Most folks aren't aware, and hey I wasn't really either until recently, but part of the Clean Air Act of 1990and Montreal Protocol of 1996 addresses the eventual phase-out of HFCF-22 or R-22, also commonly called freon.
Sound familiar? Yeah, that freon, the stuff that runs our cooling systems and keeps us from going bananas in these hot Kansas days!
Before you lose your cool (ha ha!), they are obviously replacing Freon with something else - called R410A, which goes under trade names such as Puron, Forane 410A, Genetron AZ-20, and so on. This is supposed to have a less harmful impact on our environment.
The schedule outlined in the Act, calls for manufacturers to : "only produce or import HCFC-22 to service existing equipment. Virgin R-22 may not be used in new equipment. As a result, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system manufacturers may not produce new air conditioners and heat pumps containing R-22."
And by 2020, R22 will no longer be allowed to be manufactured by the Chemical manufacturers, though existing Freon can be recycled to service the older units.
All the timeline info and details can be found here at the EPA's website regarding the R22 Phaseout.
So What do I care? What this means to you is:
1. Servicing your older A/C will become more costly as time goes on and Freon becomes scarce, particularly in 10 years when it's no longer manufactured.
2. You can't simply change out your refrigerants from the R22 to the approved 410A, because it requires different system components. For example if you look on the EPA's page under the "What Does it Mean to the Consumer" section, you'll see that retrofits are practically impossible because of the new components required. In addition, even just replacing your A/C won't do the job, because you'll also have to replace the Evaporator coil inside the home as well. Cha-ching!
3. If you are planning to replace your HVAC in the next couple of years anyway, make SURE that you are getting the newer 410A safe units and not the remaining R22 units. This will make it easier on you down the road when R22 is scarce.
4. Keep this info in mind when buying or selling so you're prepared when inspectors start calling this issue out in a few years. It may be something to start asking builders about if you're building anytime soon as well. Best case would be to get the newer equipment in place now so that you aren't dealing with it at crunch time.
You may want to consider putting a home warranty on your system that will cover the upgrade needed. So far I've found only Old Republic Home Warranty has come out with a statement that they will cover the changeover of R22 units to the R410A. So consider them if you're negotiating or offering a home warranty during your home sale/purchase but also if you've got an older unit that may need some watching and replacement in the next few years.
Keep an eye out for this over the years! In the short run, they simply won't be making A/C equipment for R22 anymore, but the old ones are still in plenty supply and will continue to be installed. The real crunch will be as we get closer to 2020 and the word starts getting out. You know how the public reacts to big changes! So being prepared before the A/C wars begin will put you in a better and calmer place, a "cooler" place if you will, while the rest of the world fights over the remaining freon and who is going to pay for the new system!
Ta-Ta for now!