R22 Refrigerant (Freon) Air Conditioner Replacement In 2020
If your heating or cooling system uses R22 refrigerant, an ODS or ozone-depleting substance, prepare for a surprise during the next service visit. According to the Montreal Protocol, the United States made it illegal to produce or import R22 refrigerant. The ban, which came into effect at the start of 2020, only affects the refrigerant production and importation, which means that continued use of heat pumps or ACs using R22 is permitted. However, should your heat pump or AC leak most of its R22 refrigerant, you might have to choose between a system replacement or a substantial refrigerant bill.
What Refrigerant Does My Cooling System Use?
In 2010, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) implemented a ban on the importation and production of R22 refrigerant, except for the ongoing servicing needs of already-existing equipment. The agency also banned the production and installation of heat pump and AC systems using the refrigerant. To accommodate these changes, heat pump and AC equipment manufacturers redesigned their heating and cooling systems to accommodate a chlorine-free refrigerant known as R410A.
As such, if your heat pump or ACs was built and fitted before the 1st of January 2010, chances are it uses R22 refrigerant. And while your cooling or heating system probably has a label identifying the type of refrigerant it uses, it is still a good idea to ask your heat pump or AC dealer for confirmation.
Refrigerant: What is it Anyway?
A refrigerant is any fluid that circulates inside the coils of a heating or cooling system. With the help of the system’s condenser, evaporator, and compressor, various pressures are exerted on the fluid, causing it to physically transform between gas and liquid states. It is this change that makes the fluid either hot or cold. As the pressure changes, the refrigerant readily gives off heat to the air that’s passing over the system’s coils or absorbs heat from the air, changing its temperature. As time passes, the air that’s been heated or cooled makes its way to all the rooms in your house.
What If my Heat Pump or AC Uses R22?
The R22 ban does not require you to replace a well-functioning R22 refrigerant heat pump or AC system. However, should your heat pump or ac fail or require emergency repair, you will have to reconsider your options.
So, what options are there?
Option #1: Repair
Option 1 might sound like an easy solution. However, since the ban of R22, the refrigerant’s price (the little that’s still available) has skyrocketed due to diminishing supply. While there are still some R22 available for servicing HVAC systems made before 2010, its supply has become limited, making it very expensive.
It’s worth noting that this option is suitable when your system only requires an R22 refrigerant top-up. However, suppose your system is leaking enough coolant. In that case, you are better off replacing the entire system as repairing the problem will cost more than a down payment for a brand-new AC or heat pump. If your AC or heat pump uses R22, you can continue using it for as long as you’d like. However, keep in mind that you may run into some challenges recharging the refrigerant should your system develop a major leak.
Option #2: Replace
If you are currently crossing your fingers hoping that your heat pump or AC gets through ‘one more’ season, then consider replacing the entire system while you still have time.
Once an AC or heat pump using R22 starts leaking its refrigerant, you better be ready to dig deep into your pockets to have it repaired. Apart from that, there’s no guarantee that you will find an HVAC dealer with enough R22 to remedy the problem, considering that the refrigerant is no longer being produced or imported. As such, the most viable solution at the moment is to have your cooling and heating system replaced.
The good thing about replacing your old R22 system is that it allows you to get a new AC or heat pump while you still have time. Making this decision early eliminates the need to persevere living in a cold or warm house as you wait for a replacement should the old one fail without warning. Besides that, you also get more time to evaluate product reviews, energy efficiencies, and the latest replacement options available cost.
Suppose the cost of buying a new HVAC system is a concern for you. In that case, you will be glad to know that many HVAC dealers across the country offer reasonable financing options that make it easy to get a new system without spending too much.
Whether you choose to repair or replace your system, make sure you have a professional and licensed heat pump or AC dealer maintain your system. Professional HVAC maintenance can help your cooling and heating system operate optimally and makes it easier to identify minor issues before they become major problems.
Are There Any “Alternatives?”
A professional and licensed HVAC dealer like All Time Air Conditioning can offer to retrofit your existing R22 system to work with other types of refrigerants through a process known as a “drop-in” replacement. However, it’s worth noting that dealers cannot simply replace R22 refrigerant with other refrigerants without making some modifications. Substituting the refrigerant with R410A (which functions at pressure levels different from those of R22) without engineering analysis and major changes is not acceptable. Furthermore, disposal of refrigerants controlled by the Environmental Protection Agency is mandatory.
A good retrofit will require extensive expertise and experience. Please note that if a heat pump or AC dealer does shoddy work, chances are, your HVAC’s warranty won’t cover the damages, which means you will have to consult your manufacturer’s warranty to ascertain if it’s still in effect. Furthermore, using refrigerants not listed on the system’s nameplate will void its safety certification. A sloppy system modification and retrofit could end up costing you more than what you’d have spent having a new R410A refrigerant heat pump or AC system installed.