What does the R-22 Phase Out Mean For Your HVAC System?

By
Mortgage and Lending with Olympus Labs

R22 is a refrigerant that is used in a lot of air conditioning systems, and it has been for quite some time. It was introduced as a more environmentally friendly version of some of the CFC based refrigerants that were popular in early generation air conditioning units.

More recent research discovered that while HCFC refrigerants are an improvement over CFCs, R22 is still not really environmentally friendly. The phase out of R-22 refrigerant is a major part of the Montreal protocol, which is a long-term scheme to improve the environment and protect the ozone layer.

The use of R-22 has already been stopped in Europe, and work on phasing it out has begun in the US, but the phase out will not be completed until 2020. In developing countries, the phase out process began in 2015, but is not expected to be completed until 2030.

What Does it Mean for You?

If you have an older air conditioning unit that relies on R-22 refrigerant, which is also known as Freon, then the phase out means that your next service or recharge appointment for your unit could be very expensive.  The phase out has been staggered, with the manufacture and import of Freon being restricted, and the rules saying that new units cannot use it. At the moment, R-22 can be imported for use to recharge existing units, but the final stage of the ban is due to begin, and in that stage the only way to obtain R-22 will be to either buy some that has already been stockpiled or buy some that has been reclaimed from decommissioned HVAC units. This means that the price of R-22 is going to soar. It has already been increasing year on year and that will continue.

It’s Time to Replace your HVAC System

Now is a god time to replace your old HVAC system. If your system runs on R-22 then it is most likely already 10 years old and not very energy efficient. Newer systems have a lot of positive points. They are:

- More reliable

- More energy efficient

- Less expensive to service

- Have better warranties

- Have a lower carbon footprint

- Are powered by refrigerants that are much less expensive than R-22

If you cannot afford to completely replace your HVAC system at this time, there are some other options. You can use r22 replacement substitute refrigerant. These replacements may require a minor retrofit of your unit, but it is still a better option in most cases than sticking with R-22 as your refrigerant.

Why Replace Instead of Recharge?

The idea of recharging air conditioning is one of the poorest understood areas of HVAC systems as far as consumers go. Many engineers will come out to inspect units that are not operating as efficiently as they used to, tell you that you need to recharge them, give you a top up, take your money and leave it at that. This is not efficient or environmentally friendly.  You should not need to top your HVAC unit up every year with new refrigerant. If it is working correctly then it should rarely need refilled. A need for a yearly top up indicates that you probably have a leak and that something in the unit needs replaced. If your unit is very old, then instead of fixing it, and then spending a fortune on topping up the Freon, it probably makes sense to replace the whole thing.

The profit margins on R-22 are huge right now, and a savvy company that started to stockpile while R-22 was still being made in the USA could stand to make a lot of money over the next few years. Instead of falling victim to that, and potentially harming the environment by refilling leaking units, why not get on board early with replacing your unit. When you get it decommissioned the company can take the R-22 from it and resell it to those who are not replacing their systems yet (which means that it will be put to good use, rather than being unsafely disposed of) and you can be confident that your new unit is safe and energy efficient.

Yes, there is a substantial outlay on buying a new unit, but you will not need to spend money on a retrofit, you should not need to recharge the unit for a couple of years, and any recharges will be cheaper. The unit should run quieter and more efficiently and will consume less energy to keep your property at an acceptable temperature. You may be able to get grants to improve the energy efficiency of your property, depending on the state that you live or operate in.

Call an Expert for Advice

If you are not sure how old your air conditioning unit is, or what sort of refrigerant it uses, then you should take a look at the front of the unit. There is usually a plate which has the make, model and certain operating details (including refrigerant type) stamped on it. You can learn a lot from this plate. If you can’t find the plate, then the operating manual should tell you. Otherwise, it may be a good idea to book a service and to have the engineer tell you what kind of refrigerant your unit uses and how much it needs.

You should have your air conditioning serviced every year. The service should check that the filters are clean, and that the unit is in a good state of repair. Regular inspections with maintenance work done as required could keep the running costs of your unit as low as possible and should reduce the likelihood of you needing to pay for expensive recharges and repairs. A HVAC system is a complex machine with many parts that interact with each other, just like a car. This means that just like a car it is better to clean the filters and check the coolant levels regularly, so that you are alerted to problems before they become serious and hard or expensive for you to repair.

 

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David Jackson, MBA

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