Ah, those wonderful spring breezes. How nice to open the windows, air out the house, and enjoy the moderate temperatures. But soon the mercury will rise and the hum of the air conditioning unit will provide the white noise of summer. You’ve maintained your HVAC unit, changing the filter, clearing debris from the compressor, and straightened the lines. You should enjoy cool air all summer, right?
Well, maybe not. As of January 1, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the production and importation of R-22, commonly known as Freon 22, the refrigerant used in most air conditioning systems older than five years. Due to its ozone depletion potential (ODP) as well as its high global warming potential (GWP), R-22 was targeted for phaseout and completely banned from production and importation as of January 1, 2020.
If you own an HVAC system that uses R-22 (listed on the label on the AC unit), you can continue to operate your air conditioner. However, most systems over time leak refrigerant and become less effective. An AC professional can recharge your system with recycled or stockpiled R-22; however, as these sources decrease, the cost rises. Currently, R-22 costs five times its modern replacement.
The invention of R-410A in 1991 brought an R-22 alternative to the market. By 2015, R-410A was the refrigerant of choice in new AC units. Recently, another environmentally-friendly product, R-421A, dubbed ‘the refrigerant of the future,’ arrived on the scene. Its ability to absorb and release more heat than R-22, and its low-pressure requirements similar to its banned counterpart, make R-421A an attractive alternative to both R-22 and R-410A.
Before the weather turns hot, check to see if your HVAC system currently uses R-22. Then consider three options: recharge, retrofit, or replace. You might decide to pay the higher cost for refrigerant while R-22 is available and recharge your AC, hoping to keep your system working through the summer. If you have maintained your AC unit well, you can consider retrofitting your current air conditioning system to use one of the newer refrigerants.
If your current HVAC system is no longer under warranty, you might look into replacing it with a new AC unit. The new systems offer the advantages of energy efficiency, saving you money on your electric bill, and improved air quality in your home.
Before you decide which option works for you, contact an HVAC professional to help you weigh the pros and cons of each alternative and can make the changes for you before those hot summer days arrive.