What choices do I have when it comes to R22 Refrigerant?

R22 Refrigerant

If you rely on a heating or cooling system that uses R22 refrigerant, an ozone-depleting substance (ODS), there are some things you need to know. As of January 1, 2020, production and import of R22 refrigerant will be illegal in the United States. Homeowners and businesses will still be allowed to use units that operate with R22 refrigerant. That being said, whenever you are in need of a repair, you will be looking at an increased bill or a full replacement.

If your AC or heat pump was built and installed before January 1, 2010, there’s a good chance that it uses R22 refrigerant. Your equipment may have a label that identifies the type of refrigerant type used, but it’s a good idea to call Pioneer Heating and Air and have one of their licensed technicians  come out for confirmation.

SO, WHAT. ARE MY OPTIONS?

OPTION 1: DO NOTHING

The ban doesn’t require you to replace a functioning, R22 refrigerant AC or heat pump system. However, now that  the January 1, 2020 ban date has arrived, you may need to evaluate your options if your air conditioning or heat pump system fails or requires emergency repairs.

OPTION 2: REPAIR

Even though OPTION 2 may sound like an easy fix, the price of R22 refrigerant is subject to shrinking supply. This may make R22 very expensive. “While R-22 remains available for servicing equipment made before 2010, it is important to know that supplies of R-22 will become more limited and the price of this refrigerant may increase,” says the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute.

As the supply becomes limited, you may end up paying more for a repair that requires R22 refrigerant than a down payment on a new heat pump or AC system. Pioneer Heating and Air has great financing programs with low monthly payments available, just ask one of our comfort specialists for details. 

Just remember that ACs and heat pumps are not designed to consume refrigerant. Refrigerant simply flows through a continuous series of coils. If your technician suspects a leak, they should locate and repair the refrigerant leak instead of simply “topping off” a leaking system.

OPTION 3: RETROFIT

Between replacing or getting an air conditioning retrofit, retrofitting is usually the less expensive option. If your existing air conditioner is 15 years old or younger, it likely still has years of life left. That’s why retrofits have become so popular. In many cases, your best option is to have your older air conditioner retrofitted to work with one of the many alternative refrigerants available today.

Many people mistakenly think that they can avoid retrofitting by simply mixing refrigerants. Please know that knowingly mixing refrigerants is illegal. The EPA prohibits refrigerant mixing because it’s impossible to recycle mixed refrigerants properly. You can’t just release refrigerant chemicals into the air. A professional must remove it from the system and recycle it properly.

Besides, when moving from R-22 to an alternative refrigerant, the process is a bit more complex than simply adding the new refrigerant into the existing system. Here’s why:

  • Different refrigerants function under varying pressures. Mixing them can cause inefficiencies at best and serious A/C damage at worst.
  • Different refrigerants require different oils (i.e., lubricants) to keep the compressor lubricated and functioning efficiently. For example, R-22 A/Cs use mineral oil, but R-410A systems require synthetic lubricants. Using the correct oil means your compressor will last longer without burning out.

Due to these differences in functionality, an A/C’s existing R-22 refrigerant must be drained from the system properly. Additionally, certain seals and other components must be replaced.

Thankfully, the retrofitting process is straightforward and quick to complete. 

OPTION 4: REPLACE

At some point, you will need to replace your broken AC or heat pump. OPTION 4 allows you to purchase a new heating and cooling system on your schedule, without the urgency of living in a hot or cold house. It also gives you the time to evaluate energy efficiencies, products reviews and potential costs of the latest replacements available. Most likely, there are new features and benefits available today that weren’t available when your current system was installed.

If paying for a new system is a concern, Pioneer Heating and Air has great financing programs with low monthly payments available, just ask one of our comfort specialists for details.  If you qualify, financing may help you fit a new comfort system into your budget without breaking the bank.

Whether you choose OPTION 2, OPTION 3 OR OPTION 4, you should use the expertise of a licensed AC or heat pump dealer to provide routine maintenance. Professional maintenance helps your heating and cooling system to operate at its designed efficiency level and alerts you to small, fixable issues before they may become expensive problems.

SOURCES

https://www.goodmanmfg.com/resources/hvac-learning-center/maintenance/r22-refrigerant-phase-out

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