Do You Need to Swap out Your AC Unit When Freon Is Not Available?
It is not uncommon for air-conditioning units to last for 15 years or longer. Some people may have them for many more years and they may continue to repair them rather than putting out the extra money to make the switch. This can lead to some concern because most people are aware of the fact that Freon is being phased out in the developing countries, including in the United States. This leaves many people wondering if it is necessary to change the air conditioner when Freon is no longer available.
Before we answer the question, because there is some debate over the subject, it’s important to understand the phaseout of R-22 in the first place. It is certainly a controversial subject, to say the least. When you look at your air conditioner, it is likely that it either uses R-22 or R-410A. Either of these refrigerants needs to be considered and there is a difference, especially considering the fact that R-22 is going the way of the dinosaur. According to the phaseout, it will be illegal to produce R-22 by the year 2030.
You may be thinking to yourself at this point, 2030 is still a long way off and I have a long time to make the decision as to whether I am going to switch to a newer unit or not. Although that may be true, the production of R-22 is already on the decline. Ever since it started the phaseout process back in 2010, less and less has been produced on an annual basis. By the time 2015 came around, the production of Freon had dropped by 75%. By the year 2020, it will be down over 99%!
Does this mean it is going to be more difficult for you to find Freon by the time 2020 rolls around? Possibly, but more than likely, it is going to mean more of what you will pay to have your AC unit recharged. Recharging an AC unit is not only about adding additional refrigerant to replace whatever was lost. When you have to add refrigerant, it means that there is a leak somewhere in the system. An HVAC is a closed unit and the R-22 that is on the inside of the lines is, or should be, the same as what was inside the lines when it was manufactured.
As these units get older, they begin to develop leaks, so it is not out of the question for your unit to lose refrigerant. Where does the refrigerant go? It doesn’t simply evaporate and get reabsorbed into the atmosphere, it can have a significant impact on the environment. In fact, Freon in the atmosphere is responsible, in part, for the hole in the ozone layer! That is one of the primary reasons why the phaseout of Freon was established some two decades ago. When it actually occurs, and Freon is gone, you might be left holding the bag or, should we say, your checkbook. Check out the r20 uses and applications here.
The price of R-22 is already on the increase. Think of it like you would think of gasoline that is put into your car. When the supply of gasoline is at a very high level, the prices tend to stay low and competition keeps driving the price downward. When any type of crisis occurs, however, whether it is a political upheaval or perhaps a natural disaster that affects the oil industry, the price of gasoline goes up. Regardless of whether it is a true shortage or a perceived shortage, the effect is the same when it comes to your wallet.
People who have older AC units and are contemplating making a change to a newer unit typically do so because of their budget. It can be expensive to make the switch, and nobody is debating that fact. When you switch to an energy-efficient unit, however, the amount of money that you save on your monthly electric bill can really have an impact on your budget as well. In most cases, an energy-efficient unit is going to pay for itself within a couple of years.
The problem is, while you are still struggling with an older unit and trying to make the decision if you should switch the unit or not, you are paying out the nose for Freon. In fact, the price of R-22 is already a lot more than what it was just a few years ago. As the production of Freon continues to drop, the price of Freon is going to continue to rise. By the time we hit 2020, R-22 is no longer going to be produced in the United States and, even though it is going to be produced in other countries, it is not going to be imported into the United States.
Does this mean that it is going to be impossible to recharge your system after 2020? No, but you are going to pay a lot more to do so. After it becomes illegal to produce or import R-22, there is going to still be some that are available on the market. It is not going to be sold as it was before, however, but it is going to be the supply that the AC technician has on hand. Freon may just become a very valuable commodity as well! I’m sure some AC companies will stock up on it for future use.
You may also be able to get R-22 because of older AC units or refrigerators that are taken out of commission. All of the refrigerant in those units are going to be drained and stored. You have the option of paying for that refrigerant in your outdated HVAC unit. Is it going to cost? Yes! You’re going to pay a lot more for R-22 at that time.
So the bottom line is, you will still be able to get R-22 for a number of years. The problem is, you are going to continue to pay more for it as the supply dwindles and the demand for it increases.