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R22 Phase Out: What It Means For Your Air Conditioner in 2020R22 phase out Elgin IL

R22 Freon Phase Out: Do I Need a New Air Conditioner?  [Updated 2020]

R22 Phase Out: What It Means For Your Air Conditioner in 2020

If you’ve heard about the phase-out of R22 Freon, the coolant you find in air conditioners, you may have gotten some mixed messages. Fortunately, we’re here to set the record straight, and also point out new, upcoming regulations.

R22, also known as Freon, is the refrigerant or coolant, that manufacturers used for decades in air conditioners. The coolant absorbs the heat from a room, expels it outside, and delivers cool air in return.

But, Freon is on a list of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer. So, thanks to the Clean Air Act of 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency began a decade-long phase-out of the coolant.

In January of that year, manufacturers could no longer produce R22 for new machines, only for repairs to those already in service. All new ACs from 2010 use R410A, a more environmentally-sound solution.

Predictably, supplies began dwindling. And, starting January 1, 2020, no one could manufacture or import R22 in the U.S. (along with a host of other countries) anymore.

Now, the only R22 around is what’s still in stock or recycled coolant (more on that in a bit). As a result of all this, the price has jumped up and down. And, there’s been a mix of speculation, misinformation, and the occasional dishonest statement surrounding the whole thing.

So, for this article, we’re pulling information directly from the EPA along with what our team is experiencing dealing with suppliers and customers in towns such as Elgin, IL, Barrington, and others in the Fox River Valley.

We’ll walk you through what to expect this year and beyond. That includes the coolant issue plus new efficiency standards coming up soon.

But first, we’ll answer the big question.

Do I Have to Replace My Air Conditioner If It Uses R22 Freon?

You may still be able to get some freon, but it’s an expensive temporary fix!

You do not have to replace an air conditioner that uses R22 Freon. Even though Freon production has stopped completely, you can use your system until it doesn’t work anymore. But, you may run into some problems with certain repairs.

To be clear, the phase-out is only on production. There aren’t any recalls or things like that.

But, dealing with a coolant leak is now different. What was once a relatively easy repair may require you to get a new system altogether.

What Happens If My AC Has a Leak?

Right now, there’s still R22 around. But, it’s pricey, and enough that it’s not worth the price and extra work to obtain it and recharge your system.

If there’s a minimal leak, and you catch it soon enough, we can sometimes recommend using recycled R22.

Currently, we and all other HVAC techs must recycle any coolant we drain from used or broken AC’s. The recycled product isn’t nearly as good or efficient as virgin coolant.

But, if you’re looking to get another year or two out of your system, and only need a small amount, this can work.

After that, unfortunately, for the most part, we’ll recommend replacing a unit with a coolant leak. The R22 is available but costly.

Repair vs. Replace

Installing a New AC System may be your best bet

While it’s technically possible to retrofit your system to use R410A or other coolant alternatives, we don’t recommend this.

To use a different solution, we have to drain the entire system and make significant adjustments for the different pressurization those other refrigerants require.

Then, there’s purchasing the coolant — enough for the entire system — and recharging. All told, it can end up costing upwards of $2,000.

And, with all that work involved, it’s not worth running the risk of spending all that money only for the unit to break down again.

That’s a real possibility when you’re dealing with an older system that leaks.

It’s frustrating to think you’d need a new system for something that you often can have repaired. But, there’s something else to keep in mind: The age of the system.

Remember, all the units made starting in 2010 used R410A. So, if yours uses R22, it’s almost certainly over ten years old.

That means, if you are looking at any extensive repairs, you would probably consider getting a new condenser anyway — regardless of the coolant issue.

Not All Repairs Require Coolant

It’s also important to remember that not every air conditioner repair requires a coolant recharge. If, say, there’s just a bad electrical connection or a broken motor, you don’t necessarily need to worry about the refrigerant liquid. That’s only if there’s actually a leak.

New Efficiency Regulations for Air Conditioners

There’s another consideration when it comes to replacing your air conditioner: Starting in 2023, any new unit you install in Illinois and other northern states must have a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) of 14 or higher. The SEER is a measure of how much electricity the AC uses to do its job. The higher the number, the less energy it needs to do the job of a unit with a lower SEER. Right now, the minimum for cooling systems in the U.S. is 13 SEER. And, the rating to be Energy Star-certified is 15. So, bear in mind that if you purchase a new unit today, you have a little more wiggle room on the requirements. Three years from now, those more efficient units may still be more costly than a 13 SEER is today.

Avoid R22 Problems With an Air Conditioner Tune-Up

The good news is, you don’t have to hold your breath till summer to find out if your air conditioner will make it to Labor Day or not. Instead, you can get an AC tune-up in early spring. That’s when certified tech cleans and inspects the unit. They’ll replace anything worn down or broken, and optimize the system to work its best. In general, preventative maintenance is a good idea. It makes the system last longer, with fewer breakdowns, and it will use less electricity. And, in the case of an older system today, you’ll know ahead of time if there’s a coolant problem. This way, you can prepare well in advance of the warm weather to purchase a new system. Or, you may luck out, and the tech will spot a problem early on before it gets worse. That can buy you another year or two. Meanwhile, if you have any questions about the state of your cooling system, or if you’re ready to get your AC checked out before the season, call us at Compass Heating and Air. No matter what, we’ll make sure you’re prepared for summer.

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