What is the R-22 phase-out?
As of January 1, 2020, the popular chemical refrigerant R-22 (or freon as it is commonly referred to) can no longer be imported into or manufactured within the United States, as mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This ban is part of a worldwide phase-out geared towards drastically minimizing and eventually eliminating R-22’s harmful effects on our ozone layer. While this may not seem relevant to the general public, many homeowners rely on it to fuel their home’s HVAC system.
What is refrigerant and why is it important?
Refrigerant is a fluid that flows inside the coils of your air conditioner and/or heat pump. Your system compresses and condenses the refrigerant’s pressure levels and prompting it to switch between liquid and gas states. This causes a reaction in which the temperature changes as well. As its pressure changes, the refrigerant either soaks up or lets off heat to the air as it passes over the coils, in turn cause the temperature of that air to shift one way or the other before being distributed throughout your home. Essentially, the refrigerant your system uses is the secret chemical ingredient that allows it to change air from hot to cold and vice versa. Like a car without gas or oil, an HVAC system would be a useless heap of metal parts without the proper refrigerant and plenty of it.
What does the phase-out mean for homeowners?
Since Freon is no longer being produced, what dwindling supply remains will become exponentially more expensive until eventually it’s all gone. Any homes still using freon-dependent HVAC systems will inevitably and unfortunately feel the effects of this shortage soon enough if they haven’t already.
Does your home’s HVAC system require R-22?
Chances are you already know whether or not your home’s HVAC takes R-22. If you’re not sure, however, it’s important that you find out as soon as possible so you know whether or not you need to take further action. R-22 had been the HVAC industry’s go-to refrigerant up until a decade ago, so freon-dependent systems aren’t all that rare. In recent years, updated systems have been designed to use newer, less harmful refrigerants like R410A. However, if your home’s HVAC system was installed prior to 2010, there’s a good chance your system runs on freon.
What are my options if my system still uses R-22?
Homeowners with systems that have run on R-22 in the past have a few different options as far as what to do about it, all of which depends on the exact make and model of the system in question.
Option 1: Switching Fuels
In the best case scenario, albeit a rare one, your system may already equipped to use an alternative refrigerant, meaning it isn’t technically freon-dependent even though that’s what it always used in the past. If you’re system is able to handle it, the solution in this scenario is as easy as switching to a different type of refrigerant.
Option 2: Retrofitting
While some systems may not be equipped to use alternative refrigerants, a professional may be able to convert or retrofit your system so that it is able to do so. While it isn’t easy and despite requiring some pretty extensive repair work, retrofitting a system can save you from having to replace it altogether. This may be a much more cost effective option in many circumstances, but keep in mind that’s only if you have that option. Even so, there’s a lot to look into before modifying a system like this, including any special licenses needed to do so and whether or not your system’s warranty covers said modifications when the system itself wasn’t originally designed that way. Furthermore, retrofitting an old system may only extend its lifespan by so much before it needs to be replaced anyway.
Option 3: Replacement
In many cases, if your current system can’t run on alternative refrigerants or be retrofitted in order to do so, your best option may be to replace it with a new system as soon as possible. While this option obviously isn’t ideal, if your system is old enough to need replaced for this reason, chances are it would need replaced soon regardless for any multitude of other reasons. On the positive side, the money you save on a monthly basis with a newer, more eco-friendly and energy efficient system will quickly accumulate over time.
The longer you wait to address the issue, the less time you’ll have to act before it’s too late. If you know your HVAC system uses R-22 but still aren’t sure what alternative options you should pursue moving forward, we recommend scheduling an appointment with an HVAC tech as soon as possible. A trained professional will be able to lay out your options for you in more concrete terms and make an educated recommendation based on your exact circumstances.
If you live in the Delaware Valley tri-state region and need to schedule an appointment with HVAC company you can depend on, or if you have any more questions about the R-22 phaseout and how it could affect you, give Robaire a call at (215) 269-6590 and we’ll get you set up with one of our certified techs ASAP.
As always, thanks for reading and check back soon for more helpful HVAC knowledge!