes by the heating and air industry. It was considered, at that time, a better solution to our environment than the previous refrigerants in popular use, CFC-11 and CFC-12. When gases from CFC-11 and CFC-12 were released and reached the upper atmosphere, they depleted the ozone layer. The ozone layer protects the Earth’s surface from strong UV radiation.
Although R22 contributed less to ozone depletion, it still contributes to depleting the ozone at levels that have been determined to be too great. R22 has a risk 1800 times higher than CO2 for contributing to global warming. This isn’t a new realization. Since 2010, regulations were implemented that kept any new equipment to use this R22 refrigerant. But that’s only in the United States. Over in England, their restrictions on this refrigerant began back in 2000, a full decade ahead of U.S. restrictions. Five years ago, they completely phased out the use of R-22. What this means is that any broken equipment that requires this refrigerant must be replaced with systems that don’t use it.
While the current restrictions in the European Union are still stricter than what the United States will be requiring at the start of the new year, American homeowners will be faced with potential extra costs and challenges starting January 1, 2020.
For the past 10 years in the United States, equipment using R22 had still been allowed to operate and be serviced, as long as it wasn’t leaking. But now that is all about to end. With the deadline of January 1, 2020, R22 will be completely discontinued. That means no more R22 will be created for use in servicing air conditioners that require that fluid. However, recycled R22 refrigerant may be available. But how long that supply will last is not known.
Will my HVAC system be affected?
If you have a system that is at least 10 years old, one that was installed before 2010, then it’s possible your unit is operating off of R22. You can be pretty sure your system is using R22 if your air conditioner is at least 17 years old, as 2003 was the first year they began phasing out equipment that used R22.
This can be a frustrating reality for many homeowners. For those of you with a unit just past 10 years old, you may be finding this aging system is now in need for service just at the time when the refrigerant is needed has suddenly become virtually unavailable.
How to find out if your AC runs off R22
You should easily be able to check your unit to determine if your unit requires the R22 refrigerant. Look at the nameplate on your outdoor ac unit (the condenser) to see which refrigerant it lists. Also, your user’s manual should include this information. If you need assistance in determining what your AC unit runs on or how best to proceed if you are dealing with a R22 air conditioner, feel free to contact us at Hanna Heating and Air and we can help determine the best solution for you and your home.
Does this feel familiar?
For those of us about in our 50s and older, you may remember a sudden stoppage of the refrigerant used in car air conditioners. Back in the late 1980s, the use of R-12 was phased out. Drivers were faced with the expense of upgrading their vehicle to stop using R-12 or had to pay a higher and higher cost to continue using that refrigerant.
What is the replacement for R22?
R410A is the replacement. It is better known as Puron®. Puron® is one brand of R410a, a popular one, but R410a is produced by other companies and been given different names. It was invented in 1991 and patented by the company that exists today as Honeywell. They are not the only producers of R-410A. It is produced and by companies around the world. R-410A does NOT contribute to ozone depletion.
What options do you have for your old AC unit?
Simply put, not many. Just as vehicle owners faced limited options in the late 80s that resulted in additional costs, homeowners with air conditioning units are faced with a similar situation.
YOU CANNOT BUY R22 YOURSELF
It isn’t possible for you to purchase R22 on your own in order to find a good deal. This will not be available at hardware stores or on Amazon. Only a licensed technician that is EPA-certified can obtain it. The cost of R22 will increase to cover the additional fees of new regulations in how it can be recycled.
YOU CANNOT SWAP R22 OUT WITH A DIFFERENT REFRIGERANT
You can’t simply use a different refrigerant on a unit that runs on R22. It doesn’t work like that. Different refrigerants require different parts to run. While it’s possible to have an HVAC technician make adaptations to your unit in order for it to work off a different type of refrigerant, the cost involved in make that “drop-in” solution may actually cost as much or even more than simply replacing it with a completely new air conditioning system. And there are other problems with trying to retrofit your system for different refrigerant. You may void any manufacturer’s warranty by making these adaptions.
What is the best option for you?
It really comes down to three options. As long as your AC system is running well, you are not obligated to do anything. But once it’s in need of repairs and those repairs require using R22, then you will have to make a determination of which one of these 3 options are right for you, your home, your wallet, and your environmental impact.
- You can continue using your old AC system. Recycled R22 refrigerant that is still permitted will be used on your unit, as long as it’s available, that is. As time goes by, you will find that the cost of R22 is going to greatly increase. As supply greatly wanes, these air conditioning repairs are going to cost you more than they would have if you had the work done last summer.
- You can have your AC unit retrofitted to work with the replacement refrigerant R410A. However, this isn’t a simple fix. Replacing these parts may come at great expense, not much less than getting a complete new AC installation.
- You can get a new air conditioning system installed. This will likely be the most expensive option, at least initially. But your worries of having to handle the growing expense of R22 or the eventual replacement of an aging AC system will be gone.
Don’t be left in the heat waiting on a fix
If you want to be the most proactive in making changes to your air conditioning unit, please contact us in late winter or early spring. The first warm days of summer are when a lot of people in and around Wichita suddenly find out something is wrong with their cooling system. These are some of our busiest days for our experienced techs. That means many homeowners may wait days in the Kansas heat until we can fix their unit. We have a large team of experienced HVAC technicians and have locations in West Wichita, Andover, and Newton. Plus, we can service all the surrounding communities for your heating and air conditioning needs.
Call us at (316) 945-3481