For many years, R22 refrigerant, commonly known by the brand name Freon, has been the lifeblood of heat pumps and air conditioning systems. Unfortunately, R22 refrigerant contains ozone-depleting chemicals. As a result of an international environmental agreement to reduce ozone-depleting materials, the U.S. EPA is decreasing the amount of R22 refrigerant used in this country and elsewhere. As a result, the cost of gradually dwindling R22 will get higher and higher till the phase-out is complete in 2020.
Since 2010, no new air conditioning or heat pump units that use R22 refrigerant can be manufactured or sold in the United States. Those with allowances can produce or import R22 for systems that already use it, but the phase-out is putting a squeeze on price, with some experts expecting R22 to triple in price this summer.
In the Future
By 2015, the U.S. is scheduled to have reduced its use of R-22 to less than 10 percent of the baseline established by the international agreement. By 2020, it will no longer be legal to manufacture or add newly manufactured R22 to older systems. Some recycled R22 will be available at that point but it will be scarce and costly.
While it may be possible to retrofit an older unit for the newer refrigerants used in post-2010 air conditioners and heat pumps, this is not always the best option. Many consumers are going to find it necessary to install an entirely new system that uses the new refrigerants. If your current system is more than 10 years old, you can probably get much greater efficiencies from a new system anyway, which will save you money in the long run. Units with the Energy Star label can save anywhere from 10-40 percent on your cooling bills.
The R22 phase-out is already having an impact on homeowners, and this impact will only be greater in the future. That's why it's best to prepare now. If you have any questions about this, please contact Joe Behr Plumbing and Heating. We have served the Mid-Ohio area since 1965, and will be pleased to help you.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about R22 refrigerant and other HVAC topics, visit our website.
Joe Behr Plumbing and Heating, Inc. services the Mid-Ohio area.