The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun an accelerated program to phase out R-22, generally known as Freon, resulting in dramatically higher prices and limited quantities of the refrigerant. Homeowners should be aware of how these changes will affect them.
The 1990 Clean Air Act mandated the elimination of R-22, first by banning its use in new systems beginning in 2010 and then by eliminating R-22 entirely by 2020. This action was in conjunction with the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which is an agreement made by nations around the globe to eliminate chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that deplete the ozone layer and contribute to global warming. As an alternative to R-22, R-410A can be used, is considered environmentally friendly.
No matter what each individual homeowner’s situation is with their cooling equipment, the R-22 phase-out will affect virtually all American homeowners within the next eight to ten years, whether it be in the increased cost of R-22 or with the investment of upgrading to an R-410A system.
Common household uses of R-22 include:
- Window air-conditioning units
- Central air-conditioners
- Air-to-air heat pumps
- Ground-source heat pumps
- Ductless air-conditioners
- Chest or upright freezers
Due to the changes in availability of R-22, suppliers have recently raised prices significantly, and have begun severely limiting the quantities of the refrigerant that cooling contractors can purchase. Due to this, the cost of air conditioning tune-ups and repairs is expected to rise as well.
For the consumer, there are some guidelines to keep in mind with the new regulations, depending upon the status of your cooling system:
- A system that is over eight years old is nearing the end of its expected life. Homeowners should begin looking to replace existing systems with a newer system that uses R-410A.
- Any system that is using R-22 and is in good operating order may eventually need R-22 for repairs; licensed contractors should have it available through 2020, but consumers can expect significantly higher repair costs.
- A system that uses R-22 and has a compressor failure can sometimes be repaired with a replacement R-22 part, but repair costs will be significantly higher. Repairs may not always be possible; compressors may need to be replaced in some cases.
For more information, visit www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/phaseout/22phaseout.html