When the U.S. signed the Montreal Protocol, it agreed to the gradual phasing out of R-22 refrigerant supplies. Each year the federal EPA reduces the amount of R-22 available for replacing lost refrigerant in older central and portable air conditioners and heat pumps. The availability in 2013 dropped to 39 million pounds, down from 55 million in 2012 and 100 million in 2011. These drops are significant, and will continue to exert upward pressure on its cost.
R-22 has been banned for all uses except for replacement because it’s considered an environmental hazard (contributing to ozone depletion). If you have an air conditioning system that uses R-22 and your system needs repair or additional refrigerant, you might consider replacing the system with one that uses an environmentally safer formula.
The new refrigerant formula, R-410A, replaces R-22 and is safer for the environment. Unfortunately, a system designed to use R-22 can’t use R-410A, so you’ll have to pay the high prices for dwindling R-22 refrigerant supplies if your old system needs refrigerant. If your older A/C or heat pump’s refrigerant charge is correct, however, there’s little need to worry about the R-22 situation, at least in the short term. Refrigerant gets reused over and over in a cooling system, rather than being exhausted, so you’re not going to run out unless a leak develops or someone physically removes it.
If your air conditioner uses R-22 and your HVAC technician find that the level is low, find out how how much it will cost to recharge the system. You might decide that the high price for R-22 is a good incentive to invest in an entirely new cooling system. This is a good move for environmental protection and safety that also may make good financial sense.
If you’d like to learn more about R-22 refrigerant supplies, please contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling.