What is it? R22 is a refrigerant essential to all air conditioning systems. Some call it Freon, but that term is a brand name like Kleenex. R22 is the code name assigned by the industry to a certain mix of liquids and gases that make a refrigerant. A Government mandate has ordered all production of R22 stopped by 2020. The mandate reduces the amount permitted each year until 2020. The reason for stopping production is that R22 when released into the atmosphere depletes the ozone layer.
R410 is an environmentally friendly refrigerant which has replaced R22 in all new air conditioning units.
Recycled R22 is permitted by the mandate and will be available indefinitely. How much is available depends on how much is turned in by contractors.
The Government underestimated how much Recycled R22 would be available when it set the annual limits for production of virgin R22. The result was a shortage of R22 and soaring prices. As an example 5 years ago R22 sold for $10 per pound. Today R22 can be as much as $50 per pound. Typical residential air conditioning unit hold from 5 to 15 pounds of R22. If a coil has to be replaced or there is a leak the cost of refilling the refrigerant could be $250 to $750. My house has a 17 year old unit with R22. There is no need to replace this unit or its refrigerant because it has R22. If I start having a lot expense to repair leaks or coils I would replace the unit because the cost of R22 will continue to rise. You have to look at the cost of repairs vs. replacement.
Are there substitutes for R22? Yes there are some new blends called R422D that come very close to offering the same performance as R22. In residential applications the cost to use R22 is still not that big. In commercial applications you have large equipment which uses a lot of refrigerant and that is where we would look at using the substitute because R22 is so expensive.
Can R410 be used in existing units. No! R410 will not work in a system designed for R22. You can only used the R22 substitutes