The current phase out of refrigerant in residential and commercial properties leaves home and business owners with unanswered questions. How will this impact the cost of repairs to my HVAC system? Do I need to replace the entire unit? What are my options? The good news is, we’re here to give you some clarification!
The future of refrigerant. Approximately 25 years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated the phase out of R-22 as the result of growing environmental concerns. Acting in accordance of The Clean Air Act, the phase out was enacted to protect the Earth’s ozone layer from the ozone-depleting compound (chlorine) found in R-22. Production of new air conditioning units charged with R-22 ended in 2010, and by 2020 the servicing of R-22-based systems will rely solely on recycled or reclaimed refrigerants.
Alternatives. As R-22 is gradually phased out, alternative refrigerants are being introduced. One of these substitutes is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer.
Service to current HVAC systems. If your air conditioner was manufactured before 2010, it probably utilizes R-22. The good news – existing units using R-22 can continue to be serviced with R-22 as there is no EPA requirement for change or conversion of these units.
More than likely, your heating and cooling units will have sufficient R-22, unless a leak occurs. Since production is limited, costs to charge existing units leaking R-22 refrigerant have gone up and are expected to rise. The best thing you can do is properly maintain your unit to prevent leaks. You can do so by participating in routine tune-ups in the spring and fall. Routine maintenance is far less expensive than emergency repairs.
Retrofits and substitutions. Retrofit units, converted R-22 units utilizing a substitute refrigerant, are allowed if the alternative has been found acceptable for that type of use. Substitute refrigerants can work well in R-22 units with a few changes to system components. For example, simply replacing R-22 refrigerant with R-410A in a preexisting R-22 unit is not recommended due to its higher working pressure. However, a certified professional can replace R-22 condensers with R-410A condensers, as long as the system coil is also updated. This provides consistency in the refrigerant cycle, as one cannot be replaced without the other, and allows the retrofit to get you by for several more years. Note, the EPA warns of potential safety hazards related to the use of unapproved refrigerants in home air conditioning systems as they are not designed to handle flammable refrigerants.
Impact to the environment. Properly installed home comfort systems rarely develop major refrigerant leaks, and with proper servicing, a system using R-22, R-410A, or another refrigerant will reduce its impact on the environment.
New units. Another important thing a homeowner can do for the environment is to purchase a highly energy-efficient system. Today’s air conditioners use much less energy, provide cost savings in maintenance and electric costs, and offer a green alternative to R-22 units. Rebates and tax credits also help to offset the cost of new systems.
The best time to switch to a new system is before you’re hit by the high costs of repairing a refrigerant system. Take into account the age of your current unit (as a general rule, systems should be older than 10 years); look for the Energy Star® label to save up to 40 percent on utility bills; and consider the minimum seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) specification.
We can help address any concerns you may have about the phase out, as well as help you maintain your HVAC system and assist you in making the right choice for your home or business. Give us a call at 405.243.161 today!