Chances are you have already heard of the newer regulations surrounding your air conditioner’s refrigerant. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set mandates to phase out producing, importing, and using the refrigerant R-22, commercially known as Freon®, here in the United States.
At Tassio Temperature Control, our heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals are asked regularly about R-22 by Canoga Park homeowners and how these regulations affect them. Here are the most common questions we receive.
What are these refrigerant regulations for air conditioners?
Currently there is a worldwide effort to protect the ozone layer. In 1987, there was an international treaty created called the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layerspecifying a phaseout schedule of harmful chemical compounds considered ozone-depleting substances (ODS).
To comply with the Montreal Protocol, there are now EPA regulations stipulating the amount of ODS legally produced in, imported into, and used in the United States. One of the ODSs is the common refrigerant R-22 or Freon. By 2020, this hydrochlorofluorocarbon, or HCFC-22, can no longer be imported or produced here.
Do I have R-22 in my air conditioner?
Not everyone’s air conditioner here in Los Angeles uses R-22. You can check your system yourself to see what your air conditioner uses. To check, look on your air conditioner’s data plate or nameplate to see the type of refrigerant your system needs. Look on the side of your outdoor condenser or your indoor air handler, depending what your system uses. If it uses R-22, it will read R-22 or maybe HCFC-22.If your data plate or nameplate lists another refrigerant, the alternatives are R-410A or HFC-410A (commercially called Puron®, EcoFluor®, Forane®, or Genetron®). These replacement refrigerants or hydrofluorocarbons were created as step-down phaseout compounds. Additional alternative refrigerants used are R-134a, R-404A, R-507, and R-407c. Typically the best alternative option for residential air conditioners is R-410A.There is a bit more time, but by the year 2050, these too will be phased out. While they pose no harm to the ozone layer as do the HCFCs, they are greenhouse gases with a high global-warming potential (GWP), much like HCFCs and their predecessors, the chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs.If you cannot find your air conditioner’s refrigerant type on the equipment itself, you might be able to identify its name by your system’s manufacture date. You will use R-22 if yours was manufactured before 1996. If its manufacture date is 1996 through 2009, it could be either R-22 or another like R-410A. If your system was manufactured in 2010 or later, the refrigerant will most likely be an alternative such as R-410A, since beginning January 1, 2010, all new systems were required to utilize an alternative.
What should I do if my air conditioner uses R-22?
At the moment, if your air conditioner is cooling your home well, you can simply continue to enjoy your air conditioner. On the other hand, if you are having problems with it sufficiently cooling your home, or you have this problem in the future, you need to have one of our cooling professionals evaluate your system. If we find your system is low on refrigerant, that means your air conditioner has a leak. At that point, you will need to decide if you will repair, retrofit, or replace the unit. You cannot use one of the newer refrigerants as a substitute in your system as is.
Repair. If you decide to repair the leak, you need to know this—if the projected 12-month leak rate is over 10 percent of the normal charge (which it usually is), our professionals can only repair the leak once before we condemn your unit. Adding recycled R-22 and/or supplementing with some type of leak sealant are only temporary fixes, and the system still needs to be replaced. You also need to know we will no longer recharge R-22 systems. Stay away from any company or individual who offers to continually do it. EPA demands all heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) companies and professionals to keep a refrigerant log. With the looming 2020 R-22 phaseout, EPA is tracking R-22 and checking to be sure all older systems are being replaced. Only swindlers will recharge systems, so they can collect the exorbitant price they will charge you a couple times a year or more.If anyone tells you to keep recharging your old system, that is illegal. Report them to EPA.
Retrofit. If you choose to retrofit your system, one of our highly trained professionals will modify your system. We will install new parts and/or your outdoor condenser to accept a replacement refrigerant, if your indoor coils are new-refrigerant compatible.
Replace. If you decide to replace your system, our experienced professionals can help you assess which new system will best fit your home and your needs. We are happy to come out to your home for a complimentary consultation. We are here to help you evaluate which of these three choices makes the most sense for you. Let our knowledgeable team members come out to your home for a complimentary consultation.
What will I pay for refrigerant now?
When it comes to your air conditioner, refrigerant costs are calculated per pound. How much refrigerant your air conditioner requires depends entirely on your system’s size. Typically, air conditioners need two to four pounds of refrigerant per ton of your unit. The majority of units are between one and five tons in size.R-22 has always cost more than other refrigerants, but currently you can expect to pay near triple or more the price for it. Other HFCs, such as R-401A, used to be less in price than R-22, but now the price is climbing. As we move closer to 2020 and even 2050, count on prices fluctuating depending on the market. Supply and demand is the name of the game.Call us and ask our current refrigerant pricing, since it will continue to change.
Contact Tassio for All Your Air Conditioning Needs
All these refrigerant regulations can be confusing. There are a lot of components to the subject. At Tassio Temperature Control, we are here in the North Hollywood, CA, area to help you through this. Our experts would be happy to answer any questions you may have and to help you with your air conditioner, no matter what your need may be. Call us today at (818) 495-6787 or request service online.