An ongoing federal government-ordered phaseout of R-22 refrigerant (also known by the brand name “Freon”) is gradually increasing R-22 refrigerant prices. In the past three years, as a result of the phaseout, the cost of R-22 has risen dramatically. Future R-22 refrigerant prices are difficult to predict, but one thing is sure: they will continue to rise as new supplies get smaller and smaller. Over the long-term, using heat pumps and air conditioners designed to operate with R-22 will make service extremely expensive.
As older R-22 reliant cooling systems (those manufactured before 2010) require coolant replacement, you may find that you have limited options. The first is to continue to use your current cooling system as is. If it’s in excellent repair, this could be a viable option, considering that an average A/C or heat pump lasts 12-15 years. However, the phase-out of R-22 moved more quickly than first mandated. By the time your system needs new refrigerant, R-22 may be prohibitively expensive or unavailable.
Another option is to modify the old equipment to accommodate new refrigerant formulas that meet federal EPA standards, and which operate under higher pressures than R-22. R-410A is currently the main refrigerant used in newer cooling systems. A retrofit can only be done by qualified HVAC technicians. It involves changing the oil, gaskets and other components. The main drawback to a retrofit is the loss of efficiency, which varies between 5 and 15 percent. In addition, you should carefully monitor the system for leaks after a retrofit.
The final and probably best option is a replacement with equipment specifically designed for R-410A. Brand new HVAC systems operate more efficiently, at a lower cost, and with greater reliability than older cooling equipment. Federal tax credits for qualified high-efficiency central A/C and heat pump systems will help with installation expenses.
A professional contractor can evaluate your cooling system and help you understand how to respond to the certain rise in R-22 refrigerant prices. Ernst Heating & Cooling provides expert service to Hamel, Alton, Glen Carbon, Highland, Greenville and Troy.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Hamel, Alton, Glen Carbon, Highland, Greenville, and Troy, Illinois and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about R-22 refrigerant and other HVAC topics, visit our blog.