For decades R22 (Freon) was the industry standard for A/C refrigerant, but it’s now illegal to manufacture or import R22 (and R142b) gas into the United States. Moreover, the servicing of R22 systems is now limited to the use of recycled or stockpiled quantities of Freon.
So if you have central air conditioning (or HVAC unit) that utilizes Freon and requires service, you have three different options for R22 Freon replacement, all of which are detailed below.
R22 Refrigerant Phase Out
As you may know, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been phasing out hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants like R22 and R142b in order to help protect the ozone layer, which shields the Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.
For many years it’s been known that emissions of select synthetic chemicals—including HCFC refrigerants—destroy the ozone layer and contribute to climate change.
That’s why the U.S. EPA instituted a scheduled phase out of R22 and R142b, starting with a ban on production, import, and use (“except for continuing service needs of existing equipment”), which went into effect on January 1, 2010.
Now, as of January 1, 2020, there’s a ban on the remaining production and import of R22 and R142b, with the servicing of R22 systems limited to recycled and stockpiled quantities of Freon.
3 Options for R22 Freon Replacement
1. You can still recharge your HVAC system using R22 but it will be expensive.
If you have an old air conditioning unit that utilizes R22 and it develops a leak, you can still recharge the system using R22, as it’s the production and import—not the use of R22—that is banned.
But being limited to the use of recycled or existing stockpiles of R22, the reality is that R22 is now astronomically expensive, assuming your service technician or distributor can buy it at all.
An R22 system can only be serviced by an EPA-certified technician—that is, one who has EPA Section 608 certification to service equipment containing R22.
The bottom line is that servicing an old R22 unit with existing Freon is likely to cost many hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
2. Modify your existing system to accommodate an alternative refrigerant;
like R410a, which the EPA describes as “a non-ozone-depleting HFC refrigerant blend”—one that is manufactured and sold under a variety of brand names, including 410A and Puron.
But even if it’s possible to retrofit your unit to accommodate an R22 Freon substitute like R410a (or another acceptable alternative refrigerant), it may not make sense to retrofit a system that is already ten or more years old.
That’s because the retrofit requires a nearly complete overhaul of the unit. That is, the compressor, evaporator, and condenser all need to be replaced, and with some units, the lines that connect these components must be replaced as well.
3. Replace your R22 air conditioner with a brand-new HVAC unit.
While replacing your air conditioner or HVAC unit may seem like a daunting prospect from a financial perspective, you may recoup a significant portion of your investment in energy savings. That’s because today’s air conditioning systems are more efficient than ever before.
According to energy.gov, “today’s best air conditioners use 30% to 50% less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the mid-1970s. Even if your air conditioner is only ten years old, you may save 20% to 40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.”
Never mind the fact that a new unit that uses R410a as coolant will also be better for the environment, as R410a has an ozone depletion rating of zero.
Better yet, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) have given R410a a rating of A1 for safety, yet another consideration.
As for the most energy-efficient new models, consider looking for ENERGY STAR® and Energy Guide labels as “qualified central units are about 15% more efficient than standard models,” according to energy.gov.
Also, “consider purchasing a system with a higher seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) than the minimum for greater savings.” As you may know, energy efficiency is measured by SEER; the higher the ratio, the more efficient the equipment.
How Do You Know if Your Air Conditioner Uses R22?
If your air conditioner was installed between 2010 and 2019 it’s okay because it likely uses the coolant R410a (Puron), which manufacturers began to phase-in more than fifteen years ago.
But if you’re not sure, check your system manual or condenser (outside on HVAC unit); the type of refrigerant will be highlighted on a sticker or identified in the fine print on the nameplate. If you’re still unsure, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’ll be happy to help.
When Will R22 Freon be Phased Out?
January 1, 2020, is the last benchmark specifically related to R22 and R142b. There is one more date to remember concerning the EPA’s phase out of HCFC’s. A ban on the remaining production and import of all HCFC’s will go into effect on January 1, 2030.
Jewell Mechanical: Your A/C Installation and Repair Experts
At Jewell Mechanical, we’re here to help you make an informed decision about your R22 air conditioner, one that takes into account:
- Energy efficiency
If you have questions about the R22 phase out or the repair or replacement of R22 air conditioning units—or if you’re ready to install new central air conditioning in your home—call us at (615) 469-5965. We provide HVAC services for the Metro Davidson County area and the majority of Middle Tennessee.
Jewell Mechanical technicians are trained on the latest HVAC equipment, including systems from Rheem, American Standard, Mitsubishi and all other major brands. We’ll get your new system installed and operational quickly and efficiently, minimizing inconvenience for you and your family.