The facts homeowners and businesses need to know and the options that are available as we head into 2020.
If you have an older HVAC equipment there are regulatory changes in the works that you must plan for now or face expensive consequences. R22 refrigerant (also known as FREON) will become illegal to manufacture or import in the US effective 1/1/2020.
In the meantime, the supply will dwindle, and prices will rise drastically. How will the R22 refrigerant phase-out impact your AC equipment and the cost to maintain it? If your system needs repairs, it will cost increasingly more in the short term and it will become impossible to fix at any price as we move past the 2020 deadline.
As a homeowner or business owner who may not be an expert, how do you decide on a plan of action? Is now the time to replace your older equipment with a modern system that use new refrigerants? Is converting older systems to use new refrigerant a viable option? Or can you hold out with what you’ve got until the R22 refrigerant phase-out is complete?
Continue reading for helpful information and advice from the experts.
What’s behind the R22 refrigerant (FREON) phaseout?
The dangers of older refrigerants have been known for decades. The industry standard refrigerant used in air conditioning equipment for many years was R22 (also known as FREON), a hydrochlorofluorocarbon gas, or HCFC. Back in the 70s it was discovered the HCFC gases were quickly depleting the earths ozone layer, and an international treaty called the Montreal Protocol called for a worldwide phase-out of these types of refrigerants.
Since then, the US Environmental Protection agency (EPA) has been regulating the availability and use of R22, gradually decreasing the quantities the quantities that can be manufactures or imported. As of 1/1/2020 the R22 phase out will be complete, and R22 will become unavailable.
2016 saw prices hike over 50%. In 2017 quantities started to decrease further and prices continued to rise drastically as a result. As the end of R22 refrigerant continues, shortages will increase and it’s likely that prices will skyrocket.
Owners of older AC systems using R22 have a decision to make. It’s smart to plan your strategy now rather than waiting for breakdowns, new equipment shortages or manpower backlogs due to the replacement demand.
R22 Refrigerant phase out: 3 options for equipment owners
Option 1 Stay the course until you are forced to make a change.
If your equipment is in good shape, this option may be viable for as long as 2 years. However, there are risks you must be aware of.
The Upside: Cost! This is probably the least expensive option in the short term. If your system is under 8 years old, free of refrigerant leaks, properly maintained and operating well, its possible that it could last for years without needing more refrigerant. Take note of the “probably” in the previous statement refrigerant leaks can happen at any time, especially to an older system or a system that may have corrosion on the coils. If a leak occurs, you’ll need to consider one of the other two options at that time. Our recommendation if you chose this option is to please call Matz-Rightway Heating and Air Conditioning at 631-728-0661 to schedule a regular annual inspection or speak to one of our comfort associates in regards to a yearly preventive maintenance agreement or coil cleaning.
The Downside: Increasingly expensive repairs. R22 will continue to increase in price as inventory level dwindle driving up the cost of repairs. If your system does need any repair that involves replacing refrigerant (many repairs do), that repair will become more and more expensive, because R22 will become more expensive and harder to obtain.
Facing long waits for an emergency replacement. Come January 2020, when R22 will not be available at, you’ll be in line with everyone else on an emergency basis who has to replace the equipment or modify the existing equipment to accept alternative refrigerants. If your system fails, you could be forced to operate without AC for an extended period of time, or worse, be forced to close your home or business while you wait.
Costly repairs might not make sense for an older system. Even if your system does remain leak-free, there always the chance you’ll need other expensive repairs that don’t involve adding refrigerant. In that event, we would discourage pouring money into a system that you must replace in just a few years’ time (in the best case), especially when you consider the added efficiency you gain with a new system.
Risk of hazardous replacement refrigerants. The EPA has already issued warnings about contaminated or counterfeit R22 refrigerants being sold by unscrupulous vendors. These can be hazardous, possibly causing fires or explosions. As the price of R22 goes up, that risk will increase. Never buy refrigerants from a trusted HVAC contractor who is licensed to perform this work.
Option 2 Retrofit your existing system to use new refrigerant
Since the R22 phase out has been known for some time, some supplies have been developing new refrigerants to be compatible with older system. While they are not an option for all equipment and in all situations. In some cases you may be able to convert your older system to use one of these new refrigerants (this process is called retrofitting). However, there can be significant risks to doing so. Here are the pros and cons to consider.
The Upside: Delaying the expense of replacement. Especially for equipment that is still in good condition, you may be able to delay replacing it (and laying out the cost of buying new equipment) by retrofitting it to use a new refrigerant. This option can give you time to plan for the expense of replacing the entire system. Less expensive repairs. Once converted to use the new refrigerant, any repairs that require refrigerant replacement will not be as expensive, since the new refrigerants are less costly, at least in the short term. However, keep in mind that the cost of replacement refrigerants may also rise over the next few years. Short-term solution. Retrofitting might be a viable option if you’re moving to a new location within a few years, since it may not make sense to invest in a new system that you wont use very long.
The Downside: Technical limitations may prohibit retrofitting. Retrofitting is not possible for every system. You’ll need to consult with an HVAC expert and have a thorough inspection to determine if your system cab be converted to use another refrigerant. Comfort may be compromised. When a retrofit can be done, it can often reduce the cooling capacity of the system. That means, if your system already under-performing (not cooling well, not removing enough humidity, or cooling inconsistently) than this is not a smart option for you. You’ll end up with poor comfort conditions. Higher energy costs. The loss in capacity will result in longer run times for your equipment increasing your energy needs and driving up your electric bills. Retrofitting is not as a complete replacement, but there can be a significant cost. If the equipment is older, you might be spending money on a system that wont last much longer anyway. Voiding your warranty. If your system is currently covered under the manufactures warranty, you can run the risk of voiding that warranty by changing that refrigerant. Most if not all manufactures are not supporting the use of new refrigerants in equipment designed for R22 applications.
Option 3 Replace your equipment with a modern system that uses new refrigerant
In a matter of a few years, the reality is that all your r22 based equipment will have to be replaced. But is it necessary to do it now?
The Upside: Replacing your equipment that uses R22 in the coming year is a smart move for a number of reasons. Eliminating the risk of an expensive emergency repair. In the next couple of years, if your old system breaks and you need replacement R22 to repair it, that repair will be much more expensive than what you’re paying now for the same work. You won’t be without air conditioning. If you must replace your system on an emergency basis, you could be waiting some time without air conditioning for a new system to be ordered and installed. How will that impact your family, home or business? If you replace proactively, you can replace on your schedule. You can plan for the expense, and you wont risk suffering through a heat wave with no A/C. New replacement systems are more energy efficient and less expensive to operate. Especially if you have and air conditioner that’s more than 10-year-old, the cash you save each month can be substantial and can add up very quickly. To figure out how much you could save with a new, energy efficient system please contact your HVAC expert. It’s the environmentally responsible thing to do. Discontinuing the use of harmful HCFC chemicals is not only beneficial to drive our efforts to preserve our planet for future generations.
The Downside:The expense. The big downside, of course, is the upfront cost of replacing your system now. It can be difficult to make that decision when your system seems to be working fine, even if it is aging.
Need help deciding which option is right for you?
Matz-Rightway has positioned itself to have the correct phase out strategy to meet your needs. You need to know that we are on top of the situation, and our technicians, salespeople and office staff are fully trained in what to do if your older A/C unit needs repair. Please feel free to reach out to us any time to discuss the impending R22 phase out and how it will affect you.
Matz-Rightway experts can help by evaluating the condition of your equipment, and helping you develop a replacement plan that will work with you and your budget.