In 2020, the EPA mandated manufacturers to stop producing R22 Freon, the coolant that was once most common in air conditioners. This was the tail end of a phaseout plan lasting more than a decade. Now, its replacement, R410A Puron, will follow a similar schedule.
These phaseouts have confused and worried homeowners and consumers. People wondered if they needed to replace their central air conditioning system. Or if they could use a different coolant if they needed a recharge.
We aim to set the record straight with the latest updates on both refrigerants, or coolants We updated this article in May 2022.
The big takeaway here is that you will never need to replace your air conditioner just because the refrigerant it uses is no longer in production.
Yes, it is now illegal to produce or import R22 Freon in the U.S. But, there are no rules against continuing to use an AC with Freon in it. But, you may not be able to find it if you need a recharge.
And, you don't need a recharge unless there's a leak. The coolant runs in a loop through the system. It doesn't get used up like gasoline in a car.
If there's no problem with your AC, there's no reason to add, top off, or recharge the refrigerant.
The same will apply to units using R410A. While Puron is still readily available, you will never have to replace your AC because it uses an outdated coolant.
With that in mind, we'll cover the following points in this article:
And, if you have any questions or concerns about the central air or AC unit in your Fox River Valley home or business, call Compass Heating and Air at (630) 504-8688.
R22 and R410A are being phased out because they're harmful to Earth's ozone layer and contribute to climate change. These actions stem from the Montreal Protocol in 1987, a 160-country treaty dedicated to protecting the ozone layer.
An amendment added in 1992 called for the phaseout of hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs, that contribute to climate change. In the U.S., it was instituted as part of the Clean Air Act.
Even though R22 is no longer produced or imported, and R410A is following the same path, you will never have to replace your air conditioner only because they use either of these refrigerants. The phaseouts and bans only cover production and manufacturing.
And, they were scheduled so that as few people as possible would get stuck having to replace a system that was in good condition except for needing coolant.
That's significant because the prices of both coolants have jumped over the past year, especially R22 Freon. As a result, older Freon systems will all but certainly need replacement if they've leaked refrigerant and need a recharge.
R410A Puron is still cheaper and more available than Freon, but it's following the same trajectory.
Until 2010, R22 Freon was the most common HCFC coolant in air conditioners. That began changing as the EPA scheduled a decade-long, incremental phase out and eventual ban on production.
Starting in 2010, no new air conditioners used R22 Freon. Then, in 2015, the EPA banned the production and import of R22 except to service existing units. That meant a drop in production and availability — and a rise in price.
In 2020, the EPA banned all sales, production, and importation. The only exception has been "recycled" coolant recovered from old units.
R22 is still relatively easy to acquire. But, it's gotten more expensive every year, and the price jumped dramatically in 2022. In May of last year, a 25-pound jug cost nearly $600 in Illinois. By the summer, the same amount cost $910.
Now, in May 2022, a 25-pound jug costs $1,300. That doesn't include the labor charges plus any other repairs you need to address a leak and other problems.
For reference, most homes need between five and ten pounds of coolant for their central air.
R410A is next to be phased out according to the American Innovation and Manufacturing, or AIM, Act included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
Starting this year, production of R410A dropped by ten percent, and no new air conditioners will use it starting in 2023.
In 2024, all production must be cut by 60 percent of its 2021 baseline. In other words, starting in 2024, manufacturers will produce less than half of what they produced last year.
With the R410A Puron phaseout still in its early stages, HVAC contractors can still easily acquire the coolant. But, the price is already starting to rise.
The cost for R410A Puron in May 2022 is more than $450 for 25 pounds. Last May, it was only $89 for the same amount but jumped to $370 by August of 2021.
If your AC was manufactured before 2010, it almost certainly uses R22. A few models used Puron, but Freon was still the industry standard. Check the manual or look up the model online if you're unsure. The HVAC contractor that services it should also have a record of it.
Air conditioners made after 2010 use R410A Puron. While some later models may use other coolants, Puron is by far the most common.
If you bought your system after 2010, it does not use Freon. You can check your coolant once again by looking in the manual, researching the model online, or asking your HVAC contractor.
If your older AC shows signs of a refrigerant leak or other problems, it may be time to consider a new one. Compass Heating and Air has been the trusted name for air conditioner replacement in Gilberts, IL and throughout the Fox River Valley for more than a decade.Click below to schedule your free consultation.