Beginning on January 1, 2020, producing or importing R22 freon will become illegal in the United States. Given the refrigerant’s ozone-damaging properties, the move is the latest step in the EPA’s ongoing effort to protect the Earth’s ozone layer.
While air conditioners manufactured in the U.S. after 2010 no longer use R22, those with older air conditioners should be aware of the potential impacts that the new law could have.
Here’s what you need to know about the R22 refrigerant ban and how it could personally affect you:
1. What exactly is the ban about?
The initiative to phase out ozone-damaging chemicals known as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), including R22 refrigerant, began in 1987 with the Montreal Protocol. Since the chemicals have been phased out slowly, industries have had time to develop safer alternatives and many customers have already switched to those alternatives.
On January 1, 2020, the final phase of the ban goes into effect in the United States: manufacturing, importing and exporting R22 freon will become illegal.
5. Will R22 freon be available at all?
Yes, but for a limited time. Some companies may purchase a surplus of R22 freon before the ban comes into effect, which they can use to service older air conditioners until they run out. Given the restricted future supply, customers should expect to pay substantially higher prices for the environmentally-harmful refrigerant. Additionally, only technicians with special certification from the EPA will be permitted to service air conditioners that use R22 freon.
Some companies may also offer recycled R22 freon, but you should check with your technician for advice on how that may impact your air conditioner’s performance.
3. Is it mandatory for me to replace my older unit?
No. There is no legal requirement to replace your older unit, even if it uses R22 freon. However, if your unit begins to leak, you should factor in the economic incentives of replacing the unit instead of repairing it.
Keep in mind that the costs of R22 freon will only continue to get more expensive as supplies dwindle. By replacing your unit instead of purchasing additional R22 freon for the repair, you can begin to offset the cost of a new unit.
Additionally, newer units are more energy-efficient, saving you money each month on your energy bills. According to the Department of Energy, switching to a high-efficiency air conditioner and taking other actions to keep your home cool can reduce your AC-related energy expenses by 20 to 50%.
4. What should I be looking for in a new unit?
When you decide to replace your old air conditioner, look for a new unit manufactured after January 1, 2010, the date when the EPA prohibited the manufacture and installation of new units that use R22 freon.
Any unit manufactured after this date will use more modern coolants, such as R410A, that don’t result in the negative environmental impacts associated with R22 freon.
5. Is there anything that I should avoid buying?
Be wary of older models that don’t use R22 freon but that also aren’t as energy efficient as newer models. Many companies tried to get ahead of the rush by purchasing units that complied with new EPA guidelines early on, but those models may not take advantage of recent advances in technology and energy efficiency.
You should also be cautious if considering the option to “update” the type of refrigerant that your older model uses in lieu of purchasing a new air conditioner. While it may indeed be possible to replace just a few parts to make your older model compatible with newer coolants, you’ll probably notice an immediate decline in performance and energy efficiency after making the switch.
What if I have other questions?
If you want to know more about what to expect when the R22 freon ban goes into effect, don’t hesitate to call your A/C technician. They’ll be happy to talk to you about your options and find the best solution for any budget.
To contact an HVAC professional about how the upcoming ban on importing or producing R22 freon will affect your A/C